The JNF “Green Sunday” fundraiser took place in several countries on 5 February. In publicity materials, JNF UK asked volunteers to “give two hours of your time to help turn the Negev green” and “make the Negev a livable place.”
But Palestinian citizens of Israel who already live in the southern Naqab desert (Negev in Hebrew) say the JNF has a colonialist agenda.
Usama Uqbi, head of the Naqab Bedouin Committee, told The Electronic Intifada that the impression of an empty desert the JNF portrayed was “a big lie.” Palestinian Arabs have been living on their land in the Naqab for hundreds of years, he said. He mocked the JNF flyer giving the impression of an empty land as “empty words.”
The JNF’s real goal is to demolish the homes of Palestinians who already live there, and bring Jewish settlers from the center of Israel to live on the expropriated land, he said.
The Electronic Intifada asked the JNF UK for their response to Uqbi’s criticisms.
A spokesperson replied: “You’re asking do we have a secret agenda to Judaize the desert and steal Palestinian homes?” The word “Judaize” was not used in The Electronic Intifada’s question. He said he would send an official response via email, but failed to follow up on this promise.
The Bedouin in the Naqab
The JNF has been directly implicated in the destruction of Palestinian communities in the Naqab. On 8 March 2011, the Alternative Information Center published a photo of a bulldozer that was involved in one of the destructions of the village of al-Araqib, emblazoned with Israeli and JNF flags (“El Araqib Destroyed for 21st time, JNF Changing Facts on Ground”).
Uqbi said that the Bedouin style of life in the Naqab has been eroded by Israel over the years. Bedouins have been forced to sell their cattle, as Israel has confiscated more and more of their land. The state established seven Bedouin resettlement projects in the Naqab in exchange for abandoning our land, he said. The houses offered in these modern-day reservations are rented, and the Palestinian citizens resettled there are stripped of land rights, he said.
Uqbi himself lives in an “unrecognized village,” which the state refuses to connect to even the most basic public utilities such as water, roads, electricity or schools. Uqbi said this was a deliberate policy to force him to abandon his home.
Sofiah MacLeod from the campaign group Stop the JNF told The Electronic Intifada that Green Sunday was a “propaganda exercise” to cover-up JNF involvement in establishment of “Jewish-only settlements” which are an attempt to “exclude the Palestinian population.”
MacLeod says she visited al-Araqib in December. The now-famous Naqab Bedouin village has been destroyed by the Israelis approximately thirty times since July 2010. Each time the villagers insist on rebuilding.
MacLeod says the villagers were left only with the graveyard in December. Their olive trees have been uprooted and replaced with eucalyptus trees, she says, but despite this, olive tree saplings had started to grow back.
The JNF says it wants to “develop” the area as part of its “Blueprint Negev” initiative.
In a recent press release, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network condemned “Green Sunday,” saying the JNF “shamelessly exploits Tu B’shvat [the Jewish holiday that celebrates fruiting trees] as an opportunity to raise money to fund their ongoing colonization of Palestine and displacement of Palestinians … As Jews of conscience, we stand against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine” (“Jewish Call: Stop the JNF – Trees should be sacred, not profane”).
Palestine solidarity groups should start thinking more about the JNF, says MacLeod. A March 2011 parliamentary motion — called an Early Day Motion (EDM) — signed by more than sixty members of British parliament has helped raise awareness, she says. Initiated by left wing Labor Party MP Jeremy Corbyn, the EDM welcomed the Stop the JNF campaign and condemned the JNF for “its ongoing illegal expropriation of Palestinian land” while calling for its charitable status to be revoked (“Early Day Motion 1677”).
Top British politicians desert the the JNF
The EDM also expressed opposition to Prime Minister David Cameron’s status as an honorary JNF patron. In May, Stop the JNF wrote to Cameron asking him to cut his ties. News that the prime minister quietly dropped the charity broke soon after.
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada at the time, a spokesperson for Cameron downplayed the move as “not a particularly recent decision” and that the JNF had been one of a “number of charities” dropped. But in June, this line shifted when a spokesperson told The Jewish Chronicle that the JNF’s ties to Israel had in fact been the issue. The Zionist paper reported the spokesperson as saying it was “nothing to do with a policy issue and was based around the fact he is now prime minister rather than leader of the opposition” (“Cameron’s JNF split: it was Israel,” 2 June 2011).
In a 31 May 2011 letter to The Jerusalem Post, former JNF president Gail Seal wrote that “a British prime minister has been an honorary trustee since” 1901 when the JNF was founded. “How sad it is that, whatever the reason, David Cameron has broken this chain,” she lamented.
Writing in The Jewish Chronicle, JNF Chairman Samuel Hayek criticized Cameron more robustly: “The Prime Minister’s words of support for Israel to Jewish audiences are too often contradicted by those said in front of more hostile crowds. Actions speak louder than words. The decision to resign from JNF has reverberated around the world” (“Why David Cameron – and the community – got it so wrong,” 10 June 2011).
The Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister and the leader of the Labour Party opposition have also declined to become JNF honorary patrons, said MacLeod. Stop the JNF wrote to both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband asking about the issue and both replied that they had no plans to associate themselves with the JNF, although they gave no reasons, says MacLeod.
Both Scottish Friends of the Earth and the Scottish Green Party have now condemned the JNF and endorsed the campaign against it, says MacLeod. In a statement, The Scottish Greens condemned the JNF “for using the ‘green label to practice crimes against the Palestinian people” (“Scottish Green Party reject ‘green’ claims of charity involved in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians,” 31 October 2011).
MacLeod also says that the Green Party of England and Wales is set to discuss the issue at the upcoming conference.
JNF worried about campaign’s gains
Although parliamentary Early Day Motions are often criticized as impotent, a leaked document shows that JNF chief executive David Goodman is worried about the “legitimacy granted to this campaign by the EDM.” In a December letter sent to most of the MPs signed onto the EDM, Goodman smeared Stop the JNF, asking to meet each MP in private to “discuss the issues.”
Stop the JNF responded to Goodman’s letter by publishing it on their website, refuting its accusations point by point and challenging Goodman to a debate in an “open forum” in Westminster, the seat of the UK parliament (“JNF denies it works to dispossess Palestinians, smears critics,” 2 January 2012).
MacLeod points out that the EDM has yet to lose the signature of a single MP, despite this JNF counter-lobbying.
Goodman’s letter denies treating Palestinian citizens of Israel in a racist way, but admits the “Israeli state has made extensive efforts to encourage the permanent settlement of the Bedouin in recent years” in “additional towns in the Negev to smooth the transition to permanent settlement.”
Stop the JNF is optimistic about the future of the campaign, saying in a recent press release that 2012 could be “perhaps its last year holding charity status in the UK” for the JNF.
According to the Charity Commission, the JNF’s last reported annual income was over £12 million ($7.6 million) in the UK alone. Loss of UK charity status would be a massive political blow to Israel as well as a significant financial blow. Registered charities have significant exemptions from UK taxes.
Over the years, many groups and activists have written to the Charity Commission to complain about the JNF, says MacLeod. Through freedom of information requests, Stop the JNF has learned about some of the internal thinking on the issue. The campaign is currently working on putting together a more solid case that it hopes to submit towards the second half of year, she says.
Although the JNF held “Green Sundays” in the UK, France, Australia, the US and Israel this month, there were no public event in the UK, says MacLeod. A few years ago they were very proud to hold public events, even bringing famous names like former US President Bill Clinton and actress Goldie Hawn. But in recent years they are now “on the retreat,” the campaign argues. Their events are held in full or partial secrecy, with publicity often containing vague directions like “London venue” — presumably to throw off potential protests.
MacLeod says the JNF are planning a “charity shoot” event on 11 May, very close to Nakba Day, the annual Palestinian commemoration of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Stop the JNF will protest the Glasgow event and is also holding a conference in Edinburgh on 12 May.
JNF’s long historical connection to Israeli colonialism
The JNF has quasi-governmental status in Israel, and describes itself on its website as “the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners — Jewish people everywhere” (Jewish National Fund, Essence of Life Campaign).
After Israel was established in 1948, the JNF purchased expropriated Palestinian land from the state, and since then has played a key role in an exclusionary land regime that discriminates against Palestinian citizens.
According to Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination, and Democracy, a new book by Ben White: “Since 1948, over 700 Jewish communities have been established in Israel’s pre-1967 borders. In the same period, not one new city, town or village for the Palestinian minority has been created, except for seven townships in the Negev intended to ‘concentrate’ the Bedouin population” (p. 38).
In the last accounts and annual report document filed with the Charity Commission (December 2010) JNF UK said it had “supported Israel since 1901, helping to build a country out of nothing” (my emphasis).
This kind of language invokes the old pre-state Zionist slogan “a land without a people for a people without a land,” suggesting the JNF’s agenda in 2012 has changed little since those days.
In his book Expulsion of the Palestinians, Palestinian scholar Nur Masalha wrote of this infamous slogan that it was not intended as a literal demographic assessment: “[Zionists] did not mean that there were no people in Palestine, but that there were no people worth considering within the framework of the notions of European supremacy that then held sway” (p. 6).
In a 2005 US diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks, current Israeli President Shimon Peres is reported as saying Israel had “lost one million dunams [a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters] of Negev land to the Bedouin” (i.e. supposedly equal Palestinian citizens of Israel). Peres slurred the “Arab sector in both the Negev and the Galilee” as a “demographic threat,” reported the cable (“05TELAVIV1847, Shimon Peres on disengagement, Palestinian social”).
Uqbi emphasized to The Electronic Intifada that Peres went on to play a key role in the confiscation of Palestinian land in the Naqab from his time as development minister between 2006 and 2007.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who has lived and worked in occupied Palestine. His website is www.winstanleys.org.
- Professor of Hate: Israeli “scholar” urges ethnic cleansing of Bedouins (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Tell JNF to Cease its Practice of Ethnic Cleansing (rabbibrant.com)
- Jewish Agency: goal of Israeli government plan to block Bedouin “incursion” (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- 2,600 Bedouins threatened with displacement as Israeli settlements expand (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Delegitimizing discrimination: struggle of Palestinians in Israel focus of new book (alethonews.wordpress.com)
James Abourezk represented South Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 to 1973 and in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 1979. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including Advise & Dissent: Memoirs of South Dakota and the U.S. Senate. CNI asked Senator Abourezk about his experiences with the Israel Lobby while he served in Congress. In his response he told of an Israeli plot against him that has received perplexingly little coverage in the U.S. press. Below is his description of this and other incidents:
Q: Despite such books as Paul Findley’s They Dare to Speak Out, Edward Tivnan’s The Lobby, and Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby, some people still tend to downplay the power of the Israel Lobby. Can you tell us about some of your experiences with it?
A: I’m an eyewitness to what the Lobby does to Members of Congress, including to me during the time I spent in D.C. I was threatened, marginalized, attacked, lied about, among other matters in an effort to silence my criticism of Israel’s policies and of the Lobby.
At one time Bob Cordier, from the Washington FBI office, called me to tell me that, during the investigation into Alex Odeh’s murder (Alex was one of my staff people) the FBI had uncovered a “plot” on my life. Not a threat, but a plot, but, he said it’s OK now, as the guy who intended to murder me had now gone back to Israel. Alex Odeh’s murder came not long after I had run four full page ads in the Washington Post asking for support against the Israel Lobby. My assumption was that, reading the ads had enraged the plotter, which led him to bomb the ADC office in Orange County, California.
I also assume that the plotter was Robert Manning, a hit man who was later convicted of the murder of the secretary of a Jewish businessman in California. Apparently Manning had been hired by another Jewish businessman who was a competitor. They found the fingerprints both of Manning and of his wife on remnants of the letter bomb that was sent to his target, but opened by his secretary, who died as a result of the explosion.
Manning and his wife were safe from extradition from Israel, due to Israeli policy of not extraditing Jews for any reason, until Peter Jennings on ABC nightly news did a story on how Manning was running free in his West Bank settlement. The news story so embarrassed the U.S. government as well as the Israeli government that he was allowed to be extradited to California, but on the condition that he not be tried for killing Alex Odeh, but only for the Secretary. That condition was tantamount to a confession that he had murdered Alex Odeh. Manning’s wife died of a heart attack in an Israeli jail while awaiting extradition.
James Bamford, now a writer living in Washington, D.C., and who was Peter Jennings’ producer then, has film clips of the news story that he shows at lectures he gives on the subject. He went to the West Bank and filmed a machine gun toting Manning for the news story.
I was under continual attack by the Lobby while I was in politics. Because I kept myself clean during my time of service, someone in the Lobby dug up a story designed to embarrass me by exposing my oldest son to ridicule. He was, at the time, living on an Indian reservation in South Dakota on food stamps. The Lobby got Spencer Rich, who was a political reporter for the Washington Post, to do a story on him. Rich several times called both my wife and me trying to get us to comment, but we refused. So he ran the story, headlined, “Senator’s Son Living on Food Stamps.” That set off a fire storm of criticism against the Post, and against Ben Bradlee, who was then Editor in Chief. Larry Stern, who was one of my friends, and an editor of the Post, complained bitterly to Bradlee. Senators McGovern and Ribicoff both took to the Senate Floor denouncing the article, saying the Post was trying to destroy the food stamp program.
One of the Style section writers, Tom Zito, whom I had never met, called me one day and told me the story about his protest to Bradlee over the story. Bradlee finally said, “Alright, go find some other famous people whose kids are living on food stamps and we’ll run it.” Zito told me that he had found that Bradlee’s daughter was living on Food Stamps out in Oregon, causing Bradlee to kill the story on the spot.
Years later I ran into Spencer Rich in a store in DC. He confessed to me that he still felt bad about doing the story on my son’s food stamp adventure.
“We’re going to get him”
Si Kenen, who was then Executive Director of AIPAC, used to tell anyone who knew me, to tell Abourezk “we’re going get him.” And when I returned from a trip through the Middle East, I spoke about the trip at the Federal Press Club (reserved for women and blacks) and talked about how every Middle East leader I met with said they would be willing to sign a peace treaty with Israel if Israel would go back to the 1967 borders. A young fellow named Wolf Blitzer, who was then writing for AIPAC, rose to ask me several hostile questions before he walked out. The next issue of the AIPAC newsletter headlined that “Abourezk Sells Out to the Arabs.” That was the beginning of the war, as I failed to collapse after that broadside, and worked to make AIPAC regret their unfair attack on me.
I used to take the lead in human rights legislation in the Senate. I once offered an amendment to a bill that would cut off American money for any country violating the human rights of their people. Before anyone would vote, I was asked during debate “whether the amendment would apply to Israel.” When I said “no” I would get that person’s vote.
I also had all kinds of pressure put on me by rabbis who would come to visit me. Once an Iraqi Jew, a woman, came to visit me to tell me how bad it was for Jews in Iraq, I suppose trying to get me to change my mind on the Palestinian issue. She said she was constantly beat up and called a “dirty Jew” when she lived in Iraq. I told her I knew her feeling, because when I grew up in rural South Dakota, other kids would beat me up and call me a “dirty Jew.”
I was invited to speak at Yeshiva University when I was in the Senate. Before the time came for me to travel to New York, I was visited by a Rabbi Miller, who was from Yeshiva, and who advised me that “the students were marching against me and my speech,” and that, “It would calm things down if I would just make a public statement that I was for face to face negotiations between the Palestinaians and the Israelis.”
I told Rabbi Miller that, while I was for such negotiations, I recognized that requested statement was part of Golda Meier’s propaganda initiative, and that I had no interest in being a part of that. He kept coming on strong about the statement, so I finally asked him if it would be better if I cancelled my appearance at Yeshiva. He agreed, and that was the end of that. One of my friends from New York commented that, “They are in favor of face to face negotiations in the Middle East, but not in New York.”
After I left the Senate, Art Meggido, a writer for the Baltimore Jewish newspaper asked me for an interview. When I asked him why I should give him an interview, he told me that the Jewish community would eventually have to deal with me when it came to making peace in the Middle East. So I agreed. When the article came out, he related a story that an unnamed Ted Kennedy staffer told him that I had approached Kennedy and asked for money to go to Iran and free some hostages to help him in his 1980 primary campaign against Jimmy Carter.
The truth of that libel was that Kennedy sent three of his supporters to me to ask if I would go to Iran to free some hostages in his name. One was Jan Kalicke, one was Sen. John Culver and the other was Ted Sorensen. I supported Ted for president, so I agreed. The only thing I asked for was that they buy my ticket to Tehran, which they agreed to do.
When I read Meggido’s article I wrote to him telling him that unless they retracted the lie, I would sue him and the newspaper. They ran the retraction. Because we had agreed that we would not talk on the phone about this, we decided to talk only in person about the trip. No one knew about our deal except Kennedy and his staff, which included Tom Dine, who had been working for AIPAC earlier. It had to be Dine who talked to Meggido with the lie. And during the kerfuffle, I had a hard time getting Kalicke to call Meggido to verify my story, but it all came out in his retraction.
Although I was afraid that either my phone or Kennedy’s phone was being tapped by the Carter people, we avoided speaking about the trip over the phone, except for one occasion when I called Kalicke to talk to him about it. Almost the next day, a Lebanese journalist who covered the State Department told me that he had overheard both Marvin Kalb and the Israeli TV journalist there talking about “Abourezk acting as a messenger for Ted Kennedy over in Iran.”
There are other stories that I could tell you at the risk of boring you to death, but the Lobby had every Senator, except me, scared shitless.
- Israel Lobby Pushes for US Action Against the Syrian Government (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Obama to address pro-Israel lobby in March (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
New Alleged Hezbollah-Iran Joint Terror Operations in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan claims it has ‘again’ busted another Iranian terror cell, but is refusing to provide any evidence or details. According to the report by the country’s state-run AZTV, on February 21 a terrorist cell operated by Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had been discovered and dismantled. Allegedly the busted group, with guns and explosives, were planning attacks on ‘unspecified’ foreign nationals.
Despite reporters’ attempts the Azeri government refrained from providing any additional information:
Speaking to EurasiaNet.org, a spokesperson for Azerbaijan’s Ministry of National Security refused either to confirm or to deny the station’s report. Strangely, pro-government and state-run news sites have proven similarly skittish about delving into the AzTV report; no news about the arrests could be found on any of these websites on the morning of February 22.
Strangely enough, to back up the story AZTV aired footage of terrorist arrests from an incident that occurred in 2008! This new development appears to follow the very same pattern as Azerbaijan’s claim on the ‘alleged’ assassination plot against Israeli officials in Azerbaijan by an Iran-Sponsored terrorist group last month.
Earlier today APA news agency reported new details about this latest alleged Iranian terror operation. Supposedly, the terrorist group operated under two ringleaders – “Hamid” for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and “Haji Abbas” for an armed wing of Hezbollah, Mugavimat. This is supposed to establish the collaborative effort between the Iranian government and Hezbollah:
Azerbaijani Ministry of National Security disarmed the terrorist group of Iranian intelligence agency “Sepah” and “Hezbollah” in Azerbaijan.
The group members gathered material reconnaissance materials. The illegally acquired many weapons, ammunitions, explosives and explosive devices and began preparations to commit a terror act.A group of persons were detained in Azerbaijan over the last several days. Member of Nardaran Sanhedrin Karbalai Natig Karimov told APA that the majority of detained as a result of operative measures taken by the National Security Ministry and law-enforcement bodes were the residents of Baku villages, especially Nardaran. They are accused of establishing armed unit, illegal keeping of weapon, betrayal of motherland and drug trafficking.
Earlier this month Boiling Frogs Post reported on Iran’s formal rebuke to Azerbaijan for housing and accommodating Israeli intelligence agents and assassins to execute assassination plots against Iranian nuclear scientists. Azerbaijan denied the accusations by the Iranian government.
It is also important to note that intimate US-NATO ally Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels on February 15 and has also met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the past few weeks.
Boiling Frogs Post has been the only news site closely monitoring and reporting these developments in the US war on Iran operations’ Caucasus front. You can read our previous reports here, here, here and here.
Speaking before students at Northern Virginia Community College on February 13, President Obama unveiled his 2013 budget request, in which he proposed “some difficult cuts that, frankly, I wouldn’t normally make if they weren’t absolutely necessary. But they are.” These budget cuts are unavoidable, the President argued, because “the truth is we’re going to have to make some tough choices in order to put this country back on a more sustainable fiscal path.” In a sad commentary on the misplaced priorities of the Obama Administration, however, these “tough choices” will affect the delivery of basic services to U.S. citizens while the Israeli military hits the jackpot at taxpayer expense.
As part of its budget request, the White House released a 205-page document detailing the cuts, consolidations, and savings the Obama Administration is proposing. These proposed cuts include $5 million to the USDA to analyze food-borne pathogens, potentially making the U.S. food supply even less safe than it already is after 30 people died last year after eating listeria-infected cantaloupe; a $359 million cut to the EPA to provide grants to states for water infrastructure projects when an estimated 1.7 million Americans shockingly lack access to basic water and sanitation services according to the Water Infrastructure Network; and a whopping $360 billion cut over ten years in Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs even though the World Health Organization rates the U.S. health system as only 37th globally in health care performance.
Given these “difficult cuts” to the budget, it is easy to agree with Israeli journalist Ran Dagoni, who wrote last year in the Israeli business newspaper Globes, that “the time has come to bid goodbye to the military aid that the US extends to Israel, that generous package… that enables the Israeli taxpayer to share the cost of procuring equipment for the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] with the US taxpayer.” After all, Israel – the 28th wealthiest country in the world in 2011, with a per capita gross domestic product greater than Korea and Saudi Arabia according to the International Monetary Fund – hardly needs U.S. charity more than we need safe food, clean water, and health care.
Yet, instead of reducing or even just freezing levels of U.S. military aid to Israel, President Obama wants to provide Israel with $3.1 billion of U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons next year, an increase from $3.075 billion in 2012, making the State Department’s claim that this budget request “maintains last year’s record funding levels” for Israel both immodest and inaccurate. By comparison, of the nine other Near Eastern countries receiving U.S. military aid, the budget request for eight of them is unchanged from last year’s budget while the request for Tunisia declined.
Were Israel using these weapons for legitimate purposes and to further U.S. foreign policy objectives, then perhaps a persuasive case could be constructed for why the United States does not need to make any budgetary “tough choices” when it comes to Israel. However, Israel misuses U.S. weapons, in violation of U.S. laws, to commit grave and systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians in furtherance of its 44-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip and its illegal colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. From 2000 to 2009, the United States provided Israel with more than $24 billion of military aid and delivered more than 670 million weapons, rounds of ammunition, and related military equipment. During that same period, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Israel killed at least 2,969 Palestinians “who did not take part in the hostilities and were killed by Israeli security forces (not including the objects of targeted killings).”
Israel often kills Palestinians with these same U.S. weapons provided at taxpayer expense. Such was likely the case last December when an Israeli soldier fired a high-velocity tear gas canister at 28-year-old Mustafa Tamimi, a resident of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, who was protesting against Israeli settlers seizing land on which his village’s natural spring is located. The canister, fired from an Israeli armored vehicle, struck the activist in the face. He died the next day from his wounds. Strong evidence exists that the tear gas canister that killed Mustafa was made by Combined Systems, Inc. of Jamestown, Pennsylvania and likely could have been one of more than 595,000 tear gas canisters and other “riot control” equipment, valued at more than $20.5 million, which were funded by U.S. taxpayers and given to the Israeli military between 2000 and 2009.
Not only does U.S. military aid to Israel make U.S. taxpayers complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses of Palestinians; it also acts as a disincentive for Israel to work in tandem with the Obama Administration to achieve stated U.S. foreign policy goals of freezing Israeli settlement expansion, ending Israeli military occupation, and establishing a Palestinian state and a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The United States cannot afford the moral and economic costs of providing ever-increasing amounts of U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons to Israel. In this era of “tough choices” for the budget, here is a clear-cut example of a subsidy that should be ended.
– Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.
Barack Obama’s administration has launched attacks unparalleled since the McCarthy years on those who blow the whistle against corruption inside the federal government.
Obama has already charged more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined (as reflected in the list below.) Peter van Buren, a career foreign affairs officer at the Department of Department of State claims his job was threathened after writing, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Van Buren, who became disillusioned by waste and hypocrisy while serving in Iraq, says “The number of cases in play [against whistleblowers] suggests an organized strategy to deprive Americans of knowledge of the more disreputable things that their government does. How it plays out in court and elsewhere will significantly affect our democracy.”
Van Buren points out that the pre-World War 1 Espionage Act has been used against “labor leaders and radicals like Eugene V. Debs, Bill Haywood, Philip Randolph, Victor Berger, John Reed, Max Eastman, and Emma Goldman. Debs, a union leader and socialist candidate for the presidency, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for a speech attacking the Espionage Act itself. The Nixon administration infamously (and unsuccessfully) invoked the Act to bar the New York Times from continuing to publish the classified Pentagon Papers.” But no other administration has used this legislation as liberally as President Obama who has authorized more drone attacks than any other American president.
Van Buren was writing on the blog Tom.Dispatch.com of Tom Engelhardt, a teaching fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California. Engelhardt in turn observes: “One thing is obvious. No one ever joins the government in order to be a whistleblower or leaker.Whistleblowers are created, not born,” speaking words that resonate with my experience as a whistleblower. Van Buren notes: “It is perhaps typical of whistleblowers and leakers that something they are privy to simply pushes them over the edge.” In my case it was the realization that government was failing to act against a U.S. multinational whose mining practices were leading to the injury and deaths of South African vanadium miners.
I continue to speak out against injustice, but it certainly has not made my life easier. Each week I get mails to my Facebook site from those who are whistleblowers or are close to whistleblowers. This week’s example is typical: “I know you don’t know me and I am taking a HUGE chance by writing you, but I have to at least try. My parents are going through some of the same things you went through at the EPA. Both top-level executives at federal agencies they have been retaliated harshly against. NO ONE seems to hear us. I’m begging for your help. Please help us… These agencies are corrupt and we are still on the bus fighting like Rosa.”
There is little I can do other than direct them to the National Whistleblower Center, give the names of lawyers and share a little human empathy. But there is no doubt that under this administration there is a concerted attack against those who dare to expose corruption in government or corporations.
Recently four employees of the Air Force Mortuary in Dover, Delaware, revealed that the Dover Air Force Base mortuary had lost and sawed off body parts and mishandled other remains of America’s war dead. Retaliation against them included firings, the placing of employees on indefinite administrative leave, and the imposition of five-day suspensions. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner has accused the Air Force of deflecting blame — and a mortuary official of lying and obstructing the probe by firing one of the workers who blew the whistle. What remains to be seen is whether Lerner, an Obama political appointee, will distinguish herself from her disgraced predecessor by seriously investigating corruption under this administration.
At present six whistleblowers are suing the Food and Drug Administration for electronically spying on them when they tried to alert Congress about misconduct at the agency. This is the agency tasked with overseeing public health, food safety, medicines and medical devices. Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) launched an investigation in response to a lawsuit filed by six FDA whistleblowers and documents released by the National Whistleblowers Center that show the FDA targeted whistleblowers for special monitoring and intercepted personal communications to Congress, including emails to Senator Grassley’s staff. Senator Grassley, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg whether or not whistleblowers were singled out for special monitoring based on a letter they wrote to President-Elect Obama’s Transition Team.
We are waiting to see the Army’s reaction to whistleblower Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis, who documented in the Armed Forces Journal that senior leaders of the Department of Defense intentionally and consistently misled the American people and Congress about success in the Afghan War.
Those charged under the Espionage Act include:
- Former CIA officer John Kiriakou charged on January 23 for disclosing classified information to journalists about the waterboarding of al-Qaeda suspects. The CIA also found an excuse to fire his wife, also employed by the Agency, while she was on maternity leave.
- Thomas Drake an employee of the National Security Agency revealed that it spent $1.2 billion on a contract for a data collection program called Trailblazer when the work could have been done in-house for $3 million. Drake’s home was raided at gunpoint and the agency forced him out of his job. He now works at an Apple Store. His attorney told Anti-war.com: “Too often, whistleblowers end up broken, blacklisted, and bankrupted.”
- Whistleblower Pvt. Bradley Manning, accused of leaking Army and State Department documents to the website WikiLeaks, spent more than a year in a U.S. Marine prison and was denied the chance even to appear in court to defend himself until almost two years after his arrest.
- Former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Morris Davis lost his career as a researcher at the Library of Congress for writing a critical op-ed for the Wall Street Journal and a letter to the editor at the Washington Post on double standards at the infamous prison.
- Robert MacClean was charged for blowing the whistle on the Transportation Security Administration.
Van Buren notes in his piece for Tom.Dispatch.Com “My travel vouchers from as far back as the law allows have come under “routine” re-examination. My Internet activity is the subject of daily reports. My credit reports have been examined for who knows what. Department friends who email me on topical issues have been questioned by agents of Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s internal police. My Freedom of Information Act request for documents to help defend myself and force State to explain its actions has been buried.”
And then we read investigative reports in the Washington Post, as an example, of 33 members of Congress that have steered more than $300 million in earmarks and other spending provisions to dozens of public projects that are next to or within about two miles of the lawmakers’ own property. We have yet to hear of action against them.
Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are American constitutional bulwarks. These important elements of the constitution provide protection for truth-tellers as the last defense against tyranny. It is a shame that a legacy of the first African American president is heightened repression against whistleblowers.
See Marsha on C-Span Book/TV at: www.marshacoleman-adebayo.org.
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA is available through amazon.com and the National Whistleblower Center. Dr. Coleman-Adebayo worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered vanadium mine workers. Marsha’s successful lawsuit lead to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR.)
- Whistleblower Lawsuit Puts Spotlight On FDA Technical Reviews (news.sciencemag.org)
- Inside President Obama’s War On The Fast & Furious Whistleblowers (forbes.com)
- Scientists suing the FDA after covert surveillance (newscientist.com)
Jodi Rudoren, Another Member of the Family: Meet the New York Times’ New Israel-Palestine News Chief
Past & Present NY Times Jerusalem Bureau Chiefs: Jodi Rudoren, Ethan Bronner, Steven Erlanger, Thomas Friedman
Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun Magazine, is known for his frequent condemnations of Israeli violence against Palestinians. He is labeled “pro-Palestinian” for such statements and is regularly attacked by pro-Israel zealots who charge that he is disloyal to the Jewish state.
Yet, in reality, Lerner frequently speaks of his devotion to Israel and states that his actions are taken in considerable part to protect it.
A while ago Lerner explained the difference in his feelings about Israelis compared to his feelings about Palestinians. “[T]here is a difference in my emotional and spiritual connection to these two sides,” Lerner said.
“On the one side is my family; on the other side are decent human beings. I want to support human beings all over the planet but I have a special connection to my family.”
This statement comes to mind when one considers the New York Times bureau chiefs who cover Israel-Palestine.
The most recent person to be chosen for this powerful post at arguably the most influential newspaper in the United States is Jodi Rudoren. She takes the place of Ethan Bronner, who was preceded by Steven Erlanger, who was preceded by James Bennet, who was preceded by Deborah Sontag. All, according to an Israeli report, are Jewish.
Most Americans — particularly those who would object to only white reporters covering racial issues or only male reporters covering gender issues — are reluctant to discuss the potential bias in such a profoundly un-diverse system, having been conditioned to fear that such discussion would be “anti-Semitic” or would open the commentator to this extremely damaging accusation.
In Israel, however, it is considered appropriate to discuss the Jewish roots of American politicians and journalists since Israel was created specifically to be “the Jewish state,” Jews have elevated status in it, and the vast majority of Israeli land is officially owned by “world Jewry” (although some individuals have publicly opted out).
An article on the Jerusalem Post website, a major Israeli newspaper, focuses on this aspect. The article, “Judaism at the New York Times”, reports that “all New York Times’ bureau chiefs for at least the last fifteen years have been Jewish.”
The article’s author, Ashley Rindsberg, notes that “the Times doesn’t consistently send Russian Americans to its Moscow bureau… or Mexican Americans to lead its Mexico City bureau…” and asks, “Why does the New York Times consistently send Jewish journalists to head their central office in the Jewish State?”
Rindsberg, who like many conservative Israelis considers the Times’ reporting anti-Israel, provides a somewhat convoluted answer. The Times’ Jewish owners, Rindsberg posits, are uncomfortable with their Jewish identity. Therefore, he claims, they “would just as soon as not have reporters who could be identified for their Jewishness. And to prove it, they send Jews to the Jewish State to report in a most un-Jewish way.”
The Times’ history of pro-Israel coverage
Despite Rindsberg’s view of the Times, analysis shows its coverage to be consistently pro-Israel. A 2005 study found that the Times reported on Israeli deaths at rates up to seven times greater than its reports on Palestinian deaths, even though Palestinian deaths occurred first and in far greater numbers.
A 2007 study of the Times’ coverage of various international reports on human rights violations by Israelis and by Palestinians found that the Times covered reports condemning Israeli human rights violations at a rate only one-twentieth the rate that it covered reports condemning Palestinian human rights violations. The investigation found that during the study period there had been 76 reports by humanitarian agencies condemning Israel for abuses and four condemning Palestinians for abuses. The Times carried two stories on each side.
In its early years the Times specifically avoided assigning Jewish reporters to cover Israel out of concern that such journalists would have an inherent conflict of interest. This policy was reversed in 1979 after Abe Rosenthal became the paper’s executive editor and explicitly decided to choose Jewish journalists for the position.
While his first attempt failed (he had thought his choice, David Shipler, was Jewish), the Columbia Journalism Review reports that most of the journalists who succeeded Shipler, beginning with Thomas Friedman, have been of Jewish ethnicity. The article notes that “for a century [the Times] has served, in effect, as the hometown paper of American Jewry.”
Former NY Times executive editor Max Frankel, who was an editor at the Times from 1972 through 2000, admitted in his memoirs: “I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert … Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries. As more Arab than Jewish readers recognized, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective.”
An article by star reporter and author Grace Halsell describes her firsthand experience with pro-Israel bias at the Times in the early 1980s.
Halsell had written books about the plight of Native Americans, African Americans, and undocumented Mexican workers. She was a great favorite of New York Times matriarch Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, whose father had acquired the Times in 1896, whose husband and then son had run it next, and whose grandson is now in charge.
When Halsell next wrote a powerful book describing the Palestinian plight, she incurred Mrs. Suzberger’s displeasure and was quickly dropped by the Times. Halsell writes: “I had little concept that from being buoyed so high I could be dropped so suddenly when I discovered—from her point of view—the ‘wrong’ underdog.”
In her article Halsell quotes a revealing statement by an Israeli journalist following Israel’s 1996 shelling of a U.N. base in Lebanon that killed more than 100 civilians sheltering in it: “We believe with absolute certitude that right now, with the White House in our hands, the Senate in our hands and The New York Times in our hands, the lives of others do not count the same way as our own.”
Since 1984 New York Times bureau chiefs have lived in a house that was acquired for the Times by then Jerusalem Bureau Chief Thomas Friedman (now the Times’ lead foreign policy columnist). The building originally belonged to a Palestinian family forced out in Israel’s 1947-49 founding war. Israel afterward prevented the family from returning and reclaiming their home. Therefore, Times’ bureau chiefs are in the strange position of living in a home that was stolen from Palestinians (acquiring property by violent conquest is illegal in today’s world).
Recent Situation: Bronner, Kershner, & Khader Adnan
Rudoren’s predecessor as Jerusalem bureau chief, Ethan Bronner, has a son who enlisted in the Israeli military. When this conflict with impartiality was exposed, even the Times’ own ombudsman suggested that journalistic ethics required that Bronner be moved to a different beat. Yet, Times then-editor Bill Keller insisted that this gave Bronner “special sophistication” and kept him in his position.
Bronner’s colleague at the bureau has been Isabel Kershner, who will apparently be staying on. J.J. Goldberg, editor of the Forward, writes: “Isabel Kershner immigrated to Israel from her native England as a young woman and spent a couple of decades in Israeli journalism and Jewish education before joining the Times a few years ago. By now she’s thoroughly Israeli (and, for full disclosure, a friend).”
While pro-Israel Zealots vehemently attack Bronner and Kershner when they cover Palestinian victimization, the truth is that they overlook a great many instances. For example, a 33-year-old Palestinian father of two young girls (another child is on the way) was on a hunger strike that lasted for 66 days. He was was near death when he reportedly decided to end it on Feb 21.
The young man, Khader Adnan, was protesting his imprisonment by Israel – he was never charged with a crime – and the beatings and humiliations he endured from Israeli interrogators. There was an extended international campaign about him that grew even more urgent when doctors began warning after 45 days that he was at risk of death. Eventually, there was so much pressure world wide (including by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton) that Israel announced it would release Adnan at the end of his “sentence.”
Yet, Bronner and Kershner – and Times columnists who frequently bemoan the alleged lack of a Palestinian Gandhi – did not publish a single story on Adnan until the 66th (and last) day of his hunger strike – after the Washington Post had finally carried a report two days before. The Times’ headline was the very bland, “Hearing for Palestinian on Hunger Strike Is Set.
While Adnan’s is the longest Palestinian hunger strike on record, through the years there have been hundreds of hunger strikes by multitudes of Palestinians in Israeli prisons; the Times almost never reports on them. It’s revealing to compare their numerous stories on the Israeli tank gunner captured by Palestinians, Gilad Shalit, to the sparsity of their reporting on Adnan and others.
Overall, the thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel seem largely to have been invisible to Times’ reporters. While there have been gruesome reports of their torture for decades, there is little indication that Bronner or Kershner have investigated this or made much, if any, effort to visit Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Who is Jodi Rudoren?
Now that Bronner’s four-year term has come to an end (he says he initiated the transfer himself and was not pushed out over conflict of interest), it is not clear what went into new editor Jill Abramson’s decision to choose Rudoren for this powerful position.
A cum laude graduate from Yale, Rudoren’s journalistic experience appears to be limited to domestic subjects. Most recently she had been head of the Times’ Education bureau. She speaks what she calls “functional Hebrew” but no Arabic. It’s unknown how much time, if any, she has spent in Israel, whether she has family there, or whether she has family members in the Israeli military.
When Rudoren received a tweet by Palestinian-American author Ali Abunimah, who noted that she would be moving into stolen Palestinian property, she responded: “Hey there. Would love to chat sometime. About things other than the house. My friend Kareem Fahim [a New York Times associate] says good things.”
This friendly but somewhat flip response to a serious subject has caused Israel zealots to attack her. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg somewhat hysterically equated Abunimah, an author known for his intellectual analysis, with Israeli Jewish supremacists known for their violence.
Goldberg suggested that Rudoren should have “twinned” her tweet to Abunimah by reaching out to Kahanists — a group listed by both Israel and the U.S. as terrorists. Goldberg should be pleased to learn that Rudoren said she had done just that, telling the Jerusalem Post, “One of the people I followed before reaching out to Abunimah was David Ha’ivri.”
Ha’ivri is an extremist settler rabbi who was involved with Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane’s Kach terror group, celebrated the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he had begun to make peace with Palestinians, and was convicted some years ago for desecrating a mosque.
Abunimah, on the other hand, has written a book called “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse,” in which he describes how Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace.
Rudoren’s knowledge of Hebrew may have been bolstered by her summertime attendance at Camp Yavneh, a Jewish camp in New Hampshire that has an Israeli flag at the top of its website and boasts of its “strong Israeli programming.” It features a six-weeks “summer in Israel” program, though it’s unknown whether Rudoren attended this.
The camp website states that the current boys’ head counselor “grew up in Gush Etzion, Israel, and has served as a Lieutenant Commander in the Israeli Army in charge of 150 soldiers in the Givatti Brigade.” Another counselor is a resident of the Israeli settlement of Efrat, which, like all Israeli settlements, is built on confiscated Palestinian land and is illegal under international law.
Despite an upbringing that appears to have included considerable immersion in Zionist mythology, indications are that Rudoren may be working to widen her view. She raves about a book by Peter Beinart called “The Crisis of Zionism” and retweeted a message by blogger Sami Kishawi. It’s interesting to note that the Times’ only other female Jerusalem bureau chief, Deborah Sontag, often provided exemplary coverage; her term seems to have ended early.
Tweeting like a J-Street official?
Jeffrey Goldberg – who moved to Israel, became an Israeli citizen, joined the Israeli army, and worked as a prison guard at one of Israel’s most brutal prisons – assures readers that Rudoren is still within the pro-Israel fold, commenting, “I don’t know Rudoren… I do know her sister, from synagogue, mainly, and I don’t think Jodi is some sort of anti-Israel activist…”
Goldberg is concerned, however, that she is tweeting “as if she’s a J Street official.” For Goldberg this veers dangerously toward anti-Israelism.
In reality, however, J Street is a pro-Israel organization whose positions are dictated by what is good for Israel. Its founder has just published a book entitled “A New Voice for Israel.” If Goldberg’s assessment of Rudoren is accurate, then it appears that once again the Times has a person at the helm of its reporting on Israelis and Palestinians for whom Israelis are “family.” Quite possibly, literally.
Rudoren may be intending to cover the region accurately and with fairness. To do so, however, it appears that she will need to overcome enormous ingrained bias, relentless and vitriolic objections of the organized pro-Israel community (quite likely including friends and family), and pressure by many powerful Times advertisers and colleagues.
On top of this, unless she chooses a different lifestyle than her predecessors’, she will be living in Israel, her children will go to Israeli schools, and her home will be one of the thousands confiscated from Palestinians who are now living and suffering largely out of sight, their daily humiliations and victimization for the most part invisible.
These winds may be so strong that even when Rudoren believes she has stood upright against them, an outside view may show her tilted far over in the Israeli direction, her reporting on Israel-Palestine, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, covering the gamut from A to C.
Let us hope that this doesn’t occur.
Let us hope Rudoren understands that good reporting does not equate a false narrative with a factual one; that she will not be, in Abunimah’s words, yet “another New York Times reporter for whom Palestinians are just bit players in someone else’s drama.”
Let us hope she understands that living in stolen property is not a good base from which to report honestly; that “balance” achieved by under-reporting Palestinian suffering while exaggerating that of Israelis is not balance, it is distortion. Let us hope, most of all, that she does not view some human beings as more important than others, but instead views all, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, as family.