Kathleen Wells: So, I mean, if what you’re saying is true, the organized Jewish establishment or this lobby has essentially bought Congress, at least with regards to issues regarding Israel. So, I mean, this is very disturbing to hear, and it says that something is wrong with our entire system of government.
Jeffrey Blankfort: They have been bought by every major sector/special interest of American society that represents American capitalism: the arms industry, and so on, and, in this sense, Israel and the Jewish establishment that supports it have been a major player. They had been responsible for, at least since World War II, at least 60 or more percent of the money that goes to the Democratic Party, making the Democratic Party, literally, a subsidiary of the Zionist establishment.
In 2000, Mother Jones Magazine ran what they called “Mother Jones ,” which listed the top 400 contributors to the American political campaigns in that year. And of the top 400, of the top ten, seven were Jewish; of the top 20, 12 were Jewish; and of the top 250, where I stopped counting, at least 125 were Jewish. And 75 percent of their money went to the Democratic Party. In 2002, one Israeli-Egyptian born American named Haim Saban, who brags about his loyalty to Israel being his primary interest, he contributed $12.3 million to the Democratic Party, seven of which bought their office building in Washington, D.C., and that was only about a million and a half dollars less than the political action committee of the arms industry gave to both political parties. So this is the kind of clout that they have in Washington.
And there was once an institution, one independent think-tank in Washington that wasn’t in the pro-Israel lobby camp, and that was Brookings [Institution.] And in the same year, he [Saban] gave $12.3 million, the same number, to Brookings [Institution] to found Saban Center for Middle East Policy, thereby taking over Brookings’ role in the Middle East. And it was at Brookings where Andrew Shapiro gave his talk. And the head of Brookings is a man named Kenneth Pollack, whose book, “The Gathering Storm,” was one of the most instrumental pieces of propaganda that got us into the current Gulf war. I covered a lot of ground there but all …
Kathleen Wells: Yes. Yeah, and you know, the American people are not aware of this, the depth and breadth of this influence, and it’s a bit overwhelming to hear this. You were once a member of AIPAC, is that correct?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, I actually joined AIPAC in 1988. I had just begun editing the Middle East Labor Bulletin and co-founded a committee called the Labor Committee on the Middle East, which focused on the situation of Palestinian workers in Israel and in the occupied territories and in other Middle Eastern countries, which tried to show Palestinians as activists, as not just victims.
But I began to see the role of AIPAC and so I joined AIPAC, and I went to a luncheon that they gave in San Francisco. Now, every year in Washington, the biggest event of the year in Washington is the AIPAC Conference, in which at least half the members of Congress attend and have their names put on a roll so their constituents back home — Jewish constituents — know that they attended, and usually a major speaker from Israel or the U.S. Government, [the] Secretary of State, Vice President, and so on, speak there.
But they also have local conferences in cities around the country. In San Francisco, they have usually three events — two luncheons and one dinner in different parts of the Bay area, so I went to a luncheon in San Francisco. And I was astounded to see that all the local public officials had been invited to attend and were there at the Fairmont Hotel, which is one of the most flashiest, gaudiest hotels in San Francisco, where they were addressed by a major speaker — a U.S. Senator. These U.S. Senators or governors, they go around the country, and they speak at AIPAC events. The news media are not involved, are not invited. And back home, they don’t know about it either, wherever these senators come from.
But what was astounding to me was to see that all the important people in San Francisco were attending this luncheon. And when you come, you’re given a card that tells you how much you’ve contributed to AIPAC, and, of course, they collect money there. What happens after these meetings, and they take place all over the country, is that local Jewish community organizations — the Jewish Community Relations Council or Jewish foundations or federations — then spend the money and send these public officials — police chiefs, fire chiefs, mayors, city council people, supervisors — to Israel on all-expense-paid trips where they meet the prime minister, the defense minister, very important people. They go to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum; they go visit the West Bank settlement; they come back to the United States, and they know they have very powerful friends in the Jewish community who accompanied them on the trip. And from this group of people, we get our members of Congress, since they are already indoctrinated into being pro-Israel even before they file for running for Congress.
So most Americans and actually most people — even pro-Palestinian supporters — are not aware of this. They don’t follow this because they’ve been told by Professor Chomsky and others that the problem is not the Israel lobby but U.S. imperialism — which is a pretty remote target for most people. If they thought it was their members of Congress who were involved in voting for money for Israel/supporting Israel policies, they might be sitting in at their offices.
For example, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has spoken at a number of AIPAC conferences in which she repeatedly pledges her loyalty to Israel, but there has never been any major protest against Pelosi for her support of Israel. As a matter of fact, she is the favorite of the liberals in San Francisco because she’s criticized China and she’s very good on the issue of gay rights, which is an important issue in the Bay Area.
Kathleen Wells: So you’re basically hitting on or touching on issues that the activist — pro-Palestinian activists — steps they should take to be more effective.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, yes, to this point the solidarity movement for Palestinians in this country is an utter failure. They have succeeded in doing absolutely nothing, and you see around the world the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement [BDS] targeting Israel has been gaining ground in Europe, among labor unions in England and Ireland and Scotland, and so on. And here, there is a movement that is developing, but it’s only targeting companies that do business in Israel, which is very positive, but there is no reason that it shouldn’t be like South Africa, in which you target the economy of the country that’s responsible, and that’s mainly Israel.
I mean during the anti-apartheid movement, which I was involved in, they had sit-ins at South Africa Airways and forced South African Airways to close its offices. But there’s never been a sit-in, as far as I know, at any offices of the Israeli Airline El Al, and they’re all over the place, and the question is Why not? There has never been a major campaign to call Congress to stop aid to Israel; whereas, for example, in the 80s when Congress was giving $15 million a year to the Contras to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, there was a national campaign to stop aid to the Contras — calling members of Congress — and it was successful. As a result, we had the Iran-Contra scandal. Why has there never been a similar campaign waged by the very same people who are also involved themselves in pro-Palestinian activities to do the same regarding Israel?
Kathleen Wells: Well I mean, let me ask you — Why? Why hasn’t that happened?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, because the left for many years has been predominantly Jewish, and this is because there’s a history of Jewish radicalism going back to the beginning of the trade unions in this country. Jewish radicals – – Jews — were very heavily involved in all progressive organizations — the civil rights movement, and so on, against the war in Vietnam. But, suddenly, when it came to Israel, it’s closer to home. And there was a reticence to put the blame on Jews. Israel calls itself a Jewish State, though 20 percent of the population is not Jewish, it’s Palestinian Arab. But there was this reticence to do that. It was a lot easier to blame U.S. foreign policy, U.S. imperialism. For example, when Israel was heavily involved in supporting the Contras in Nicaragua, supporting and arming the Salvadoran government, arming the government in Guatemala, the solidarity groups in those particular arenas were predominantly Jewish, but they refused to take critical positions on Israel arming Salvador, Israel arming [the] Nicaragua [Contras], and Israel arming Guatemala. And when I organized a demonstration in 1985, opposing Israel’s roles as a U.S. surrogate in South Africa and Central America, those organizations would not endorse the demonstration.
As a matter of fact, the Nicaraguan Solidarity Committee gave an excuse that they weren’t giving any more endorsements. Guatemala Solidarity Committee [Guatemalan News & Information Bureau] did finally endorse, but I had to call and threaten them with exposure, and it split the organization. And the same thing with CISPES around El Salvador.
Kathleen Wells: So what we are talking here is ethnic loyalties. So are you saying that ethnic …
Jeffrey Blankfort: We’re talking about a kind of tribalism that, even though these particular Jewish activists were anti-Zionist (they didn’t believe in a Jewish state), they became very defensive when it came to criticizing Israel specifically. And this is one of the reasons you had members of Congress who were very adamant about apartheid in South Africa, but when it came to Israel arming apartheid South Africa, they were silent. When it came [to the U.S. arming] the Contras [they spoke out]. But when it came to Israel helping the Contras, they were silent. [When] we had the Iran-Contra hearings, Israel was never named as a country. They were country A.
Kathleen Wells: So let me ask you, are these ethnic loyalties — or tribalism, as you term it — taking precedence over defending the rights of Palestinians?
Jeffrey Blankfort: It has. They would deny that this is the case. I have been attacked for suggesting that it is. But I see no other reason, because, I mean, I’ve been into this 40 years, and when I first came back from my trip to the Middle East (I happen to be Jewish, but I come from a non-Zionist family — non- Zionist, which later became anti-Zionist) and people I knew who’ve been active around civil rights, and before there was a civil rights movement, when they heard that I had been with the Palestinians, they went crazy. They literally became like Afrikaners because they had been traumatized by the holocaust. And this feeling of the victimization of Jews in World War II was something that Jews growing up with, including myself, felt very strongly. So the notion of blaming Jews was to them going back to periods of anti-Semitism and playing into a right wing and what they call “a neo-Nazi agenda.”
The fact of the matter is, however, that it was a Jewish state, done in the name of Jews, [that] had ethnically cleansed the Palestinians and it was Jewish organizations that were lobbying, not only in the United States, but throughout Western Europe, for continued support of what Israel was doing — not only ethnic cleansing but all its wars against the Palestinians, against the Lebanese. And whereas Professor Chomsky says, “None of this would have been done without the U.S. authorization,” it’s simply not true.
As a matter of fact, when Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister, annexed the Golan Heights in Syria, Ronald Reagan was on a trip to Europe and it was like [he was] blindsided.
Chomsky will also, by the way, point to a situation where the United States was very unhappy and complained when it was discovered that Israel had been selling Falcon radar warning devices to China without U.S. approval, and there were some U.S. parts in this. Now, Chomsky and his supporters say, “Where was the lobby on this?” And, in fact, the lobby was not informed and felt blindsided. It was very embarrassing for some of the neocons in Washington, like Douglas Feith, one of the instrumental people in giving us the war in Iraq. They felt blindsided by it because the Israelis, who basically have very little respect for their American counterparts — they had made a deal with China without notifying the Jewish establishment here in this country. So that was an embarrassment on their part, for them. And they were quite upset with their Israeli friends because they weren’t notified about it.
There are issues in which the Israeli lobby — actually, it’s more of a hotel or a Leviathan or an octopus — is not dominant, but it is when it comes to Middle East policies, certainly when it comes to Palestine and pushing toward the war in Iraq, pushing for the war against Iran. Up to now, they haven’t succeeded, largely because there are people in the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies that know that a war or attack on Iran would be a global disaster — not only bad for United States, but bad for the world economy.
Nevertheless, it seems now that the possibilities of an attack on Iran are greater than ever. And this has been at the top of the agenda of the Zionist establishment since the attack on Iraq. You could just go to the AIPAC website, the website of the American Jewish Committee, which is a very important, probably the second most important organization in the Jewish community. It’s the foreign policy arm of the Israel lobby with offices in Latin America, Africa, Europe. And they have been lobbying foreign governments for years to take pro-Israel positions.
The head of that organization, David Harris, is probably the most well-known American Jew outside the United States. He meets regularly with the heads of state of all the European countries — our NATO allies — with Mexico [and] countries in Latin America, Africa, and so on.
If there is going to be a war against Iran, there is no way that it could not be said that it is a war for Israel. As a matter of fact, the United States, since the defeat of George Bush, Sr., has increasingly made Israel’s enemies our enemies. So where Hezbollah and Hamas are not American enemies (they’re seen as Israel’s enemies) they have now become our enemies.
Yet Hezbollah has never [been] proven to have done anything to attack the United States [although] they were accused of being responsible for the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, where I happened to be at the time. Hezbollah formed as a resistance organization to the Israeli occupation, and there are a lot of questions as to who actually carried out that bombing, but it has never been proven that Hezbollah did it. Hezbollah has never launched a terrorist attack against the United States, nor has Hamas, and yet those two organizations are now considered to be U.S. enemies because they’re essentially Israel’s enemies.
Kathleen Wells: We’re covering a lot of ground here and I can hear your critics say that you are contending that there is a cabal driving U.S. foreign policy.
Jeffrey Blankfort: When it comes to the Middle East, there is no question about it. It is not only outside of the government. Let’s [look at] what it consists of: You have AIPAC; you have the American Jewish Community; you have the Anti-Defamation League, which is quick to call any critic of Israel an anti-Semite. It is actually an organization that has been spying on American leftists since the 1930s, including me and thousands of other political activists, including the NAACP — virtually every political group that might have an issue around Israel.
We have a group called the Israel Project, which is a propaganda arm of Israel which holds regular events, press conferences in Israel and has 18 members of Congress on its board of directors. Eighteen members of the U.S. Congress on the board of a pro-Israel lobbying group which, of course, is tax exempt [and is not required to register as a foreign agent.]
You have a number of think tanks: the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which was founded by AIPAC in 1985, whose talking heads appear every Sunday, every … they’re on NPR, they’re on PBS, and they are never identified as being part of an Israeli lobby institution. The American Enterprise Institute is also a pro-Israel lobby institution. You have the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which you never hear about, but this has members of Congress, senators, a former CIA chief, Jim Woolsey [who] is on every one of these pro-Israel lobbying groups — every one of them. You have JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, founded in 1976, which has about 20 former generals and admirals on its board but also has many of the neocons: Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, Max Kampelman. These are the ones — people who are very much involved in fomenting the Iraq war; Paul Wolfowitz. There was PNAC, Project for New American Century from 1997, which called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, which had some of the very same people on it — mostly Jewish neocons — which is largely a Jewish movement, although not exclusively Jewish.
Fomenting the war on Iraq was done on every single level in the media. You had op-ed pieces written by William Safire in the New York Times; Abe Rosenthal in the Washington Post. You had Kristol, Chuck Krauthammer, and you had Mortimer Zuckerman, who is the owner of the US News and World Report and the New York Daily News, writing op-ed piece after op-ed piece calling for an attack on Iraq. You had Kenneth Pollack, the head of the Brookings Institution Saban Center writing a book called “The Gathering Storm” endorsing the war on Iraq.
It is a cabal, and it’s not a hidden cabal. It’s quite public, except those people who don’t want to see it don’t look at it. It’s like the monkey: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. This is how the solidarity movement has been when it comes to this cabal.
Kathleen Wells: You’ve written a piece titled “A War for Israel.” I want to touch on that piece, because last week* the last combat soldier left Iraq, and so many Americans — not all, but many Americans — are asking what was the war in Iraq about? And many will answer it was about oil. Give us your thoughts about that.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, it’s interesting. There is no record of oil companies wanting a war in Iraq. What the oil companies want is stability. They would like to have been able to purchase oil from Saddam Hussein, who would have liked to have sold it to them.
In fact, the same thing with Iran. Conoco, a major American oil company, had to cancel a contract with Iran under pressure from the Zionist lobby. The oil companies need stability [where they get their resources]. Their profits are guaranteed. They’d have an arrangement with Saddam Hussein like they would have with Saudi Arabia or with Kuwait. So the fact of the matter is that the war in Iraq threatened the stability of the oil companies’ [sources]. And it’s interesting that President George Bush, Sr., his Secretary of State James Baker, and his National Security Council — excuse me, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft — all of whom had closer ties to the oil industry itself than did Bush or Cheney — they opposed the war on Iraq because they thought it would destabilize the region and would bring the Shi’a into power in Iraq, which would then make Iraq closer to Iran.
Now, what’s happened after the war is that the major oil contracts have gone, not to American companies, but to China, for example. The largest contract for oil in Iraq went to China, and that was based on a contract that was, ironically, signed with China during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
Now why was this a war for Israel? I actually wrote this in 2004, and there’s much more evidence to that effect today. There was a plan put forth by an Israeli political analyst named Oded Yinon in the 80s. The idea was to divide the Arab countries, including Iraq, into their confessional states, making several confessional states based on religion. So instead of having a country called Iraq, you would have a Shi’a Iraq, a Kurdish Iraq, and a Sunni Iraq. That would be designed to weaken Israel’s Arab enemies, and Iraq was seen as a major threat to Israel.
Another reason was Israel also wanted to see the U.S. as an occupying force in the Middle East, just like it is, so the U.S. could then use Israeli “expertise” in occupying Palestine to occupy Iraq. And many of the same techniques that Israel has used to occupy both Lebanon in the past and to occupy the occupied territories in West Bank and Gaza were used by the United States in Iraq. Also, if the United States was occupying an Arab country, it would be less prone to criticize Israel for doing the same thing. And we saw there has been far less criticism by the U.S. government since 2003 than before in terms of what it was doing in the occupied territories.
Also, in 1995, you had a group of neocons — among them Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Meyrav Wurmser, who wrote a paper called “A Clean Break.” But this was for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, calling on Israel to get rid of the regime of Saddam Hussein and stop peace talks with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu did not adopt that position, but these very same neocons then came into the administration of George W. Bush — W, Junior — with the same policies to get rid of Saddam Hussein [as did] the Project for a New American Century.
Now, it’s interesting in the First Gulf War, George Bush, Sr., was criticized by the Zionist establishment and its friends in the media for not dethroning Saddam Hussein. And this was when the neocons turned on Bush because they thought Israel’s main enemy in Iraq was going to be eliminated and there would be regime change there that would be more favorable to Israel and would reinstate the oil line that used to go from Iraq [to] Haifa. This was probably not going to happen. But in any case, they believed that Israel would benefit from the getting rid of Saddam Hussein.
Kathleen Wells: But why did they believe that? Give me one sentence as to why they believe regime change in Iraq would benefit Israel?
Jeffrey Blankfort: They saw Iraq as the most significant foe and threat to Israel — the largest Muslim Arab state. Egypt is now out of contention because of the Camp David agreement, and Iraq was considered to be a major threat. The Zionist lobby tells [us] that they didn’t really want us to attack Iraq; they wanted to attack Iran, but statements by Israeli officials, including Shimon Perez, called on the U.S. to dethrone Saddam Hussein, because by eliminating Saddam Hussein and hopefully breaking Iraq into a Shi’a, Kurdish, and Sunni states, they would eliminate Israel’s major threat in the Arab world.
Iran is not an Arab country, and for years Israel’s foreign policy had been based on making alliances with non-Arab regimes in the region such as Turkey, Iran, and the Kurds. And so they had a long, very close relationship with Iran under the Shah. Despite the statements made by Khomeini and Iranian leaders, we saw that during Iran-Contra, that the Iranians and the Israelis were dealing arms. And Turkey now, of course, has made close ties to Iran, and this has put the U.S. in a bind, because Turkey has been a real strategic asset to the United States since World War II. And the Israel lobby is pushing for the United States to break that relationship with Turkey, because Turkey is not bending to Washington’s wishes or Israel’s wishes when it comes to Iran or to the Palestinians.
Kathleen Wells: And you’re saying that Israel — the Jewish lobby — is pushing for the United States to break with Turkey? Is that what you just stated?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, the Israel lobby has gone so far as to get 87 senators to sign a letter to President Obama calling for the Turkish charity that sponsored the Gaza flotilla (the last one) to be put on the terrorist list by the United States, which would be a major attack on Turkish sovereignty, because this particular charity, IHH, is the most important Turkish charity [and close to Turkey's ruling party].
Turkey has told Israel that unless Israel apologizes for the murder of eight Turks and one Turkish-American on board the Mavi Marmara, Turkish-Israel relations will not be restored. And Israel refuses to apologize, so the Zionist establishment and its friends in the media are pushing for the U.S. to break with Turkey. But Turkey is an essential part of U.S. imperial policy and U.S. regional policies since World War II, whereas Israel has been, as I say, more of a liability. Right now Israel, by provoking Turkey and by pushing its agents in the United States, the Zionist establishment, to break with Turkey, is causing a major problem for the United States. Now the United States has been telling Turkey that it has to toe the Israel line; otherwise, it’s going to have a problem with the United States. But Turkey doesn’t need the United States as much as the United States needs Turkey.
Kathleen Wells: And you said that 87 senators have signed a letter?
Jeffrey Blankfort: They did send a letter, about a month ago, to President Obama, calling for the IHH, the Turkish charity, to be put on the terrorist list. And they’re very upset that it hasn’t happened to date.
Kathleen Wells: And this letter was drafted by whom again?
Jeffrey Blankfort: It was probably drafted by AIPAC. Before President Obama had his first meeting with Netanyahu [in 2009], he received a letter on May 9, signed — he received actually two letters : one from three quarters of the Senate and the other from three-quarters of the Congress, in which they called on him, when he met with Netanyahu, not to put any pressure on Netanyahu. And the pdf, the file sent to [members of] Congress [for their signatures], was called “AIPAC letter.” Not a single U.S. newspaper published this story other than in a blog on the Washington Post, when Al Cayman wrote, he said, “Curiously, when we opened the attachment, we noticed it was named AIPAC letter, Hoyer Canter, May 2009 pdf.”
Kathleen Wells: And so it was signed by Hoyer — Senator Hoyer, Congressman Hoyer — and Congressman Canter.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Right.
Kathleen Wells: So this is … You have Congresspersons across the aisle, Republicans and Democrats coming together on one issue, and the issue being Israel.
Jeffrey Blankfort: This has historically been the case. And not only that, in that congressional recess a year ago, Congressman Hoyer, who is the House Majority Leader — he’s not just an ordinary congressman — he led a group of thirty Democrats, just after Cantor had led a group of twenty-five Republicans to go to Israel, where they met with Netanyahu, gave press conferences shown on Israeli television, and Steny Hoyer gave his press conference — by himself — in which he took the position of Israel against the U.S. President when it came to [Jewish] settlement in Jerusalem.
Now, were a congressman doing this for any other country besides Israel, it might be called treason. But not only was this not reported here in the United States, it was also ignored by those who say that they support the Palestinian struggle here in the United States. This was online. I actually played Steny Hoyer’s comments for my radio audience so they could see what I was talking about.
Kathleen Wells: You’re saying it’s not reported. So talk to me about the media when you say things are not being reported.
Jeffrey Blankfort: The media has been a target of the Zionist establishment since its inception — since Israel’s inception — because the media is what manufactures the consent of the public to U.S. policies. In the beginning, the Zionist establishment was on the outside looking in. But over the years, it has [built] a media stable in the major newspapers, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, whose columns are reproduced all over the United States. So it’s not just important that a Charles Krauthammer, for example, writes in the Washington Post. If it was only the Washington Post, it wouldn’t be so important, but Krauthammer’s columns appear all over the United States. You had William Safire in the New York Times, whose columns appeared everywhere. He was a close friend of Ariel Sharon. He was replaced by David Brooks, another neocon — Jewish neocon — whose columns appear everywhere around the country. You have Tom Friedman, the liberal support of Israel, whose columns [in the Times] appear all over the country. You have Jonathan Jacoby of the Boston Globe. You have Richard Cowan in the Washington Post.
You don’t have anybody anymore who is a critic of Israel writing in a mainstream newspaper. You used to have Anthony Lewis, who is Jewish, who’d write editorials or op-ed pieces for the New York Times critical of Israel. He was replaced by Tom Friedman who never does.
In 1979, the Washington Post was writing a number of articles critical of Israel. So the Jewish community leadership there complained and demanded that a representative of the Washington Jewish community be allowed to sit in the Washington Post newsroom for a week to watch how it worked. And the Washington Post editor agreed to let that happen. Over the years, the Washington Post went from being a responsible newspaper to being, editorially, a mouthpiece for the Israeli position and for the Israel lobby.
There have been exceptions. Just recently, when I was back in Washington, at the time Netanyahu was also there [and] met with President Obama — this time President Obama rolled out the red carpet; and Dana Milbank, who is their Washington columnist, wrote a column which he headed “Alliance or Dysfunctional Relationship?” And he wrote how when Netanyahu visited President Obama, White House officials, “instead of flying the U.S. flag, might have flown the white flag of surrender.”
He said [that] Tuesday, Obama, “routed and humiliated by his Israeli counterpart, invited Netanyahu back to the White House for what might be called the Oil of Olay Summit. It was all about saving face.” And then he writes “Obama came to office with an admirable hope of reviving Middle East peace efforts by appealing to the Arab world and positioning himself as more of an honest broker. But he has now learned the painful lesson that domestic politics won’t allow such a stand.” That’s pretty heavy.
Kathleen Wells: Yeah, everything you’re saying is pretty heavy, and I think that, [given] everything you are disclosing, you know, the charge of being a self-hating Jew is going to be leveled against you.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I’ve already surpassed that. I’ve been called an anti- Semite. This is like the last refuge of scoundrels, as far as I’m concerned. [chuckle] Patriotism is the first one. The charge of anti-Semitism in this case is the last.
But I’ve been following this problem for years, and when I started speaking out about the role of the Zionist lobby, I was marginalized. Now, fortunately, there are people speaking out about it. When John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt wrote the book “[The] Israel Lobby and American [U.S.] Foreign Policy,” it was a major breakthrough. Of course, they’ve been called imperialist hawks. They’ve been called anti-Semites. These are two distinguished university professors. There’s nothing, when you read their book, that is anti-Semitic, but it’s a way of trying to smear them, and the smears come not … They come not only from the right-wing, but they come also from the “left-wing,” Jews who claim to be anti-Zionist. They call Mearsheimer and Walt imperialist hawks. And there’s nothing to back that up.
My position is I’m a human being first and my responsibility is to humanity before it is to my Jewish history — my Jewish background. That’s the way I was brought up. And so, yeah, as far as I’m concerned, those criticisms only reflect the lack of arguments to challenge what I say. They have no arguments so they have to smear me.
Kathleen Wells: So President Obama will be resuming peace talks with President Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan, and President Mubarak of Egypt on September 2. Give us your thoughts about these peace talks that are going to be taking place soon.
Jeffrey Blankfort: This reminds me of the comic strip “Peanuts,” in which every September, Lucy used to put out the football. And every time he would go to kick, she’d pull the football away. This game has grown old. There is simply no way, at this point in time, for a kind of solution — a two-state solution, or even a one-state at this point — without severe economic pressure brought to bear on Israel.
There are no pre-conditions for this peace talk. As a matter of fact, I read today that the only pre-condition that the Palestinians had was that Hillary Clinton would say — would not say — that there were no pre-conditions, and she went and said there were no pre-conditions. So the Palestinians are miffed because Abbas, who is not legally anything — his term of office expired more than a year ago. There has not been an election. [Their representation is a fiction.]
He does not even have the support of a substantial part, or even what’s left of the Palestinian Authority. A number of important Palestinians in the West Bank did not appear, simply did not show up to take a vote on him going to come and meet with President Obama. That he’s coming to meet with Obama [is] because he’s been pressured to do that, but Abbas has to be remembered as being one of the people who drafted the Oslo Agreement back in ’93, which actually betrayed the Palestinians and turned over part of the land of Palestine to Israel, which is, in fact, against international law, but that’s been ignored.
Kathleen Wells: So you’re saying President Abbas doesn’t have the authority to negotiate peace.
Jeffrey Blankfort: He really doesn’t. I mean, he doesn’t have the support of the Palestinians. If there would be some incredible deal in which Israel would agree to withdraw to the 1967 borders, he would have some credibility, but he has none. When the Goldstone Report came out criticizing Israel for its brutal behavior, brutal attack on Palestinians in Gaza, Abbas wanted to suppress the report.
I’m saying that the Palestinians don’t expect anything in these talks. This is all like a political charade, and it has been in every case.
Kathleen Wells: I was just going to ask you that. And then you mentioned the fact that there are no pre-conditions. In fact, Assistant Secretary Shapiro said last July at the Brookings [Institution] that for the fiscal year 2010 the Obama administration has requested $2.775 billion in security assistance funding specifically for Israel. And this is the largest request in history — in U.S. history — and Congress has … Go ahead.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Yeah. This is part of a ten-year package that was first negotiated by George W. Bush at the end of his term, but it was signed with President Obama’s approval. That amount of money is also not the total amount of money.
For example, President Obama, to gain the favor of the Jewish community, which is now turning on him or certain elements of it are, approved $205 million for something called the Iron Dome — a defensive shield for Israel to protect itself against rockets from Hezbollah the next time Israel launches a war on Lebanon, which is considerably more than the United States has offered to Pakistan to help the Pakistanis in what is the largest global disaster in modern times.
The United States has come up with less than $200 million for Pakistan at this particular point in time. And, in fact, [it] had the Pakistani Army divert waters that would have covered a military base there and which drowned a Pakistani town.
The United States’ commitment to Israel is, unfortunately, virtually unbreakable at this point in time, unless there is a mass movement from the American people to change it. It doesn’t appear that it’s happening, because nobody is really calling for it, even on the side of those who support the Palestinians. Or say they do.
Kathleen Wells: So let me ask you. Since our support — or Obama’s support rather — the administration’s support of Israel is so generous and effective, why is President Obama so unpopular in Israel?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, first of all, it begins with his speech in Cairo. Well, maybe that continues. The Israeli public, the Ashkenazi — the European Jewish public –is very racist. They’re racist against the Ethiopian Jews that emigrated there from Ethiopia. They’re racist against dark-skinned Jews, who are really the Arab Jews who emigrated from Arab countries. One of the reasons that the right wing Likud came into power in 197 was because the European Ashkenazi Jews who ran the Labor Party looked down on the Jews from the Arab lands, dark-skinned Jews who were indistinguishable physically from Palestinian Arabs, whereas the European Jews were white. I guess they lost their color after leaving ancient Palestine 2000 years ago.
In any case, the racism is a great part of it, the same kind of racism that we see here against Obama on the part of a significant segment of the American public that has nothing to do with his policies. The idea that his name, of course, is Barack Hussein Obama and then he was born to a Muslim father only added to this. We see today that 20 percent of Americans think that Obama is a Muslim.
Kathleen Wells: And he is not, I want to …
Jeffrey Blankfort: And he’s not.
Kathleen Wells: Yes.
Jeffrey Blankfort: But the point is that the Israelis are used to having a President who bends over and kisses the behind of whoever is the Israeli Prime Minister. And that was the case with Bill Clinton. It was the case with George W. Bush. And they expected the same with Obama. The first George Bush, however, was the last President to really stand up to Israel, and he paid for it at election time when he lost to Clinton. He probably …
Kathleen Wells: Oh, I thought Kennedy was the last President to stand up to …
Jeffrey Blankfort: No, Kennedy took three positions that were red lines for Israel. One, Kennedy supported the Palestinian “right of return” — Resolution 194 — which called for Palestinians as individuals to determine whether they would take compensation or return to their homes in Palestine. Kennedy realized that all Palestinians couldn’t return, but he believed a significant number should be allowed to return, and he supported that. Israel was adamantly against that.
President Kennedy was adamantly opposed to Israel’s nuclear weapons, both publicly and privately, as he was with the Palestinian “right of return,” and he was very upset with the way the Israelis lied to him about what they were doing in Dimona — that they were building [a] nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes, a propaganda lie that was propagated by the American Zionist Council here in the United States, which they bragged about.
The third position of Kennedy was that his Justice Department, under his brother Bobby, was making a serious effort to get the American Zionist Council, which was a predecessor to AIPAC, to be registered as a foreign agent. And they refused to do so. They kept stalling and stalling until Kennedy was assassinated, and then under Johnson, all these particular campaigns were allowed to die. And Johnson became the first really pro-Israel President we’ve had. Most of that is not known about Kennedy. Professor Chomsky never writes about it. He doesn’t consider it to be important. It would interfere with his position that the United States supports Israel because it’s an asset. That’s not the way Kennedy saw it.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Now Bush, Sr., in 1991, decided that he wanted to force Israel to come to the peace table. It should be noted that when Bush was Vice President, when Israel bombed the Iraq nuclear reactor, Bush wanted Israel to be sanctioned. He was outvoted by President Reagan and Secretary of State Alexander Haig. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Bush also wanted Israel to be sanctioned. Again he was outvoted by Reagan and Haig. This is documented by Moshe Arens, Israel’s Foreign Minister at the time, in his book “Broken Covenant: The US Israel Relationship and the Bush Presidency.” – (The book title is Broken Covenant: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis Between the U.S. and Israel.)
In 1991, when Israel came to Bush and wanted ten billion dollars in loan guarantees from the U.S. government at a time when our economy was hurting, Bush saw this as Israel’s way of not engaging in peace talks, and he told Israel … He asked the Israeli Prime Minister Shamir to postpone his request for four months. Shamir decided he would not do it and he would go over his head to Congress. When Bush Sr. found out and realized that Congress would override his veto of the $10-billion loan guarantees, he went to the American people [on TV] on September 12, 1991, and [held] a press conference/statement, in which he said, “There are a thousand lobbyists up here on Capitol Hill against little old me.” And he told the American public the amount of money that each Israeli citizen — man, woman, and child — was getting in aid from the United States.
At this time there were a thousand — at least a thousand — Jewish lobbyists on Capitol Hill talking to members of Congress about passing the loan guarantee legislation. And so the very next day the polls showed that the American public was behind Bush by 85 percent. This really scared the lobby and members of Congress. And so they retreated. But the head of AIPAC at the time, a man named Thomas Dine, made a statement that September 12, 1991, would be a day that would live in infamy. And from that moment on, even Republicans such as William Safire in the New York Times began attacking Bush over the economy. They wouldn’t attack over this issue but over the economy.
And in February of ’92, when Bush again would not approve the loan guarantees, they went after him big time. This is all very well documented. The Congressional Record is filled with speeches attacking the President and supporting Israel. The only person who spoke against the loan guarantees was the late Senator Robert Byrd, but you did not read what he had to say in the American press because the American press by 1992 was parroting essentially the Israeli line.
Jeffrey Blankfort: The failure to get the loan guarantees, at that time, embarrassed Shamir, and he was defeated by Rabin for Prime Minister, and with the November elections rolling around, Bush then agreed to give loan guarantees to Israel while deducting the amount of money that was being spent on the settlements. Bush was adamantly against the Jewish settlements; he wanted a freeze on the settlements. He did not want any Russian Jews going to the settlements.
Kathleen Wells: Hasn’t Obama been trying to impose a settlement freeze on Netanyahu?
Jeffrey Blankfort: He did in the beginning, but, unfortunately, he found out that Congress was not behind him. And unlike at the time when the first George Bush did it, there was nobody writing editorials or op-ed pieces in the American press that was supporting it. So in a sense he found himself out on a limb spending political capital that he could not afford to spend. When you have the U.S. Congress supporting the position of a foreign government and that being ignored by those who criticize our government, it’s quite an astonishing situation.
Kathleen Wells: I interview members of Congress. Do you think I can get any members of Congress to sit down and have an interview with me about this issue?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, you could probably get ex-members of Congress. Once somebody is out of Congress, they’re usually more willing to talk about it. Lynn Woolsey in Marin County told a group of visiting constituents, including my sister a couple of years ago, that half the people in Congress are afraid of AIPAC or they hate AIPAC, and they’re intimidated by AIPAC. And then Congressman Henry Waxman from Los Angeles, who’s the liberals’ darling but is a hatchet man for AIPAC within Congress, told Woolsey that if somebody opposed her in the Democratic primary who’s a serious candidate, they would support that person because of a couple of votes she had taken against the AIPAC position.
And we have Maxine Waters, now under investigation in Los Angeles for a charge that is nothing compared to what so many members of Congress have done to enrich their own pocketbooks. But Maxine Waters made a couple of mistakes. Back in, actually, 1991, when Congress was supporting loan guarantees for Israel, she tried to circulate a petition among her fellow members of Congress for loan guarantees for American cities at a time when the economy was hurting. She only got 38 signatures, and then under pressure, she pulled it. That was also never reported in [the] American media, but I did report it in my Middle East Labor Bulletin.
Then in 2004, when Cynthia McKinney was running to get back into Congress, Maxine Waters went to Atlanta, Georgia, to speak on behalf of McKinney, where I interviewed her, and recently she has taken some votes that AIPAC doesn’t like. And so now she is in their cross-hairs or the cross-hairs of the House Ethics Committee, which might as well be speaking for the Israel lobby.
Kathleen Wells: Why do you say that? Why do you say the House Ethics Committee is speaking for the Israeli lobby?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, because there are a number of unethical positions that have been taken by members of Congress who are very strong supporters of Israel over the years who have not found themselves targeted. I mean, when you find members of Congress, particularly in the Senate Banking and Finance Committee, getting millions of dollars in contributions from the savings and loans and banks, and so on, and becoming millionaires by the time they get out of Congress, some real questions need to be asked, but they’re never asked.
Kathleen Wells: Haven’t you written a book or a pamphlet called, “If Americans Only Knew?” Did you write something like that?
Jeffrey Blankfort: No. Actually, If Americans Knew is a website — excellent website — which has some of my articles and information about how the Zionist lobby influences United States politics and the media. If Americans Knew is run by an activist named Alison Weir, and I recommend that to all of your listeners.
Kathleen Wells: Speak to me about how the American labor unions have been influenced by the lobbies.
Jeffrey Blankfort: One of the cornerstones of the support for Israel in this country has been the American labor unions, which were predominantly Jewish in leadership because of Jewish activity in labor unions in the 30s and 40s. So they were early supporters of the State of Israel. And it was interesting, in 1983 there was an article in the Hadassah Courier — Hadassah being the leading Jewish women’s organization — which began, as I recall, saying in the lobby of the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, there is a bust of Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel, and that’s not surprising because, next to the organized Jewish community, the strongest support for Israel has been from American labor unions. And the article goes on to talk about the millions of dollars in State of Israel bonds that the American labor unions have purchased with their members’ dues, but their members aren’t aware of this. The article, by the way, was written by Wolf Blitzer, who is a former staff member of AIPAC, now frequently seen on CNN. He also wrote for the Jerusalem Post.
What happens is you have about 1,700 labor unions who have invested in State of Israel bonds, which obliges them to be lobbyists for Israel on the basis that, as long as the Israeli economy is in good shape, their bonds are in good shape; but if the Israeli economy will go south, so will their investments. The Israeli bond corporation, which is part of the Israel government, has sold State of Israel bonds to about half the states in the union, to many, many pension funds, and most of their members are not aware of it. It is very difficult to get this information — who exactly owns what and how much — unless you have an inside or an in with these organizations.
Kathleen Wells: How did you become aware of it?
Jeffrey Blankfort: When I read this article in 1983 by Wolf Blitzer, it was what encouraged me to accept the suggestion of my friend, Steve Zeltzer — who is also Jewish, a labor union activist — to form the Labor Committee on the Middle East and start doing research on the labor unions’ ties with Israel. And they are very, very strong.
The AFL-CIO is the lone international labor union that has not taken a position supporting Palestinian workers. They are very close to the Israeli Labor Federation, Histadrut, which is discriminating against Palestinian workers and is historically part of the Israeli problem. They were the main organization that organized the businesses and industries of pre-state Israel. It also had close ties with South Africa during the apartheid regime.
Kathleen Wells: You’ve mentioned that you disagree with Chomsky’s views regarding the boycott, divestment and sanction tactics/strategies. Recently, I know that California launched a BDS campaign. Elaborate on how you and Chomsky differ and the recent campaign launched in California.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, actually, I believe Professor Chomsky endorses the campaign launched in California recently to get on the ballot next year. What Chomsky opposes is Israel itself being a target for sanctions — Israeli companies, Israeli cultural — actors, actresses, musicians, and so on — academics. This boycott … A boycott of Israel totally has been called for by representatives of Palestine’s … Palestinian civil society.
They believe that this should be the same kind of boycott that was inflicted on South Africa and helped to end apartheid there. What Professor Chomsky and many of those who support him and live in this country believe [is] that the boycott divestment and sanctions should only be targeted on companies and businesses that invest or are active in the occupied territory that participate in the oppression and occupation of the Palestinians. So the question is: Is Israel allowed to get off the hook? And the Palestinian civil society says no.
Professor Chomsky believes that for Americans to support that position is hypocritical because they should be calling for a boycott of the United States, since Professor Chomsky believes that Israel only does actions that are authorized by the United States and that Israel is not the main culprit but the United States is. And I beg to differ with him on that.
Also, he believes that those who support targeting Israel are actually harming the Palestinian cause — that includes the Palestinian themselves — because this information, this attitude, would be used by hardliners within Israel and the United States to damage the Palestinian cause. There’s been no evidence of that, and he gives no example of that.
So this is an important difference between Professor Chomsky and I, between Professor Chomsky and the Palestinian Civil society. Many organizations are calling for an international boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, which is supported around the world by a number of trade unions, a number of cultural actors and actresses — people who’ve been involved in the anti-apartheid work and see the same kind of struggle taking place in trying to bring Israel to its knees.
Kathleen Wells: So California is the first state in the United States that has launched a BDS campaign. Talk to me … Give me some specifics how this program, this campaign, will be launched.
Jeffrey Blankfort: As I understand it, it was launched in Los Angeles by a group of people, pro-Palestinian supporters, and the idea is to let the American or the California citizenry vote as to whether state pension funds in California should be required to divest from investments that they have in Israel that benefits Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Not Israel per se, but Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
They need 400,000 signatures to get it on the ballot next year, and it will be the first kind of a campaign of its type and what is … It will be mightily opposed by the Israel lobby and probably by all of the nation — nationwide media, not just California media. And we expect to see all kinds of money and activity coming in to try and stop this event, but if we could get 400,000 signatures to put this on the ballot — it is a possibility to educate the public about this issue in a way they’ve never been educated before.
Kathleen Wells: Now, when you make this distinction between they’re not campaigning against Israel per se, but rather Israel’s occupation of Gaza …
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, no, occupation of the West Bank. And of course, it’s not officially of Gaza, but Gaza has a large prison camp which they control. It’s essentially … it’s the same, but they have no investments in Gaza. But there are a number of American businesses, companies — Caterpillar, Motorola, IBM, Intel — have investments in the occupied territories, do business there. There are millions of dollars involved in investing in Israel — in the occupied territories — and so the idea is to cause those institutions that have those investments to divest them. I think they’re talking about the state institutions, not private institutions.
Kathleen Wells: Oh, state institutions.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Right.
Kathleen Wells: I’m just trying to figure out how you make this distinction between not campaigning against Israel per se, as opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. How do you draw that distinction? I’m not clear on it.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I don’t actually draw that distinction. Probably to get more people to sign this, it would seem that Israel itself is not being punished but just Israel’s occupation. However, supporters of Israel will treat this as if it was Israel itself because they are now propagating a campaign around the world saying that the boycott, divestment and sanction movement is a movement to de-legitimize Israel. And, of course, there’s nothing in any of the statements that say that. What is being de-legitimized is a country that occupies other people’s land for decades, and if Israel has a problem with its own legitimacy, so do many other people, among them myself.
Kathleen Wells: Because to say it’s not against Israel, but Israel is occupying the West Bank, so I don’t see…
Jeffrey Blankfort: Yes. So the idea is to only punish that aspect of Israel, those investments that are directly in the West Bank, those companies that have businesses or factories in the West Bank, or those companies that produce materials, like Caterpillar and their bulldozers that are used to demolish Palestinian homes; they have a special bulldozer for that. And so there’s been a long campaign, which has not been very successful so far, to get Caterpillar to not sell its bulldozers to Israel. And this is kind of an escalation of that.
Kathleen Wells: And then how will California residents be involved? What … say, assuming they get the requisite number of signatures, what is that? 400,000?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Something like that.
Kathleen Wells: Yeah. And they get those signatures and then will it be California residents asking that their pension funds …
Jeffrey Blankfort: There are a number of state pension funds, and those pension funds were the ones that would have to divest. That would also include the universities, I presume. I’m not sure of all the details. I haven’t read the fine print. But I assume any state institution that invested in any business that did business in the occupied territories or contributed to enhancing or maintaining the occupation would be a legitimate target. And they would have to divest those funds if the voters of California approved that.
Kathleen Wells: Now we talked dramatically about the pro-Israel influence with Democrats in D.C. Elaborate on this notion how this influence — this pro- Israel influence — in D.C. is also … whether or not it’s a bipartisan effort?
Jeffrey Blankfort: There is probably no more bipartisan effort on a critical issue — not a Mother’s day resolution or a resolution to thank our veterans. There is no other issue in which both political parties have historically marched in locked step with one another. So you have Senator Boxer here in California arm-in-arm with former Senator Jesse Helms. The most right-wing racist senators, congressmen, and the most liberal of Democrats march arm-in-arm when it comes to pledging their allegiance to Israel. The Democrats get the most money, but the Republicans, now, in more recent years, get money from Christian-Zionists, who are even more zealous than so many Jewish Zionists about Israel maintaining every inch of the West Bank and even more.
But what happens if you are a Republican and you step out of line and you criticize Israel, you will be targeted. Then the three famous cases of Charles Percy — Senator Charles Percy of Illinois, who was very pro-Israel — I mean he was also … believed the Palestinians should have their rights.
When he, in 1981, voted for what they call the AWACS, the Advanced Air Warning System, to sell this advanced warning system to Saudi Arabia which would protect it from hostile attack, President Reagan lobbied personally to get Charles Percy to change his vote. And Charles Percy changed his vote and voted for AWACS to sell to Saudi Arabia and it passed. And the Israel lobby organization – AIPAC — then targeted Charles Percy — deliberately, openly, publicly — to get some congressman [Paul Simon] to run against him. And they succeeded and Percy was defeated.
There was another Illinois congressman, Paul Findley, who also spoke favorably of the Palestinians. He later wrote a book about it called “They Dared to Speak Out”. He was also targeted. “They Dared to Speak Out” was a story of what happens to people in this country — not just politicians, but teachers and so on — who have dared to publicly speak out against the Israel lobby and the policies of the State of Israel.
Finally, there was my lawyer, Pete McCloskey, a marine veteran from California who openly supported the Palestinians [in Congress]. He supported Israel, he supported two-state solution before it was acceptable. There was a time when anyone who supported two states was considered anti-Israel. Twenty years ago, if you called for two states, you were anti-Israel. Pete McCloskey called for two states; he was targeted. So Republicans know, just like Democrats, that if they speak out against Israel or are critical of Israel policy, they are going to be just as much of a target as a Democrat.
So what you see are these 400 to four votes, 99 to one in the Senate. The one now is dead — the late Bobby Byrd, Robert Byrd. So the votes now will be 100 to nothing when it comes to pro-Israel positions. It’s a pretty ugly situation. There’s no other issue that is of such importance to America and to the world in which both houses of the U.S. Congress come together. No parliament in France, England, anywhere else is like this, even those countries that support Israel. There’s nothing comparable to this, because they don’t have the money in their politics that we have in ours.
Kathleen Wells: So you’re saying that it used to be 99 to one with the late Senator Byrd being the only senator that would vote against Israel on legislation?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Or any issue that might involve Israel, critical of Israel. Byrd was the only one who would do that. He was well-liked and well-loved. He brought a lot of money back to West Virginia. He took care of West Virginia very well and so he was not the kind of person that AIPAC would think of attacking. They just ignored him. He would make statements on the floor of Congress critical of Israel, and the newspapers would not publish them.
Kathleen Wells: Okay. This is my last question, I promise. What prescriptions can you offer for an effective pro-Palestinian movement?
Jeffrey Blankfort: We need to recognize that, as someone once said, “All politics is local,” and the Israeli-Palestine issue is no exception. When we have schools firing teachers, when we have healthcare limited, when we don’t have universal healthcare, when we have serious economic problems in all our communities, all our localities, the notion that we are contributing, giving money to Israel … They’re not buying these weapons with their money. That we are giving them the money to buy these weapons [is outrageous]. And we are fighting wars that they want — sending our soldiers to fight and die and kill innocent people on an agenda that was Israel’s before it was ours.
Members of Congress [who] support that they should be targeted and exposed with the speeches that they have made. It’s all available online. You go to the AIPAC website, aipac.org, and you look at all the letters that have been sent to various persons by members of Congress over the years, it’s all there. It’s not secret. And those members of Congress should be held to account. And I’m sure, for example, if the American public could have heard the speech of Andrew Shapiro, which I played for my listeners — and it enraged them — to the Brookings Institution about the U.S.-Israel relationship, they would be enraged. But the point is we have to speak to ordinary Americans who have no vested interests in the outcome in the Middle East, either Jewish or Arab Americans. This is an issue that is the responsibility of all Americans. This is what needs to be done and, of course, Israel itself should be targeted. Israeli institutions should be targeted.
We didn’t bring up the example of the USS Liberty, the ship that was attacked and [almost] sunk by the Israelis in 1967 in which 34 sailors were killed and 171 wounded [during] more than an hour of attacks, and the survivors were not allowed to talk about it by President Johnson under penalty of court martial. The American public doesn’t know about that. But my experience is, when I talk to people about the Liberty, they do get angry, and they would get angrier if they knew what Israel has been doing with our support.
I would like to bring up the role of certain members of Congress who consider themselves to be agents of Israel rather than United States. And there was one I wrote about named Steven Solarz, who back in 1980 sent his constituents very proudly a letter in which he wrote … It was titled, “Delivering for Israel,” and I quote. He said, “It is a story of how legislative maneuvering and political persistence managed to prevail over physical constraints and bureaucratic resistance.” This is how they got an additional $660 million in foreign aid for Israel and how, he said, “given that this was an election year.”
He also wrote to his constituents, largely Jewish at the time, I quote. He said, “We also gently suggested to the Secretary Cyrus Vance that we were prepared to take the fight for increase in aid to the floor of Congress. That it might put the administration in an election year in a bad light with some of its most important constituencies if it would be seen to be opposing in an effort to help Israel.”
And then, shortly thereafter, Secretary Vance [said] the administration had decided to recommend an increase of from $1 billion to $1.2 billion in additional military assistance, but to keep at the same level — $785 million — the amount of economic assistance for Israel. So an additional half of a billion dollars of U.S. money went to Israel as a result of the pressure of Steven Solarz and his fellow agents for Israel in the U.S. Congress in 1980, when the U.S. economy was in the doldrums as it is today.
Kathleen Wells: As it is today.
Jeffrey Blankfort: And you have the same thing happening today, 30 years later, except Solarz is no longer in Congress. We have Howard Berman. We have Charles Schumer. We have Jane Harman. We have Henry Waxman. We have Eric Cantor. We have Eric Weiner, Eliot Engle, Gerald Nadler, and I could keep on and on and on.
Kathleen Wells: And why hasn’t there been a national campaign to educate Americans about U.S. aid to Israel and an attempt to end it?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, there is an organization. There are campaigns, but they’re not conducted with enthusiasm, and they don’t have the enthusiastic support of people in the solidarity movement who believe that the problem is U.S. imperialism and not Israel.
In their slogans, they keep repeating, “End the occupation. End the occupation.” I would say that the majority of Americans, if you ask them on the street, and you say “End the occupation,” they won’t know what you’re talking about. But if you say, “Stop aid to Israel” and you tell them how much money is involved, particularly at this point in time, they would put their heads up, and they would wonder, and they would be concerned, especially when after-school programs are being cut and when their teachers are no longer able to get jobs. And when they themselves are out of work.
Kathleen Wells, J.D., is a political correspondent for Race-Talk. Kathleen is a native of Los Angeles and has degrees in political science and law, from UCLA and UC Berkeley, respectively. She writes/blogs on law and politics.
The Original Audio Version (Part 1, 2 and 3) : http://www.race-talk.org/?p=5833
Little-Known 9/11 Truth Organization Strikes Gold in Court Action Against NIST, Unearths Striking Video/Photo WTC Evidence
Over the last century, the most astounding historical discoveries of man-made artifacts have often been accomplished by well-funded, highly experienced researchers. From the excavation of King Tut’s tomb to the sighting of the sunken Titanic, stunning finds have required immense financial and human resources, as well as the leadership by distinguished. So, how did a mountain of never-before-seen footage used in NIST’s World Trade Center investigations get exposed to the light of day last month? Was it the work of a billionaire adventurer? Not quite. You can thank an upstart non-profit, the International Center for 9/11 Studies, whose efforts have at last borne fruit.
The International Center for 9/11 Studies was founded in 2008 by Director James Gourley, a Texas lawyer who began questioning the events of 9/11 after watching a presentation given by David Ray Griffin on C-SPAN.
“I was just floored by what I was hearing,” Gourley explained, “and I’ve been looking into 9/11 ever since then.”
In order to encourage a better understanding of the 9/11 attacks and promote scientific study of these tragic events, Gourley assembled a small team of trusted colleagues, which includes physics instructor David Chandler, activist Dr. Graeme MacQueen, and Justin Keogh, the Center’s Chief Technical Officer. The Center has partnered with other key researchers in the past, including physicist Steven Jones and chemist Niels Harrit.
Since its inception, the Center has contributed to groundbreaking work on the technical analysis of the WTC building destructions. Gourley, who has a chemical engineering background, co-authored several papers that exposed evidence that the Twin Towers and WTC Building 7 were destroyed by means of controlled demolition. His critique of official-story defender Zdenek Bazant’s crush down/crush up collapse theory was published as part of a formal discussion in the mainstream Journal of Engineering Mechanics. Gourley’s contributions also extended to the peer-reviewed paper detailing the active thermitic material discovered in the WTC dust, which was published in the Bentham Open Chemical Physics Journal. In addition, the Center collaborated with Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice, and other scientists and engineers to submit 26 pages of comments on the NIST WTC 7 Draft Report within the three-week deadline.
Uncovering the data NIST used in its WTC investigations proved to be a little more difficult. The Center filed a FOIA Request with NIST on January 26, 2009, seeking disclosure of “all of the photographs and videos collected, reviewed, cited or in any other way used by NIST during its investigation of the World Trade Center building collapses.” NIST initially ignored this request, and for months dismissed attempts by the Center to gain acknowledgment of its receipt. Undeterred, Gourley filed a lawsuit on May 28, 2009 to get the data released. Since then, NIST has been periodically turning over images and video from its archives. So far, the Center has received over 300 DVDs and several external hard disk drives related to the NIST Reports – more than three terabytes of data – and NIST has indicated that additional records will be released in the future.
The first section of data to be partially analyzed by the Center is the Cumulus Database, a collection of more than 6,500 video clips that NIST had gathered from residents, first responders and news organizations that were filming in New York City on September 11, 2001. Even though the Center has only been able to look through a small fraction of this enormous archive, several remarkable video sequences have already been located and posted online.
In one unsettling video clip, two firefighters who had just escaped from one of the Twin Towers discussed how secondary explosions inside the building caused the lobby to collapse.
One of the firefighters is so concerned about explosives that he says, “There may be more. Any one of these buildings could blow up.” The official accounts of the events have excluded the more than 100 witnesses citing the sights and/or sounds of explosions.
The release of this video generated so much interest that searches for it skyrocketed to #1 on Google Trends on October 6, 2010.
In another clip, a low frequency explosion can be heard just before the East penthouse of WTC Building 7 falls.
One of the most mysterious pieces of footage to be exposed shows a massive amount of dust and a large object being ejected from a window a few stories below the jet impact zone of one of the Towers.
“The size and speed of the expelled material indicate that an explosion must have caused this event,” Gourley said after examining the video.
Several clips show clear evidence of editing that Gourley described as “suspicious.”
This includes a video of WTC Building 7 from which the penthouse collapse sequence is missing. In another clip that begins just after WTC 7 starts to fall, the soundtrack is strangely silent, and does not turn on until after the building has been completely destroyed.
In addition to these, a video recorded after the collapse of the Twin Towers was released, in which Michael Hess, the Corporation Counsel for New York City, can be seen calling for help from the 8th floor of WTC Building 7. This footage further corroborates the testimony of Barry Jennings, the former Deputy Emergency Manager of the New York City Housing Authority, who reported that he and Hess were trapped on the 8th floor after an explosion inside the building destroyed the stairwell beneath them.
The Center is preparing other data collections for public download, and working with NIST to attain additional volumes of information that are still being withheld. Center volunteers are also analyzing a computer model of Building 7 that NIST reluctantly released to determine whether the parameters used in their investigation were scientifically legitimate. David Chandler will continue to provide his technical expertise by publishing a video that contains a detailed analysis of the recordings. Justin Keogh has been adding material to his website to assist those who wish to explore the extensive amount of written material pertaining to the WTC catastrophe.
In the meantime, the Cumulus video clips, which total about 86 GB in size, have been made available online, and instructions for download can be viewed here. This collection alone is so massive that the Center cannot analyze all of the footage in a timely manner with its limited assets. Many hours of video have yet to be thoroughly reviewed. At first glance, the current lack of resources may seem to be disappointing, but this dilemma actually presents one of the greatest opportunities for independent researchers, technical professionals and others to help bring new evidence to light.
“The more people there are that look at it, the better,” Gourley said when asked about the need for assistance. “There might be a bombshell hidden in there, and you never know until you go through it all.” The international attention that some of the footage has garnered also suggests that other as-yet-unseen evidence could make headlines around the world.
The treasure trove of data that the International Center for 9/11 Studies has worked so hard to obtain is waiting earnestly for a few good men and women to sift through it, and unearth all the information that has been buried for years. Anyone with Internet access now has the potential to make discoveries that will bring us closer to justice for the victims of that fateful day more than nine years ago.
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Arab MK Mohammed Baraka, speaking Saturday before the Israeli Knesset, offered evidence suggesting that NIS 40 million of the NIS 130 million budget set aside to develop the city of Lod will be used to demolish Arab homes that were allegedly built without permits.
Baraka accused the Israeli government of promoting the development project without discussing details. “But when we read that NIS 40 million of the total amount for the plan, which is nearly 31 per cent of the total allocated budget, will be spent on what the government calls ‘applying the law against building violations’, we know in what way the government will develop the city of Lod,” he said.
Baraka added that the decision ignores the real causes of the distress of Arab citizens in Lod, abuses them, and abuses their rights to live in their city.
“This is a plan to Judaize the city of Lod and take the property, rights, and place of Arabs in it, and not to develop it,” the head of the democratic front party for peace and equality went on to say.
Responding to Baraka’s charges, Israeli financial minister Meshulam Nahari claimed the budget was aimed to develop the city’s infrastructure for the welfare of citizens, a step he said would involve construction and housing planning.
Baraka interrupted: “Construction without permits in Lod and elsewhere is not because of the will to violate planning laws, but a result of the policy of cracking down on Arabs and denying them building areas. In Lod in particular there have been attempts for many years to overpower Arabs from the city, especially in this manner.”
“The Arabs will remain in their city of Lod, and the government must offer solutions inside the city,” Baraka concluded.
Steven Emerson, a self-styled terrorism expert, is a guy who had a profound and caustic impact on Tampa for more than a decade. Emerson has had much less of an impact on another city, Nashville, although his corrosive brand of often-inaccurate smear jobs recently slithered into Tennessee.
Still, Nashville’s citizens know a whole lot more about Emerson than folks in Tampa, despite his relatively recent arrival on the Tennessee hate-Muslim soapbox, where he jostles for the limelight with loopy religious fanatics and just plain old-fashioned Southern bigots.
Why that imbalance of knowledge about Emerson? The answer lies in a horrible miscarriage of journalism committed over many years by The Tampa Tribune, a series of atrocities the Trib could easily correct by just providing a dash of fair and accurate reporting, something history indicates the newspaper won’t do. Nashville should be grateful that it has a newspaper, The Tennessean, which unlike the Trib will fearlessly dig out the truth.
In tandem with his vassal reporter at the Tampa Trib, Michael Fechter, Emerson waged a decade-long jihad against a professor at the University of South Florida, Sami Al-Arian, accused by Emerson and Fechter of being a terrorist mastermind. Emerson and Fechter were backed by a shadowy network of former federal agents and foreign spooks, notably a disinformation specialist for Israel’s ultra-right Likud party named Yigal Carmon and a controversial ex-FBI official named Oliver “Buck” Revell – and a lot of money whose origins have never been revealed.
However, where their information came from was clear. As the great Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz explained before Al-Arian’s 2005 federal trial: “Israel owns much of the copyright for the case; a well-informed source termed the prosecution an ‘American-Israeli co-production.’ The Americans are running the show, but behind the scenes it was the Israelis who for years collected material (and) transmitted information…” How did they transmit information? In part, via “secret evidence” slipped to our federales, evidence and accusers Al-Arian wasn’t allowed to confront (who needs that nasty old Sixth Amendment?). But reporters were also conduits for scurrilous “intelligence” claims. Fechter himself wrote that “former and current senior Israeli intelligence officials” loaded his stories with information. Those allegations, many ludicrous on their face, were rejected by a federal jury, despite a highly prejudiced judge and rulings that, if they had been issued against Martin Luther King Jr. would have prevented him from mentioning Jim Crow in his defense.
Over the years, while a Weekly Planet and Creative Loafing editor, I had a great deal of fun exposing Emerson, and the prevarications by Fechter and the federal government. I tried to put into context what the anti-Muslim crusaders were up to. I joined a rather elite cadre of journalists that had tangled with Emerson – including famed investigative reporters Seymour Hersh, Robert I. Friedman and Robert Parry, who provided me with insight into Emerson’s real agenda.
Emerson filed two bogus lawsuits against me, the Weekly Planet (AKA Creative Loafing) and an AP reporter who had told me about questions he had had over the provenance of a document Emerson gave the news service. We obtained a court order that would have forced Emerson to produce real proof of his allegations – and he knew we were digging into who he really was and who paid his bills – so he ran away from the fight he started; the good guys (me, for example) prevailed.
It’s noteworthy that a number of dispassionate analysts had observations similar to mine. New York University scholar Zachary Lockman, for example, (as quoted on “Right Web”) wrote in 2005: “[Emerson's] main focus during the 1990s was to sound the alarm about the threat Muslim terrorists posed to the United States. By the end of that decade Emerson was describing himself as a ‘terrorist expert and investigator’ and ‘Executive Director, Terrorism Newswire, Inc.’ Along the way, critics charged, Emerson had sounded many false alarms, made numerous errors of fact, bandied accusations about rather freely, and ceased to be regarded as credible by much of the mainstream media . The September 11 attacks seemed to bear out Emerson’s warnings, but his critics might respond that even a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day.”
Again, it’s sadly significant that the Trib never even provided such mild doses of context about its primary source, Emerson, in its inflammatory, intentionally erroneous and misleading, and often racist diatribes against Al-Arian. The Trib still gives Emerson ink – never questioning his claims and guilt-by-association-and-innuendo tactics, and never vetting his background, associations, financing and motives.
Some insight on Emerson’s millions has now been provided by The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, citing the Tennessean’s reports, on Oct. 26 awarded Emerson his nightly “Worst Person in the World” citation. Olbermann expressed regret that the network had previously used Emerson as a chattering head on terrorism topics. (Similarly, CBS did not renew its contract with Emerson after he claimed that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing had “a Middle Eastern trait” because it was carried out “with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.” That was a big “Oops.”)
The Tennessean reported that Emerson collects money through a non-profit, the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, and then funnels that money to his for-profit SAE (as in Steven A. Emerson) Productions. Quoting Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group, the Nashville paper reported: “Basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit. It’s wrong. This is off the charts.”
That little bit of information on Emerson, contained in one report, is far more than the Trib told you about Emerson over a decade – despite Emerson using the Trib to provoke a legal firestorm that is still ongoing.
You do recall the firestorm, right? Emerson and Fechter launched a series of attacks on Muslims. No amount of hyperbole and vitriol-spewing was considered excessive by the Trib or Emerson. Fechter, for example, darkly hinted that the FBI found documents about MacDill Air Force Base among Al-Arian’s papers, insinuating some dastardly design. Nope. Al-Arian had twice been invited to speak to large groups of military and intelligence officers, and the sinister documents were, well, just the hand-out materials. Fechter, following the lead of his guru, Emerson, also tried to blame the Oklahoma City bombing on Arabs, an egregiously false story the Trib has never seen fit to correct. Emerson, meanwhile, said in February 1996 that Palestinian advocates at USF were involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Emerson promised proof “in the near term.” The proof never came, and the Justice Department said it had no records supporting the allegation.
You think the Trib might have called Emerson on that one? Hahaha.
The former head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Robert O’Neill, twice concluded during the 1990s there was no evidence to prosecute Al-Arian, according to my multiple sources in the Justice Department. I don’t like quoting anonymous sources so I’ll be clear: O’Neill, now the U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Middle District, himself told me he had looked at the evidence and found no reason to prosecute. In 1998, the then FBI counterterrorism chief Bob Blitzer also told me “no federal laws were broken” by the Tampa Muslims.
Yet, after 9/11, propelled by hate-Muslim diatribes from Bill O’Reilly (who had been funneled highly slanted information by Fechter) and the fear by Jeb Bush that the University of South Florida would conclude a settlement with Al-Arian that would prove embarrassing to the Bushite regimes in Washington and Tallahassee, the federal government indicted Al-Arian. The trial concluded with the government failing to win a single guilty verdict against Al-Arian or his co-defendants, an immense disaster for the Bush Justice Department.
Al-Arian later plea bargained in order to preclude another trial on counts on which the jury didn’t reach a verdict – although notably no more than two jurors felt he was guilty on even those “hung” counts. Al-Arian’s plea bargain stipulated that he had had no involvement in terrorist activities. Rather, he had provided some minor support to people who might have become terrorists, although it’s clear from the trial that any such activities by Al-Arian occurred when they were legal. The plea agreement supposedly ended all business between Al-Arian and the federal government. However, due to legal chicanery by a rogue federal prosecutor in Virginia, Gordon Kromberg – who has been called a doppelganger of Emerson – Al-Arian remains entangled in federal courts and on house arrest.
According to my federal sources, the Al-Arian case cost our government at least $50 million, and, no, the Trib and Emerson didn’t offer to pay part of the bill (you and I had that honor). And, with so many FBI agents chasing a guy whose “guilt” was mostly in exercising his First Amendment rights, the FBI missed another fellow flitting around Florida, a real terrorist with blood on his mind, Mohammed Atta.
The final chapters in the Trib’s pogroms against Muslims had a sadly humorous angle. Fechter, who had long been a tool of Emerson’s, finally got slightly honest and went to work for his mentor. And Fechter dumped his wife and children and shacked up with one of the federal prosecutors who tried Al-Arian. I don’t recall where Fechter got his journalism training, but he must have skipped the classes on journalistic objectivity and not sleeping with your sources.
So, The Tennessean’s articles might have provided an excellent opportunity for the Trib to revisit and maybe heal a terrible wound it was complicit in inflicting in Tampa. On Friday, I asked Trib Managing Editor Richard “Duke” Maas if he had such an inclination – heck, I inquired, aren’t you interested in what The Tennessean wrote about a guy who had so much impact on Tampa and your newspaper? Well, not really, Maas responded, sounding more irritated than journalistically curious. He added that Fechter had left the newspaper, which I gather meant he felt the Trib was thereby absolved of responsibility.
If you happen to have a spare backbone, you might send it to the pathetic folks at The Tampa Tribune.
John F. Sugg was editor of the Weekly Planet in the 1990s, and group senior editor of Creative Loafing Newspapers until he retired in 2008.
During a visit to Turkey, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro has signed an important energy agreement with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu.
The visit is seen as part of the Venezuelan government’s campaign to open up relations with what it considers key countries as part of its pluri-polar foreign policy.
Maduro stated that for Venezuela it is important to achieve agro-industrial, infrastructure and housing development and for that purpose it needed to transfer machinery and supplies from Asia to Venezuela. Venezuela’s approach to Turkey, Maduro declared, is to pursue an economic high-level agenda to establish “a new world financial architecture.”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister highlighted Venezuela’s strategic location with access to the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean. Turkey is hoping that it can access the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean via Caracas and Venezuela harbors the same hope to penetrate Asian and Middle Eastern markets through Turkey.
The keynote to the visit was the signing of an energy cooperation agreement to kick-start the strategic alliance. Turkey will invest in the Orinoco Oil Belt and refine Venezuelan crude. Maduro confirmed that Turkey will receive oil from Venezuela and then both nations will make joint oil investments in third countries.
Minister Maduro also met Turkey’s Foreign Trade Secretary, Ahmet Yakici to express his country’s interest in bilateral projects in housing, food and exports. Today, Maduro is expected in the Ukraine to open work sessions agreed to during President Chavez’ visit to that country three weeks ago.
The unfolding drama of the Brazil-Turkey nuclear deal and the Obama Administration’s reactive push to move a draft sanctions resolution in the United Nations Security Council will have profound effects on the character of international relations for years to come. At least two such effects warrant particular attention.
First, for those in official Washington or anywhere else who still doubt that the “post-American world” is here, the deal to refuel the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) brokered by Brazil and Turkey should serve as a blaring wake-up call. As we noted earlier, two rising economic powers from what we used to call the “Third World” have now asserted decisive political influence on a high-profile international security issue. And, in doing so, they have signaled that Washington can no longer unilaterally define terms for managing such issues. As a consequence, President Obama’s most serious foreign policy challenge—repairing America’s image as a global leader—just got more daunting.
Second, by answering Brazil and Turkey’s extraordinary diplomatic effort with an arrogant assertion of the P-5’s power to demand the rapid imposition of new sanctions on Iran and reinstating a demand that Iran must suspend enrichment to avoid new sanctions, the Obama Administration is following a course that could inflict serious damage not only on America’s global standing, but also on the legitimacy of the Security Council itself.
As we noted previously, getting P-5 agreement on a substantially watered down and incomplete draft resolution is not the same as ensuring the requisite nine affirmative votes for it. But, even if Washington is able to ram new sanctions through a deeply divided Council, that course carries huge long-term risks. Already, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan is questioning the Council’s “credibility” to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue. If Washington torpedoes the new nuclear deal before it can be tested, expect Turkey, Brazil, and others to intensify this sort of challenge to the Council’s legitimacy—with support not just from Iran but from a broad range of “non-aligned” countries.
The Obama Administration has only itself to blame for this situation, because it has approached—and is still approaching—the Iranian nuclear issue with unilateral hubris worthy of George W. Bush. The Administration has continued to insist that Iran cannot indigenously enrich uranium, even as part of a broader nuclear deal. It took what should have been a straightforward technical discussion on refueling the TRR—a thoroughly safeguarded facility in the middle of Tehran that produces medical isotopes—and turned it into a highly politicized effort to exchange most of Iran’s low-enriched uranium for promises of new fuel at some unspecified point in the future. Washington then demanded that other countries unquestioningly support these positions.
When rising powers like Brazil, Turkey, and China were reluctant to go along, the Administration thought it could browbeat them into submission. Speaking “privately”, Administration officials questioned whether the presumed ambitions of Brazilian President Lula—who leaves office in December—to become the first non-American World Bank president or the next UN secretary general could be realized if he antagonizes Washington over Iran. Last week, Secretary of State Clinton publicly ridiculed Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu’s efforts to mediate a nuclear compromise. And U.S. officials told Chinese counterparts that, if Beijing does not support tough new sanctions against Iran, Washington would not be able to restrain Israeli military action, putting China’s energy supplies at risk.
But these rising powers were not prepared to be browbeaten. For Brazil—which gave up its own nuclear weapons program but insists on continuing uranium enrichment—the idea that Washington could unilaterally redefine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regarding enrichment was especially odious. For Turkey, under a popular, democratically elected Islamist government, the idea that Iran’s nuclear program would be treated differently because Iran is governed by Islamists was equally unacceptable. China has longstanding objections to international sanctions, and has consistently advocated diplomacy as the best way to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue.
The Obama Administration insisted that the proposal to refuel the TRR advanced in October by the IAEA’s former Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, be treated as a non-negotiable, “take it or leave it” proposition. Last month, though, Baradei himself said the proposal should not be treated this way. Since last October, Iran has consistently said that it accepted in principle the idea of a “swap” to refuel the TRR, but wanted to negotiate the specific terms of a deal. So, as the Administration made itself diplomatically irrelevant, Brazil and Turkey set out on their own to broker a compromise.
The Brazilian-Turkish deal makes explicit what the October proposal obfuscated: Iran has the right to enrich uranium on its territory. Realistically, the chances that Iran would ever surrender its enrichment program are now virtually nil. But the Obama Administration—like its predecessor—refuses to make the shift from working quixotically to stop the unstoppable to negotiating rigorous verification measures for Iran’s enrichment facilities to ensure they are not producing weapons-grade fissile material. Now, others have stepped into the breach and redefined the Iranian nuclear issue for the Administration.
The new nuclear deal also undermines claims of the Obama Administration—which, like its predecessors, maintains no diplomatic presence in Iran and has had extremely limited contact with Iranian officials—to a monopoly on sound judgments about Iranian decision-making and policy. For months, Administration officials—and most U.S.-based Iran analysts—have asserted that the Islamic Republic is too internally conflicted to have a coherent international strategy or make important decisions. Senior Brazilian, Chinese, and Turkish officials who have invested significant amounts of time in substantive discussions with Iranian counterparts argued to Washington for months that a nuclear deal was possible. But Secretary Clinton and others in the Obama Administration thought they knew better—and said so publicly.
In fact, Iran has worked purposefully—dare we say strategically—to cultivate relations with important rising powers, like Brazil and Turkey, as well as China. And, this week, Tehran showed that it can take major decisions. Can the same things be said of the Obama Administration?
President Obama, who came to office professing a new U.S. approach to international engagement, allowed himself to be upstaged by new powers because he has been unwilling to match his rhetoric with truly innovative diplomacy that takes real notice of other countries’ interests. If he does not close this gap, America’s global leadership will continue to decline. And, the institutional architecture for global governance in the 21st century–to which Obama has professed rhetorical support–will be put at risk.
Swedish government officials have accused the US Embassy in Stockholm of conducting unauthorized surveillance activities in the country, shortly after similar charges were made in Norway and Denmark.
The surveillance, performed by people “assigned by the [US] embassy to undertake the measures,” has been in place since 2000 and its extent is still unknown, Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask said on Saturday.
“It seems as though we haven’t been fully informed and that’s not good,” AP quoted her as saying.
The Justice Minister also called on US officials to cooperate in the investigation into the matter.
She did not disclose the targets of the surveillance but pointed out that the activities “seem to be similar” to those uncovered in Norway earlier this week.
“We welcome that those countries that have a heightened threat risk apply their own measures to reduce the risk for attacks, but of course it has to be done in line of what the Swedish law says and permits,” Ask noted.
Denmark’s TV-2 Denmark disclosed on Saturday that the US Embassy in Copenhagen has also conducted secret surveillance activities in the Danish capital.
The report says a unit of 14 agents attached to the US Embassy kept tabs on Danish citizens by adding their personal data to a special computer database.
Also on Wednesday, Norway’s TV-2 News channel revealed that the US Embassy in Oslo has hired 15 to 20 people to monitor local residents.
Following the disclosure, Oslo asked US officials to provide an explanation.
Israel and its U.S. lobby’s insistence on unquestioning U.S. support for Israel in its brutal and illegal conduct toward Palestinian and Turkish civilians has cost the U.S. a major, strategic ally, Turkey, and has severely undermined U.S. foreign policy goals, strategy, and power in the Middle East.
President George W. Bush has been accused of having the most disastrous foreign policy in U.S. history. Unfortunately, President Obama’s apparent inability to stand up to Israel’s U.S. lobby may have created a foreign policy catastrophe that exceeds even that of his hapless predecessor by costing the U.S. the loss of Turkey as our main strategic ally in the region, and by drastically reducing U.S. influence and power in the Middle East.
If this sounds implausible, consider the following: Turkey just recently concluded a public but covert military air combat training exercise with the Chinese in Turkey in which the Chinese flew their jet fighter aircraft from China to Turkey, refueling in Iran. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao just made a state visit to Turkey after which both countries concluded a strategic cooperation agreement. China will build a 4500-kilometer railroad to Turkey, along with two high-speed rail lines, plus oil pipeline systems from Iran to Turkish ports. China has agreed to sell military equipment to Turkey, and is also developing a surface-to-surface rocket-launching system together with Turkey. Turkey’s foreign minister visited China this week, working out details of its new strategic relationship. Turkey has also strengthened its ties with Russia, Iraq, Syria and Iran, and refused to support the most recent UN resolution imposing sanctions on Iran.
Turkey has ceased all cooperation with its former close ally, Israel, including closing its airspace to Israeli planes, ceasing all cooperative military exercises, ending intelligence sharing with Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, and has changed Israel’s status from a close ally to a strategic threat. Turkey has strongly condemned Israel for its brutal conduct against Palestinian and Turkish civilians in Israel’s December 2008 Gaza invasion, and the recent Gaza aid flotilla incident, accusing Israel of committing state terrorism. Turkey has also accused the U.S., formerly its strongest ally, of supporting an international terrorist (Israel) for failing to condemn Israel’s atrocities, and for its monetary, military, and diplomatic support of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and illegal settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In less than two years, Turkey has changed from being a strong U.S. ally and NATO member to a country pursuing an independent path toward strategic relationships with countries that are either adversaries or potential adversaries of the U.S. How did we get to this point?
Turkey’s Importance as a Major U.S. Strategic Ally
Turkey, a nation of 73 million Muslims, has been a major strategic ally of the U.S. for some six decades since the beginnings of the Cold War, providing the U.S. with military bases and a forward bulwark against Soviet expansionism into the Middle-East and the Mediterranean. Turkey fought alongside the U.S. in the Korean War, and risked nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis by allowing the U.S. to station nuclear-tipped Jupiter missiles in Turkey, on the Soviet Union’s doorstep.
Turkey has the second largest military force in NATO and occupies one of the most vital geographic areas in the world, bordering the Mediterranean, Greece, Bulgaria, the Black Sea, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. It has the second fastest growing economy in the world, behind only China. Most important, Turkey is a stable, moderate, secular, Muslim democracy and provides a model template for success for the many Muslim nations in the Middle East and South Asia that suffer from instability, autocratic rule, religious extremism, and poverty.
Turkey also provides the U.S. with an invaluable entrée into the Muslim world and a proven ability to conduct effective diplomacy and mediation among Muslim nations such as Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Turkey permits the U.S. to use a critical military air base and transportation hub at Incirlik, in southeastern Turkey While strong militarily, Turkey has been successfully moving to reduce tensions with all of its neighbors, including traditional rivals such as Greece, Armenia, Syria, and Iraq, and, in addition, has also moved to defuse the conflicts with its minority Kurdish population. It has also taken steps, in part with Brazil, to reduce the conflict between Iran and the West. In short, Turkey, under its strong civilian leadership, has become a major strategic player in the world economically, politically, and diplomatically, and a vital player and asset for the U.S. and its European allies in the Muslim world and in the Middle East and South Asia.
It is difficult to imagine an ally of greater strategic importance to the U.S. in the Middle East than Turkey. Its loss is a major blow to U.S. vital national security interests.
The Gaza Disasters and the Loss of Turkey
In December of 2008, the U.S. and Turkey remained strong, close NATO allies. Israel and Turkey also had a strong strategic alliance in which they cooperated on intelligence matters, and conducted joint military training exercises; Israel had the use of Turkish airspace for training and operational use; Turkey purchased weapons systems from Israel; trade and tourism between the two countries was booming. Turkey was also mediating the disputes between Syria and Israel in the hope of resolving their differences and achieving a permanent peace treaty for the two countries.
Israel’s brutal bombing and shelling of civilian noncombatants in its invasion of Gaza in December 2008, and in its violent capture of a Gaza aid ship in May of 2010, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed, at least five execution-style, by Israeli commandos, deeply angered the Turks. These events, coupled with subsequent UN investigative reports that confirmed Israeli atrocities against civilians and other war crimes in both incidents, ultimately caused Turkey to end its close strategic alliance with Israel. The U.S.’ unquestioning support of Israel in both incidents, even after both later UN investigative reports confirmed Israeli atrocities toward civilians, caused Turkey to be highly critical of the U.S., and ultimately caused it to reduce its strategic alliance with the U.S. and seek, or at least consider, new strategic relationships and agreements with potential U.S. adversaries such as Russia, Iran, and, of greatest and most recent concern, China.
The strength and effectiveness of Israel’s U.S. lobby in influencing U.S. foreign policy in matters related to Israel was demonstrated by Congress and the Obama administration’s unqualified support of Israel’s excessively brutal actions toward civilians in its Gaza invasion and capture of the Gaza aid flotilla in the face of worldwide approbation of Israel. An unfortunate and apparently unforeseen byproduct of the lobby’s actions was the loss to both the U.S. and Israel of the support of a critical major strategic ally, Turkey.
The loss of Turkey as a major U.S. ally will change the balance of power in the Middle East and do serious harm to U.S. vital national security interests in that region, and to Israel’s as well. It is inconceivable that the U.S. would allow a strategic relationship with an ally as vitally important as Turkey to be undermined by supporting brutal and unlawful conduct on the part of a far less strategically important ally, Israel. Yet, because of the overwhelming strength and influence of Israel’s U.S. lobby on the Obama administration and Congress, that is precisely what has occurred.
The Israel Lobby’s Role in the Loss of Turkey as a Key U.S. Ally
The Israel Lobby, headed by the American-Israeli Political Action Committee, or AIPAC, acts in a variety of ways to protect and promote Israeli interests in this country. Any Israeli action, such as the Gaza invasion or the capture of the Gaza aid flotilla, is immediately condoned and praised, discussion and debate are stifled, and dissent is punished. While it is beyond the scope of this article to address the lobby’s strategy and methods in any detail, these are well-known and well-documented. After the Gaza incidents, letters or resolutions supporting Israel’s actions were immediately forthcoming from either the U.S. Senate or the House, or both, and were typically signed or approved by astonishingly overwhelming margins, typically 75 to 90 percent.
There is never any debate in Congress or investigation by congressional committees into Israel’s actions and whether or not they might have a negative effect on U.S. foreign policy interests. Any member of Congress that publicly questions, let alone disapproves, any action taken by Israel, quickly suffers the consequences. For instance, 54 members of Congress, many of whom were running for reelection, were attacked for supposedly being “anti-Israel” because they signed a letter that labeled Israel’s invasion of Gaza as “de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip” and pressed for “immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza.” Yet, the charge of collective punishment, a war crime, was later well documented and confirmed by a balanced and competent United Nations investigating committee.
The problem isn’t whether a member of Congress can be criticized for a statement made or action taken, but whether healthy debate about U.S. foreign policy interests is being stifled by the aggressive actions of a lobby that acts in the interest of a foreign government, namely Israel. When Turkey, a major U.S. ally, criticized Israel’s brutality toward civilians in both the Gaza invasion and the Gaza aid flotilla capture, Congress should have at least debated the issue, particularly since there was widespread televised evidence of the conduct and worldwide universal criticism of Israel’s actions during and after both events. Instead, Congress showed unquestioning support for Israel, without investigating or even inquiring about the facts related to either incident.
Later, when two separate UN investigations of these incidents developed overwhelming evidence of Israeli war crimes and atrocities toward civilian noncombatants, Congress again immediately sided with Israel and conducted no inquiry or investigation into the incidents, or the allegations and evidence provided in the UN investigations. The Obama administration also sided with and provided unquestioning support for Israel, describing the investigations as biased. The fact that a major strategic ally and fellow NATO member had suffered the death of nine of its citizens in the Gaza aid flotilla incident, and that the UN investigation described at least five of the deaths as illegal summary executions seemed an unimportant detail to the Obama administration.
The key, critical question is whether the Israel lobby’s actions forcing congressional and executive branch approval and support for Israel’s brutal and illegal treatment of civilian noncombatants caused Turkey to change its policies toward the U.S., reduce its commitment to its alliance with the U.S., and take steps contrary to the vital national security interests of the U.S. The answer, unfortunately, is yes. The public statements of Turkish leaders since these incidents, strongly criticizing the U.S. failure to criticize Israel and support Turkey and the rest of the world in sanctioning Israel, plus the strong actions taken by Turkey that negatively impact U.S. interests in that region, after the U.S.’ failure to provide that support, demonstrates that causal link. Turkey’s frustrations and disillusionment with U.S. uncritical support for Israel along with its failure to move aggressively toward achieving a two-state solution, had reached a breaking point.
While it would be easy to adopt the Israel lobby’s view that Turkey’s actions are those of an increasingly radical and Islamic regime, there is little evidence to support such a view. Turkey, in fact, has taken the moral high ground in criticizing Israel’s brutal behavior toward Gazan and Palestinian noncombatants. Turkey had little to gain by entering this fray, and much to lose, both in its relationship with Israel and with its longtime ally the U.S. Nonetheless, it has taken a strong public position against both Israel’s actions and U.S. enabling of, and complicity in, those actions. And it is clearly not about to back down.
The Consequences of Inaction
Unless the U.S. can reengage with Turkey, allow the UN to sanction Israel for its Gaza atrocities toward civilian noncombatants, and move to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a major, even cataclysmic shift in the balance of power in the Middle East could occur. Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran could assume control and assert power in that area in place of the U.S.’ traditional “moderate” allies of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Both China and Russia are interested in gaining economic and political influence in the northern Persian Gulf area and are lukewarm toward or unwilling to support strong sanctions against Iran. China, in particular, sees that area as the most important source of oil and natural gas in the world, and would be willing to pay almost any price to gain influence in that area and access to its oil.
For those who remain nostalgic about Israel, our supposed great friend, strong ally, and strategic partner in the Middle East, imagine the following scenario: China offers Turkey billions of dollars in development aid for oil and gas pipelines, ports, railways, and other infrastructure projects. In return it receives a long-term exclusive lease for Incirlik air base and a major naval base on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Turkey then withdraws from NATO and improves its trade ties with Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia and forms an alliance with these countries, and perhaps including Lebanon and even Jordan. Such an alliance would control much of the oil resources in the Persian Gulf. Russia and China would both benefit from this arrangement, China most of all by gaining access to Iranian and Iraqi oil and natural gas resources. China would also gain a significant strategic position in southern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf with a major air base and naval base in Turkey.
The U.S. and NATO would be suddenly faced with a major strategic competitor in what had been largely their own private Mediterranean lake. With the loss of its Incirlik air base, the U.S. would no longer have easy air access to its conflicts and interests in the Middle East and South Asia. European Union countries would be facing a potential loss of Persian Gulf oil and gas resources. Israel would be even more isolated strategically, now facing the might of Turkey against any incursion it might contemplate against Lebanon, Syria, or Iran. The U.S. would be in the unenviable position of having to defend Israel against not only Turkey but potentially China and Russia as well.
While the above scenario may not be imminent or even likely, the reality is that Turkey has become so disillusioned by the U.S.’ inability to fulfill its role as the dominant player in the Middle East that it has decided to forge its own path, independent of the U.S. and its NATO allies. Turkey clearly sees U.S. Middle East policy as feckless and dominated by Israel and its U.S. lobby, and unlikely to change. It no longer views the U.S. as a strong, reliable, trustworthy partner and ally, but as a weakened giant unable to control small allies like Israel even when its vital national security interests are under threat. That view of the U.S., as a feeble, declining giant, unable or unwilling to defend its vital interests, may well increasingly be shared by many of our allies and potential adversaries. If so, that is a dangerous trend indeed, and one that we need to stop.
Clearly the U.S. desperately needs to reevaluate its foreign policy goals and relationships in the Middle East. Faced with the loss of Turkey, a foreign policy disaster of epic proportions, it needs to do so immediately. President Obama should begin his post-election administration by conducting a major reevaluation of U.S. Middle East policy, beginning by appointing an independent, bi-partisan commission of distinguished elder statesmen and states women to review U.S. Middle East policy and the effect of Israel and its U.S. lobby on influencing that policy. Continuing down a byzantine path of a U.S. Middle East policy influenced or even directed by Israel and its U.S. lobby is a recipe for further foreign policy disasters and a cataclysmic decline in U.S. influence in the world. This is an outcome that even Israel and its lobby should fear.
Following the Italian premier’s most recent scandal involving a Moroccan teenage girl, the country’s parliament speaker has called on Silvio Berlusconi to step down.
“He should… take the decision to hand in his resignation,” AFP quoted Gianfranco Fini, the speaker of the lower house, as saying on Sunday.
On October 30, the prominent newspaper Corriere della Sera revealed the details of Berlusconi’s telephone conversation with a Milan police chief, in which he urged him to release the girl, who was detained for theft in May. The 17-year-old girl, known as Ruby, said she attended parties at Berlusconi’s home in Arcore.
The girl claims that she had been trying to break into modeling or television work at the time. She said she had a sexual encounter with Berlusconi at his villa when she was younger than 18.
Prosecutors say that while they have opened a dossier on the claim that Berlusconi hired a juvenile for prostitution, he is not under official investigation.
Last year, high-end escort Patrizia D’Addario claimed she had spent a night with the prime minister, but the conservative Italian leader said he has never paid anyone for sex.
The new scandal comes as Berlusconi’s popularity ratings have dropped below 40 percent, with his government’s austerity package, infighting, and corruption scandals eroding public support for the premier.