David Letwin (Jews for Palestinian Right of Return) interviews Dr. Haidar Eid, Associate Professor, Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine. Dr. Eid is also a one-state activist and a member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
David Letwin: Many Palestinian solidarity activists in this country put their main efforts into opposing the 1967 occupation and more recently, Israel’s siege of Gaza. But you and other Palestinians have argued that Palestinian refugees’ right to return is at the core of the struggle for justice. Why is this?
Haidar Eid: Zionist dispossession and oppression of Palestinians does not begin with 1967. It goes back to 1948, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from villages and towns in Palestine, and were deported to neighboring countries: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria ,Gaza and the West Bank to make way for an apartheid “Jewish state.”
Then, in 1967, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem, which represents the remaining twenty-two percent of historic Palestine.
As a result of this systematic and ongoing ethnic cleansing, fully two-thirds of the Palestinian people are refugees entitled to their right of return to their original homeland, in accordance with United Nations resolution 194. This is the root of the Palestine issue.
Solidarity supporters that only take the cause back to 1967 are ignoring the source of the problem, and reflecting the Zionist Left in Israel, which wants separation of Palestinians from Israeli Jews.
Can this central right of return be realized if there is a Jewish state anywhere in historic Palestine?
No, that is an impossibility. Zionism, by nature, is an exclusionary ideology that doesn’t accept the “Other.” And the “Other,” in Zionist ideology, is the Palestinian — the Arab in the historic land of Palestine. So a Jewish state means the denial of rights to non-Jews. I am from a refugee family, but because I am not born from a Jewish mother, I’m not entitled to citizenship in the state of Israel; I’m not entitled to my right of return.
How does this fit into your analysis of the Two-State versus the One-State Solution?
The two-state solution is a racist solution that calls for a “pure Jewish state”, and a “pure Palestinian state,” both of which would be based on ethno-religious identities. It does not take into account the rights of two-thirds of the Palestinian people. Neither does it take into consideration the national and cultural rights of 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, who live as second-, if not third-class citizens of the state. This is extremely important.
Furthermore, the Palestinian struggle is not about independence — it is about liberation. Liberation is very different from independence, because our right to self-determination must lead to the right of return and full equality for all inhabitants of the state of Palestine.
The two-state solution is a racist dogma that cannot guarantee all the rights demanded by the 2005 BDS call around which we have a Palestinian consensus: withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Arab lands occupied in 1967; implementation of UN resolution 194, which calls for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants; and an end to Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel. I’m sorry that we have solidarity activists who have fallen into the trap of supporting this so-called solution. Would supporters from the United States of America accept a state that officially discriminates against African Americans? Did South African supporters accept the “Bantustan solution”? No, they didn’t! So why accept it for the Palestinians?
And the One-State Solution?
The one-state solution is the only solution through which the Palestinian rights called for by the BDS movement can be achieved. Moreover, it is a very generous compromise from the oppressed colonized to the settler colonialists, offering citizenship in a state with total equality, exactly like what happened in South Africa, where white settlers were offered the same generous compromise by the indigenous population.
This is the 21st century, after all! We are offering a humane, inclusive solution that is not based on ethno-religious identity: a secular state for ALL of its citizens, regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, etcetera.
If you’re really a supporter of Palestine, you are supposed to support our right to self-determination, which ultimately leads to a secular democratic state throughout all of historic Palestine. Otherwise, you would be supporting a racist solution! I don’t think that genuine support for Palestine excludes Right of Return. If that is the case, then where are the Palestinian refugees supposed to return? To an apartheid state that defines itself in ethno-religious terms? A state that is not their state since it is the state of Jews only?!
In a 2009 interview, BDS leader Omar Barghouti said, “I am completely against bi-nationalism. A secular, democratic state, yes, but not bi-national. There is a big difference.” Do you agree? And what, in your opinion, is the difference?
Yes, I completely agree. A bi-national state by definition is a state made up of two nations. These two nations are historically entitled to the land. But Jews do not constitute a nation. Israeli Jews constitute a settler-colonialist community, not unlike the whites of South Africa or the French in Algeria. Settler colonists are not entitled to self-determination. However, the indigenous people of Palestine, Muslims, Christians and Jews, are all entitled to self-determination and they do constitute a nation.
In fact, bi-nationalism is a Zionist idea since it looks at ALL Jews as a nation that is entitled to the land.
What do you say to people who say, “OK, I agree with what you’re saying. But let’s be honest. Two-states is the only realistic solution, and if you really want to help Palestinians, you should focus on ending the immediate problem of the Occupation and supporting the two-state solution”?
I would say that the one-state solution is more practical/realistic than the two-state solution. South Africa proved that civic democracy for all the inhabitants of South Africa was the way forward; the land of South Africa, according to the Freedom Charter, belongs to ALL those who live on it. That’s a lesson that we need to learn from history.
Israel has shot the two-state solution in the head by creating news facts on the ground: by annexing Jerusalem, having a “Greater Jerusalem,” and by increasing the number of settlers and expanding the existing illegal colonies (all colonies are illegal). In 1993, when the Oslo Accords were signed, the illusion of peace prevailed, unfortunately. People believed that it was possible to have two states: a Palestinian state on twenty-two percent of historic Palestine.
That year, 1993, the number of Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was 193,000. Twenty years later, the number of settlers in the West Bank has risen to 600,000. Israeli settlements — or rather the Jewish-only colonies, since Palestinians are not allowed to live there — have become towns and cities. Which means that Israel is not planning to leave the West Bank at all. And during these twenty years, Israel has erected a monstrous apartheid wall that separates Palestinians from Israelis, and Palestinians from Palestinians.
Israel has also transformed the Gaza Strip into a concentration camp (as much as these two words might disturb some people who claim to have monopoly on victimhood), an open-air prison. There is no communication between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The whole issue is personal for me; it is personal for all Palestinians. For example, my sister lives in Bethlehem, just a one-hour drive from Gaza. But I have not been able to see her for fifteen years. When both our parents died back in 2005, she was not able to come to their funerals. That personal experience tells you about the impossibility of having two-states.
So, just to clarify, you don’t support the one-state solution just because a two-state solution has “failed”; you support it because one-state is the only just solution, is that correct?
Absolutely correct. Even if you implemented the two-state solution — which is an impossibility — it does not fulfill the right of self-determination, which is right of return, equality and freedom. The two-state solution doesn’t do that.
At the 2013 Left Forum in New York, Steven Shalom argued that, while unjust, the “two-state solution” nevertheless paves the way for one democratic state and should be supported on that basis. Do you agree?
No, I do not! Does also think that the Anti-apartheid movement should have accepted the Bantustan solution based on the same logic? I have already made it clear in my previous answers and articles as to why that is a fallacy. A racist solution cannot pave the way to a just solution.
Archbishops Desmund Tutu said that “[they] wanted the full menu of rights.” Why are we expected to cater for less than that? I fail to understand.
Is it presumptuous for Jews and other non-Palestinians to endorse the call for one democratic state?
I strongly believe that all solidarity supporters should heed the call for one-state made by the oppressed Palestinians. They should be principled in their support for human rights and democracy as expressed through the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. Does the two-state solution subscribe to that declaration? No. Then logic and principle demands they should support the call for the solution that does, the solution that calls for civic democracy and equality throughout all of historic Palestine.
After all, activists didn’t feel it was presumptuous to support a single democratic state in South Africa, did they? And when the “president” of Transkei called on the international community to support and recognize his “independent homeland,” – his version of the “two-state solution” — international anti-apartheid activists did not buy that line!
And, by the way, most South Africa anti-apartheid activists who have visited Palestine now support the one-state solution. Some of my South African friends and comrades say it very clearly: “The one-state solution is the only solution, because we can’t support a racist solution.” That’s why even the official South African line of supporting a two-state solution is not that popular amongst South African solidarity supporters of Palestine — not to say even amongst members of the cabinet! They know what racism is all about! The five-state solution in South Africa was the brainchild of the architects of Apartheid: White South Africa on 88 per cent of the land, and four “Independent Homelands”/Bantustans for the natives! In fact, the original plan was to have 11 Bantustans, if four was not enough for you!
The solidarity movement supported the call for civic democracy and a secular democratic state in South Africa, because that was the only solution. There could be no compromise, no negotiations with apartheid. The same thing should apply to the Palestine solidarity movement. Why is that so difficult to understand?!
In a recent interview, Noam Chomsky said that the one-state solution was an “illusion” because it “has no international support.” How do you respond?
Did he also add the that the two-state solution has become a facade, a fantasy in the head of those who believe in fantasies? Didn’t he also argue in his latest piece in Mondoweiss that Israel and the US have killed the two-state solution?
Personally, I feel heart-broken when I see an extremely smart thinker like Chomsky missing the point and deciding to adopt a soft-Zionist position! There is something with people like Chomsky and Finkelstein with whom you tend to agree about everything in the world except on Palestine. That’s why, understandably, some BDS and one-state activists in the US call them PEP (Progressive except on Palestine!)
There is an overwhelming international support for our right to self-determination; and this entails our right of return and equality. How is the two-state solution going to deal with these two internationally sanctioned rights? Chomsky fails to provide an answer, unless he thinks we are not entitled to our right of return and equality! He is smart enough to know that the two-state solution is a racist one. Didn’t he think so about the Bantustans of South Africa?!
You recently said, “At one point in time, the BDS movement will be asked to take that stand” in favor of one democratic state. Why has the BDS campaign refrained from taking this stand so far, and should it do so now?
Every activist knows very by now that the BDS movement is rights-based, rights that are guaranteed for ALL human beings regardless of ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, etcetera. BDS is guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is why most, if not all, BDS activists are staunch human rights defenders.
I am, nevertheless, aware of tensions arising from the Boycott National Committee’s lack of a political program and its focus on a rights-based approach. This issue is certainly worthy of discussion within the BNC’s secretariat.
But we also need to take into consideration that the BNC is a coalition with all the compromises coalitions have to make in order to work as a front. That is why the BNC has become the frame of reference for international boycott movements. I believe that a good comparison with the South African experience, within this context, can be made, which shouldn’t overlook the role of the United Democratic Front (UDF) that functioned with representation from the National Congress Party, as well as other political parties and civil society organizations in exactly the same manner as the BNC. The UDF adopted two out of what South Africans called the “four pillars of struggle,” namely mass mobilization and the boycott campaign. History stands witness to this approach that contributed immensely to ending apartheid. In my opinion, the BNC has learnt this historical lesson from South Africa. But it took the international community about 30 years to heed the call made by the anti-apartheid movement, whereas the Palestinian BDS call was made in 2005 only.
That is why I think there will come a time when BDS will be asked to take a stand vis-à-vis the one or two-state solution. And I strongly believe that it will come in support of the former.
How is the call for a single secular democratic state throughout historic Palestine connected to other liberation struggles in the region?
When the Arab Spring started in Tunisia and Egypt, Israel was extremely worried because the struggle in the Arab world is for human rights and democracy. And democracy is the antithesis of Zionism; exactly the same way democracy in South Africa was the antithesis of apartheid, and which ultimately led to the end of institutional apartheid there in 1994. (I still think that economic apartheid exists in South Africa, but this is something we can address in another context)
As a Zionist project, Israel knows very well that true democracy in the Arab world would spread and reach Palestine. Israel would be expected by the international community and by the Arab Spring to be truly democratic. That means one person, one vote. And after the right of return, one person, one vote would ultimately lead to the collapse of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine.
That, to my mind, is the link between the Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination, and liberation, and the struggle for democracy and human rights in the Arab world.
Speaking of BDS, Norman Finkelstein recently accused the BDS campaign of hypocrisy for appealing to international law when it comes to Palestinian rights, but refusing to respect international resolutions, like the 1947 UN partition, that — he claims — legitimize the existence of the “Jewish state.” How do you respond?
I’m so sorry to hear that from a smart person like Norman Finkelstein.
As US solidarity supporters, you have principles. You can’t reconcile an unjust partition and apartheid with human rights and democracy. Has Norman Finkelstein forgotten that Israel defines itself as the state of Jews only? Do you expect me to recognize something like this, just because the United Nations declared it to be so? We recognize those laws and resolutions, like 194, that are just and reject those, like the partition resolution, that are unjust. That is the way all human rights struggles have operated. How is that hypocritical?
That is how it was in the struggle against apartheid South Africa. Whether it was Norman Finkelstein or his mentor Noam Chomsky, everybody heeded the call by South Africans. We all said, “What do you want, you oppressed, colonized South Africans?” They said, “We want an end to apartheid.” And right now, Palestinians are saying we want an end to Israeli apartheid.
And I would have understood him had he supported the two-state solution based on UN resolution 181, passed in 1947; it offered to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state as THE solution! It is a very unfair and problematic resolution in that it offered the Jewish minority (660,000 out of 2 million people) the larger part of the land (56%). This 56 percent, offered to the Jews, included an equal number of Jews and Palestinians. And since most Zionists, soft or not, fought for a Jewish majority in Palestine, that ultimately led to the NAKBAH, i.e, an orchestrated process of ethnic cleansing. Two-staters, such as Finkelstein, do say that a Palestinian state should be established on 44 per cent of Palestine based on UN resolutions!
So I would argue that it’s Norman Finkelstein who’s being hypocritical, because he is unwilling to do for Palestinians what he and all other activists did for South Africans. And in fact, he’s being Zionist and racist when he actually expects us Palestinians to listen to what he has to say in the first place. No, excuse me — he is supposed to listen to what *we* have to say. Unless he has decided to ignore the fact that the 2005 BDS call has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Civil Society, including National and Islamist forces! Is that not enough for you if you were a genuine supporter of Palestine?
It has been twenty years since Oslo Accords were signed. What effect did these accords, and the so-called “Peace Process,” have on the struggle for the core Palestinian rights called for by BDS: equality, right of return, and end of Occupation?
I’ll sum it by quoting Edward Said in 1993: the Oslo Accords are a second Nakba. Oslo has reduced the Palestinian people to those who only live in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, while excluding Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel. Oslo never alluded to Palestinian’s right to return to their villages and towns from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and never alluded to equality in the 1948 territories. Oslo basically codified and legitimized the ethnic cleansing — the Nakba — of 1948.
Oslo also gave a false impression to the international community that you have “two equal parties” — Palestinians on the one hand, and the Israelis on the other — engaged in “dialogue” to solve their problem. But there are not two equal parties. There is no dialogue. There is an apartheid regime seeking to perpetuate its rule on the one hand, and an indigenous people struggling for their inalienable rights on the other.
Rather than acknowledging the necessity of disassembling this apartheid regime once and for all, Oslo fetishized the trappings of statehood, that if you offer Palestinians a flag and a red carpet for its president and a national anthem, then you have solved the Palestinian question once and for all!
Going back to Norman Finkelstein: you have the struggle of colonized Palestinians against settler colonialists — thanks to the BDS movement, thanks to the formation of the BNC, thanks to the formation of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and thanks to the revival of the one-state idea. You have intellectuals and activists like Edward Said, Azmi Bishara, Ali Abunimah, Omar Barghouti, Ramzy Baroud, Joesph Masaad, Ilan Pappe and all these people who have decided to say farewell to the two-state solution, and to endorse the one-state solution.
As solidarity supporters you need to support democracy and human rights — the same principles you followed in the Eighties against apartheid South Africa. You didn’t waste time discussing the practicalities of having Bantustans in South Africa. So you need to join us in putting the two-state solution on the shelf in a museum, because it delays our liberation, and support our call for one-state.
- David Letwin is a member of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return. Dr. Haidar Eid is an Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine. Dr. Eid is also a one-state activist and a member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
CNN reports on Israeli PM Netanyahu’s reception at the Vatican and plans for the Pope to visit Israel in May.
Recalling the shabby treatment of religious leaders on previous visits to the Holy Land, let us hope Pope Francis takes a firmer line than his predecessor and insists on seeing Gaza and ministering to his terrorised flock there.
In May 2009, when Benedict was Pope, the Vatican told the Israeli press that the Holy Father would refrain from visiting Gaza. The word ‘refrain’ was a peculiar one in the circumstances. “The Pope will refrain from visiting Gaza….” smacks of abstinence, as in refraining from sexual intercourse. Setting foot in Gaza was as sinful as sneaking into a brothel, it seems. Israel’s hoodlums of course were keen to prevent him seeing how the tiny, overcrowded enclave had been devastated 16 months earlier by their murderous blitzkrieg codenamed Cast Lead. And the Pope went along with it.
Gaza’s isolated and besieged Catholic community were none too happy with the Pope’s attitude, judging by the reaction of their redoubtable old priest Fr Manuel Mussallam. “We will ask him why he came, what he intends saying to the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims and why he isn’t coming to Gaza,” said Fr Manuel. “We’ll tell him that this is not the right moment to come and visit the holy places, while Jerusalem is occupied.”
Time for the Pope to join BDS?
Having decided to go to Palestine (via Israel) it was imperative for the Pope to include Gaza or it would look like he didn’t give a damn about the appalling persecution in the very land where Christianity was born. He might as well hammer one more nail into Christendom’s coffin. Then again, should he be going to Israel at all while Jerusalem, Bethlehem and many other places dear to Christian and Muslim religious belief are under the jackboot?
Indeed, has it finally come to the point where the Pope ought to do the decent thing and boycott Israel… join the BDS movement? Admittedly, it’s a tough call given the Catholic Church’s considerable interests out there.
But we have seen enough wimpish conduct by Christian leaders while Israel defiles the Holy Land. The previous November, while the regime was planning its vicious assault, codename Operation Cast Lead, on Gaza’s Muslims and Christians after softening them up with two years of blockade and starvation, we were treated to the spectacle of the Archbishop of Canterbury joining the Chief Rabbi on a visit to Auschwitz to show joint solidarity against extreme hostility and genocide. The Archbishop called it “a place of utter profanity” and spoke of the collective corruption and moral sickness that made the Holocaust possible.
Would the pair show the same spirit of righteous solidarity by visiting Gaza? The scale of horror might be different but the moral sickness is just as obscene. And this being the Holy Land the profanity is many times worse.
The Pope too had been to Auschwitz to pray for the people murdered there. “I had to come here as a duty to truth and to those that suffered,” he said and spoke of the Nazis’ mania for destruction and domination.
Very commendable. But he wasn’t so keen to come and pray for those suffering in Gaza, victims of much the same kind of criminal insanity. Nevertheless, he turned up at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and the Western (Wailing) Wall, and hobnobbed with the chief rabbis… but not with his brave priest and the shattered congregation in Gaza. What had happened to his ‘duty to truth’?
After my visit to Gaza in late 2007, 18 months after Israel’s merciless squeeze began, I wrote:
Fuel is running out, so are basics like washing powder. Shattered infrastructure and food shortages mean serious public health problems. Power cuts disrupt hospitals and vital drugs cannot be kept refrigerated. Thousands look death in the face as medicare collapses.
A friend emailed:
“Today in Gaza we have no cement to build graves for those who die.”
The subjugation and dispossession of Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land continues. It remains a mystery to me why our largely Christian democracy in Britain slavishly supports the Middle East ethnocracy that’s doing this…
The last six years have seen things go from bad to worse – much worse. Palestinians in the Holy Land, and especially Gaza, need to be shown that the Christian Church cares about them even if nobody else does. So where are these extravagantly robed and mitred Men of God when needed?
No repetition of the Benedict debâcle, please
Archbishop Rowan Williams, visiting in 2010, did manage to get into Gaza. But as far as I could discover he made no public statement about the wretched conditions there, nor did he reveal his findings to the House of Lords where he had the support of a large gaggle of bishops. This despite his claim to be “in a unique position to bring the needs and voices of those fighting poverty, disease and the effects of conflict, to the attention of national and international policy makers”.
And despite his declaration that “Christians need to witness boldly and clearly”.
And despite his urging greater awareness of the humanitarian crisis to ensure that the people of Gaza were not forgotten.
The Israelis, I heard, refused him access to Gaza from the start and only at the last minute allowed the Archbishop an hour or so, just enough for a quick visit to the Ahli Hospital and nowhere else. For that concession one wonders if he had to sign a gagging order.
His website, however, described how he, like the Pope, hobnobbed with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and paid respects to Yad Vashem and the Holocaust. He also talked with the President of Israel, who no doubt enjoyed his guest’s frustration at being prevented from seeing the horrors that had been inflicted on Gaza.
And news of any get-together with senior Islamic figures on the ground was conspicuously absent, leaving a question-mark over his commitment to inter-faith engagement.
Why on earth did he agree to fraternise with Jewish political and religious dignitaries when it was clear that his wish to carry out his Christian duty in Gaza would be obstructed? Does Lambeth Palace not realise that meekly accepting such insults only serves to legitimise the Israelis’ illegal occupation and gives a stamp of approval to the brutal siege of Gaza, the daily death-dealing air strikes against civilians, the persecution of Muslim and Christian communities and the regime’s utter contempt for international law and human rights?
One can only hope the Vatican realises it too and avoids a repetition of the Benedict debâcle.
The Israelis walk all over fawning sycophants masquerading as Western political leaders. Our spiritual leaders, however, are supposed to be made of sterner stuff and to have the moral backbone to face down evil.
With the U.S. Congress safely in his back pocket, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned his charm offensive on the Vatican. How is that working out for him?
It does not look promising. The Prime Minister forgot the first rule of charm school: Target your prey gently. Avoid all punches to the mid-section.
The international Jewish News Agency (JTA) reported on Monday’s meeting between Netanyahu and Pope Francis:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Vatican audience with Pope Francis reportedly invited the pontiff to visit Israel. No date has been set for a visit by Francis to Israel, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. Netanyahu on Monday presented the pope with a book about the Spanish Inquisition written by his father, the late historian Benzion Netanyahu.”
An invitation to drop by for a visit to Tel Aviv along with a gift to the Holy Father recalling the dark moments of the Spanish Inquisition? Bad form, Mr. Prime Minister.
The book delivered to the Pope was written by Netanyahu’s father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, who died recently at the age of 102. The pride of a son could be one justification for the gift. The book, The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th Century Spain, is considered the elder Netanyahu’s finest work.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was quick to note the incongruity of a book as a gift to the Pope which denounces the sins of Pope Francis’ 15th century predecessor, one that “largely revolves about Spanish Catholics questioning, torturing, and punishing Jewish converts to Catholicism,” a practice first legally sanctioned by Pope Innocent IV in 1252.
The Seattle PI adds:
“The elder Netanyahu’s impact on his politician son is well-known within Israeli circles. In 1998, David Remnick of the New Yorker wrote that while Ben-Zion Netanyahu’s opinions frequently differed from his son, the pessimism of his right wing worldview influenced his son’s hawkish policies. ‘His dilemma is always to what degree he can, or should, remain true to the ideals, the stubbornness, of his father,’ Remnick observed. The book given to the pope, Remnich adds ‘reflects that deep pessimism.’”
If the Pope accepts Netanyahu’s invitation and presents his own tit-for-tat gift to Netanyahu, there is a document in the Vatican library he could copy and take with him to Tel Aviv.
From what we are learning about this new pontiff, that Vatican document is not a gift Francis is likely to consider. Tit-for-tat does not appear to be the style of this pope.
Nevertheless, the document resting in the Vatican library files is one the Pope might read closely before he engages in further dialogue with the Israeli leader.
This Vatican document is referenced in an important new book by Scott Anderson, Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.
So important is this book that it received two laudatory views in the New York Times, one month apart.
In his Times review, Alex von Tunzelmann capsules the narrative of the book:
“Scott Anderson, a veteran war correspondent and an author of both fiction and nonfiction, gives Lawrence’s story a new spin by contextualizing him in a group biography. He weaves in the lives of three contemporary Middle Eastern spies: Curt Prufer, a German conspiring with the Ottomans to bring down the British Empire; Aaron Aaronsohn, a Zionist agronomist of Romanian origin, settled in Palestine; and William Yale, an East Coast aristocrat and an agent of Standard Oil who ended up in the service of the American State Department.”
A month later, Janet Maslin is back with her review, equally laudatory. She writes:
“As to why such acclaim elevated one renegade Briton and his feat of creating a guerrilla Bedouin army, Mr. Anderson writes that the short answer may seem anticlimactic. His reason: ‘This was a time when the seed was planted for the Arab world to define itself less by what it aspires to become than what it is opposed to: colonialism, Zionism, Western imperialism in its many forms.’”
In their reviews, both Alex von Tunzelmann and Janet Maslin avoid mentioning a key moment in Scott Anderson’s book. It is an important episode Pope Francis should be reminded of should he choose to visit Tel Aviv.
The episode, described by Scott Anderson (pages 298 to 305, your Holiness, if I may be so bold) describes a successful propaganda campaign orchestrated by, among others, Aaron Aaronsohn, described by reviewer Alex Von Tunzelmann as “a Zionist agronomist of Romanian origin, who had settled in Palestine.”
Scott Anderson tells the story in his superb history of the period, Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.
The In in the title is underlined to distinguish it from Lawrence Of Arabia, the 1962 David Lean film.
Here is how the Anderson narrative is developed, summarized and quoted in part:
In the spring of 1917, the Turkish Ottoman ruler of Syria was Djemal Pasha. When the British army was poised to strike Gaza City in February, Djemal Pasha ordered the evacuation of Gaza City’s entire population, a total or around 20,000 citizens. He wanted to clear the area for his army to move in and defend Gaza. After defeating the British in a cleared out Gaza, Djemal Pasha and his German commanders looked north.
They suspected that the British would next attack Jaffa (now a modern Tel Aviv). The city had a population of 40,000, of which around 10,000 were Jews and around 4,000 were Arab Christians, living alongside Arab Muslims. After the defeat in Gaza, the Ottomans were afraid that the British would attack Jaffa from the sea, using the city’s smooth beaches for easy access.
The British defeat at Gaza came on March 26, 1917. Two days later, assuming the British would turn north, Dejmal ordered the evacuation of the entire population, Christians, Jews and Muslims. He gave the residents a week to prepare to move out. When Jewish leaders protested that the sacred Passover holiday was about to begin, Dejmal extended the evacuation order for an additional eight days.
Anderson writes: “By clearing the city, Djemal Pasha unwittingly set in motion one of the most consequential misinformation campaigns of World War I.”
Ignoring the fact that Jews were joined by Christians and Muslims in the forced evacuation, the Zionist propaganda machine went into action, building the movement of the Jaffa population into an attack on all Jews of Palestine. The British Jewish Chronicle newspaper led the way with a May 4 story that carried the subhead: “Grave Reports — Terrible Outrages — Threats of Wholesale Massacre.”
The Chronicle story continued:
“But even worse is threatened. For the Turkish Governor, Dejeml Pasha, has proclaimed the intention of the authorities [sic] to wipe out mercilessly the Jewish population of Palestine, his public statement being that the Armenian policy of massacre is to be applied to the Jews.” That message swept “through Jewish communities in Britain, the United States and continental Europe and drew anguished appeals to their governments that some kind of action be taken.”
William Ormsby-Gore, a Conservative member of Parliament who had been favorably impressed with Aaron Aaronson, the Jewish spy leader in Palestine, cabled British War Cabinet member Mark Sykes (of Sykes-Pico fame) May 4:
“I think we ought to use pogroms in Palestine as propaganda. Any spicy tales of atrocity would be eagerly welcomed by the propaganda people here, and Aaron Aaronsohn could send some lurid stories to the Jewish papers.”
Aaronsohn gave Sykes the names of 50 Zionist leaders throughout the world, urging him to spread the word of the “dire threat” against the Jews of Palestine. Soon, The New York Times printed its story with this headline: “Cruelty to Jews Deported in Jaffe.”
The Turkish government was slow to respond to the false accusations, including one that claimed, falsely, that all the Jews had been evacuated from Jerusalem.
Finally, facing worldwide condemnation based on Jewish propaganda which spread rapidly, Dejaml Pasha pointed out that the entire population of Jaffe, 40,000 residents, had been evacuated, only 10,000 of which were Jewish and 4,000, Christians.
Scott Anderson concludes his account of the successful misinformation campaign surrounding Jaffa’s Jewish population in 1917: (p. 304)
“Spain, Sweden and the Vatican, all neutral entities in the conflict, sent envoys to investigate what had happened [in Jaffa]. Both the Spanish and Vatican envoys quickly concluded that the reports of Jewish massacres and persecutions were without foundation, while their Swedish counterpart went even further.
“‘In many ways,’ he wrote, ‘the Jewish community of Jaffa had fared far better — and certainly no worse — than the resident Moslem population in the evacuation.’ Shortly afterward, the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem also reported that the accounts of violence against the Jaffa Jews were ‘grossly exaggerated.’
“It didn’t matter, of course. In war, truth is whatever people can be led to believe and Dejaml Pasha had just handed his enemies a ‘truth’ that would change Middle Eastern history… The fiction of what happened in Jaffa in 1917 — a fiction repeated as act by most historians writing on the period since — would now become the ur-myth for the contention that the Jewish community in Palestine could never be safe under Muslim rule, that to survive it needed a state of its own.”
Pope Francis does not have to make a gift to Netanyahu of either the Vatican 1917 Jaffa report or Scott Anderson’s book, should the two leaders meet in Tel Aviv. What he can do is prepare for his meeting by reading both the Vatican document and Lawrence In Arabia.
Having read the document and the book, he will be prepared to confront the Prime Minister with some hard truths about a history that is more recent, and certainly more pertinent to this moment, than the 15th century Spanish Inquisition.
In the first ever public hearing, Europe’s human rights court examined Poland’s role in CIA ‘black site’ prisons and torture of suspects.
Lawyers of two terror suspects currently held at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, accused Poland of abuse during Tuesday’s hearing at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
The hearing examined claims that Warsaw allowed the CIA to operate a jail for suspected terrorists, who were tortured, in Stare Kiejkuty, a remote village in north-east Poland.
Both suspects said at the hearing that they were brought to Poland in December 2002 with the knowledge of the Polish authorities.
Poland declined to reveal to the court any information saying that it could compromise a separate investigation by Polish prosecutors, and because the court could not guarantee the information would be kept confidential.
“The government does not wish to confirm or deny the facts cited by the applicants,” said Artur Nowak-Far, Under-Secretary of State in the Polish foreign ministry.
The Polish investigation has gone on for five years without an outcome. Polish authorities have never disclosed the investigation’s terms or scope, while human rights groups have accused Warsaw of deliberately postponing the investigation.
The UN Committee Against Torture has criticized the “lengthy delays” and said that it was “also concerned about the secrecy surrounding the investigation and failure to ensure accountability in these cases.”
The lawyers of the two detainees said that the evidence of torture presented to the judges at the hearing will make it harder for the Polish government to close its eyes to the case.
“A really strong and compelling case has been put here, so in that sense the hearing was very encouraging,” said lawyer Helen Duffy, on behalf of Interrights, a human rights group, Reuters reported.
The ECHR is to take several months before issuing a ruling, while no further hearings have been scheduled.
The CIA’s post 9/11 extraordinary rendition and secret detention programs are believed to have involved up to 54 foreign governments which aided the US in its operations in a variety of ways. This included hosting CIA black sites on their territories, detaining, interrogating and torturing suspects, allowing the use of domestic airspace and airports for secret flights transporting detainees, and providing intelligence which aided efforts to the detain and rendition individuals.
American lawmakers have never said where the ‘black site’ prisons were based, but intelligence officials, aviation reports and human rights groups said they included Afghanistan and Thailand as well as Poland, Lithuania and Romania.
Investigators believe a military base in north-eastern Poland was the location of one of the CIA secret prisons between December 2002 and September 2003.
Former US President George W. Bush first acknowledged the secret prisons in 2006 after numerous media reports on the issue. He ordered their closure and announced that many of the detainees would be transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The two detainees – Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian national of Yemeni descent and a Palestinian, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known as Abu Zubaydah – claim that they were waterboarded at the Polish facility during the interrogations. Currently, the two detainees are held under ultra-secure conditions in a section of Guantanamo known as Camp 7 according to a declassified report released in 2009.
The UK Parliament is presenting itself as a complete joke. Rather than looking into controlling the GCHQ (the UK’s equivalent to the NSA), it has instead held a hearing to interrogate and threaten Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger for actually reporting on the Snowden leak documents and revealing the widespread abuses of the intelligence community. The hearing included the insulting and ridiculous question: “do you love this country?”
Committee chair, Keith Vaz: Some of the criticisms against you and the Guardian have been very, very personal. You and I were both born outside this country, but I love this country. Do you love this country?
Alan Rusbridger: We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question but, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things.
Perhaps equally ridiculous: after UK Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the destruction of Guardian hard drives, urged the Parliament to start this very investigation and flat out threatened news publications for reporting on government abuse, folks in Parliament have the gall to suggest that it’s Rusbridger who broke the law in sharing some of the Snowden docs with the NY Times? Maybe if Cameron hadn’t done everything he could to try to stifle a free UK press, the Guardian wouldn’t have felt the need to share documents with a competitor.
Conservative MP Michael Ellis: Mr Rusbridger, you authorised files stolen by [National Security Agency contractor Edward] Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff to be communicated elsewhere. Yes or no?
Rusbridger: Well I think I’ve already dealt with that.
Ellis: Well if you could just answer the question.
Rusbridger: I think it’s been known for six months that these documents contained names and that I shared them with the New York Times.
Ellis: Do you accept that that is a criminal offence under section 58(a) of the Terrorism Act, 2000?
Rusbridger: You may be a lawyer, Mr Ellis, I’m not.
And from there it took a turn to the bizarre as Ellis started talking about how Rusbridger might reveal that GCHQ agents were gay. I’m not kidding.
Ellis: Secret and top-secret documents. And do you accept that the information contained personal information that could lead to the identity even of the sexual orientation of persons working within GCHQ?
Rusbridger: The sexual orientation thing is completely new to me. If you could explain how we’ve done that then I’d be most interested.
Ellis: In part, from your own newspaper on 2 August, which is still available online, because you refer to the fact that GCHQ has its own Pride group for staff and I suggest to you that the data contained within the 58,000 documents also contained data that allowed your newspaper to report that information. It is therefore information now that is not any longer protected under the laws and that jeopardises those individuals, does it not?
Rusbridger: You’ve completely lost me Mr Ellis. There are gay members of GCHQ, is that a surprise?
Ellis: It’s not amusing Mr Rusbridger. They shouldn’t be outed by you and your newspaper.
[Brief inaudible exchange in which both men are talking]
Rusbridger: The notion of the existence of a Pride group within GCHQ, actually if you go to the Stonewall website you can find the same information there. I fail to see how that outs a single member of GCHQ.
Ellis: You said it was news to you, so you know about the Stonewall website, so it’s not news to you. It was in your newspaper. What about the fact that GCHQ organised trips to Disneyland in Paris, that’s also been printed in your newspaper, does that mean if you knew that, information including the family details of members of GCHQ is also within the 58,000 documents – the security of which you have seriously jeopardised?
Rusbridger: Again, your references are lost to me. The fact that there was a family outing from GCHQ to Disneyland … [CUT OFF]
There was much more in the hearing, with multiple UK members of parliament making statements that suggest that they are ignorant of a variety of things, including how encryption works and the nature of a free and open press.
But, really, just the fact that they’re spending time investigating Rusbridger in the first place, rather than looking more closely at what the GCHQ is doing, makes a complete mockery of the UK Parliament.
The City of Montreal has purchased 24 drones to help law enforcement tackle crime as authorities look to cut back the police force over the next 15 years. The UAVs, equipped with facial recognition technology, will be armed to ‘neutralize suspects’.
“It’s very exciting,” the chief of police for the borough where the drones will be deployed, Montreal North, told the Montreal Journal.
“The drones with facial recognition will patrol the streets 24 hours a day. Officers will interrogate individuals suspected of criminal acts or searched directly through speakers and microphones installed in the drones, but soon they can be provided with equipment capable of neutralizing on-site suspects pending the intervention of the law enforcement officers. It will mainly make our work less dangerous, especially in an area where there is a lot of social tension,” he said.
When asked to clarify what intermediate weapons would be used to neutralize suspects, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesman told the Journal the “UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] will carry persuasive technologies, but non-lethal types, such as electric shock, blinding or paralyzing gases.”
He added that despite the seemingly limitless possibilities, only non-lethal weapons are “intended for the moment.”
The drones are set to be deployed in early 2014.
Despite the $400-million- plus price tag, the drones are intended to facilitate cutbacks to the city’s police force in line with nationwide efforts to curb RCMP expenditures, which have doubled over the last 15 years.
Employing new technology to create leaner, more effective law enforcements agencies, however, remains highly contentious.
A late 2012 poll conducted by Jennifer Stoddart, the privacy commissioner of Canada, found the public remains ambivalent about the use of UAVs in policing.
While 80 percent of those surveyed were comfortable with police use of drones for search-and-rescue missions, only 40 percent of respondents felt comfortable with their use in monitoring public events or protests.
“Considering the capacity of UAVs for surreptitious operation, the potential for the technology to be used for general surveillance purposes, and their increasing prevalence — including for civilian purposes — our office will be closely following their expanded use,” the report read.
“We will also continue to engage federal government institutions to ensure that any planned operation of UAVs is done in accordance with privacy requirements.”
The RCMP national drone is thus far in its infancy, with Mounties promising they will not be used to conduct general surveillance against the public.
A study released last month – Unmanned Eyes in the Sky – found that despite drones’ potential benefits for police, law enforcement had not “sought feedback from the public on how UAVs should or should not be adopted as a tool to serve the public interest,” the Canadian Press reported.
The study concluded that in light of the “potential for intrusive and massive surveillance,” Canadians needed reassurances that they would not be spied on once the drone program goes into full swing.
- Facial recognition, once a battlefield tool, lands in San Diego County (backcountryvoices.wordpress.com)
- Montreal buys 24 drones with facial recognition that will interrogate suspected criminals (blacklistednews.com)
On Monday, the Obama administration called for the immediate release of Jewish-American Alan Phillip Gross from Cuban imprisonment, saying his continued captivity for anti-state activities was “gravely disappointing”.
“Tomorrow, development worker Alan Gross will begin a fifth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. It’s gravely disappointing, especially in light of its professed goal of providing Cubans with internet access,” a US State Department said in a statement.
Allan Gross, earlier, asked President Barack Obama to get involved personally to get him released from Cuban jail. “Havana even agreed to meet US government officials, without any pre-conditions, to discuss possible terms leading to Gross’ release and his return home. But the State Department has rejected any negotiated settlement of Gross case out of hand,” claims Scott Gilbert, Alan Gross’ lawyer.
R.M. Schneiderman, editor and writer for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, wrote in the Foreign Affairs Magazine (December 21, 2012) that the single biggest reason Barack Obama cannot make peace with Cuba – is Alan Gross, a Jewish US citizen serving out a 15-year prison sentence in Havana. Cuban officials claim that Alan Gross was working for the US government and trying to subvert the state while working as a contractor in Cuba.
Tracey Eaton, a Cuban blogger, has claimed that Alan Gross was no contractor but a soldier serving the US government to bring regime change in Havana.
“Gross was a soldier, albeit of a different sort. Instead of the usual M9 pistol, he carried a Samsonite briefcase, plenty of cash and 15 credit cards. In place of a combat uniform and boots, he wore beige Land’s End pants and brown Rockport shoes. He spoke no Spanish, but was an experienced international development worker and had worked in such hotspots as Afghanistan and the Middle East. His weapon was technology. He traveled to Havana in 2009 with satellite communication gear, wireless transmitters, routers, cables and switches – enough to set up Internet connections and Wi-Fi hotspots that the socialist government would not be able to detect or control. He worked for Development Alternatives Inc., a Maryland contractor that USAID had hired to carry out a democracy-promotion program,” wrote Eaton.
The so-called Cuba-America Jewish Mission (CAJM) is the main source of information at the US State Department.
The Office of Foreign Assests Control (OFAC) within the US Treasury Department put Cuba on its list of countries allegedly sponsoring terrorism against the United States or Israel (incidently, America’s terrorist allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, etc. are not on the list) in 1982. Adam J. Szubin, a Zionist Jew, is the current director of OFAC. He is son of Rabbi Zvi Henry Szubin.
In September 2013, the UN General Assembly condemned the embargo against Cuba with 188 in favor and the US and Israel against it. Israel is the main culprit in using OFAC to starve countries which it doesn’t like, such as, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Pakistan, etc. Israel fears that lifting of sanctions would trigger an international rush back into some these countries especially Iran and Sudan.
Cuba is home to 15,000 Jews. Before Fidel Castro established communist rule in Cuba in 1959, Cuba was considered very friendly to Jews and Israel under former dictator Fulgencio Batista (died 1973). Batista helped the World Zionist Movement in the airlift of 150,000 Jews from Iraq, Iran, Yemen and India to help European Jewish terrorist groups set-up Jewish settlements on Arab land during 1951-52. Cuban businessman Narciso V. Roselló Otero with Israeli connections sponsored those flights. Later he became President of the new Cuban airline Aerea de Cuba.
Israel has recently decided to increase its number of official statements supporting closer relations with Saudi Arabia. As the West and Iran struck their nuclear deal, Israeli media leaks on secret meetings between representatives from the two countries intensified, prompting the Arab press to treat Riyadh and Tel Aviv as allies.
The Saudi-Lebanese media tycoon Waleed bin Talal only helped to reinforce this image by saying, “The kingdom, along with other Arab and Sunni Muslim countries, supports an Israeli attack on Iran to destroy its nuclear program.” This begs the question: Is it in the interest of Arabs to accuse Saudi of having an alliance with Israel?
There is very little evidence in the kingdom, officially and on the popular level, of any sentiment in favor of establishing ties with the Zionist state. One can only imagine the amount of US pressure Riyadh was subjected to after the invasion of Iraq and the September 11 attacks to open up to Israel.
So let us agree that there is no love lost between Saudi and Israel, but the Gulf monarchy is deeply antagonistic to Iran and fears Tehran’s regional influence. Add to that Western media analysis suggesting that the region is undergoing a shift in alliances, in which the US and Iran could return to their strategic partnership from the days of the Shah.
Undoubtedly, there is a meeting of interests between Riyadh and Tel Aviv in Syria, where both want the undoing of the Bashar al-Assad regime and its regional allies, Hezbollah and Iran. “It is our hope that Israel and Saudi initiate positive relations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is recently reported to have said, adding, “We have common interests in the economy and in regional politics.”
It appears that it is in the interest of Israel to publicly declare improving ties with Saudi Arabia, given the number of official statements and media leaks about the matter. For Tel Aviv, this is not only useful against Hezbollah and Iran, but Israel hopes that this will give it Arab cover to sign a peace agreement that is unfavorable to the Palestinians.
All indications suggest that, sooner or later, there will be a Saudi-Iranian summit, despite the tensions that exist today. Riyadh is in no rush for such a meeting, given its relatively weak position at this juncture. Tehran, too, is in no hurry – other Gulf nations are lining up to visit Iran, as was the case with the Emirates recently.
Rather than adopt Israel’s statements and leaks, it is more important that the Arabs protect Saudi from Zionist influence, perhaps by advising the kingdom to make adjustments in its foreign relations, particularly toward Syria and Iran. And in fact, reports suggest that there are active attempts by mediators to help mend fences between these countries, with many obstacles still preventing any breakthrough in the near future.
The United Nations is set to carry out an investigation into the spying activities of the US and UK, a senior judge has said. The probe will examine the espionage programs and assess whether they conform to UN regulations.
UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC told British newspaper The Guardian that the UN will conduct an inquiry into the NSA and the GCHQ’s spying antics. Following Edward Snowden’s revelations, which blew the whistle on both agencies’ intelligence gathering programs, Emmerson said the issue was at “the very apex of public interest and concerns.”
The report will broach a number of contentious issues, said Emmerson, including whether Snowden should be granted the legal protection afforded to a whistleblower, whether the data he handed over to the media did significant harm to national security, whether intelligence agencies need to scale down their surveillance programs and whether the UK government was misled about the extent of intelligence gathering.
“When it comes to assessing the balance that must be struck between maintaining secrecy and exposing information in the public interest, there are often borderline cases,” Emmerson told The Guardian.
Emmerson also mentioned the raid this summer on The Guardian’s London offices in search of hard drives containing data from Snowden. Addressing the allegations made by the chiefs of British spy agencies MI5, GCHQ and MI6, that publishing Snowden’s material was “a gift to terrorists,” Emmerson said it was the media’s job to hold governments to account for their actions.
“The astonishing suggestion that this sort of responsible journalism can somehow be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively,” said Emmerson, who will present the conclusions of his inquiry to the UN General Assembly next autumn.
Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is set to appear before a Commons home affairs committee in a hearing about the newspaper publishing of Snowden’s security leaks. British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement in September, warning of a possible crackdown if media continued to publish information on covert intelligence gathering programs.
He said the government had not yet been “heavy-handed” in its dealings with the press, but it would be difficult not to act if the press does not “demonstrate some social responsibility.” Cameron added that the UK was a more dangerous place after the Guardian published Snowden’s material.
Snowden’s revelations of the international spying activities of the UK and US have embarrassed the White House and Downing Street. Recent leaks show that the NSA and GCHQ not only monitored millions of civilian communications using programs such as PRISM and Tempora, but also eavesdropped on high-profile businessmen and politicians. Moreover, it was revealed that the NSA also spied on the UN’s headquarters in New York.
Both nations have sought to justify their intelligence gathering programs as being in the interests of national security.
It seems that the NSA’s “talking points” keep on leaking. The latest is a two pager it sent home with employees prior to Thanksgiving, so they’d have substance-free pablum to say in response to any family and friends who might actually have been paying attention to the news lately, and have some concerns to raise about the NSA violating our privacy and the Constitution. The document is broadly split into five sections, with sub talking points within each section. Here are the key points (underlines in the original):
- NSA’s mission is of great value to the Nation”
- NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy
- NSA performs its mission exceptionally well. We strive to be the best that we can be, because that’s what America requires as part of its defense in a dangerous world
- The people who work for NSA are loyal Americans with expert skills who make sacrifices to help protect the freedoms we all cherish
- NSA is committed to increased transparency, public dialog and faithful implementation of any changes required by our overseers.
Almost all of the talking points are misleading, with some clearly being outright lies. Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake, who first obtained and published these talking points, does an incredibly thorough demolishing of the talking points, so I highly recommend reading that. Here’s a short snippet:
“NSA programs protect Americans and our Allies,” the document reads. “As an example, they have helped to understand and disrupt 54 terrorist events since 9/11: 25 in Europe, 11 in Asia and 5 in Africa. Thirteen of those had a homeland nexus.”
Deputy Director John Inglis admitted in August during a Senate hearing, when pressed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, that US bulk records phone spying had been “critical” in stopping just one terrorist plot. He clarified that the spying on phone records had only “made a contribution” to discovering the 13 plots.
Sens. Ron Wyden, Mark Udall & Martin Heinrich, who filed a brief in support of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit challenging the collection of phone records of all Americans, explained the Executive Branch has defended the program by conflating it with “other foreign intelligence authorities.” The senators highlighted the fact that the collection under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act had played “little or no role in most of these disruptions.”
“Indeed of the original fifty-four that the government pointed to, officials have only been able to describe two that involved materially useful information obtained through the bulk call-records program,” the senators added. “Even the two supposed success stories involved information that [the senators] believe—after repeated requests to the government for evidence to the contrary—could readily have been obtained without a database of all Americans’ call records.”
At this point, any intelligence agency leader, member of Congress or government official who highlights 54 “thwarted” plots is advancing propaganda to save the NSA from being forced into giving up this power to collect the phone records of all Americans.
There’s much, much more at the original. Go read it. Most of these talking points are pretty much what you’d expect, and the standard doublespeak we’ve been hearing from the NSA and its defenders ever since the Snowden revelations began. At best they’re setting up strawmen to knock down. No one has argued that NSA employees aren’t American citizens. We just question what they’re doing. Furthermore, the whole “lawful, compliant” thing is kind of laughable, given the numerous examples of abuses, and the regular discussions from the courts about how the NSA has abused its mandate. Even more to the point, many of these programs simply have not been challenged in court in an actual trial, so claiming that they’re legal is a huge stretch.
Maybe it’s time that someone put together a list of “talking points” for friends and family of NSA employees to read back to them the next time they spew these kinds of bogus claims.
Bonus: The folks at Gawker worked the talking points into a script. Here’s a snippet:
DAD: So, Ted, how’s work lately?
UNCLE TED: NSA’s mission is of great value to the Nation.
DAD: Oh, for sure. I was just thinking since it’s been in the news a lot…
UNCLE TED: NSA performs timely, actionable intelligence to political and military customers who use that information in a range of activities from decisionmaking to military operations.
MOM: Honey, maybe Ted doesn’t want to talk abou—
UNCLE TED: NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant, and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy.
KEITH ALEXANDER: Pass the salt?
Does anyone else think it’s a little too much of a coincidence that James Douglass’s “masterful” book on the JFK assassination — promoted by at least one “progressive” Zionist media outlet — which omits any reference to President Kennedy’s behind-the-scenes war with Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion over Tel Aviv’s undeclared nuclear weapons program was reprinted by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS Corporation, whose president and chief executive is Leslie Moonves, who just happens to be a great-nephew of David Ben-Gurion?