The latest coup attempt against one of the countries in the Bolivarian Alliance For The People of Our America (ALBA) is an attempt to impede Latin American integration and the advance of revolutionary democratic processes. The right-wing is on the attack in Latin America. Its success in 2009 in Honduras against the government of Manuel Zelaya energized it and gave it the strength and confidence to strike again against the people and revolutionary governments in Latin America.
The elections of Sunday, September 26th in Venezuela, while victorious for the Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV), also ceded space to the most reactionary and dangerous destabilizing forces at the service of imperial interests. The United States managed to situate key elements in the Venezuelan National Assembly, giving them a platform to move forward with their conspiratorial schemes to undermine Venezuelan democracy.
The day after the elections in Venezuela, the main advocate for peace in Colombia, Piedad Córdoba, was dismissed as a Senator in the Republic of Colombia, by Colombia’s Inspector General, on the basis of falsified evidence and accusations. But the attack against Senator Córdoba is a symbol of the attack against progressive forces in Colombia who seek true and peaceful solutions to the war in which they have been living for more than 60 years.
And now, Thursday, September 30th, was the dawn of a coup d’etat in Ecuador. Insubordinate police took over a number of facilities in the capital of Quito, creating chaos and panic in the country. Supposedly, they were protesting against a new law approved by the National Assembly on Wednesday, which according to them reduced labor benefits.
In an attempt to resolve the situation, President Rafael Correa went to meet with the rebellious police but was attacked with heavy objects and teargas, causing a wound on his leg and teargas asphyxiation. He was taken to a military hospital in Quito, where he was later kidnapped and held against his will, prevented from leaving.
Meanwhile, popular movements took to the streets of Quito, demanding the liberation of their President, democratically re-elected the previous year by a huge majority. Thousands of Ecuadorans raised their voices in support of President Correa, trying to rescue their democracy from the hands of coup-plotters who were looking to provoke the forced resignation of the national government.
In a dramatic development, President Correa was rescued in an operation by Special Forces from the Ecuadoran military in the late evening hours. Correa denounced his kidnapping by the coup-plotting police and laid responsibility for the coup d’etat directly upon former President, Lucio Gutiérrez. Gutiérrez was a presidential candidate in 2009 against President Correa, and lost in a landslide when more than 55% voted for Correa.
During today’s events, Lucio Gutiérrez declared in an interview, “The end of Correa’s tyranny is at hand,” also asking for the “dissolution of Parliament and a call for early presidential elections.”
But beyond the key role played by Gutiérrez, there are external factors involved in this attempted coup d’etat that are moving their pieces once again.
Infiltration of the Police
According to journalist Jean-Guy Allard, an official report from Ecuador’s Defense Minister, Javier Ponce, distributed in October of 2008, revealed “how US diplomats dedicated themselves to corrupting the police and the Armed Forces.”
The report confirmed that police units “maintain an informal economic dependence on the United States, for the payment of informants, training, equipment and operations.”
In response to the report, US Ambassador in Ecuador, Heather Hodges, justified the collaboration, saying “We work with the government of Ecuador, with the military and with the police, on objectives that are very important for security.” According to Hodges, the work with Ecuador’s security forces is related to the “fight against drug trafficking.”
Ambassador Hodges was sent to Ecuador in 2008 by then President George W. Bush. Previously she successfully headed up the embassy in Moldova, a socialist country formerly part of the Soviet Union. She left Moldova sowing the seeds for a “colored revolution” that took place, unsuccessfully, in April of 2009 against the majority communist party elected to parliament.
Hodges headed the Office of Cuban Affairs within the US State Department in 1991, as its Deputy Director. The department was dedicated to the promotion of destabilization in Cuba. Two years later she was sent to Nicaragua in order to consolidate the administration of Violeta Chamorro, the president selected by the United States following the dirty war against the Sandinista government, which led to its exit from power in 1989.
When Bush sent her to Ecuador, it was with the intention of sowing destabilization against Correa, in case the Ecuadoran president refused to subordinate himself to Washington’s agenda. Hodges managed to increase the budget for USAID and the NED [National Endowment for Democracy] directed toward social organizations and political groups that promote US interests, including within the indigenous sector.
In the face of President Correa’s re-election in 2009, based on a new constitution approved in 2008 by a resounding majority of men and women in Ecuador, the Ambassador began to foment destabilization.
Certain progressive social groups have expressed their discontent with the policies of the Correa government. There is no doubt that legitimate complaints and grievances against his government exist. Not all groups and organizations in opposition to Correa’s policies are imperial agents. But a sector among them does exist which receives financing and guidelines in order to provoke destabilizing situations in the country that go beyond the natural expressions of criticism and opposition to a government.
In 2010, the State Department increased USAID’s budget in Ecuador to more than $38 million dollars. In the most recent years, a total of $5,640,000 in funds were invested in the work of “decentralization” in the country. One of the main executors of USAID’s programs in Ecuador is the same enterprise that operates with the rightwing in Bolivia: Chemonics, Inc. At the same time, NED issued a grant of $125,806 to the Center for Private Enterprise (CIPE) to promote free trade treaties, globalization, and regional autonomy through Ecuadoran radio, television and newspapers, along with the Ecuadoran Institute of Economic Policy.
Organizations in Ecuador such as Participación Ciudadana and Pro-justicia [Citizen Participation and Pro-Justice], as well as members and sectors of CODEMPE, Pachakutik, CONAIE, the Corporación Empresarial Indígena del Ecuador [Indigenous Enterprise Corporation of Ecuador] and Fundación Qellkaj [Qellkaj Foundation] have had USAID and NED funds at their disposal.
During the events of September 30 in Ecuador, one of the groups receiving USAID and NED financing, Pachakutik, sent out a press release backing the coup-plotting police and demanding the resignation of President Correa, holding him responsible for what was taking place. The group even went so far as to accuse him of a “dictatorial attitude.” Pachakutik entered into a political alliance with Lucio Gutiérrez in 2002 and its links with the former president are well known:
PACHAKUTIK ASKS PRESIDENT CORREA TO RESIGN AND CALLS FOR THE FORMING OF A SINGLE NATIONAL FRONT
Press Release 141
In the face of the serious political turmoil and internal crisis generated by the dictatorial attitude of President Rafael Correa, who has violated the rights of public servants as well as society, the head of the Pachakutik Movement, Cléver Jiménez, called on the indigenous movement, social movements and democratic political organizations to form a single national front to demand the exit of President Correa, under the guidelines established by Article 130, Number 2 of the Constitution, which says: “The National Assembly will dismiss the President of the Republic in the following cases: 2) For serious political crisis and domestic turmoil.”
Jiménez backed the struggle of the country’s public servants, including the police troops who have mobilized against the regime’s authoritarian policies which are an attempt to eliminate acquired labor rights. The situation of the police and members of the Armed Forces should be understood as a just action by public servants, whose rights have been made vulnerable.
This afternoon, Pachakutik is calling on all organizations within the indigenous movement, workers, democratic men and women to build unity and prepare new actions to reject Correa’s authoritarianism, in defense of the rights and guarantees of all Ecuadorans.
The script used in Venezuela and Honduras repeats itself. They try to hold the President and the government responsible for the “coup,” later forcing their exit from power. The coup against Ecuador is the next phase in the permanent aggression against ALBA and revolutionary movements in the region.
The Ecuadoran people remain mobilized in their rejection of the coup attempt, while progressive forces in the region have come together to express their solidarity and support of President Correa and his government.
* Translation: Machetera
The abortive military-police coup in Ecuador, which took place on September 30, has raised numerous questions about the role of the US and its allies among the traditional oligarchy and the leftist social movements, Indian organizations and their political parties.
While President Correa and all governments in Latin America, and significant sectors of the Ecuadorian public described the violent actions as a coup, the principle organ of Wall Street – The Wall Street Journal – described it as a “police protest”. Spokespersons for Goldman Sachs and the Council of Foreign Relations referred to the police and military power grab against the democratically elected government as a self-induced “political crises” of the President. While the coup was underway the “Indian” movement CONAIE, launched a manifesto condemning the government, while the “Indian” party Pachakutik supported the ouster of the President and backed the police coup as a “just act of public servants”.
In summary, the imperial backers of the coup, sectors of the Ecuadorian elite and Indian movement downplayed the violent police uprising as a coup in order to justify their support for it as just another “legitimate economic protest”. In other words, the victim of the elite coup was converted into the repressor of the people’s will. The factual question of whether there was a coup or not, is central to deciding whether the government was justified in repressing the police uprising and whether in fact the democratic system was endangered.
The Facts about the Coup
The police did not simply “protest” against economic polices, they seized the National Assembly and attempted to occupy public buildings and media outlets. The air force – or at least those sectors collaborating with the police – seized the airport in Quito, concerted actions seizing and blocking strategic transport networks.. President Correa was assaulted and seized and kept hostage under police guard by scores of heavily armed police, who violently resisted the Special Forces who eventually freed the president resulting in scores of wounded and ten deaths. Clearly the leaders of the police uprising had more in mind than a simple “protest” over cancelled bonuses – they sought to overthrow the president and were willing to use their firepower to carry it off. The initial economic demands of public sector employees were used by the coup leaders as a springboard to oust the regime.
The fact that the coup failed is, in part, a result of the President’s vigorous and dramatic appeal to the people to take to the streets to defend democracy – an appeal, which resonated with thousands of supporters and denied the coup makers public support in the streets.
The facts on the ground all point to a violent attempt by the police and sectors of the military to seize power and depose the president – by any definition a coup. And so it was immediately understood by all Latin American governments, from right to left, some of whom immediately closed their frontiers and threatened to break relations if the coup leaders succeeded. The only exception was Washington – whose first response was not to join in the condemnation but to wait and see what would be the outcome or as presidential spokesperson Philip Crowley announced “we are monitoring events”, referring to the uprising as a “protest” challenging the government. When Washington realized that the coup was actively opposed by the Ecuadorian public, all the Latin American governments, the bulk of the armed forces and doomed to failure, Secretary of State Clinton called Correa to announce US “backing” for his government, referring to the coup as merely an “interruption of the democratic order”.
In the run-up to the restoration of democracy, the trade unions were by and large passive observers, certainly no general strikes were discussed or even active mobilizations. The response of top military officials in the army were by and large opposed to the coup, except perhaps in the air force which seized the principle airport in Quito, before handing it over to anti-drug units of the police force. The anti narcotic police were in the forefront of the coup and not surprisingly were under intense US training and indoctrination for the past five years.
Explanation for the Varied Responses to the Coup
The responses to and interpretations of the coup varied according to different sets of objective interests and subjective perceptions. Latin American regimes unanimously rejected the coup, fearing a coup multiplier effect in the region in which other successful coups (after last year’s in Honduras) would encourage the military and police to act in their countries. The memories of the recent past in which the military dismantled all representative institutions and jailed, tortured, killed and exiled political leaders was a key factor in shaping Latin America’s resounding rejection. Secondly, the existing political order benefits the capitalist class in almost all of Latin America and provides the bases for political stability and elite prosperity. No powerful mass movements threaten capitalist socio-economic hegemony, which might require the economic elite to back a coup.
Correa supporters were in the streets, though not in the numbers of his previous calls to action ousting ex-President Lucio Gutierrez.They were mainly party loyalists. Others supported his “anti-imperialist” measures (expelling the US military base from Manta) or were defending democratic institutions even as they have become critical of his recent policies.
The US vacillation, shifting from an initial refusal to condemn to later denouncing the failed coup, was based on longstanding ties to the military but especially the police. Between 2006-2011 US military and police aid will have totaled $94 million, of which $89 million was channeled to the “war on drugs”. From 2006-2008, Ecuadorian military and police trainees numbered 931, 526 of whom were incorporated in the “counter-drugs programs”. It was precisely the anti-drug sector of the police which played a major role in seizing the airports in Quito during the abortive coup. The US certainly had plenty of motives for the coup. Correa came to power by ousting pro-US client Lucio Gutierrez and decimating the oligarchical parties who were responsible for dollarizing the economy and embracing Washington’s free market doctrine. Correa called into question the foreign debt, declining to pay debts incurred under fraudulent circumstances. Most of all Correa was an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a member of ALBA and a strong opponent of Colombia, Washington’s main ally in the region. Ecuador’s policy weakened Washington’s strategy of “encircling Venezuela” with hostile regimes. Having already backed the successful coup against Honduras President Zelaya, an ally of Chavez, Washington had everything to gain from a military coup which ousted another member of ALBA. Washington is pursuing a “triple strategy” of 1) diplomacy, offering to improve relations, 2) subversion, by building subversive capacity by financing the police and military and 3) financing via AID, NED, World Bank and NGO’s sectors of the Indian movement especially Pachacutik and dissident groups linked Lucio Gutierrez.
The leadership of the Indian movement varied in its response to the coup. The most extreme position adopted by the near moribund electoral party Pachacutik (US aid recipient) actually endorsed the police coup and call on the masses to form a “united front”, a call which fell on deaf ears. The bulk of the Indian movement (CONAIE) adopted a complex position of denying that a coup was taking place, yet rejecting the police violence and setting forth a series of demands and criticisms of Correa’s policies and methods of governance. No effort was made to either oppose the coup or to support it. In other words, in contrast to its militant anti dictatorial past, CONAIE was virtually a marginal actor.
The passivity of CONAIE and most of the trade unions has its roots in profound policy disagreements with the Correa regime.
Correa’s Self-Induced Vulnerability: His Right Turn
During the emerging citizens-movement five years ago, Rafael Correa played an important role in deposing the authoritarian, corrupt and pro-imperialist regime of Lucio Gutierrez. Once elected President, he put in practice some of his major electoral promises: evicting the US from its military base in Manta; rejecting foreign debt payments based on illicit accounts; raising salaries, the minimum wage, providing low interest loans and credit to small business. He also promised to consult with and take account of the urban social and Indian movements, in the lead up to the election of a constitutional assembly to write up a new constitution. In 2007 Correa’s list running with his new party Alianza Pais (the country alliance) won a two thirds majority in the legislature. However facing declining revenues due to the world recession, Correa made a sharp turn to right. He signed lucrative contracts with multi-national mining companies granting them exploitation rights on lands claimed by indigenous communities without consulting the latter, despite a past history of catastrophic contamination of Indian lands, water and habitat. When local communities acted to block the agreements, Correa sent in the army and harshly repressed the protestors. In subsequent efforts to negotiate, Correa only heard his own voice and dismissed the Indian leaders as a “bunch of bandits”, and “backward elements” who were blocking the “modernization of the country”.
Subsequently, Correa went on the offensive against the public employees, pushing legislation reducing salaries, bonuses and promotions, repudiating settlements based on agreements between unions and legislators. In the same way Correa imposed new laws on university governance, which alienated the professoriate, administration and students. Equally damaging to Correa’s popularity among the organized sectors of the wage and middle classes, was his authoritarian style in pushing his agenda, the pejorative language he used to label his interlocutors and his insistence that negotiations were only a means to discredit his counterparts.
Contrary to Correa’s claim to be a pathfinder for “21st century socialism”, he was, instead, the organizer of a highly personal strategy for 21st century capitalism, one based on a dollarized economy, large scale foreign investments in mining, petroleum and financial services and social austerity.
Correa’s ‘right turn’, however; also depended on political and financial support from Venezuela and its Cuban and Bolivian allies. As a result Correa fell between two chairs: he lost support from the social left because of “pro-extractive” foreign economic policies and austere domestic programs and did not secure support from the US, because of his ties to Chavez and Cuba.
As a result, Correa so alienated the unions and the Indian and social movements that he was only able to secure a very limited amount of “street power” in closing down the economy to thwart the coup. Equally important, the US and its collaborators saw in his declining organized support and the growth of social protest, an opportunity to test the waters for a possible coup, via their most dependable collaborators in the police and to a lesser degree in the air force. The police uprising was a test run, encouraged to proceed, without any overt, commitment, pending its success or failure. If the police coup secured sufficient military support, Washington and its civilian political oligarchs could intervene, call for a “negotiated outcome” which would either oust Correa or “turn him” into a “pragmatic” client. In other words, a “successful” coup would eliminate another Chavez ally, but even a failed coup would put Correa on notice for the future.
Final Reflections in the Way of a Conclusion
The unfolding of the police coup turned into a farce: the coup makers miscalculated their support within the military as well as among the protesting Indians and unions. They stood alone without glory or success. Lacking national leaders, or even a coherent strategy, they were put down in a matter of hours. They misjudged the willingness of the US to commit, once it became clear that the coup makers lacked any resonance among the military elite and were totally inept. What may have started as a coup ended as a comic opera with a brief shoot-out with the military at a police hospital.
On the other side, the fact that Correa, in the end could only rely on his elite special forces, to free him from police hostage, reveals the tragedy of a popular leader. One who started with immense popular backing, promising to finally fulfill the demand of the campesinos for land reform, the Indians demand for sovereignty to negotiate over mineral riches and urban labor’s demand for just remuneration, and ended returning to the Presidential Palace protected by military armored carriers.
The failed coup in Ecuador raises a larger political question: Does the near demise of Correa spell the end of the experiment of the ‘new center-left regimes’ which attempt to “balance” vigorous export-based growth with moderate social payoffs? The entire success of the center-left regimes has been based on their ability to subsidize and promote agro-mineral foreign and domestic capital while increasing employment, wages and subsistence payments (anti-poverty programs). This ‘political formula’ has been underwritten by the boom in demand from Asia and other world markets and by historically high commodity prices. When the crises of 2008 broke, Ecuador was the weakest link in Latin America, as it was tied to the dollar and was unable to ‘stimulate’ growth or cushion the economy. Under conditions of crises, Correa resorted to repression of the social movements and trade unions and greater efforts to secure support from petro-mining multi-nationals. Moreover, Ecuador’s police and military was much more vulnerable to infiltration by US agencies because of large scale funding and training programs unlike Bolivia and Venezuela which had expelled these agencies of subversion. Unlike Argentina and Brazil, Correa lacked a capacity to “conciliate” diverse sectors of social movements through negotiations and concessions. Of course, the penetration of the Indian communities by imperial funded NGO’s promoting “separatism” and identity’ politics did not make conciliation easy.
Nevertheless, despite the particularities of Ecuador, the failed coup underlines the relative importance of resolving basic socio-economic grievances, if the center-left macro-economic projects are to succeed. Apart from Venezuela, none of the center-left regimes are carrying out structural reforms (land reform) nationalizations of strategic sectors, income redistribution. Even the Chavez regime in Venezuela has lost a great deal of popular support because of neglect of essential services (public safety, garbage collection, delivery of water, electrical power and food delivery) because of corruption and incompetence. Over time, the center-left can no longer depend on “charismatic” leaders to compensate for the lack of structural changes. The regimes must sustain the improvement of wages and salaries and delivery of basic services in an ambience of ‘social dialogue’. The absence of continuous social reforms, while agro-mining elites prosper, opens the door for the return of the right and provokes divisions in the social coalitions supporting the center-left regimes. Most important the implosion of the center-left provides an opportunity for Washington to subvert and overthrow the regimes, reverse their relatively independent foreign policy and reassert its hegemony.
The institutional foundations of the center-left are fragile everywhere, especially the police and army, because officialdom is still engaged in government programs with US military, narco-police and intelligence agencies. The center-left regimes – except Venezuela – have continued to participate in all joint military programs. The center-left has not transformed the state. Equally important it has promoted the economic bases of the pro-US Right via its agro-mineral export strategy. It has ignored the fact that political stability is temporary and based on a balance of social power resulting from the popular rebellions of the 2000-2005 period. The center-left ignores the reality that as the capitalist class prospers, as a result of center-left agro-mineral export strategies, so does the political right. And as the wealth and political power of the export elites increases and as the center-left turns to the Right, as has been the case with Correa, there will be greater social conflict and a new cycle of political upheavals, if not by the ballot box then via the bullet – via coups or via popular uprisings.
The successful coup in Honduras (2009) and the recent failed coup in Ecuador are symptomatic of the deepening crises of “post-neo-liberal” politics. The absence of a socialist alternative, the fragmentation of the social movements, the embrace of “identity politics”, have severely weakened an effective organized alternative when and if the center-left regimes go into crises. For the moment most “critical intellectuals” cling to the center-left in hopes of a “left turn”, of a political rectification, rather than taking the difficult but necessary road of rebuilding an independent class based socialist movement.
If you’ve been listening to Newt Gingrich recently, you might be fearful of Muslims turning the United States of America into the Islamic Republic of America. You might be under the impression that Islamic religion is nothing more than a political front. You might be under the impression that Christianity is also fast becoming a political tool. But in all of the recent ranting about religion and politics, the third Abrahamic faith is flying under the radar. Few people think of Judaism as a political movement the way they might consider Islam or Christianity. When I think of Judaism, I think of latkes, challah, Woody Allen and Passover seders. I think of my mother yelling “oy vey” when I did badly on a quiz or when she burned the Rosh Hashanah brisket. If you’re an American of any religion, this is probably the image you have of Jewish people as well.
But there’s a whole other section of the world that has a very different perception of Jewish people. To them, Judaism is nothing but a political movement. They think of Jewish people — Israelis — who rode in on military jeeps and evicted them from their homes. They think of Jewish people who have blocked them off from the rest of the world, by physical wall or economic blockade. They think of Jewish people who have stolen their land and denied their history.
I agree that it would be wrong to draw conclusions about Israelis or Jews in general because of some Israeli policies and military actions — just as it would be wrong to judge any community by the actions of its worst representatives. But how do we deal with Judaism when almost all American Jewish organizations unconditionally support Israeli policies?
In the secular, post-religion age in which many of us live, Judaism has been preserved by another faith: nationalism. Allegiance to Israel is integral to the American Jewish experience, perhaps even more so than the religious and cultural tradition born out of the Diaspora. And organized Judaism’s political leanings are nearly monolithic.
Questioning this allegiance is the worst taboo within the organized Jewish community. Academics like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein GS ’88 who criticize Israel are dubbed “self-hating Jews” by the American Jewish mainstream. Jewish pro-Palestinian groups like Jews Say No or Jewish Voices for Peace are on the ultimate fringe. There are a few semi-mainstream Jewish groups that do criticize Israel, but there are none that will even entertain the idea of a non-Jewish Israeli-Palestinian state.
The result is a near-total politicization of Judaism, analogous to Islamism in the Middle East or Sarah Palin’s brand of political Christianity here. While, unlike these ideologies, American Jews do not advocate for our government to be founded on Jewish values, we do advocate specific policies in the Middle East. Like the Sabbath prayers and the stories of the Torah, the history of modern Israel — often stripped of its unsavory bits — is an integral part of Jewish education. The Israeli independence fighters are heroes for American Jews, just like George Washington or Paul Revere. Millions of dollars are spent to teach young Jews to love Israel and to defend Israel from its critics. The proof is overwhelming and undeniable: Maintaining a Jewish nation-state in Palestine has become one of organized Judaism’s core goals.
And just as it is fair to criticize Israeli policies, it is fair to criticize its apologists — groups that claim to represent the entire American Jewish community. American Jews have traditionally been at the forefront of progressive movements. But in recent years, American Jewish institutions have trended toward the ugly side of Zionism, defending — or at least apologizing for — the Israeli hard right in its continuation of the occupation of the West Bank and repression of Palestinian identity. The undeniable injustices of the Israeli government and military warrant criticism; silence in the face of these injustices warrants criticism as well.
It is time for American Jews to stand up against oppression, violence and religious fundamentalism. The tribalism that has persuaded the Jewish people to categorically stand up for Israel for so many years is foolish and outdated. The occupation of the West Bank is wrong. The blockade of Gaza is wrong. The displacement of Palestinian villages is wrong. The continued construction of settlements is wrong. And American Jews have enabled all of it. It’s about time a Jew stood up and said so.
Brandon Davis is a sophomore from Westport, Conn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. – Republished with permission from The Daily Princetonian
A number of writers have recently written critical articles or reviews about the power of the pro-Israel or Jewish Lobby and its influence on US policy in the Middle East. Most of these writings emphasize the power of the lobby over Congress, the two major parties (especially the Democrats) and the Executive branch. Some even describe the pro-Israel lobbies and the allied Jewish federations, the numerous propaganda institutes described as ‘think tanks’, publications as well as their influence or control over the mass media, from Hollywood, the print media, television to corporate “public” radio. However these critics and analysts paint themselves into a corner, attributing to the Jewish lobby so much power as to virtually incapacitate any effort to counter its influence and change the direction of US policy. The image of a near-omniscient and omnipotent Jewish lobby overlooks its vulnerability and significant issues around which an opposition or counter-hegemonic movement can be organized in the United States.
A starting point for building such a movement in some cases already exists in single issue campaigns; in other instances, some of the critical reports on the actions and behavior of the Lobby can become rallying points for organizing and pressing for new legislation and improving legislative restraints on Lobby activities.
What Should be Done: 18 Points of Action
1. Pressure can be exerted to force the Pro-Israel lobby to register as an agent of a foreign power. There is an abundance of evidence based on public documents, observation, testimony, interviews which demonstrate that the leaders of the Lobby take orders from the Israeli government, serve as transmission belts of Israeli policies into the US, formulate the legislation for the US Congress based on Israeli priorities, coordinate and transmit information from the US government to the Israeli government and have even engaged in espionage in the US for the Israeli secret police (Mossad). If for example AIPAC is obligated to register as an agent of a foreign power, it can be expected that a substantial number of its members/supporters will resign or withdraw, and big contributors will hold back funding, weakening the activist and financial base of the Lobby. Secondly, other members of the pro-Israel coalition will balk at allying with an agency of a foreign power. Thirdly, elected and appointed officials will be more hesitant to follow the lead or share the platform of an organization identified with a foreign government because of the possible legal implications or at least unfavorable publicity.
2. Organize a campaign to withdraw investments in US companies which supply the Israeli regime with weapons of mass destruction and construction equipment to extend Israeli colonization of Palestine. The boycott should include targeting military industries which contribute to Lobby controlled “think tanks”, State and Union pension funds which invest in Israeli Bonds should be pressured to reallocate to productive industries and social services which create jobs and health benefits for Americans.
3. Create a data bank on all the key political officials who have long-standing, primary commitments to the state of Israel and who have collaborated with the pro-Israeli lobby. This data bank can focus on the role of the Zionist power configuration engaged in harnessing US policy to Israel’s expansionist policies. The data bank can list all the major pieces of legislation fashioned by the Lobby for Israel; the total sum of US grants, and guaranteed loans, technological transfers secured for Israel through the Lobby; the number of junkets and visits organized by the Lobby for policymakers. In addition, information should be collected on all levels of “consultation” between key lobby leaders, religious notables, and international Zionist organizations and the Israeli state. The “information bank” can provide the bases for demonstrating how the Lobby serves Israeli foreign policy, distorts US domestic and overseas priorities and contributes to silencing and undermining internal democratic debate. In other words, the anti-Lobby campaign can be an important part of the battle of ideas, and engage in the struggle to throw off foreign tutelage, and regain our freedom to openly discuss the role of Israel and the Lobby in US politics.
4. Support the worldwide boycott against scholarly and academic exchanges with Israeli counterparts and institutes which uphold and participate in the colonization and repression of the Palestinians. In particular, psychologists and psychiatrists should pressure their association to reject all Israeli counterparts who engage in interrogation (usually accompanied by torture) of political prisoners.
5. Legislation should be passed barring individuals who hold dual-citizenship (Israeli-US), especially those connected with the military-intelligence networks from holding sensitive positions in the government or controlling the political party nomination process, as is now the case of the Democratic Party. Numerous cases have emerged of Israeli-US citizens in the high tech field who have direct access to software affecting US national security, as well as high Pentagon officials with ‘dual citizenship’ promoting policies favorable to Israel at great cost in lives and money to the US.
6. Organize to eliminate Israel’s special privileges in tax exemption, trade, technology, and citizenship which burdens US taxpayers, increases Israeli competitiveness at the expense of US producers and facilitates Israeli emigration at the expense of other groups. Above all, demand the elimination or drastic reduction of Israel’s $3 billion plus foreign aid and $10 billion in guaranteed loans a country with a $21,000 per capita income. The funds which cover over 40% of the total US foreign aid packages, should be spent in covering health care for the 45 million US citizens who lack coverage, or at least allocated to countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia whose per capita income is below $1000 dollars a year.
7. Support efforts to end the US embargo on goods, services and financial assistance to Palestine, recognize the democratically elected Hamas government. Join with European Parliamentarians, Lebanese and most Middle Eastern governments and the great majority of the Third World in recognizing Hezbollah as a legitimate electoral party and social movement in Lebanon. Here as in many other issues, the Lobby and its supporters are a small minority in the international community of nations and world public opinion. Through their dominance of US policy on Lebanon and Palestine, the Lobby has contributed to the isolation of the US, provoked the ire of all the mainline humanitarian groups and given credence to the world communities’ belief that Washington is a handmaiden of Israeli policy-makers.
8. Raise the issues of bringing Israeli officials to the International War Crimes Tribunal, or to criminal courts on charges of violating the Geneva Conventions and the protocols of the Nuremberg Tribunal. By having criminal charges in various courts of justice, Israeli military and civilian war criminals will be reluctant to travel abroad for fear of arrest. Likewise civil suits can be initiated to impound Israeli bank accounts and assets to pay war reparations to Lebanese civilians for the 15,000 homes destroyed and for damages exceeding $10 billion dollars. Families of assassinated civilian victims and UN peace keepers should be encouraged to seek compensation in the United States as well as in their own national courts.
9. Convert the issue of the US-Israeli claim of nuclear dangers resulting from Iranian uranium enrichment into a more consequential and general demand to turn the entire Middle East into a nuclear free zone. Thus highlighting the fact that Israeli possession of at least 300 nuclear bombs is the outstanding threat to nuclear war in the Middle East and elsewhere. The Lobby’s campaign against Iran is directed toward maintaining Israel’s monopoly of nuclear weapons as an instrument to intimidate any challenges to its expansionist goals.
10. Call for the International Atomic Energy Commission and other UN nuclear inspection organizations to investigate charges that Israel is manufacturing and storing nuclear bombs, and chemical and biological weapons contrary to the non-proliferation agreement. The Lobby will clearly be on the defensive, having to defend Israel’s deception and secrecy regarding weapons of mass destruction.
11. Organize boycotts and campaigns to demand that local, regional, and national mass media outlets report and interview Israeli critics as well as its spokespeople. Propose debates, round tables, and forums which include Israeli critics as well as its spokespeople; file legal suits against Jewish lobbyists making libelous accusations of “anti-semitism” against informed critics who suffer loss of career appointments or promotions. Organize legal teams to challenge the impunity of the vicious slanderers and perpetrators of hate crimes among pro-Israel ideologues.
12. Demand that newscasters, analysts, and commentators dealing with Middle Eastern issues have their organizational and political affiliations clearly identified. This will help focus the public on the extraordinary one-sided pro-Israeli bias in the media and weaken a key propaganda arm of the Lobby.
13. Legislation should be supported which bars individuals with dual citizenship and therefore dual loyalties from holding executive or legislative positions in the government. As we have seen, numerous top policymakers with a strong commitment to Israeli interests lead our country to disastrous Middle Eastern wars.
14. Support legislation revoking the citizenship of individuals who enlist or engage in military activity for a foreign government. The Lobby sends thousands of US Jews to Israel to engage in civilian and “security” activities alongside and integrated with IDF soldiers, creating “returnees” fully indoctrinated into Israel’s militarist worldview.
15. One of the vehicles used by the Lobby to influence or buy the loyalty of legislators and US officials are paid junkets to Israel, where they are indoctrinated and propagandized by a bevy of Israeli politicians, and advocates of the Zionist state. Legislation to outlaw paid propaganda and vote buying junkets came before Congress but was stopped largely through the efforts of the Jewish Lobby. Clearly this is an area where corruption and foreign control over our foreign policy converge and is strongly susceptible to a campaign to moralize public policy.
16. Since 9/11, hundreds of suspected Israeli spies have been deported, and several Lobbyists, US military and government officials have been charged with spying for Israel. Yet no public statements or media exposure has resulted. Campaigns should demand equal treatment and publicity of Israeli spies with non-Israeli operatives. Israeli handlers operating out of their Embassy should be named and arrested, instead of allowing easy exits, as is currently practiced.
17. Legislation should be presented and veterans’ groups of all wars should be mobilized to demand Congressional hearings on the Israeli bombing of the US surveillance ship Liberty with prime witnesses among our naval survivors. The Commission should investigate the subsequent cover up by the Johnson Administration and the role of the Lobby.
18. Support political parties and candidates who oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestine, its $3 billion dollar annual aid package and the Lobby’s pro-war Mid East agenda. Support a pro-American policy of anti-colonialism, conversion of Israeli billion dollar handouts into rebuilding de-industrialized regions in the US and eschewing military intervention in the Middle East either for Israeli or imperial interests.
Can we stop the Lobby’s efforts to force America’s hand and pressure our government into sending more of our soldiers to the Middle East to die for Greater Israel? Yes – but it most obviously won’t be easy because of the big money that flows into the Congressional troughs, the terrible mass media bias and the cowardice of many of our political opinion-makers. But a start has been made. Leading military officials, active and retired, have opposed the Zioncon policymakers in the Pentagon, State Department and Congress. Leading religious institutes like the Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, as well as high Church officials in the Greek Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Church have forcefully criticized Israel’s human rights record and have supported various types of boycotts.
Major trade unions in Canada (public sector union in Ontario – CUPE), South Africa, and in the European Union and Middle East have expressed opposition to Israeli ethnic cleansing and militarism. University teachers, led by British and Irish educators, are supporting a boycott of Israeli scholars and institutes collaborating with the Israeli regime. Even within the United States, despite the Lobby’s propaganda campaigns, a majority of US citizens did not support Israel’s bombing of Lebanon and no longer support the Lobby engineered US war in Iraq.
Opposition and collaboration with the Israel Lobby cuts across the ideological spectrum. Opponents of the Lobby’s dominant role in shaping US-Mid East policy in favor of Israel have provoked the ire of numerous traditional conservative writers, politicians and military officials as well as a substantial number of democrats, pacifists, leftists, Greens, mainline Christian churches, and grassroots Democrats. Support for the Lobby includes the leadership of both major parties, all the mainstream Jewish organization and religious bodies, most liberal Jews, and non-Jews, as well as the neo-conservatives, media moguls, and fundamentalist Christian Zionists.
Two momentous issues come out in what is a major test of forces: war or peace in the Middle East – the question of who rules America? The Lobby, in and out of the Executive branch and Congress, was instrumental in pushing us into the Iraq war. They are the leading pressure group propelling us into a war with Iran – a war which will ignite major confrontation throughout the Middle East and military attacks in the West, putting our security in jeopardy and provoking a major oil and energy crisis, that will likely lead to a major recession.
The Lobby’s war-making powers exceed those of any elected body as they are constituted today because of the terrible fear that elected officials and opinion makers have of the Lobby’s retaliatory, political thuggery.
The second major issue we as American citizens face is the loss of control over our own political process; the power of the Lobby is at the unconditional service of the Israeli state; what Israel dictates the Lobby pursues through its network of several hundred thousand activists and hundreds of millions in cash flow. Those of us who stand up for America’s right to decide its own policies in the Middle East free of Israeli-Lobby intervention, are faced with the challenge of taking back our freedom to choose. The freedom to choose who and what we support in the Middle East without facing political, financial, or social retribution, slander or public ostracism. We the strongest military and economic power have been politically and culturally colonized. Like other national liberation movements, we must struggle to free ourselves from the tyranny of Israel over our politics in the Middle East. In the 1950’s we faced McCarthyite anti-communism as a ruse to propel us into World War Three. Today we face the slander of Zionist ‘anti-Semitism’ as a ruse to propel us into a new world war against Islamic nations and states who oppose Israeli expansion.
Just as a broad coalition from the left to the Secretary of the Army defeated McCarthyism in the 1950’s and led to détente in the 1970’s so too a similar coalition today can defeat the Israeli Lobby’s war policies and lead to our self-determination and national dignity in pursuit of a democratic foreign policy.
Gird your loins, empty your bladder, this is going to be one hell of a fight – no holds barred.
Should another war break out between Israel and Lebanon, who would be at fault: the nation that actually commences bombing and invasion, backed by the full diplomatic and military support of the most powerful country in the world? Or the country that is bombed and invaded, along with its quasi-ally that provides a small fraction of such assistance?
An article in Wednesday’s New York Times answers that question in typical fashion. The guilty party would be Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah party, and its main offense would be Hezbollah’s supposedly provocative preparation of a Lebanese defense to an Israeli attack. The article, authored by Thanassis Cambanis, is written as if the reporter were “embedded” with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In July, 2006, Israel launched a bombing campaign and invasion against Lebanon that caused widespread destruction and loss of life similar in scale to its subsequent attack on Gaza. More than 1000 Lebanese lost their lives and whole villages and neighborhoods were destroyed. Yet many Israelis considered the “war” a failure, since Hezbollah not only survived the conflict but also inflicted enough damage on the invading Israeli Army and on communities in northern Israel to force withdrawal before Israel had accomplished its objective, presumably the destruction of Hezbollah. Since then, many Israelis have been itching to resume the fight, just as they were for six war-free years after Israel finally ended its two-decade long occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.
Now, the Times reports that Hezbollah is provoking the Israelis by preparing for the possibility, or likelihood, of the next Israeli war. It is precisely this defensive buildup that Israel is using as a potential casus belli to justify a new war.
Amazingly, the argument that a military attack is necessary to defeat those who are preparing to defend themselves from that military attack is not dismissed as a transparent absurdity. (In fact, it is the general assumption underlying all the war talk about Iran as well.)
From the very start, Cambanis uses loaded language to convey his message. “Hezbollah instigated its war with Israel in 2006.” It is true that a border raid on an IDF position was the catalyst for the Israeli attack, but the word “instigate” implies that Hezbollah intentionally provoked the “war.” Israel’s war preparations already were in full swing, and the decision to respond with a full-scale bombing and ground invasion was purely Israel’s.
Subsequently, Hezbollah chief Nasrallah has claimed, quite credibly, that he would not have launched this border operation had he known the Israelis would use it as an excuse to retaliate so destructively. Saying that Hezbollah “instigated its war” is similar to saying that Herschel Grynszpan “instigated” Kristallnacht, or that Princip & co. “instigated” World War I.
Similarly, Hezbollah is cast as the aggressor in the next war: “Hezbollah appears to be, if not bristling for a fight with Israel, then coolly prepared for one. It seems to be calculating either that an aggressive military posture might deter another war, as its own officials and Lebanese analysts say, or that a conflict, should it come, would on balance fortify its domestic political standing.”
In other words, while Hezbollah may say that its arms buildup is for deterrent purposes, Times reporter Cambanis knows better, and suspects that Hezbollah actually hopes to provoke a war for craven political purposes.
And wait. Let’s not depict Hezbollah as the sole villain here, when we can blame Iran as well. The Times: “because of the party’s ties to Iran and its powerful militia, Hezbollah officials say they are ready to fight even if a war would do widespread damage.”
In addition to implicating bete noire Iran, the article suggests that Hezbollah’s vow to resist a foreign military invasion is responsible for the destruction Israel would wreak; if only Hezbollah declared it was unwilling to repel an Israeli attack, the danger of “widespread damage” would dissipate.
Continuing with the Iranian theme: Hezbollah is “emboldened” because its “patrons in Iran appear to have regained control” after post-election challenges to its authority. The article also lays the groundwork for Israel’s inevitable wholesale attacks on civilian areas that characterized its previous attacks on Lebanon and Gaza:
“Hezbollah appears to have retained the support of the Shiite Muslims in southern Lebanon. ‘Hezbollah is not a foreign body. It is an organic, natural part of every house, village,’ said Hussein Rumeiti, an official in Burj Qalaouay.”
The message is clear: If Israel should again decimate entire villages and neighborhoods, we should not weep for the civilians killed in the rubble. They are inextricably intertwined with Hezbollah and therefore appropriate targets for Israeli attack.
In reality, Israel will bomb and invade Lebanon if it feels like it. As in 2006 and 2008-2009, its indiscriminate death machine will receive the full backing of its American sponsors, regardless of who is the dog and who is the tail. Israel requires no provocation by Hezbollah, and if ready to go, it will invent an excuse, or magnify a relatively minor incident.
In 1982, Israel’s pretext was the assassination attempt on its ambassador in London, and in 2006, it was the border raid. For the next round, it appears to be Hezbollah’s stockpiling of missiles to use in case of an Israeli attack that perversely justifies that attack, and don’t forget Iran pulling the strings behind the scene.
The Times article does not mean war is inevitable, but it does construct a framework to justify military action by Israel. Does the Israeli government bestow honors upon foreign reporters? If so, Thanassis Cambanis deserves top awards.