It’s kind of one of those pictures that are “worth a thousand words,” don’t you think? What you’re looking at is Obama onstage with media mogul and Israeli dual national Haim Saban, who has stated previously, “I’m a one issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” The photo was taken last weekend at the Saban Forum, held in Washington. During the event Saban and Obama appeared together for what was billed as a “conversation” on the Middle East, but basically it was a one-on-one press conference—with Saban doing the grilling and Obama doing the answering. Do the facial expressions in the photo, the body language, suggest anything to you—like for instance which of the two figures is dominant and which is submissive?
Saban, of course, has lots of money. In 2002 he provided a $13 million grant which established the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and which is part of the larger Brookings Institution think tank. Today he is a major funder of political candidates, particularly of the Democratic Party. You can go here and watch a 48-minute video of his “conversation” with Obama, which includes a few questions from the audience towards the end (all of the people selected to ask questions in that closing segment, coincidentally, happen to be Israelis). At one point, Saban jokingly remarks upon how “obedient” Obama is. A little later in the video, Obama states the following:
“The one thing I will say to the people of Israel is that you can be assured, whoever is in the office I currently occupy, Democrat or Republican, that your security will be uppermost on our minds. That will not change.”
Does it not strike you as a curious comment? Why would the security of a foreign nation be “uppermost” in the minds of the leaders of a supposedly sovereign country? But then maybe America is no longer a sovereign nation.
Obama indeed proves his “obedience” by never once bringing up Israel’s nuclear weapons. Much of the conversation is dominated by talk about Iran’s domestic nuclear energy program. The president at one point repeats the standard, stock-in-trade “options-on-the-table” remark—which in essence is nothing more than a threat to attack Iran—yet nowhere, in the entire 48-minute video, does the subject of Israel’s nuclear weapons come up.
A report on the Saban Forum was posted recently at the Mondoweiss blog. While the article mentions the “conversation” between Obama and Saban, much of the piece is devoted to the remarks of John Kerry, who delivered the keynote address for the event. Allison Deger, the author of the report, notes that Kerry expressed the view that Palestinians in the West Bank are deserving of “state institutions” (as opposed to an actual state) of their own, a comment which seems to have prompted Deger to draw the conclusion that “Palestinian statehood is not on the table in the current round of peace talks.” It is a not unreasonable conclusion to draw.
Kerry also referred to Palestinians as a “demographic time bomb” threatening to jeopardize Israel’s “future as a democratic, Jewish state”—apparently the secretary of state’s first public expression of concern over the so-called “demographic threat.” But perhaps most interesting is what Deger reports on comments by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who also attended the event:
Even though Lieberman was amongst a crowd of Washington and Israeli officials familiar with his anti-Arab diatribes, audible gasps could be heard throughout the room when he called to expel Palestinian citizens of Israel. A diplomat from the Russian embassy seated next to me even choked. Another moment of discontent between the plated-dinner audience and Lieberman passed when the foreign minister made a forlorn pun at Sen. Joe Lieberman. Otherwise the foreign minister was amongst allies.
Much has been made of the recent bone of contention between Obama and Netanyahu over the negotiations with Iran, with some suggesting that the US president is beginning to assert himself and to defy the Israeli lobby on some key, important issues. Is it simply wishful thinking on the part of some commentators? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that, but if there was any note of defiance struck at last weekend’s Saban Forum, all I can say is it is extremely difficult to detect.
The following information on Saban comes from Wikipedia:
In March 2008, Saban was among a group of major Jewish donors to sign a letter to Democratic Party house leader Nancy Pelosi warning her to “keep out of the Democratic presidential primaries.” The donors, who “were strong supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign”, “were incensed by a March 16 interview in which Pelosi said that party ‘superdelegates’ should heed the will of the majority in selecting a candidate.” The letter to Pelosi stated the donors “have been strong supporters of the DCCC” [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and implied, according to The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that Pelosi could lose their financial support in important upcoming congressional elections.
And also this:
Regarding Jane Harman AIPAC Controversy, in April 2009, New York Times, quoting anonymous sources, said a caller promised her that Saban would withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post.”
And additionally this:
Saban says his greatest concern is to protect Israel. At a conference in Israel, Saban described his formula. His three ways to influence American politics were: make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.
- John Kerry Is Israel’s Best Friend – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
Haim Saban and Barack Obama pay tribute to Hillary Clinton: “People can work together on behalf of the country they love”
Aired: November 30, 2012 on C-SPAN
The Saban Forum 2012 (which focuses on Middle East issues as related to U.S. foreign policy) kicked off with a keynote speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s remarks were immediately preceded by a tribute video to her career in service of the United States. President Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others are featured offering praise for Secretary Clinton’s life, career, and good works.
- Not Even a Star-Studded Tribute Can Convince Hillary Clinton to Run for President (Yet) (jezebel.com)
- The case against Hillary (salon.com)
- Hillary is Running: A Dispatch from the Saban Forum (newyorker.com)
Humanitarian Buffer Zones in Syria — How misinformation obscures the Israel lobby’s influence on U.S. foreign policy
A recent Russia Today report offers an insight into how misinformation on the internet helps to obscure the influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy. In an October 11 report on the widening Syria conflict, the Russian television channel’s website cited an interview with an independent journalist regarding news of the establishment of so-called humanitarian buffer zones on Syrian territory. According to the RT report, citing Nile Bowie, the idea originated with “US hawks”:
“The US think-tank – the Brookings Institute – in March 2012 published a report entitled ‘Assessing Regime Change Options in Syria,’ where they specifically cite the creation of a buffer zone or a humanitarian corridor as a means to base certain rebel groups in the region [and] to project force towards the Syrian government in an attempt to topple it. So that appears to be what is playing out at the moment.”
The facts above are basically correct. There is, however, a crucial omission. The report in question — actually entitled “Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change” — was the work of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. The Saban Center was established in 2002 when Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban pledged nearly $13 million to the Brookings Institution. As Saban told an Israeli conference in 2010, establishing think tanks — along with making donations to political parties and controlling media outlets — is one of “three ways to be influential in American politics.” The billionaire’s sole motivation for wanting to influence policy in Washington is no secret. “I’m a one-issue guy,” Saban famously told the New York Times, “and my issue is Israel.”
It’s also worth noting that at least one of the co-authors of “Saving Syria” appears to share Haim Saban’s overriding concern for Israel. In 2006, Kenneth Pollack, currently director of the Saban Center, was mentioned in the indictment against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman as one of the government officials who provided classified information on Iran to the then AIPAC employees charged with espionage.
Nile Bowie’s omission of the Israeli source of the regime change proposals for Syria appears to have been unintentional though. As recently as September 24, the Kuala Lumpur-based American journalist wrote about the pro-Israel connections of U.S. groups supporting the Malaysian opposition. So how did he miss the equally blatant Israeli connection behind the Saban Center’s blueprint for regime change in Damascus?
Bowie most likely learned of the Brookings report from “an alternative news blog based in Bangkok, Thailand covering geopolitics.” Run by a former U.S. marine by the name of Tony Cartalucci, the Land Destroyer blog (the second of ten sites linked to by Bowie’s blog) has written about “Assessing Options for Regime Change” perhaps more often than any other source. One of those pieces posted on October 3 entitled “Turkey Attempts to Trigger War Vs. Syria” even features an image of the Saban Center’s “Saving Syria.” The caption underneath the image, however, reads:
The Brookings Institution, Middle East Memo #21 “Assessing Options for Regime Change (.pdf),” makes no secret that the humanitarian “responsibility to protect” is but a pretext for long-planned regime change.
Apart from the Saban Center logo in the image, there is no mention of the pro-Israel think tank in the piece. While a site search for “Brookings” yields eight pages of results, there appears to be only one post that refers to the “Saban Center.” A search for “Haim Saban” yields no results.
In short, as long as people continue to trust dubious “alternative” sources of news such as Land Destroyer Report, the key role of the Israel lobby in pushing regime change from Damascus to Kuala Lumpur will remain obscure.
In the Saban Center for Middle East Policy’s newest Middle East Memo, “Security in the Persian Gulf: New Frameworks for the Twenty-First Century,” Kenneth Pollack proposes “a new security architecture for the region.” According to a summary on the center’s site:
Pollack analyzes security arrangements in other parts of the world and focuses on two options: expanding the GCC and turning it into a formal military alliance and creating an arrangement modeled on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. In weighing each option, Pollack finds that the latter can better furnish a path toward peace and security.
Any consideration of how likely Pollack’s CSCE model would contribute to “peace and security” in the Persian Gulf requires an understanding of whose interests the author and his employer represent.
The Saban Center was established in 2002 with a pledge of nearly $13 million from the Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban to the Brookings Institution. Having once admitted to the New York Times, “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel,” Saban told an Israeli conference in 2010 that establishing think tanks was one of his “three ways to be influential in American politics” — along with making donations to political parties and controlling media outlets — so that he could “protect Israel, by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship.”
Before becoming a senior fellow at the Saban Center, Kenneth Pollack was a member of the U.S. National Security Council. While advising on American security, Pollack was mentioned in relation to the 2005 criminal indictment against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman as one of the government officials who provided classified information to the two former AIPAC employees about Washington’s Iran policy. Presumably, all three were motivated, like Saban, by their overriding concern for the security of the Jewish state.
In light of Saban and Pollack’s profound concern for Israel’s security, “Security in the Persian Gulf” should be seen as yet another attempt to advance Israeli interests in the region by influencing American politics.
- Media Propagates Myth of Israel’s Non-Involvement in Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel formulates tripartite plot to destroy Syria (intrepidreport.com)