This is Matthew Gould, second from right, British Ambassador to Israel, who was pictured speaking at a meeting of the Leeds Zionist Federation that was also the opening of the Leeds Hasbarah Centre. The Leeds Zionist Federation is part of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, motto “Speaking Up for Israel.” A collection was made at the meeting to send packages to members of the Israeli Defence Force.
On 29 May 2011 The Jerusalem Post reported: “British Ambassador Matthew Gould declared his commitment to Israel and the principles of Zionism on Thursday”.
Remember this background, it is unusual behaviour for a diplomat, and it is important.
The six meetings between British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould and Minister of Defence Liam Fox and Adam Werritty together – only two of which were revealed by Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell in his “investigation” into Werritty’s unauthorised role in the Ministry of Defence – raise vital concerns about a secret agenda for war at the core of government, comparable to Blair’s determination to drive through a war on Iraq..
This is a detective story. It begins a few weeks ago, when the Fox-Werritty scandal was first breaking in the media. I had a contact from an old friend from my Foreign Office days. This friend had access to the Gus O’Donnell investigation. He had given a message for me to a trusted third party.
Whistleblowing in the surveillance state is a difficult activity. I left through a neighbour’s garden, not carrying a mobile phone, puffed and panted by bicycle to an unmonitored but busy stretch of road, hitched a lift much of the way, then ordered a minicab on a payphone from a country pub to my final destination, a farm far from CCTV. There the intermediary gave me the message: what really was worrying senior civil servants in the Cabinet Office was that the Fox-Werritty link related to plans involving Mossad and the British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould.
Since I became a notorious whistleblower, several of my ex-friends and contacts have used me to get out information they wanted to leak, via my blog. A good recent example was a senior friend at the UN who tipped me off in advance on the deal by which the US agreed to the Saudi attack on pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain, in return for Arab League support for the NATO attack on Libya. But this was rather different, not least in the apparent implication that our Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, was engaged in something with Werritty which went beyond official FCO policy.
I was particularly concerned by this because I knew slightly and liked Matthew Gould, from the time he wrote speeches for Robin Cook. I hoped there was nothing much in it. But then Gould’s name started to come up as professional journalists dug into the story, and reported Werritty’s funding by pro-Israeli lobby groups.
I decided that the best approach was for me to write to Matthew Gould. I did so, asking him when he had first met Werritty, how many times he had met him, and how many communications of every kind there had been between them. I received the reply that these questions would be answered in Gus O’Donnell’s report.
But Gus O’Donnell’s report in fact answered none of these questions. It only mentioned two meetings at which Fox, Gould and Werritty were all three present. It did not mention Gould-Werritty bilateral meetings and contacts at all. To an ex-Ambassador like me, there was also something very fishy about the two trilateral meetings O’Donnell did mention and his characterisation of them.
This led me to dig further, and I was shocked to find that O’Donnell was, at the most charitable interpretation, economical with the truth. In fact there were at least six Fox-Werritty-Gould meetings, not the two given by O’Donnell. Why did GOD lie? I now had no doubt that my informant had pointed me towards something very real and very important indeed.
Matthew Gould was the only British Ambassador who Fox and Werrity met together. They met him six times. Why?
The first meeting to which O’Donnell admits, took place in September 2010. O’Donnell says this was
“a general discussion of international defence and security matters to enable Mr Gould better to understand MOD’s perspective.”
O’Donnell says Werritty should not have been present. An FCO spokesman told me on 21 October that
“Mr Gould’s meeting with the Defence Secretary was arranged by his office as part of his pre-posting briefing calls.”
All Ambassadors make pre-posting briefing calls around Whitehall before taking up their job, as you would expect. But even for our most senior Ambassadors, outside the Foreign Office those calls are not at Secretary of State level. Senior officials are quite capable of explaining policy to outgoing Ambassadors; Secretaries of State have many other things to do.
For this meeting to happen at all was not routine, and Werritty’s presence made it still more strange. Why was this meeting happening? I dug further, and learnt from a senior MOD source that there were two more very strange things about this meeting, neither noted by O’Donnell. There was no private secretary or MOD official present to take note of action points, and the meeting took place not in Fox’s office, but in the MOD dining room.
O’Donnell may have been able to fox the media, but to a former Ambassador this whole meeting stunk. I bombarded the FCO with more questions, and discovered an amazing fact left out by O’Donnell. The FCO spokesman replied to me on 21 October 2011 that:
“Mr Werritty was also present at an earlier meeting Mr Gould had with Dr Fox in the latter’s capacity as shadow Defence Secretary.”
So Gould, Fox and Werritty had got together before Gould was Ambassador, while Fox was still in opposition and while Werritty was – what, exactly? This opened far more questions than it answered. I put them to the FCO. When, where and why had this meeting happened? We only knew it was before May 2010, when Fox took office. What was discussed? There are very strict protocols for senior officials briefing opposition front bench spokesman. Had they been followed?
The FCO refused point blank to answer any further questions. I turned to an independent-minded MP, Jeremy Corbyn, who put down a parliamentary question to William Hague. The reply quite deliberately ignored almost all of Corbyn’s question, but it did throw up an extraordinary bit of information – yet another meeting between Fox, Werritty and Gould, which had not been previously admitted.
Hague replied to Corbyn that:
“Our ambassador to Israel was also invited by the former Defence Secretary to a private social engagement in summer 2010 at which Adam Werritty was present.”
Getting to the truth was like drawing teeth, but the picture was building. O’Donnell had completely mischaracterised the “Briefing meeting” between Fox, Werritty and O’Donnell by hiding the fact that the three had met up at least twice before – once for a meeting when Fox was in opposition, and once for “a social engagement.” The FCO did not answer Corbyn’s question as to who else was present at this “social engagement”.
This was also key because Gould’s other meetings with Fox and Werritty were being characterised – albeit falsely – as simply routine, something Gould had to do in the course of his ambassadorial duties. But this attendance at “a private social engagement” was a voluntary act by Gould, indubitable proof that, at the least, the three were happy in each other’s company, but given that all three were very active in Zionist causes, it was a definite indication of something more than that.
That furtive meeting between Fox, Werritty and Gould in the MOD dining room, deliberately held away from Fox’s office where it should have taken place, and away from the MOD officials who should have been there, now looks less like briefing and more like plotting.
My existing doubts about the second and only other meeting to which O’Donnell does admit make plain why that question is very important.
O’Donnell had said that Gould, Fox and Werritty had met on 6 February 2011:
“in Tel Aviv. This was a general discussion of international affairs over a private dinner with senior Israelis. The UK Ambassador was present.”
There was something very wrong here. Any ex-Ambassador knows that any dinner with senior figures from your host country, at which the British Ambassador to that country and a British Secretary of State are both present, and at which international affairs are discussed, can never be “private”. You are always representing the UK government in that circumstance. The only explanation I could think of for O’Donnell’s astonishing description of this as a “private” dinner was that the discussion was far from being official UK policy.
I therefore asked the FCO who was at this dinner, what was discussed, and who was paying for it? I viewed the last as my trump card – if either Gould or Fox was receiving hospitality, they are obliged to declare it. To my astonishment the FCO refused to say who was present or who paid. Corbyn’s parliamentary question also covered the issue of who was at this dinner, to which he received no reply.
Plainly something was very wrong. I therefore again asked how often Gould had met or communicated with Werritty without Fox being present. Again the FCO refused to reply. But one piece of information that had been found by other journalists was that, prior to the Tel Aviv dinner, Fox, Gould and Werritty had together attended the Herzilya conference in Israel. The programme of this is freely available. It is an unabashedly staunch Zionist annual conference on “Israel’s security”, which makes no pretence at a balanced approach to Palestinian questions and attracts a strong US neo-conservative following. Fox, Gould and Werritty sat together at this event.
Yet again, the liar O’Donnell does not mention it.
I then learnt of yet another, a sixth meeting between Fox, Gould and Werritty. This time my informant was another old friend, a Jewish diplomat for another country, based at an Embassy in London. They had met Gould, Fox and Werritty together at the “We believe in Israel” conference in London in May 2011. Here is a photo of Gould and Fox together at that conference.
I had no doubt about the direction this information was leading, but I now needed to go back to my original source. Sometimes the best way to hide something is to put it right under the noses of those looking for it, and on Wednesday I picked up the information in a tent at the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s cathedral.
This is the story I was given.
Matthew Gould was Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Iran, a country which Werritty frequently visited, and where Werritty claimed to have British government support for plots against Ahmadinejad. Gould worked at the British Embassy in Washington; the Fox-Werritty Atlantic Bridge fake charity was active in building links between British and American neo-conservatives and particularly ultra-Zionists. Gould’s responsibilities at the Embassy included co-ordination on US policy towards Iran. The first meeting of all three, which the FCO refuses to date, probably stems from this period.
According to my source, there is a long history of contact between Gould and Werritty. The FCO refuse to give any information on Gould-Werritty meetings or communications except those meetings where Fox was present – and those have only been admitted gradually, one by one. We may not have them all even yet.
My source says that co-ordinating with Israel and the US on diplomatic preparation for an attack on Iran was the subject of all these meetings. That absolutely fits with the jobs Gould held at the relevant times. The FCO refuses to say what was discussed. My source says that, most crucially, Iran was discussed at the Tel Aviv dinner, and the others present represented Mossad. The FCO again refuses to say who was present or what was discussed.
On Wednesday 2 November it was revealed in the press that under Fox the MOD had prepared secret and detailed contingency plans for British participation in an attack on Iran.
There are very important questions here. Was Gould really discussing neo-con plans for attacking Iran with Werritty and eventually with Fox before the Conservatives were even in government? Why did O’Donnell’s report so carefully mislead on the Fox-Gould-Werritty axis? How far was the FCO aware of MOD preparations for attacking Iran? Is there a neo-con cell of senior ministers and officials, co-ordinating with Israel and the United States, and keeping their designs hidden from the Conservative’s coalition partners?
The government could clear up these matters if it answered some of the questions it refuses to answer, even when asked formally by a member of parliament. The media have largely moved on from the Fox-Werritty affair, but have barely skimmed the surface of the key questions it raises. They relate to secrecy, democratic accountability and preparations to launch a war, preparations which bypass the safeguards of good government. The refusal to give straight answers to simple questions by a member of parliament strikes at the very root of our democracy.
Is this not precisely the situation we were in with Blair and Iraq? Have no lessons been learnt?
There is a further question which arises. Ever since the creation of the state of Israel, the UK had a policy of not appointing a jewish Briton as Ambassador, for fear of conflict of interest. As a similar policy of not appointing a catholic Ambassador to the Vatican. New Labour overturned both longstanding policies as discriminatory. Matthew Gould is therefore the first Jewish British Ambassador to Israel.
Matthew Gould does not see his race or religion as irrelevant. He has chosen to give numerous interviews to both British and Israeli media on the subject of being a Jewish ambassador, and has been at pains to be photographed by the Israeli media participating in jewish religious festivals. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described him as “Not just an ambassador who is Jewish, but a Jewish ambassador”. That rather peculiar phrase appears directly to indicate that the potential conflict of interest for a British ambassador in Israel has indeed arisen.
It is thus most unfortunate that it is Gould who is the only British Ambassador to have met Fox and Werritty together, who met them six times, and who now stands suspected of long term participation with them in a scheme to forward war with Iran, in cooperation with Israel. This makes it even more imperative that the FCO answers now the numerous outstanding questions about the Gould/Werritty relationship and the purpose of all those meetings with Fox.
There is no doubt that the O’Donnell report’s deceitful non-reporting of so many Fox-Gould-Werritty meetings, the FCO’s blunt refusal to list Gould-Werritty, meetings and contacts without Fox, and the refusal to say who else was present at any of these occasions, amounts to irrefutable evidence that something very important is being hidden right at the heart of government. I have no doubt that my informant is telling the truth, and the secret is the plan to attack Iran. It fits all the above facts. What else does?
UPDATE: A commenter has already pointed me to this bit of invaluable evidence:
“My government absolutely agrees with your conception of the Iranian threat and the importance of your determination to battle it.” Dealing with the Iranian threat will be a large part of my work here.” Gould said.
From Israel National News. It also says that he will be trying to promote a positive atmosphere between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, but the shallowest or the deepest search shows the same picture; an entirely biased indeed fanatical zionist who must give no confidence at all to the Palestinian Authority. He must be recalled.
November 15, 2011
The government could clear up the issue of Fox Gould and Werritty if it answered these very simple questions. They are questions to which in any real democracy we would be entitled to expect an answer, concerning officials paid by us. I have put these questions to them. Consider why the government refuses to answer these simple and obvious questions.
But the truly terrifying thing is not just that the government refuses to answer these questions from me, it is that the mainstream media refuses even to ask them:
How many times in total did Gould, Werritty and Fox meet?
How many of these are listed in O’Donnell’s official investigation?
Why the discrepancy?
Did the meeting between Fox, Gould and Werritty while Fox was Shadow Defence Secretary follow official rules concerning briefing of opposition front bench spokesmen by officials?
Where did it take place?
When did Gould first meet Werritty?
How many times did Gould meet Werritty without Fox present?
How many communications of all sorts have there ever been between Gould and Werritty?
Where precisely was the “Pre-posting briefing meeting” for Gould with Werritty and Fox held?
Why was it not held in the Secretary of State’s office?
Why was no MOD official present?
Who paid for the “Private dinner” between Fox, Gould and Werritty and “Senior Israelis” in Tel Aviv in February 2011?
Who was present?
Was any note subsequently made of the discussion?
Who paid for the “social engagement” to which Fox invited Gould and Werritty in summer 2010?
Who was present?
Was the possibility of an attack on Iran discussed in any of the above meetings, events or communications?
These really are very simple questions and I will happily report any answer in full. Every media outlet should be asking these questions. Remember Werritty had no security clearance. It is therefore not possible that the answers to these questions is classified information.
If the explanations are innocent, why should these questions not be answered?
The answer to these questions would not be hidden in a democracy.
Please feel free to re-use and republish this article anywhere, commercially or otherwise. It has been blocked by the mainstream media. I write regularly for the mainstream media and this is the first article of mine I have ever been unable to publish. People have risked a huge amount by leaking me information in an effort to stop the government machinery from ramping up a war with Iran. There are many good people in government who do not want to see another Iraq. Please do all you can to publish and redistribute this information.
The state and media responses to this week’s shooting of Rabbi Mertzbach, seen alongside the killing of 10 year-old Abir Aramin, a Palestinian, highlight the difference in treatment of Jewish and Arab blood.
There are difference between the cases. And the death of any human is, of course, tragic. But we can’t ignore the horrible differences in the treatment these two shootings received and continue to receive. In both cases, it can be purported that there was no murderous intent; the soldier that shot at the car of Rabbi Dan Mertzbach certainly didn’t intend to kill a Jewish settler. And it’s possible that the Border Police officer who shot to death Abir Aramin didn’t mean to kill an innocent 10-year-old child.
But consider the differences. First, the media reports: Two days have passed since the shooting that killed Rabbi Mertzbach. A Google search of his name, limited to the last two days, bring up some 20,000 results. No media outlet in Israel failed to deal with the story at length – reporting on the shooting, the investigation launched as a result, the funeral, the family’s history, and so on. A Google search of Abir Aramin, limited to the month and a half following her shooting, brings up exactly seven results in Hebrew, five of which are from left-wing sites, one by Haaretz’s Gideon Levy, and one on the NRG [Maariv] news site. Here, the reports focus on the unique personage of Abir’s father, Bassam Aramin, one of the founders of Combatants for Peace. How many Palestinian children are killed under similar circumstances, without even one such mention of their parents?
And if the media operates as such – what about the state? A day hadn’t passed since Mertzbach’s shooting before the launching of both a standard military inquiry and a military police investigation. The soldier who fired the gun has apologized to the family. The army and the National Insurance Institute quickly announced they would consider Mertzbach a victim of a hostile act, resulting in NII funding of the funeral and further allowances to the family. The NII stated that this is “standard procedure in such cases and that by law, anyone hurt in an action meant to thwart enemy activity is considered a terror victim and recognized as such by the Defense Ministry and National Insurance Institute.”
Apparently the National Insurance Institute hasn’t heard of Abir Aramin, or just doesn’t apply the term “anyone” to Arabs. In that case, it took the police 48 hours to open an investigation into the killing, and five days to go to the scene to collect evidence – after rain had already fallen. The soldier did not express regret, and nobody considered recognizing Abir as someone who was “hurt in an action meant to thwart enemy activity” – despite the fact that the army had maintained the shooting took place in an attempt to scatter stone-throwers.
Since Bassam Aramin was and remains a peace activist who has connections with many Israelis, the case wasn’t closed just like that. Attorney Lea Tsemel fought the state in courts until the family received financial compensation, and the NGO Yesh Din, along with attorney Michael Sfard, undertook an independent inquiry, having to spoon-feed the police investigators. Nonetheless, even these efforts ultimately did not help, and the case was closed six months after Abir’s death. Last July, a panel of three Supreme Court justices, presided over by court president Dorit Beinisch, ruled that the investigation was flawed, as was the state’s handling of the case, but that too much time had passed for another investigation to be launched. The shooters would thus not stand trial. (Read Bassam Aramin’s response to the events, published last month on +972 Magazine)
And what about Nibin Jamjum?
The difference between the treatment of the two cases seems glaring. But it doesn’t end there. Abir Aramin’s story may not have received the attention that Mertzbach’s did, but due to the pressure of human rights organizations and attorneys, it still received more than most deaths of Palestinian children.
Take the example of Nibin Jamjum, who was 14 years old when settlers broke into her house and shot her to death during their 2002 pogroms in Hebron. Another death that went unnoticed. In contrast with the murder of Shalhevet Pass a year earlier, the army and the police did not enable a counter-pogrom of Palestinians against Jews, and the murderers of Jamjum have still not been caught.
During the time I spent in military prison, a soldier named Kobi Hevroni, a settler from of Kiryat Arba, told me that he had taken part in the Hebron pogrom in July 2002. He told, apparently without knowing Jamjum’s name, of a Palestinian girl who had mocked soldiers and settlers, sticking out her tongue or cursing at them. He told me that during the pogrom, some of his friends had entered her home and put a bullet to her head as punishment. When I was in prison, I chose not to believe it. Later, when I read the B’Tselem report on the pogrom, the description seemed to fit perfectly. This was not accidental gunfire. This was murder. The settlers went into her home, shoved her brothers, found her and shot her.
On the advice of the military court, I told everything I knew to the military police. After a few months, they transferred the file to the Hebron police. Both questioned me extensively. After a few months, the case was closed, with no suspects. Just like that – no arrests, no compensation, no media – most killings and murders of Palestinian children, at the hands of settlers and the army, come to a close.
In short: If you’re going to get a bullet to the head, it’s better to be a Jew.
Haggai Matar is an Israeli journalist and political activist, focusing mainly on the struggle against the occupation. He is currently working at Zman Tel Aviv, the local supplement of Maariv newspaper, and at the independent Hebrew website MySay. This piece originally appeared on MySay. Translated by Noa Yachot.
Speaking to the American Congress in May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that Israel would maintain a long-term presence in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. In the months that followed, the Israeli army stepped up its attacks on the water wells of the Palestinians who live there.
The last two months have seen a steady stream of Israeli army attacks on Palestinian Bedouin water wells in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.
On October 13, farmers received demolition orders on several water wells in Kufr al-Deek, a village in the town of Salfit near Nablus. On the 8th of September, 50 military jeeps, trucks and bulldozers sealed off Al Nasarayah as a closed military zone, and proceeded to illegally destroy 3 water wells and confiscate the attached water systems, the pumps of which cost $40,000 each to install. Five days later, the IOF returned to Al Nasarayah to demolish 2 more wells, stopping along the way to destroy another well east of Tamoun. The next day, IDF soldiers entered the village of Al- Fa’ara, near Nablus, to photograph and record the GPS coordinates of 6 more wells intended for demolition.
These water wells had permits from the Palestinian Authority, and were operating in the 5% of the Jordan Valley designated after the 1993 Oslo Accords Area A, under full Palestinian civil and military control.
Since the beginning of Israel’s colonization of the Jordan Valley in 1967, local Bedouin have seen the steady drying-up of the once-flowing springs around which they built their villages. They are unable to dig sufficient wells of their own because of crippling Israeli regulations, and have become dependent on the Israelis for access to a basic human right.
According to Ma’an Development Center’s 2010 report ‘Draining Away- the Water and Sanitation Crisis in the Jordan Valley’, 40% of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley consume less water than the minimum global standard set by the World Health Organization, which is set at 100 liters cubed per day. In a striking disparity, 56,000 Palestinians in the Jordan Valley consume an average of 37 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) of water per year, as compared to an average of 41 MCM for only 9,400 settlers.
According to Ma’an Development Center’s 2010 report ‘Draining Away- the Water and Sanitation Crisis in the Jordan Valley’, 40% of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley consume less water than the minimum global standard set by the World Health Organization, which is set at 100 liters cubed per day. In a striking disparity, 56,000 Palestinians in the Jordan Valley consume an average of 37 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) of water per year, as compared to an average of 41 MCM for only 9,400 settlers.
Because of post-Oslo Accords regulations, Jordan Valley Bedouins living in Area C (95% of the Valley) cannot build, or improve, the smallest animal pen, much less a water well, without a permit, which is almost impossible to obtain. The Oslo Accords set up a Joint Water Committee (JWC), composed of Israelis and Palestinians, to grant construction permits.
However, ‘Draining Away’ reports that “around 150 Palestinian water and sanitation projects are still pending JWC approval for ‘technical and security reasons’, while only one new Palestinian well project for the [West Bank] Western aquifer has been approved since 1993. In contrast, Israel is able to construct pipelines to its illegal settlements without going through the mechanism of the JWC. Thus Israel effectively has full control of water resources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
Even if a project is approved by the JWC, it must then be approved by the Israeli Civil Administration, where, according to Deeb Abdelghafar, Director of Water Resources for the Palestinian Water Authority, “there are more than 14 departments, and each department must approve on the project. So we can never get a project through”.
The 2009 World Bank report ‘Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Development: West Bank and Gaza’ quotes an anonymous NGO donor: “the first thing we request is a letter from PWA approving the project. Then we go to the JWC. But then we have to go to the Civil Administration – and there delays of 2-3 years are normal. In fact, we have no positive outcomes for Area C.”
Because of the impossibility of laying infrastructure, NGOs focus, says Abdelghafar, on “civil emergency intervention- by delivering small water tankers, by supplying them with water tanks, by constructing rainwater cisterns- it’s emergency humanitarian relief.” While important, this aid is temporary, able only to alleviate the symptoms, not cure the disease.
The Israelis, Abdhelgafar makes clear, “are trying to establish control over the Valley, by preventing or destroying permanent water infrastructure…they want to clear Area C of Palestinians”.
N.B., Dr. Schnare is the lead attorney in the UVA-Mann email case.
This week Nature Magazine published an editorial suggesting that “access to personal correspondence is a freedom too far” and that Michael Mann, whom they favorably compare to Galileo, should have his emails, written and received while he was a young professor at the University of Virginia, protected from public release on the core basis that to do otherwise would “chill” the work of scientists and academics. I note Galileo was forced to keep his work private. Had he the opportunity, he would have published it far and wide. Mann is quite the opposite. He wants to keep secrets and let no one know what he did and how he did it.
Nature, unfamiliar with the facts, law and both academic and university policy as applies in this case, conflates too many issues and misunderstands the transparency questions we raise.
The facts of the case include that these emails are more than five years old; that they contain none of the email attachments, no computer code, no data, no draft papers, no draft reports; that the university has already released over 2,000 of them, some academic and some not; that when they were written Mann knew there was no expectation of privacy; that all emails sent or received by a federal addressee are subject to the federal FOIA, and many have already been released; and that nearly 200 of the emails the University refuses to release were released by a whistleblower in England.
That latter group of emails, part of the “Climategate” release, do more than merely suggest Mann engaged in academic improprieties. They show he was a willing participant in efforts to “discriminate against or harass colleagues” and a failure to “respect and defend the free inquiry of associates, even when it leads to findings and conclusions that differ from their own.” Other emails document Mann’s communications were not “conducted professionally and with civility.”
Thus, emails already available to the public demonstrate that Michael Mann failed to comply with the University of Virginia Code of Ethics and the American Association of University Professors Statement on Professional Ethics.
A question, not mine, but asked by many who are interested in the history of this period, is not whether Mann failed to live up to the professional code expected of him. It is to what degree he failed to do so and to what lengths the university will go to hide this misbehavior. If we merely sought to expose Mann’s failure to display full academic professionalism, we would not need these emails. Those already in the public eye are more than sufficient for any such purposes.
I want those emails for a very different reason. Our law center seeks to defend good science and proper governmental behavior, and conversely to expose the converse. Without access to those kinds of emails, and, notably, research records themselves, it is not possible for anyone to adequately credit good behavior and expose bad behavior. This is one of two reasons we prosecute this case. It is the core purpose of a freedom of information act. Because the public paid for this work and owns this university, it has not merely a right to determine whether the faculty are doing their jobs properly; it has a duty to do so. This is not about peer review; it is about citizens’ acting as the sovereign and taking any appropriate step necessary to ensure those given stewardship over an arm of the Commonwealth are faithfully performing.
The second reason we bring this case is to defend science and the scientific process. Anyone who has taken a high school science laboratory course knows that the research or experimental process begins with recording what was done and what was observed. As UVA explains in its Research Policy RES-002, “The retention of accurately recorded and retrievable results is of the utmost importance in the conduct of research.” Why? “To enable an investigator to reproduce the steps taken.”
Currently public emails show Mann was unable to provide even his close colleagues data he used in some of his papers and could not remember which data sets he used. A query to UVA shows the university, who owns “the data and notebooks resulting from sponsored research,” had no copy of Mann’s logbooks and never gave him permission to take them with him when he left UVA. The university refused to inquire within Mann’s department as to whether anyone there knew whether he even kept a research logbook, so it’s impossible for me to know whether he stole the logbook or just never prepared one in the first place.
The emails ATI seeks are all that appears to be left of a history of what he did and how. Absent access to those emails, anyone seeking to duplicate his work, using the exact same data and methods, has no way to do so. That is in direct conflict with both good science and the UVA research policy.
Nor should access to these kind of emails “chill” the academic process.
As a former academic scientist, I understand the need and desire to keep close the research work while it is underway. Both I and the university have a proprietary interest in that work, while it is ongoing. Once completed, however, I have a duty to share not only the data and methods with the academic community, I also have a duty to share the mistakes, the blind alleys, the bad guesses and the work and theories abandoned.
Science advances knowledge by demonstrating that a theory is wrong. All the mistakes, blind alleys and bad guesses are valuable, not just to the scientist himself, but to his colleagues. By knowing what did not work, one does more than simply save time. One gains direction. One mistake revealed often opens a vista of other ideas and opportunities. The communications between scientists during a period of research are the grist for the next generation of work. Ask any doctoral candidate or post-doc how important being part of the process is on the direction of their future research. They will tell you that these unpublished communications are as much an important scientific contribution as the final papers themselves. Anyone who wishes to hide those thoughtful discussions hides knowledge.
If anything is “chilling” it is the thought that a neo-Galileo is hiding knowledge.
In an interview with Spiegel Online on April 19, 2011, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, former Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was asked if he was deceived by the US and its allies when investigating their allegations against Iran’s nuclear program. He answered: “the Americans and the Europeans withheld important documents and information from us. They weren’t interested in a compromise with the government in Tehran, but regime change—by any means necessary.”
In his tenure at the IAEA ElBaradei had faced a dilemma. As a politically astute Egyptian, he was well aware of the nature of the US-Israeli policy of dual containment of Iraq and Iran. He was also aware that his own agency had been used as an instrument to pursue this policy. Indeed, when in 2008 ElBaradei assured Iran that the IAEA will protect her legitimate military secrets, if Iran supplied information about some “alleged studies,” this writer wrote an open letter to remind him about how the IAEA had been used by US-Israeli spies in containing Iraq. In particular, I reminded him of David Kay’s comment about the “Faustian bargain.” Kay, who had served as the IAEA/UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq, had been accused by Iraqi officials to be a spy and was instrumental in building the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 1999 he admitted that some inspections in Iraq went hand in hand with spying and called the use of international organizations for spying a Faustian bargain, “a bargain with the Devil—spies spying.”
I also reminded ElBaradei that under his own leadership the IAEA was still being used by the US and its allies to do to Iran what had been done to Iraq. For example, IAEA reports on Iran marked “Restricted Distribution” regularly appeared—and to this day continue to appear—on the website of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), an organization whose agenda to contain Iran on behalf of the US and Israel is clear to everyone who keeps track of its activities, claims and predictions about how soon Iran will develop nuclear weapons.
Dr. ElBaradei, of course, knew all of the above and, yet, there was hardly anything he could do about it, except to try to moderate the IAEA reports that were intended to bring about regime change in Iran after Iraq. He knew well that the US and Israel had been trying desperately to remove him as the head of the IAEA. As I wrote in 2008, the first lines of the AP report on September 9, 2007, read: “Chief nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei is coming under intense pressure for his handling of the Iran file, with the United States and key allies accusing him of overstepping his authority. The diplomats suggested that U.S. disenchantment with the International Atomic Energy Agency chief was at its highest since early 2005.”
The pressure on ElBaradei to produce tough reports on Iran or be forced out of office continued after my open letter. For example, Haaretz reported on August 19, 2009, that according to “senior Western diplomats and Israeli officials” the IAEA “is hiding data on Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear arms.” More specifically, according to some “officials,” the report went on to say, the IAEA under ElBaradei “was refraining from publishing evidence obtained by its inspectors over the past few months that indicate Iran was pursuing information about weaponization efforts and a military nuclear program.” According to the report, these officials claimed that IAEA inspectors had written a “classified annex,” but the annex was not incorporated into the agency’s published reports. Haaretz also stated that “American, French, British and German senior officials have recently pressured ElBaradei to publish the information next month in a report due to be released at the organization’s general conference.” “The efforts to release the allegedly censored report,” Haaretz went on to write, “is being handled in Israel by Dr. Shaul Horev, director general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and the Foreign Ministry.” Haaretz then stated what the crux of the matter was:
Israel has been striving to pressure the IAEA through friendly nations and have it release the censored annex. It hopes to prove that the Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons is continuing, contrary to claims that Tehran stopped its nuclear program in 2003. A confirmation of these suspicion (sic) would oblige the international community to enact “paralyzing sanctions” on Iran.
Throughout his term, Israel has accused ElBaradei of not tackling the Iranian nuclear issue with sufficient determination. As the end of his term in December nears, Israeli diplomats are concerned that he will become less responsive and continue to hide the classified report.
Finally, Haaretz stated: “Jerusalem is hoping, however, that his successor, Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, will take up a tougher line on the Iranian nuclear program.” Israel and the US could not have hoped for a fellow with tougher line on Iran than Amano.
In a highly contested election, and after many rounds of balloting, in July of 2009 the IAEA 35-member board elected the Japanese candidate Yukiya Amano over South Africa’s Abdul Samad Minty. Amano was, as news sources pointed out, the “preferred candidate of the West” (AFP, July 2, 2009 and Bloomberg July 4, 2009). Much later, to be exact on December 2, 2010, the Guardian published a confidential cable, released by WikiLeaks and classified by US Ambassador Glyn Davies on October 16, 2009, which stated:
Amano reminded Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77, which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
On February 18, 2010, Amano issued his first report on Iran. As expected, the report was one of the longest and harshest reports on Iran that the IAEA had ever issued. It repeated all the old allegations mentioned in previous IAEA reports and presented them as if they were new. However, unlike previous reports, there was no mention of the fact that the IAEA did not have, and could not show to Iran, original documents alleging that Iran had engaged in illicit activities. The last section of the report, entitled “Possible Military Dimensions,” was the harshest and most ominous section. It read:
The information available to the Agency in connection with these outstanding issues [alleged activities] is extensive and has been collected from a variety of sources over time. It is also broadly consistent and credible in terms of the technical detail, the time frame in which the activities were conducted and the people and organizations involved. Altogether, this raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. These alleged activities consist of a number of projects and sub-projects, covering nuclear and missile related aspects, run by military related organizations.
Needless to say that the US, Israel and their “expert” think tanks, such as the ISIS, as well as reporters who have been trying to do to Iran what Judith Miller had done to Iraq, such as David Sanger of The New York Times, had a field day with the report.
Amano’s report was opening the way for imposing more US unilateral sanctions against Iran, as well as the push for the passage of the fourth United Nations Security Council sanction resolution. Reuters had reported on February 2, 2010 that “Western diplomats told Reuters that officials at the U.S. State Department have circulated a paper outlining possible new sanctions to senior foreign ministry officials in London, Paris, and Berlin.” The report added that “Western powers would like to target Iran’s central bank.”
On September 6, 2010, Amano distributed a restricted version of the IAEA report on Iran, which as usual appeared immediately on the ISIS website. Amano’s report was, once again, harsh and confrontational. It contained something quite unusual, passages from the Security Council Resolutions sanctioning Iran. Also, for the first time ever, the report challenged Iran’s right to object to designation of those inspectors that Iran had found objectionable, either for leaking confidential information or false and misleading reporting. On “Possible Military Dimensions,” the report stated that the “passage of time and the possible deterioration in the availability of some relevant information increase the urgency of this matter.”
The next two IAEA reports, on November 23, 2010, and February 25, 2011, were not as confrontational as previous reports. But after the latter report, AP reported on March 7, 2011, that Amano could not “guarantee that Iran is not trying to develop atomic arms.” He was quoted as saying:
Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran . . . [the IAEA cannot] conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. . . Unfortunately, since I came into office, Iran has not interacted with us. . . There has not been progress.
Afterward, Amano told reporters: “We are not saying that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. . . We have concerns and we want to clarify the matter.”
The next report of IAEA, on May 24, 2011, added something quite menacing. At the very end, the report stated:
Since the last report of the Director General on 25 February 2011, the Agency has received further information related to such possible undisclosed nuclear related activities, which is currently being assessed by the Agency. As previously reported by the Director General, there are indications that certain of these activities may have continued beyond 2004. The following points refer to examples of activities for which clarifications remain necessary in seven particular areas of concern.
This was followed by seven allegations against Iran, such as studies on the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle. These allegations were not new and had been based mostly on the claim by American intelligence officials that they had discovered in 2004 a stolen laptop showing Iran’s attempt to design a nuclear warhead. Indeed, the IAEA report of September 15, 2008, written under ElBaradei, had stated the following about these allegations and Iran’s response:
Iran provided written replies on 14 and 23 May 2008, the former of which included a 117-page presentation responding to the allegations concerning the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle project. While Iran confirmed the veracity of some of the information referred to in the Annex to GOV/2008/15, Iran reiterated its assertion that the allegations were based on “forged” documents and “fabricated” data, focusing on deficiencies in form and format, and reiterated that, although it had been shown electronic versions of the documentation, Iran had not received copies of the documentation to enable it to prove that they were forged and fabricated. Iran also expressed concern that the resolution of some of these issues would require Agency access to sensitive information related to its conventional military and missile related activities.
Even though the above allegations against Iran were very old, they were now resurfacing in Amano’s IAEA reports.
On September 2, 2011, Amano issued yet another restricted report that appeared immediately on the ISIS website. Although the content of the report indicated that Iran had conceded and cooperated with the IAEA on a number of contentious issues, the tone of the report was quite harsh. Under “Possible Military Dimensions,” the report stated ominously: “the Agency is increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations.” Given the wording, one could expect something more drastic to appear in the next report; and this indeed happened.
On November 8, 2011, Amano released the restricted copy of the report that Israel and the US had been waiting for. The release came right after much publicity concerning the alleged plot by Iran to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington and plans by Israel and the UK to attack Iran. Prior to the release of the report, numerous articles appeared in the media as to what it will contain, even though the report was supposed to be restricted until its official de-restriction. On November 5, 2011, Joby Warrick of The Washington Post even wrote about the “12-page annex to the report.” Two days later he wrote the details of the report and referred mostly to the head of ISIS, “David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who has reviewed the intelligence files.”
The reports in the media also indicated that some US government officials knew about the content of the report and were consulted about the report by Amano himself. On November 3, 2011, Reuters quoted President Obama as saying at the G20 summit: “The IAEA is scheduled to release a report on Iran’s nuclear program next week and (French) President (Nicolas) Sarkozy and I agree on the need to maintain the unprecedented pressure on Iran to meet its obligations.” The President’s comment came after Amano had secretly visited the White House. On November 7, 2011, David Sanger wrote in The New York Times that when “Yukia Amano, came to the White House 11 days ago to meet top officials of the National Security Council about the coming report, the administration declined to even confirm he had ever walked into the building.”
The much anticipated report, even though it was for “official use only” and “Restricted Distribution,” appeared once again on the website of ISIS on November 8, 2011, followed by an “analysis” a few hours later. The report had the 12-page “Annex” that the media had already reported. The media, however, had failed to mention, and did not mention even after the release of the report, that this was essentially the same annex that in 2009 Israel had pressured the IAEA to release, hoping that it “would oblige the international community to enact ‘paralyzing sanctions’ on Iran’”.
The annex was detailed, but given that it was basically the same document that ElBaradei had refused to publish, there was hardly anything new in it. Much of it was still no more than “allegations” made by a non-identified “Member State” or “two Member States.” Indeed, the words “alleged” and “allegation” appeared 28 times in the annex. Most of these allegations were the same ones that had been found on the mysterious laptop that somehow landed on the lap of the US government in 2004. Some, however, appeared to be new. For example, the report stated that:
The Agency has strong indications that the development by Iran of the high explosives initiation system, and its development of the high speed diagnostic configuration used to monitor related experiments, were assisted by the work of a foreign expert who was not only knowledgeable in these technologies, but who, a Member State has informed the Agency, worked for much of his career with this technology in the nuclear weapon programme of the country of his origin.
Previously, in his Washington Post article of November 7, 2011, Joby Warrick had identified the “foreign expert” as “Vyacheslav Danilenko, a former Soviet nuclear scientist.” On November 10, 2011, Reuters reported that Danilenko “has denied being the brains behind Iran’s nuclear program.” He was quoted as saying: “I am not a nuclear physicist and am not the founder of the Iranian nuclear program.” The report further added that Danilenko’s expertise was in detonation nanodiamonds, “the creation of tiny diamonds from conventional explosions for a variety of uses from lubricants to medicine.”
Some other allegations were also as flimsy as Danilenko’s case. For example, the report stated that the information “provided by Member States indicates that Iran constructed a large explosives containment vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments. The explosives vessel, or chamber, is said to have been put in place at Parchin in 2000.” Parchin is, of course, the same military complex that ISIS had alleged in 2004 to be a possible “site for research, testing and production of nuclear weapons.” It was inspected twice in 2005 and no nuclear activities were found. Amano’s latest report itself admitted that “the Agency’s visits did not uncover anything of relevance.” But now, the report seemed to imply that inspectors had looked in wrong places!
Some other new allegations bordered on the verge of absurdity. For example, the report stated: “Research by the Agency into scientific literature published over the past decade has revealed that Iranian workers, in particular groups of researchers at Shahid Behesti University and Amir Kabir University, have published papers relating to the generation, measurement and modelling of neutron transport.” The report then added that such “studies are commonly used in reactor physics or conventional ordnance research, but also have applications in the development of nuclear explosives.” This allegation is bizarre. Since when publishing papers by some scholars at the most prestigious universities in Iran—whom the report refers to as “workers”—is illegal? What should these “workers” do, submit their papers first to Mr. Amano, or US-Israeli intelligence services, for screening?
In the end, the hyped IAEA report of November 8, 2011, turned out to contain some old allegations that remain unverified and some new ones that appear to be flimsy or strange. So why publish these allegations with fanfare? One can answer the question by paraphrasing the two aforementioned statements by former IAEA Director General ElBaradei and US Ambassador Glyn Davies: the Americans and their allies, particularly the Israelis, are only interested in one thing and one thing only, regime change in Iran by any means necessary. In this endeavor, Mr. Amano is solidly in the US-Israeli court.
Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He can be reached at:email@example.com.
Excerpt from interview and comments below:
Sam Husseini: Did you do any checking on [Vyacheslav] Danilenko biography before passing on the allegation from an unnamed state that he was a quote “former Soviet nuclear scientist?”
Albright: Yes, of course we did. And I know his work pretty well.
SH: What did you find?
Albright: Well I found he was a member of the Soviet nuclear weapons complex at Chelyabinsk-70. And we knew he went into producing nanodiamonds, he worked in the early 60s in the nuclear weapons program and he has an incredible amount of information about how you build a nuclear weapon. And more than one state, in fact the IAEA has said that they think he’s part or — he contributed — to Iran’s effort to build a nuclear explosive device, in particular to diagnose a multi-point initiation system.
SH: So you’re saying that you knew prior to identifying him as a Soviet nuclear scientist that he was actually a nanodiamond expert?
Albright: He’s also a nanodiamond. He has a tremendous amount of knowledge about building nuclear weapons. He’s an ex nuclear weapons expert who went and worked in Iran. Of course he does other things. He left the business of nuclear weapons in about 1990. Now the issue with him is he was recruited and signed a contract with the head of the physics research center which was running the secret nuclear sector for Iran.
I sent my exchange with Albright to Porter, who wrote back to me: “Albright doesn’t offer any offer any evidence that he did any investigation at all. He simply reiterates as a fact the assertion made by the IAEA on the say-so of a member state. He claims that Danilenko was working on nuclear weapons from the beginning, but the only fact that he can cite is that Danilenko was working at the Soviet Institute at Chelyabinsk which was known to produce nuclear weapons. He doesn’t deal with the fact that Danilenko was involved in extremely technical pioneering work in nanodiamonds from the very beginning, and that he had a string of technical publications about them. He is suggesting, by inference, that he had a secret all that time, but clearly neither he nor the IAEA nor the member state have anything on which to base that fantasy. The fact is that by the time, Danilenko left the Institute at Chelyanbinsk in 1989, half the work force there was working on non-military research, according to the Nuclear Threat Institute. So Albright is simply using his imagination in claiming that that Danilenko worked on weapons — that’s all he’s got.”
I also sent the exchange to Muhammad Sahimi who recently wrote the piece “The IAEA Report on Iran’s Nuclear Program: Alarming or Hyped?” He wrote back: “This is an excellent interview and you really pushed Albright. But Albright never concedes anything, least of all his errors, and the fact that, in my opinion, he has an anti-Iran agenda. Several years ago he and his ISIS made a big deal about the Parchin facility. After the IAEA visited there and found nothing, he and his institution never retracted anything. He consistently refers to ‘Iran’s nuclear weapon program,’ whereas even the IAEA does not say that Iran has one, but that some studies might be relevant. He never ever took a public position on the so-called laptop, because he reportedly believed that it was fake, but did not want to say it publicly. After one nuclear test by North Korea, he outrageously insinuated that, “I heard Iranians were there,” meaning what? I can just go on and on with this.”
The day after my exchange with Albright, he was quoted in another piece in the Washington Post, “Russian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko’s aid to Iran offers peek at nuclear program,” also by Warrick, that tried to portray Danilenko’s nanodiamond expertise as a sort of cover, referring to “his diamond-making scheme.” The piece states that Danilenko had contacts with Iranian scientists until 2002, so how was he suppose to help them make advances that have not been detected until now?
JERICHO — Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished four homes west of Jericho in the central West Bank.
Palestinian security officials said over 30 army vehicles and 100 soldiers deployed in the Ein al-Duyuk al-Tahta area early Tuesday morning and declared a closed military zone, before bulldozers started demolishing homes.
Families did not have a chance to remove their furniture and belongings, security officials added.
Majed al-Atawneh said Israeli civil administration officers ordered him to leave his home but he refused and sat on the roof with his family. He told Ma’an he preferred that the army demolished his home “over his head” than to become homeless.
Israeli forces demolished homes belonging to Musbah Ali Mutur, Amar al-Fakhory, Mohammad Ali al-Haaj and Ali al-Dallam.
Two of the families were forced to evacuate their homes and the other two were not at home. One of the homeowners is in Saudi Arabia after performing the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, a Ma’an reporter said.
A spokesman for Israeli authorities in the West Bank told Reuters the homes were razed because they were built without proper permits.
Palestinian security officials told Ma’an that 30 homes in the area were under threat of demolition because they lacked Israeli permits.
The homes are in Area C, a zone encompassing 62 percent of the West Bank which is under full Israeli military and civil control.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA notes that under Israel’s zoning policy, Palestinians can only build in 1 percent of Area C, on land which is already heavily built up. Meanwhile, more than 94 percent of Palestinian permit applications have been rejected in recent years.
“Sadly, the number of people affected by demolition continues to grow. The UN estimates that between 28 and 46 per cent of Palestinian homes could be at risk of demolition, leaving people living under a cloud of anxiety,” UNRWA says.
After the demolitions on Tuesday, Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades to stop residents from returning to the rubble, witnesses said.
By Abby Martin | Media Roots | November 14, 2011
Abby Martin of Media Roots went to Occupy Oakland at 4:00 am to cover the second police raid on the encampment and crackdown against the peaceful protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
The footage shows the intensity in the air leading up to the raid and the insane amount of police presence that showed up to crackdown and destroy the camp.
Mayor Jean Quan’s legal adviser resigned at 2 am in protest to the heavy police response.
Twenty-one high-profile Hollywood actors, producers and film and television industry leaders are taking part in a delegation to Israel organized by The Creative Coalition (TCC), a New York-based arts and education non-profit, in conjunction with the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is affiliated with AIPAC, the US’ most powerful pro-Israel lobby group.
In a press release dated 13 November, TCC announced that the delegates will travel “through Israel to meet with Israeli and Palestinian policy leaders, members of the arts, culture and business communities, and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).”
The delegates include Emmy Award-winner Patricia Arquette (“Medium,” Holes); Emmy Award-winner Alfre Woodard (“Memphis Beat,” “Desperate Housewives,” Miss Evers’ Boys); Rachael Leigh Cook (“Perception,” She’s All That); Emmy Award-winner Joe Pantoliano (“The Sopranos,” The Matrix); Tichina Arnold (“Happily Divorced,” “Raising Hope,” “Martin,” “Everybody Hates Chris”); Stephen Baldwin (The Usual Suspects, Born on the Fourth of July); and Giancarlo Esposito (“Once Upon a Time,” “Breaking Bad”), among many others.
The trip, which began on 13 November, is to last one week and meetings are scheduled with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The delegation, according to TCC’s press release, will focus on “arts, culture and policy.”
Nowhere in the press release does it say which of the Palestinian “policy leaders” the delegates will meet, nor does it imply that the delegation itself will cross into the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip where, away from the neo-liberalist, sanitized bubble of Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas’ Ramallah, Palestinians face daily disposession, home demolition, land confiscation, imprisonment, torture and death by Israeli soldiers.
Naturally, if AIPAC — a highly-influential, extreme-right pro-Israeli policy propaganda organization — is leading the trip, the delegation will most likely be subjected to a barrage of anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) messages as Israel’s hasbara machine kicks into high gear.
AIEF and AIPAC working with Israeli government to assault BDS
AIEF, created as a supporting “educational wing” of AIPAC, helps finance public relations campaigns about the US-Israel relationship in public and private sectors, including on college campuses, and organizes and bankrolls trips to Israel by US political figures. A recent trip by 80 US Congressmembers in August was backed and organized by AIEF/AIPAC.
On that August delegation, the members of Congress met with Netanyahu and Peres, and also with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Michael Grimm, a Republican congressman from New York, told the New York Times after he returned: “It’s my responsibility to be able to advocate on pro-Israel issues … Coming here and being able to feel it and touch it to fully understand how daily life is for an Israeli is important.”
These types of delegations — especially those headlines under an innocuous pretense of a “focus on arts, culture and policy” — are precisely timed to combat the growing, global BDS movements. The organizations behind these trips are not only heavily-funded, but are directly targeting the academic and cultural boycott initiatives that are succeeding in marginalizing and isolating Israel the more that the Israeli government shoves apartheid policies down the throats of occupied and beseiged Palestinians.
Recently, the US-based Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) — a group of US entertainment industry leaders — was formed with the explicit intent to crush the BDS movement as it pertains to the cultural boycott against Israel. In an October article, the Jerusalem Post reported that:
Creative Community For Peace (CCFP) pledges to use a wide range of measures to bolster the resolve of artists who sign contracts to perform in or travel to Israel and then face calls from various “boycott groups” to cancel their trips, according one of its founders, Steve Schnur.
Schnur is a worldwide executive of music and marketing for Electronic Arts and president of Artwerk Music Group, and is responsible for licensing music for some of the most popular computer video games.
“We felt that if we could create a place where artists can get information from other artists and from people they know who understand what Israel is really about – the freedom, the democracy and equal rights – and not rely on the disinformation they’re given about ‘apartheid’ Israel, then maybe we could change things,” Schnur said in a phone call this week from Los Angeles.
“Our aim isn’t to applaud the fact that artists have come to Israel, but to enable others to continue to go there.”
The boycott issue has always been present with regard to international artists and Israel, but in the past few years, pro-Palestinian organizations abroad have stepped up efforts to bombard scheduled acts with e-mails, letters and Facebook campaigns urging them to cancel.
Earlier this month, as The Electronic Intifada reported, a coalition of artists — Artists Against Apartheid — called for a comprehensive boycott against CCFP, which they categorized as a “complicit propaganda institution seeking to normalize Israeli apartheid and strongarm entertainers into its service.”
CCFP is also closely linked to StandWithUs (SWU), a US-based pro-Israel and anti-boycott organization devoted to expanding Israeli propaganda on US college campuses and crushing Palestine solidarity activism in local communities. As The Electronic Intifada reported, SWU has tight ties with the Israeli government to combat BDS.
Indeed, the boycott movement is gaining momentum and popularity, and more and more artists and performers are continuing to refuse to perform in Israel. PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, says that in the last few years, Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, Faithless, the Pixies and many other artists have cancelled their performances in Israel over its human rights record.
BDS holds Israel accountable
By meeting with Israeli officials and lobby organizations who advocate for ethnic cleansing, apartheid, occupation, economic subjugation, settler-colonialism and repression of civil and human rights — and a client Palestinian leadership who acquiesce to and collude with their Israeli occupiers — this delegation of the entertainment industry’s elite will be used to further the Israeli propaganda war under a cynical, false banner of “advocating” arts and culture.
As much money and effort that Israeli lobby groups are pouring into these propaganda ventures to battle the expanding BDS movement, it is a clear indication that they’re feeling the heat. With groups such as CCFP, AIEF, the Jewish Federations of North America and their public relations wing, the Jewish Community Relations Council, pouring millions of dollars into desperate attempts to stifle and censor Palestinian voices and the BDS movement, the BDS activism community will continue to hold Israel and its enablers accountable, from Tel Aviv to Hollywood.
RAMALLAH — Palestinian activists boarded Israeli settler buses Tuesday in an action inspired by the American civil rights movement which resulted in several arrests.
The activists headed toward the Kohav Yakov and Psagot settlement bus stops and boarded a bus for Jerusalem. Israeli forces stopped the bus on the Hizma checkpoint and prevented it from entering Jerusalem.
Settlers left the bus while it was searched and the activists were removed and arrested. As many as seven were reported to have been arrested by late Tuesday.
The detainees were identified by organizers as Nadeem al-Sharbate, Badee Dwak, Huwaida Arraf, Basel al-Araj, Fadi Quran, Mazin Qumsiyeh, and Fajr Harb.
“We launch this campaign in the belief that we will not achieve freedom, justice, and self-determination unless we make the Israeli occupation pay, economically and politically, for its daily violations of our rights and dignity,” a campaign statement said.
The campaign aims to “deepen the people’s involvement in the popular resistance, in tandem with the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.”
The activists said they would continue to defy Israeli forces by boarding Egged and Veolia buses, which are used by settlers, in an action inspired by the US civil rights movement.
They will continue to “express our firm opposition to the illegitimate colonial entity on Palestinian land, all apartheid practices, human rights violations, land confiscation, the wall, and the refusal to let refugee return to their homeland.”
The Friday resignation of chief White House adviser on the Middle East Dennis Ross drew sharply contrasting reactions that reflected the sectarian, pro-Israel agenda his presence in government represented.
AIPAC, the key arm of the Israel lobby, issued a rare statement hailing Ross’s legacy. “In his tireless pursuit of Middle East peace, Ambassador Ross has maintained a deep understanding of the strategic value of the US-Israel relationship and has worked vigorously to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Rashid Khalidi, a former negotiator for the PLO who now directs the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, had a less positive take on Ross’s legacy.
“Since the Reagan administration, Dennis Ross has played a crucial role in crafting Middle East policies that never served peace, which is today farther away than ever,” Khalidi said. “His efforts, which contributed to the growth in the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories, were marked by a litany of failures. It is long overdue for him and the bankrupt policies he represents to be shown the door.”
Despite references to Ross’s pro-Israel leanings by his defenders and detractors, his full impact on the trajectory of US policy towards the Middle East in general and the Arab Israeli conflict in particular remains underrated or under-reported.
Serving in four American administrators and overseeing a long and fruitless process to secure an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ross did more than any official to advance Israeli ambitions of expansion at the cost of Palestinian pursuit of statehood and freedom.
Inside the Obama White House, Ross made little effort to conceal his pro-Israel agenda. While serving on the President’s National Security Council, Ross actively sought to obstruct the US from pressing Israel to engage in negotiations on final status issues like borders and refugees, or to apply measures to stop its construction of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. At the same time, Ross spearheaded Washington’s effort to punish Iran for pursuing nuclear energy capacity, pushing for harsh sanctions against Iran that have proven fruitless. The New York Times described Ross simply as “Israel’s friend in the Obama White House.”
When Ross announced his resignation this week, he chose to do so before the board members of the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank founded by Israel’s Jewish Agency to develop prescriptions for combating threats to “Jewish demographics” in Israel and abroad. Ross directed the think tank for several years before entering the Obama administration. By the time Ross revealed his plans to retire from government, he had already arranged for a golden parachute with one of the key arms of the Israel lobby. In December, Ross will return to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a hawkish think tank that he founded in collaboration with AIPAC. After nearly three decades of advancing Israel’s interests from the inside, Ross’s career had come full circle.
Ross was raised in a strictly secular atmosphere by a Catholic stepfather and a secular Jewish mother. Like many American Jews of his generation, Ross became religiously observant and enthusiastically Zionist following Israel’s lightning victory in the 1967 war. Ross’s first paper for WINEP, which he published in 1985, demanded the appointment of “a non-Arabist Special Middle East envoy” who would not “feel guilty about our relationship with Israel and our reluctance to force Israeli consensus.”
He gathered diplomatic experience at the failed US-brokered Madrid Summit, where Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir privately revealed Israel’s intention to “drag out the talks on Palestinian self-rule for ten years while attempting to settle hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Occupied Territories.”
With the election of Democratic President Bill Clinton, Ross’s dream job finally arrived. Clinton’s presidential campaign drew momentum from the Israel lobby’s anger at President George H.W. Bush, who momentarily withheld loan guarantees to Israel to force Shamir to accept a settlement freeze. Clinton’s top individual donor was Haim Saban, an American-Israeli media tycoon committed to cementing Israeli influence over American policy. Saban raised US$3.5 million at an event he hosted for the Clinton campaign, then helped secure the appointment of WINEP co-founder Martin Indyk as US Ambassador to Israel once Clinton was elected. For his part, Ross was appointed as Clinton’s special Middle East coordinator – his “non-Arabist Special Middle East envoy.”
Ross was the most influential American figure in negotiations between Israel and Palestinian representatives during the 1990’s, arguably more powerful than even the President. As a former senior Clinton official told journalist Clayton Swisher, “Part of the problem was with people like Dennis… instead of being a broker – instead of facilitating the parties making a deal – they started doing it as if they were the principal or the President himself.”
Ross played a central role in negotiating the Oslo Accords, an agreement that postponed all major issues from borders to refugees to a later date while granting full Israeli military control over 60 percent of the West Bank, enabling Israel to transform large swathes of the occupied area into a land of settlers while strategically confining the Palestinian urban population into a series of isolated Bantustans. As new Israeli “facts on the ground” that forever altered the landscape of future negotiations, the settlements stood as symbols of Ross’s legacy.
After repeated Israeli violations of the terms it agreed to at Oslo, Ross urged the White House to avoid making any moves that might cause Israel to question America’s commitment to the special relationship. Behind the scenes, Ross spent hours at a time huddling with Israeli officials, helping them hammer out onerous demands, while hoarding communications that arrived from the Palestinians, refusing to allow National Security Advisors to view them. Ross alienated Palestinian negotiators to the point that Arafat personally asked Clinton for his removal.
Inside the Clinton administration, some national security advisers grumbled about Ross’s behavior, demanding he be replaced even though they knew he was entrenched to the point that he was practically intractable.
“Dennis assumed he knew more about the issue than anyone else,” a former State Department official told Swisher, “and when he felt close to getting a deal, it became evident to everyone that his more pro-Israeli feelings were coming out. As we came very close to the time to do a deal, Dennis became very nervous about the Israelis’ position on the potential deal.”
Though the Clinton administration rarely strayed from the Israel lobby’s diktat, Ross was so determined to extend Israeli influence over American policy that he actively undermined the President. In 1999, when Congress attempted to insert a special provision that would have eliminated the President’s authority to block legislation moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Ross argued at a meeting in the White House, “I just don’t see why we can’t move the embassy to Jerusalem.”
At the time, Ross’s son was interning for Senator Joseph Lieberman, a strong advocate of the legislation to move the embassy. In the end, the congressional initiative failed, while Clinton’s inner circle made efforts to isolate Ross from negotiations.
At Camp David in 2000, the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority met to resolve final status issues. After repeated Israeli violations of the terms of Oslo, however Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was skeptical about the usefulness of more talks. He agreed to them only after extended pressure from Clinton, who explicitly promised that he would not blame Arafat if the negotiations failed.
Ross returned to his central role at Camp David, using his control over the flow of documents to ensure that Israel had the upper hand. “The ‘no surprises’ policy, under which we had to run everything by Israel first, stripped our policy of the independence and flexibility required for serious peacemaking,” Ross’s deputy, Aaron David Miller complained afterwards. Alluding to his boss, Miller described the American negotiating team at Camp David as “Israel’s lawyer.”
When the talks collapsed, primarily because of Israel’s refusal to relinquish key areas of East Jerusalem – Israel and the United States attempted to force Arafat’s team to agree to terms that stood well outside the Arab consensus – Clinton reneged on his promise to Arafat, publicly blaming him for rejecting a “generous offer” in order to help then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak win re-election.
Ross curiously omitted Clinton’s broken promise from his voluminous, 840-page account of Camp David, “The Missing Peace,” attacking Arafat instead as a “skunk” and offering the Orientalist and ahistorical claim that Arafat was psychologically incapable of making the transition from freedom fighter to statesman.
The American campaign against Arafat enabled Barak to introduce the “no partner” theme – that there was no Palestinian partner for peace – a canard designed to justify Israel’s brutal repression of the Second Intifada and its subsequent strategy of unilateralism. In October 2000, before the Palestinian campaign of suicide bombing had begun in earnest, Israeli troops fired 1.3 million bullets at Palestinians revolting against the occupation. Like the post-Oslo settlement construction boom, the lives – and limbs – shattered in the wake of Camp David symbolized Ross’s legacy of failure.
When the George W. Bush administration took power, Ross cooled his heels at WINEP, collecting a US$230,000 annual paycheck while padding his wallet with over US$220,000 in speaking fees from pro-Israel organizations like AIPAC. Ross delivered a total of zero speeches for Arab and Muslim groups during this period. Ross also found time to join leading neoconservatives in making the case for invading and occupying Iraq.
With the mission accomplished in Iraq, Ross joined John Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith and a Who’s Who of neocons to produce a report called “Meeting the Challenge: US Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development.” The paper was a bellicose collection of arguments for ramping up conflict with the evildoers of Iran. Veteran national security analyst Jim Lobe summarized the document most succinctly when he called it “a road map to war.”
The same year, Ross emerged in a novel role as a campaign proxy for Obama, who was attempting to weather a storm of slander from his Republican opponents. The latter accused Obama of everything from crypto-Islamic sentiments to a hidden pro-Palestinian agenda, pointing to a past relationship with Rashid Khalidi (the horror!) that in fact amounted to little more than a casual friendship.
From Obama’s vulnerability on the Israel issue came Ross’s strength, allowing the veteran insider to emerge as Obama’s de facto liaison to the Jewish donors who accounted for so much of the Democratic Party’s base of funding.
During the final months of the campaign, Ross was junketed to synagogues in affluent suburbs from Pennsylvania to Florida to reassure nervous pro-Israel voters that he would be their man on the inside, working for Israel’s interests at every turn.
When Obama appeared at the annual convention of AIPAC in 2008, Ross inserted a provocative line that reflected his personal zealotry: “Jerusalem must remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”
By mouthing the phrase, Obama contradicted official US policy, generating embarrassment and controversy that forced him to backpedal immediately afterwards. But thanks to the guiding hand of Ross, the candidate doubts inside the pro-Israel community that he might prove insufficiently pliant. Thus the flow of bundled donations continued unabated.
Ross’s departure from the Obama administration has fueled concerns about the President’s fundraising potential. “Ross’s departure is not a diplomatic problem for the White House; it is instead a problem for the Obama re-election campaign,” wrote Elliot Abrams, the neoconservative former Assistant Secretary of State for the Bush II administration. “For Ross was the only official in whom most American Jewish leaders had confidence. As most of them are Democrats who have long accepted Ross’s faith in the ‘peace process,’ they viewed his role as the assurance that a steady, experienced, pro-Israel hand was on or near the tiller.”
Ross’s dual role as Obama’s Jewish consigliere and Middle East advisor was the ultimate symbol of the Israel lobby’s corruption of American foreign policy. Ross may have failed at each turn, but each successive failure has enabled maximalist Israeli impulses, from the construction of settlements to the siege of the Palestinian population. In this regard, Ross fulfilled his promises to his cohorts in the lobby. Whether Ross and his allies have advanced the long term Israeli goal of securing international legitimacy is another matter, however. Indeed, it is no coincidence that he left government with the peace process in shambles and with Israeli leaders braying for a war of aggression against Iran. Perhaps nothing summarizes Ross’s career as well as a single line sung by Bob Dylan: “There’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.”