Horace M. Kallen, the social philosopher best known in American intellectual history for his theory of cultural pluralism, adopted Zionism in 1903 as a secular mode of retaining Jewish identity, an alternative to the Jewish religious tradition which seemed to him to be incompatible with twentieth century America. He had come to Zionism primarily through the influence of two of his Harvard professors, literary historian Barrett Wendell, who interpreted the Hebraic spirit of prophetic social justice as the inspiration for the American founding fathers, and William James, whose philosophy of Pragmatism emphasized the reality of meanness.
Kallen extended Wendell’s identification of Hebraic tradition with American idealism; he defined Zionism, the movement to renationalize the Jewish people, as an opportunity to found a model democracy based on the same concepts of liberty and equality, which, for him, symbolized America. At the same time he applied James’s concept of pluralism to the ethnic group; among them the Jews, who were beginning to become prominent in the United States, and argued that preservation of differences constituted the true measure of equality the Declaration of Independence had set forth. Zionism, thus, was able to fulfill two functions for Kallen- it allowed him to retain his Jewish identity and to become, thereby, a better American.
In 1911 Kallen became an instructor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Wisconsin. When he moved to the Middle West, he left his familiar environment. Lonely, and somewhat out of place in Madison; he felt the need to assert his Jewish identity more strongly and stepped up his pace of Zionist involvement. Finding little understanding within the official Federation of American Zionists for an expression of his own, philosophically oriented, ideas on Zionism, and quite some antagonism for his demand that the Zionist organization concentrate its activities on obtaining statehood for the Jewish nation in line with the 1896 Basle Platform which had sought “a home in Palestine secured by public law,” Kallen decided to form an organizational instrument through which he could effectively channel his own Zionist activity. On August 18,1913, therefore, Kallen founded a secret Zionist society which he called The Parushim, the Hebrew word which means both “the Pharisees” and “separate”.
The Pharisees had flourished as a separate sect during the time of the second Jewish Temple, goading the Jewish Establishment into making the traditional “written law” more relevant to the times by adding to it the interpretations of the “oral law.” Kallen saw much the same role for his group of Parushim, whose purpose he defined as “advancement by deed and word of the cause of autonomous Jewish nationality in the interest of Hebraism.” As Kallen recalled, “The Parushim was a group much like the Peace Corps, young men and women who saw the Utopian opportunity that existed for the Jewish people in Palestine and who were willing to devote themselves to an ideal.”
The Parushim was a very unusual Zionist group, organized both as a secret fraternity and as a reform movement. Unlike other social groups at the time, both men and women were eligible; “there was ascertain definite interest on desegregation of the sexes.” Enrollment was by an oath of initiation, and there was a probationary period for up to three years, during which time the initiate was to give exclusive and specific service to the cause.” Kallen invited no one to become a member until the candidate had given specific assurances regarding devotion and resolution to the Zionist cause, and each initiate had to undergo a rigorous analysis of his qualifications, loyalty, and willingness to take orders from the Order’s Executive Council. The motto of the group was the response traditionally attributed to the Jewish people on receipt of the Ten Commandments-“Nasseh V’Nishmah”-“we will do and we will hear.”
A member swearing allegiance to the Parushim felt something of the spirit of commitment to a secret military fellowship. At the initiation ceremony the head of the Order informed him:
You are about to take a step which will bind you to a single cause for all your life. You will for one year be subject to an absolute duty whose call you will be impelled to heed at any time, in any place, and at any cost. And ever after, until our purpose shall be accomplished, you will be fellow of a brotherhood whose bond you will regard as greater than any other in your life-dearer than that of family, of school, of nation. By entering this brotherhood, you become a self-dedicated soldier in the army of Zion. Your obligation to Zion becomes your paramount obligation… It is the wish of your heart and of your own free will to join our fellowship, to share its duties, its tasks, and its necessary sacrifices.
The initiate responded by swearing:
Before this council, in the name of all that I hold dear and holy, I hereby vow myself, my life, my fortune, and my honor to the restoration of the Jewish nation, -to its restoration as a free and autonomous state, by its laws perfect in justice, by its life enriching and preserving the historic speech, the culture, and the ideals of the Jewish people.
To this end I dedicate myself in behalf of the Jews, my people, and in behalf of all mankind.
To this end I enroll myself in the fellowship of the Parushim. I pledge myself utterly to guard and to obey and to keep secret the laws and the labor of the fellowship, its existence and its aims. Amen.
It is clear both from the wording of these vows, which paralleled Kallen’s published phrases on Zionism, and from the handwriting on the original copy of this induction ceremony, that Kallen was its author. For him, the organization of the Parushim had many implications. It demonstrated his overriding commitment towards working for the realization of the Zionist ideal, and his need to create, if necessary, an educated militant group that would join him in the cause. It was indicative of his desire to stimulate Zionist activity beyond that of the official Zionist organization, which tended to devote its time to polemic and debate, rather than towards effecting substantial productive achievement. It showed Kallen’s trust in an elite Zionist cadre, a vanguard for the Zionist army that was to come. Most important, perhaps, it reflected his own need for a Zionist community with which he could feel comfortable, a substitute both for his own family, and for the Harvard fellowship of congenial minds that he had left behind when he moved to the Mid-West.
The kind of people Kallen considered worthy of invitation to the Parushim is indicated in a memorandum he prepared on “Signatories to the Zionist Pledge.” The list includes, among others, Alexander Dushkin, an authority on Jewish education; Dr. I. L. Kandel, an educator then with the Carnegie Foundation and Teacher’s College of Columbia University; Israel Thurman, a lawyer and “Harvard man,” who would be used to propagandize among young lawyers; and Nathan C. House, a “Columbia man” and high school teacher, who could work out plans for training Jewish high school boys “along the lines of Zionist sentiment coupled to physical development and Boy Scout discipline.”
It seems from the replies to Kallen’s invitations to join the Parushim that he had hit on the kind of organization that would meet thee needs of others besides himself. The few people he invited to join the Order, all well educated, all Zionist leaders in their own communities, answered enthusiastically. I. J. Biskind, a doctor in Cleveland, who during World War I was to go to Palestine as a medical missionary, responded:
In behalf of Zion, in behalf of Hebraism I will accept a membership of the Parushim- if elected-unconditionally and for life. I want to work, work, work and not sing ”Hatikvah.” I want to be a soldier of the ranks and do actual work. We have been sleeping too long; we have been dreaming and golden opportunities have slipped by us.
Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization, was another early member of the Parushim. She wrote Kallen, “If … I may state the difficulties we [Hadassah] are encountering in our educational work, and so secure instructive advice from the hidden source, it will cause an increase not only in the results but also in the strength and zeal of the workers.” Her reference to “the hidden source” was, no doubt, tongue in cheek, for she continued, “If ever I emerge from under the … routine work in which I am now enveloped, I am going to devote myself to the reading you have prescribed for such as I am, and attempt to make myself more effective than I have been.”
In 1913 Kallen, aware of the moribund condition of the Zionist organization, felt that the way in which he and the Parushim would-be most influential was through a program of education. His focus. was on “the play of ideas-it had to be more theoretical than practical, imaging a program or an action without doing it.” One of his first requests to Henrietta Szold, for instance, was that she provide literature for Zionist courses to be given in Temples and Sunday Schools, a request to which she readily acquiesced. Within a few months, however, Kallen was looking further afield, and by April1914 was writing to Max Nordau, a political Zionist who had been Herzl’s first and most loyal colleague and closest adviser, of his desire to internationalize his secret order.
. .. [l]t happens to be my turn to head the secret organization here in America, which is aiming to turn the Zionist movement in a political direction, from within.
Our order is called Parushim. It is the outcome of the prolonged association of a number of young men in “academic” life who observing the general trend of events in the Zionist movement decided that the higher ideals would fail unless a check were set … Members must alba of distinguished character and trained minds … Our present purposes one of quiet propaganda and education in the “political idea.” We aim to make the masses consciously “political.”
… It is our desire and plan to organize brotherhoods all over the world . . .. We hope if all goes well in a few years quietly to turn the Zionist movement back into its proper channels…. 
There is no written record of Nordau’s reply to Kallen, nor of his evaluation of a world-wide Zionist brotherhood, bent on secret activity and influence. Kallen recalls that Nordau “wouldn’t cotton to it. He didn’t think … a vow would be of any use.” The matter was shortly to become moot, however, for four months later war broke out in Europe, forcing the dislocation of the World Zionist headquarters from Berlin. From 1914 until1920, European Zionists lost their influence as the center of Zionist activity shifted first to the United States, then to England. Kallen’s plan for a secret world-wide Zionist society became one of the war’s casualties. But as the United States became more prominent on the Zionist stage, Kallen and his vision of Jewish renationalization were to receive an opportunity for expression wider in scope and more vast in influence than anything he had ever imagined.
On August 30, 1914, an “Extraordinary Conference of representatives of American Zionists” met in New York and organized a “Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs” with Louis D. Brandeis, the famous “People’s Attorney,” as its Chairman. Kallen had played an important part in persuading Brandeis to become a Zionist and to take an active role in Zionist affairs, by applying the reasoning of his cultural pluralist argument to the then prevalent contention that Zionist membership implied the unpatriotic condition of “dual loyalty.” Just prior to the August 30 conference, Kallen had presented Brandeis with his own plans for a Jewish State based on the same ideals of liberty and justice for all, which the American Declaration of Independence had enunciated.
Kallen then argued that a commitment to Zionism, instead of being detrimental to American loyalty, actually increased it, for Zionists and Americans shared the same values and traditions, and, therefore, were working towards the same ends. Brandeis, who late in life had felt a sudden emotional pull to the Jewish people, found that Kallen’s reasoning provided him with an intellectual rationale for Zionist activism. Thereafter he looked to Kallen as one of his mistrusted advisers, and used him as his right-hand man both in formulating ideas and proposals and in carrying out schemes of an intricate or delicate nature.
Soon after Brandeis assumed the active leadership of the Provisional Executive Committee Kallen invited him to become an honorary member of the Parushim. Brandeis accepted, and began to assign the Parushim to carry out special “missions” for him. In particular the Parushim were to serve as a school for leaders, and under Kallen’s direction its members initially became the leading activists of the reorganized American Zionist movement. Excerpts from several letters to and from Kallen in late 1914 show clearly that new energies were flowing through the Zionist movement; they show, also, the roles Kallen’s Parushim were assuming in leading the way.
1. To Stephen S. Wise; Prominent Reform Rabbi and leader in the Jewish Community:
September 25, 1914
Dear Mr. Wise,
. . . I hope you will bear in mind what I told you about the Order [the Parushim]. We want most of all disciplined and well-trained young men and young women who have vision as well as executive ability, and spirituality, as well as force. In New York there are a good many who might be trained for leadership under proper direction, and I feel that you could play a very powerful and ideal part in the making of such leaders .
. . . As for your feeling about the secrecy of the work, it is, after all, no more secret than any important work has to be … (A)n organization which has the aims which we have must be anonymous, must work silently, and through education and infection rather than through force and noise, and can gain results only insofar as its standards are made to live in the lives of the people to whom they’re brought. But no thing could be more suicidal than the announcement of such an object, so that the secrecy is inevitable. I hope that you will join with us and take your place in our executive committee together with Mr. Brandeis.
2. From Henry Hurwitz, President of the Intercollegiate Menorah Association:
October 5, 1914
Dear Harry [Kallen’s favorite nickname for “Horace”],
I got your letter the other day while I was in New York. I went chiefly to attend a meeting of the Provisional Committee. The meeting was rather routine. Chiefly on how to raise the fund. Coming very slow. Brandeis anxious to have done with it in order to have energies free for the bigger problems-also before general appeal for relief floods us. Brandeis put it up to [Judah] Magnes and [Stephen] Wise to raise money among their people [rich congregants].
So far, the mass meetings seem to be little successful, except the Boston meeting…. That was really an extraordinary night for Boston Jews. Surging mob at Symphony Hall when doors opened at 7.At 7:10 necessary to open Jordan Hall for overflow meeting. Still a couple of thousand turned away from both halls. … Brookline [established well-to-do Jews] came down as well as Roxbury and West End [Jewish immigrant communities], to hear and to join. Brandeis spoke over an hour, simply but with suppressed emotion; seemed to hook the subject and reluctant to leave it. Got great ovation both before and after speech. Tremendously different attitude towards Zionism in Boston now along all classes.
I saw Oscar Straus … on a Menorah matter. Incidentally, we talked Zionism. He declared himself strongly in favor of Jewish colonization in Palestine … but only under political guarantees of one or more powers…. He is greatly impressed with Brandeis as leader; expressed a desire to meet him and talk over the problems of Zionism with him…. Wise will arrange a meeting between them.
3. To Richard Gottheil, former President of the Federation of American Zionists:
Oct. 14, 1914
Dear Prof. Gottheil:
… My reports from New York are disquieting. I hear of a good deal of restlessness on the part of Federation [of American Zionist] officials, who think they are being displaced…. I hope that, insofar as possible, [Louis] Lipsky, [Shemaryahu] Levin al).d Co. will be given as much kouad [honor] as possible. I am told that they feel “snuffed out”; and I fear very much that they may develop obstructionist tactics which will disgust Mr. Brandeis, and perhaps lead him to cut himself off from the organization. I am particularly concerned about the movement of the I.A.C. [World Zionist Inner Actions Committee] toward the re-opening of offices in Berlin, and the meeting in Stockholm. The situation seems to me to be very delicate, and I hope that you, Wise, Miss Szold, Brandeis and Hurwitz can find some way of suppressing what I feel will be-knowing the character of the Federation [of American Zionists] as I do-very unwise action.
Finally, there is this matter, which seems to me now to be of prime importance. I do not find in any of the foreign periodicals any recognition of the significance of Brandeis’ leadership. I think that it is necessary to make this very clear by a statement of Brandeis’ position and importance in this country, written by a number of people, e.g., you, Wise, Oscar Straus. . and sent to such papers as the Jewish Chronicle of London, the Zionist, etc. The Chronicle is ominously silent about the activities in America, and I regard that as a dangerous thing. Will you kindly put this matter also to our group [Parushim]? We shall have to depend upon ourselves, I forsee almost exclusively, if we are to save Brandeis for the -great work of the movement, without being involved in much unnecessary quarreling and personalities.
4. From I.J. Biskind, a Cleveland surgeon:
Oct. 19, 1914
Dear Dr. Kallen,
Your letter received . . .
We have done all in our power to make the Brandeis meeting a success. Mr. Brandeis arrived here [Cleveland] at about noon. Several of our people and one of the Uptown Jews (as you call them) met him at the station. After a few introductions we turned him over to the Germans [“uptown” German Jews] who had a luncheon waiting for him. He spoke at the luncheon and made a very good impression. None of our people was present, as our uptown Jews did not want to have a Zionist luncheon. … Towards evening 30-40 of our people had Mr. Brandeis to a luncheon of our own, where he gave us a nice talk . . .
I think, that now is the time for us to start to round public opinion and influence it in our favor. People like Mr. Brandeis, youself and Dr. Gottheil should come out openly in the big newspapers and magazines and tell the world what we want and demand…
5. To Henrietta Szold: My dear Miss Szold:
October 28, 1914
I am glad to hear from you at last. I have been wondering what turn matters were taking in New York . . ..
I have been in communication with Maurice Browne of The Little Theater of Chicago. He has enthusiastically agreed to organize a company of Jewish players who will present nationalistic plays all over the country…. I have undertaken the writing of one play, but we need two more, one of which must be a comedy…. If you know of any mss. already in existence or of any persons who have real dramatic power, will you kindly put them into immediate communication with me . . ..
As for the status of the Provisional Committee, I do not despair. The chief good of its organization lies not in whether its authority is forthcoming from the [World Zionist] Central Actions Committee or not, but in the fact that it has placed Brandeis definitely at the head of the movement in this country and as a member of the movement, and that has brought out the enthusiasm and practical cooperation of the student bodies everywhere-in short, that it has injected into the movement a new spirit and a new personnel, and promises, I hope, to put an end forever to Ghetto methods and petty Ghetto ideas and personalities that has marked the history of the Federation.
6. To Stephen S. Wise:
Oct. 25, 1914
Dear Dr. Wise:
I am writing from Indianapolis. Last night I spoke in the local reformed synagogue here-naturally on Zionism. Today I am to meet a number of members of the congregation and to urge upon them a practical allegiance to the cause. I am told … that you are to occupy the same pulpit next Friday, and I am venturing to suggest that it would be very advantageous to the cause here if you also spoke on Zionism and urged practical allegiance. The community here, impressed me all in all as being unconscious Jews and rather materialistic, but they have their possibilities and if awakened, may become potent for much good….
7. To Henry Hurwitz:
Nov. 7th, 1914
Dear Henry: Madison,
… We have now the difficult problem of suggesting that the Jews as a whole are rather pro-Allies, but that there is a distinct anti-Russian feeling among them that must not be confused with a pro-German sentiment. . . It becomes necessary, therefore, to write to the daily and weekly press stating why and how it is natural for the Jews to be anti-Russian and still for the Allies. I have asked [Marvin] Lowenthal and [Alexander] Sachs [two members of the Parushim] to write to the Nation. Will you get a couple of your men to write to the Times and the Sun, and write yourself, if possible. Now that Turkey is in [World War I], it is very necessary … to consider the possible alternatives before us . . .. It is absolutely necessary that we should have a dossier containing plans for meeting each of [the]. . possible emergencies, and that practical steps be taken to safeguard our own interests as nearly as possible from all sides at once .
. .. When Brandeis will be in Chicago … we could then have a meeting of “פ” [Parushim] and consider the problems of national organization in this country and many other things. Brandeis writes that he feels this to be most important, and I am feeling pleased as Punch that he realizes its importance so soon.
8. To Alexander Sachs, a graduate student in economics at Columbia University:
Nov. 7, 1914
Dear Mr. Sachs:
I have yours of the 3rd inst. You will take note of these two things.
1. Let me know as fully as possible just what the situation is in the P.C. [Provisional Committee) office.
2. Please report on the progress you have made with the list of candidates for “פּ ” [Parushim] which you had sent for approval to the Executive Committee.
3. In order to show that the Jews are not unanimously against the allies, it has become necessary to publish letters stating the Jewish position from the Zionist point of view. This letter should cover the following points:
(a) That the Jews are engaged equally on all sides (b) That in the order of their treatment, their sympathies are as follows: England, France, Austria, Germany, Russia (c) That they have suffered terribly at the hands of Russia, and that they are naturally anti-Russian rather than pro-German (d) That their stake in the war is perhaps as great as that of Belgium, and that. . the great mass of them are suffering just as much (e) That the way out would lie in nationalization … (f) That. .. the attitude and feeling of the Jews independent entirely on the kind of treatment that.. . is being accorded to their helpless brethren in that region, so that their sympathies are divided between the love of England and France and the hatred of Russia.
You are directed to write such a letter and to submit it through me to the [Parushim] Council before offering it for publication. Many thanks for your personal appreciation, and please regard it as reciprocated.
9. To Stephen S. Wise:
November 18, 1914
.. . I have been wondering since Turkey has gone into the war whether we could not through Mr. Crane [former U.S. Senator, interested in the rights of small nations] and other Americans and Gentiles get options, or perhaps buy outright, all the… government land in Palestine. In this respect, Turkey’s need is distinctly our opportunity, and action at this moment may save us a great deal of embarrassment and difficulty later on. The thing, if it is done at all, will of course have to be done through Gentiles, and would involve a double transfer, as I am quite sure the Turks would not be willing to sell to the Jews. There are many other things that ought to be talked through; and I imagine that sooner or later our particular group [the Parushim] will need to meet and canvass the whole actual situation with its possibilities, and form plans to meet them all.
10. To Mrs. Maurice Leon, Richard Gottheil’s daughter:
Oct. 28th, 1914
Dear Miss [sic] Leon:
I have to acknowledge the receipt of the additional documents ….I shall have abstracts made of them and filed ….
. . . [D]o not despair. We have been badly off many times before, but we have always managed to come clear. What we need most is loyalty and discipline; and so long as we work together like true soldiers, I have no fear for the result-no matter what may stand in the way …
As these excerpts make clear, Kallen, though in Wisconsin, half a continent removed from New York, was, as head of the Parushim, in reality at the center of all Zionist activity. His Parushim wrote him faithfully of all that was going on; sometimes several people wrote him of the same event, giving him a unique multifaceted perspective. Kallen’s Wisconsin address was the terminal of a wide-spread communications system and, as the leader of an intimate inner circle, he sifted, channeled, and commented on his information in ways that he felt would produce the most effective results.
The image that emerges of the Parushim is that of a secret underground guerilla force determined to influence the course of events in a quiet, anonymous way. Indeed, the repetition of military terminology in these letters is striking. “We [must] work together like true soldiers,” Kallen wrote Mrs. Leon, and he deployed his Parushim like members of an army. Like any underground leader he demanded of his followers discipline, obedience, and whole-hearted devotion to the cause; the inefficient and slipshod Federation received only his scorn and approbation. Surprisingly, perhaps, the members of the Parushim, each of whom was a leader of the highest caliber in his own right, consented to Kallen’s demands. No doubt, the secret organization dramatized the potential for effective Zionist actions. Additionally, Kallen provided constant encouragement to flagging spirits, and held out the promise, through concrete action, of tangible Zionist accomplishment.
Kallen’s constant use of military terminology was no accident. Seeking, in the words of his mentor, William James, “a moral equivalent for war,” Kallen had found one in the possibilities for action within the Zionist movement, possibilities that had become viable by Brandeis’ assumption of leadership. As leader of the Parushim, Kallen was commanding his army in the ways he felt would do the most good. A good Pragmatist, he was putting his insights about Zionism to the test of experience.
The commitment to, and insistence on, a well-run organization colored all of Kallen’s directives to the Parushim. Even more important, however, were the plans he suggested and the actions he initiated. Letter writing campaigns, both here and abroad, a Zionist Theatre group, plans for purchase of land in Palestine, the insistence on political action contingency plans, schemes-for influence of foreign diplomats- Kallen was overflowing with ideas to hasten the achievement of the Zionist goal. These were not the schemes of a dreamer, however; always practical, Kallen outlined each plan in all its details, and assigned it to the most suitable person. As leader of the Parushim Kallen was the very model of the “Messianic pragmatist”; first he defined a goal in theory, and then he proceeded to suggest its means of implementation. His followers did carry out his directions-Henrietta Szold, for instance, procured the manuscript she requested-and the Zionist organization began to function more efficiently, to receive attention, and to attract more widespread support. In turn the members of the Parushim began to experience a sense of behind-the-scenes power and influence.
Kallen’s correspondents, it is clear, ascribed to him a special relationship with, and influence on, Brandeis. He had more intimate access to the new Chairman than they and, therefore, the opportunity for recognition as one of Brandeis’ principal advisers. Kallen, however, apparently did not wish to advance his own personal interests or career through Brandeis. The letters show his concern with protecting Brandeis and with providing for him an optimal climate in which to become a successful leader. Certainly Kallen wished to “instruct” Brandeis; perhaps, covertly, even to manipulate him. But Kallen’s preference was for the role of anonymous string-puller. He knew that Brandeis could accomplish for the Zionist cause things of which he and the Parushim only dreamed, and was content to channel all his insights and energies through Brandeis. This is one of the reasons that, to now, little has been known about the Parushim.
One of the more interesting projects that the Parushim considered was the establishment of a Parushim College which would give supplementary training in leadership for members of the Order, collect data and material to be used especially for propaganda, and provide for research into Zionist problems. Students would take courses in economics, psychology, philosophy, Jewish history, Zionism, Hebrew language and literature, and read certain prescribed books. Their activity would be both leadership training and a means to keep the Parushim interested and motivated towards Zionist activity.
A prototype for the Parushim College had been the School of Zionism run by Jesse Sampter, a colleague of Henrietta Szold and one of the first members of the Parushim. Various members of the Parushim taught courses in Jewish history, Zionism and Bible interpretation at the New York Young Women’s Hebrew Association and also conducted a “correspondence school” for groups and individuals unable to attend the formal classes. Miss Sampter, a writer and poetess, compiled an original syllabus (published in 1920 as Guide to Zionism) which was used extensively in education programs of groups like Hadassah.
Unlike the successful New York school, however, plans for the national college never went much beyond the outline stage. Particularly disappointed were Parushim members outside of New York, like David Shapiro, an agricultural student at the University of California, who felt isolated from mainstream Zionist activity. Shapiro’s note of regret to Kallen is of special interest, for it provides succinct description of the goals Kallen and his followers had: “If our Jewish State is to be founded on justice, elimination of crushing competition, and abolishment of human exploitation,” Shapiro wrote, “these principles should become a part and parcel of the consciousness of our men…. Discipline will work much better when the men are not only trained in the habit of obedience but also to be conscious of their work.”
Kallen’s inability to successfully organize the Parushim College is symptomatic of the problems he began to have with his organization by late 1915. Though he continued to receive reports from his followers, they were becoming less frequent and less detailed as the Zionist workers concentrated on projects of their own and scattered to other commitments. Henrietta Szold, for example, was the moving force, through the Hadassah women’s organization, which she had founded, behind a plan to send to Palestine a completely equipped medical ship and to recruit doctors and nurses for work in Palestine. Stephen Wise concentrated on developing his own “Free Synagogue,” and on cultivating a role as Jewish liaison with the Wilson administration.
Kallen’s leadership, particularly his neglect of Jewish tradition, irritated some members of the Parushim; they resented, instance, his calling meetings for the Jewish Sabbath. “Since I understand that ours is not a separatist Order in the sense that it does not exclude any Jew who has proved his complete devotion to the Zionist cause,” wrote Jesse Sampter, “it would be unkind, unfair• and unjust to call a meeting at this particular time [Friday evening].” Henrietta Szold concurred, “I entered into an engagement about thirty-five hundred years ago on Mount Sinai upon which the Jewish ages have put a certain interpretation. The rule of my life is to accept this interpretation and that prevents me from making my way [to the Parushim meeting].”
In addition, there developed a conflict between Brandeis’ moderate position in approaching non-Zionists and Kallen’s more radical stance. Brandeis, showing the same talents for organization that had earned him his reputation as a leading lawyer and reform leader, had begun by late 1915 to make contacts and judgments of his own. Interested in broadening support for the Zionist movement, Brandeis preferred to back away from confrontations, which might upset established Jewish communities and interests. Kallen, however, despite Brandeis’ disapproval, continued to define the policy of the Parushim as “militant and aggressive”; “we must constantly, with pen and tongue, attack that part of Reform Judaism which …attacks Zionism and the leaders of Zionism,” he directed new recruits.
When Kallen instructed economist Alexander Sachs, one of the original Parushim, to “counter-attack” speeches of two prominent Reform Rabbis, Sachs consulted Brandeis, who advised against it. Sachs began to feel that the separatism of the Parushim questioned the sovereignty of Brandeis, and declined to follow Kallen’s instructions. Further, he implied that his work for the New England Zionist Bureau super ceded his commitment to the Parushim, thus questioning his oath of discipline and obedience.
Brandeis confirmed his difficulty in working through the Parushim. By November 1915 he was writing to Kallen of his disappointment in the group’s performance. At the same time other Zionist factions scorned the Parushim. “I understand that [Louis]Lipsky and some others call the Group פרושי�? thinking that it is a term of opprobrium, in the sense of snobs, separatists or highbrows,” reported one of the Parushim, Alexander Dushkin, to Kallen.
Elisha Friedman, President of the Collegiate Zionist League, though loyal to Kallen’s leadership, was another member of the Parushim who began to question the group’s validity. Though acknowledging that members of his group were engaged in studying educational, industrial and economic conditions in Palestine, and that this would provide the basis for useful planning for the future, Friedman felt that the non-secret University Zionist Society (which Kallen had also helped to found) could just as effectively perform this research.
Kallen was unyielding in his demands for secrecy, and, despite these signs of unrest, stood firm. He replied to Friedman,
“The bond which unites its [Parushim] members is … of a delicate and psychological sort, very different from the kind of formal organization involved in the University Zionist Society . . . . The society naturally does not bind itself by a sort of pledge to an unquestioning leadership as the group does. In point of fact, it might become the task of the group .. . to join the society and to direct its activities. But some form of separateness it must maintain.”
And he reassured Dushkin, “I am delighted that Lipsky and others call the group ‘Parushim‘ in scorn. The thing for us to do now is to turn that scorn into astonished admiration by the highest degree possible of effectiveness.”
The correspondence with the Parushim, however, dropped off sharply after early 1916, though there are random letters dated1917 and 1918, confirming that the group continued to exist. Indeed, its greatest achievement was to come in 1918, when the Parushim helped to formulate the principles of the famous “Pittsburgh Program.” Yet there is no doubt that despite the fact that Kallen felt that the need for a close-knit “community” like the Parushim hadn’t diminished, the difficulty inherent in sustaining, long-distance, the loyalty and discipline of a group of intelligent individuals with minds and leadership qualities of their own, became too great an obstacle. As Kallen wrote shortly before his death,
It [the Parushim] never became as practical as perhaps it could have been and as I thought it might be .. : I was troubled by so much of the luftmenschlichkeit, the rhetoricism among Zionists . .. and I thought that a group organized as a “guided” democracy .. . might turn interest and action toward vital change. The expressions of this notion that I drafted were to be points of departure for rules of teaming up .. . . 
But the “teaming up” became impossible with a leader so geographically removed from the center of power, a leader so dependent upon the cooperation of his followers, both for news and for self-sustained activity.
Though Kallen felt some disappointment that his dream of a vanguard army for Zionism was not to be, he seemed never to have lost hope. In early 1918, shortly after the publication of the Balfour Declaration, Kallen called his Parushim together once again to confront the problem of how Palestine might be developed into a Jewish State, grounded on the principles of economic and social justice, which Kallen and his followers so highly valued. According to Kallen’s account in his 1921 Zionism and World Politics, the eight or nine men and women who participated in the discussion were of all shades of opinion and of all schools of economic thought. By common consent, however, “they determined to leave doctrine as nearly as possible to the doctrinaires” and to face the realistic problem of developing Palestine into a free Jewish commonwealth. On the basis of their discussions Kallen formulated “A Memorandum on the Principles of Organization of the Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine”; the core of this memorandum, somewhat refined, became the seven statements of the so-called “Pittsburgh Program.”
The Pittsburgh Program was a series of basic principles that the delegates to the 1918 Convention of the Zionist Organization of America adopted as their credo. It represented the crowning achievement by Kallen, and by the “Americanized” Zionists like Brandeis whom he had influenced, to express their faith and vision in reordering Palestine as a model democratic Jewish nationality. Like other of Kallen’s ideas, however, it was a formulation for the elite; the Zionist masses never really understood it and the American Yiddish press of the period ignored it.
Nevertheless its contents reflected well the kinds of emphases that Kallen and the Parushim envisioned for Palestine. Included in the Pittsburgh Program were provisions for political and civic equality for all of Palestine’s inhabitants, including women and Arabs; ownership and control of the land and national resources by “the whole people”; the use of “the cooperative principle” in all agricultural, industrial, commercial and financial undertakings; and a system of universal public education using Hebrew as the language of instruction.
These principles appear rather commonplace today, and, as a matter of fact, the State of Israel has incorporated most of them. In 1918, however, when the Parushim presented them, the majority of Zionists considered these proposals to be the expressions of a radical group. English Zionist theoretician Leon Simon, for example, wrote Kallen criticizing his principles for being “far off; . .. in relation to the present and the future the Program simply doesn’t face facts.”
The discrepancy lay primarily in Kallen’s assumption that the purpose of Zionism, and the goal of his Parushim, was to work for the immediate establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth rather than to concentrate efforts, as the European Zionists were doing, on the stimulation of a Diaspora Zionist consciousness. As he wrote to one of his Parushim, the General Secretary of the Associated Jewish Charities of Omaha, Nebraska, “The English declaration has made it important for us … to make every preparation to meet the responsibility of administration and development of Palestine that the end of the war will put upon us.”
The Pittsburgh Program seems to have been the last of the projects of the Parushim. By the end of World War I, its early members had scattered-several of them to Palestine-and the American Zionist organization had grown so large, mostly with the addition of the newly arrived immigrant masses, that a small elite cadre could no longer make much impact. Perhaps it was unrealistic from the start to expect a small group devoted to anonymous activity to exert much influence on a disorganized movement of many parts, movement growing rapidly, with new leaders and new problems. Certainly Kallen’s demand for separatism did not make it easy to bead member of the Parushim, once the initial drama wore off. As Kallen recalled in 1964, “The thing didn’t function very well. …What you could do with young Italy [in the days of the nationalist leader Mazzini] you couldn’t do with young Jewry, or old …. “
Yet, though the Parushim failed, its organization stands as an interesting chapter in early American Zionist history for what it attempted to do-for its ideals of disciplined leadership, for its plans for a just, perhaps Utopian state, for its implied criticism of the methods and priorities of the formal Zionist movement. Had it succeeded, the course of the development of American Zionism, and of the Palestinian Jewish community, might have been different. That it did not is a comment not only on the gap between Kallen’s ideals and those of the rest of the Zionist movement, but also on the readiness of the Zionist membership to accept the discipline implicit in assuming responsibility for nationhood. It was to take another generation, after the tragic events of the 1930’s and 1940’s in Europe, before that: American Jewish community was willing to face up to the challenge of helping to create a living embodiment of the Jewish nationality. By then Kallen and the other Parushim had long forgotten their secret organization; today the story of the Parushim remains a fascinating footnote in the annals of “what might have been.”
 Memorandum, in Kallen’s handwriting, concerning the organization of Parushim, in the Horace M. Kallen Collection at the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio (hereafter referred to as KC-AJA).
 Ibid; Kallen’s recollections are all from an interview with the author, July, 1972.
 Memorandum and Interview. Ibid.
 “Induction Ceremony into the Order of the Parushim,” with corrections and annotations in Kallen’s handwriting, and marked by him “Strictly Confidential,” KC•AJA.
 “Memorandum of Signatories to the Zionist Pledge, Sunday, April 4th, 1915,” KC-AJA.
 I. J. Biskind to Kallen, Oct. 4, 1913, KC-AJA.
 Henrietta Szold to Kallen, Nov. 9th, 1913, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Max Nordau, April 7th, 1914, Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, File A119/50/8/8.
 H.M. Kallen, “The International Aspects of Zionism,” an unpublished memorandum with Kallen’s handwritten notation, “Copy submitted to Mr. Brandeis August 29th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Brandeis, September 21st, 1914; Brandeis to Kallen, March 4th, 1915; Brandeis Papers, Zionist Archives, New York.
 Kallen to Stephen S. Wise, Sept. 15th, 1914. Stephen S. Wise Collection, AJA.
 Henry Hurwitz to Kallen, Oct. 5th, 1914. KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Richard Gottheil, Oct. 14th, 1914. KC-AJA.
 This Hebrew letter was often used as a heading on the reports of Parushim members.
 Biskind to Kallen, Oct. 19th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Szold, Oct. 28th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Wise, Oct. 25th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Hurwitz, Nov. 7th, 1914. KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Alexander Sachs, Nov. 7th, 1914. KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Wise, Nov. 18th, 1914. Stephen S. Wise Collection, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Mrs. Maurice Leon, Oct. 28th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 “Tentative Outline of the פּ (Parushim) College,” Dec. 25th, 1915. KC-AJA.
 Jesse Sampter, “Report פּ , Zionist Work from Nov. 1914 to Jan. 1915,” KC-AJA.
 David Shapiro to Kallen, Nov. 22nd, 1915, KC-AJA.
 Sampter to Kallen, Dec. 26th, 1915; Szold to Henry Hurwitz, (Kallen’s chief link with the Parushim in New York,) Dec. 31st 1915, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Brandeis, Feb. 23rd, 1915, Brandeis Papers, Zionist Archives, New York; Brandeis to Kallen, Mar. 4th, 1915, KC-AJA: Report of Meeting of Parushim, Dec. 31st, 1915, KC-AJA.
 Alexander Sachs to Henry Hurwitz, Dec. 30, 1915, KC-AJA.
 Brandeis to Kallen, Nov. 29th, 1915, KC-AJA; Alexander Dushkin to Kallen, Feb. 8th, 1916, KC-AJA.
 Elisha Friedman to Kallen, Mar. 1st, 1916, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Friedman, Mar. 6th, 1916; Kallen to Dushkin, Feb 15, 1916, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to author, June 8, 1973, commenting on some of the findings of this article.
 Kallen, Zionism and World Politics (New York: 1921), p. 300; “A Memorandum on the Principles of Organization of the Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine,” KC-AJA.
 Kallen, Zionism, cites the Pittsburgh Program in its entirety, p. 301-302.
 Leon Simon to Kallen, Aug. 3rd, 1919, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Jacques Bieur, Nov. 20th, 1917, KC-AJA.
 Kallen, Interview with Milton Konvitz and Dorothy Oko, 1964.
Dr. Sarah Schmidt is senior lecturer in modern Jewish history and Zionist history at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she also teaches an honors seminar, “The American Jew and the Israeli Jew: A Comparative Analysis.”
It’s D-Day in Vienna, and the parties sitting across the negotiating table still haven’t ironed out terms to settle a 12-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Expect this deadline to be missed. And prepare for a lot of hot air to fill its space.
The “hot air” is calculated narrative-spin from a range of players that seek to 1) scuttle a deal, 2) increase pressure/create leverage at the negotiating table, or 3) frame an upcoming agreement in language favorable to one side.
And the Western media serves as a willing handmaiden in this petty game. Journalists thought nothing of casting a global question mark over Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s pre-arranged one-day detour to Tehran – even though his six P5+1 counterparts were also off “seeing to business.”
Western pundits weighed in en masse after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s June 23 speech, accusing him of rejecting key provisions of the Lausanne framework agreement and walking back from earlier promises.
“It’s not true at all,” says one senior foreign ministry official, appearing perplexed – if not skeptical – at these charges. “Iran is under severe pressure from Western media,” he insists, adding: “It’s not a fair trend. No one seems to care about what Iran is doing, what’s on the table. We just want a fair reflection of what is going on at these negotiations.”
If anything, the Iranians charge that the US team “seems to have experienced buyer’s remorse after Lausanne,” and backtracked on, or revisited, some already ‘resolved’ issues.
According to various sources, at this late date, US negotiators are opening up discussion points that Iran thought they’d already dealt with. These include access to Iranian military sites (which Iran has already rejected), some technical issues around the Fordo nuclear facility, research and development parameters, and the critical issue around the timeline established for staged sanctions relief.
Clearly, for the Iranians, one of the main objectives of these negotiations is the removal of all international sanctions related to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear file.
An official explains: “The sanctions-lifting is not a day’s job – we don’t expect this. The US needs to do some preparatory work to change the culture of sanctions. They have to inform the companies and financial institutions and remove the political and cultural bias/fear of doing business with Iran – the Americans refer to this as the ‘psychological effect of sanctions’ – and this needs at least six months of hard, hard work, including a lot of legal work.”
But the Iranians want the US to work in parallel and simultaneously on sanctions-removal alongside Iran as it undertakes its physical task of disassembling agreed-upon aspects of its nuclear program. Based on technical calculations from official sources, it will take Iran a maximum of three months to implement these steps.
The most significant setback at this stage of negotiations is in fact the insertion of the US Senate into the process. Post-Lausanne, the Senate passed a bill that demanded oversight over the Iran nuclear deal and so Congress gets approximately 52 days to fiddle with whatever gets approved in Vienna.
“It’s a massive setback,” says an Iranian official. “Even if there is an agreement on June 30, we have nothing until the Senate approves it. If Iran had passed a similar bill, do you think the media would be so silent about this development?”
“If we want to be fair, the sanctions removal process should start together, in parallel with Iran’s work, to establish trust. It’s doable within three months. Otherwise – what? We destroy the heart of the Arak (hard water) reactor and then the US changes its mind?” This is a sentiment heard from many Iranians interviewed.
What do the Americans say about this, I ask? “The US is saying we’re still thinking about this.”
The same lack of definition surrounds the much-hyped issue of access to Iran’s military facilities. In the past few months, Western media has highlighted this storyline ad nauseum – to the annoyance of the Iranians at the negotiating table today.
“We never accepted this military site access. Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent speech never established this as a ‘new’ red line – it was one of our biggest problems with the US fact sheet after Lausanne. The Americans created a problem for themselves by saying this repeatedly.”
Iran has agreed in principle on IAEA access based on the ‘Additional Protocol’ which leaves it up to the individual member-state to decide on whether to provide access to requested sites.
The protocol specifically states that “it is permissible not to allow” access – and that inspectors can only use this access for “local environmental sampling,” which the Iranians know full well can be done from outside a facility’s perimeters.
“Even the US demands ‘managed access’ of the IAEA when it does its US inspections,” says a source familiar with the nuclear organization’s procedures.
Says an Iranian close to negotiators: “This issue of ‘access’ is really more an issue that speaks to the integrity of the American position at the negotiating table.”
The thing about Vienna on D-Day is that it is packed to the rafters with journalists of every stripe, straining for the tiniest tidbit of information to get a reading on what is happening at that table.
They congregate until well past midnight in the hotel lobby where most of them stay… or inside the large white tent erected outside the Palais Coburg – site of the talks – next door.
Information is the currency of the media, and when the stakes are this high and on-the-record news is so scarce, every bit of information becomes “newsworthy” – never mind that much of it is purposefully flogged by various parties for gain inside the deal-making room.
It is driving the Iranians nuts. “At this stage we still have joint common interests otherwise we couldn’t sit at the table,” says one. “But the sense outside the negotiating room is that there is a crisis.”
And the media fuels it.
Just last night, for instance, an Iranian official shot down an Agence France Press (AFP) report on the Islamic Republic’s readiness to allow inspections of its military sites. He insists the article, which is based entirely on the claims of a ‘senior US official’, “deliberately distorted information to influence the negotiations.”
“We will never allow anyone to inspect military sites because they are not relevant to the IAEA inspections.” He added: “We have serious doubt about the intentions of those who are pushing for access to our defense installations.”
The Iranian government has, on two separate occasions in 2005, “voluntarily provided access” to the IAEA to inspect a single “suspected site” called Parchin. According to an official source, “we did it because we wanted to close – once and for all – the issue of the ‘potential military dimension’ (PMD), even though we know it’s a fabricated story and we knew the US knew it was fabricated.”
“These (the PMD) are not real issues. They are more a matter of the US trying to prove the credibility of past claims. It was wrong, they knew they were wrong, but they have a need to stick to the script… Kerry himself has said the PMD issue has been distorted ‘a little bit’ – to put it mildly.”
“We don’t care how much they want to be tough on the PMD,” says the source. “It is a security case that doesn’t have any end,” which is why Iran’s top leadership has drawn a firm ‘red line’ under matters that have no reasonable or logical relevance to the IAEA’s task at hand.
Iran’s few red lines are there for good reason.
Prompted by the IAEA’s suspicions, in 2008, the Islamic Republic provided information on their EBW (Exploding Bridgewire) program to the nuclear agency. One of the authors of this study was Darioush Rezaeinejad, a postgraduate electrical engineering student. “The IAEA said this has dual-use applications,” says an Iranian familiar with the case. “Darioush was one of five Iranian scientists assassinated later, in front of his family – the knowledge that he had got him killed.”
“We are not afraid of our past so we are ready to do any kind of activity to clarify this for the whole world,” he explains. “But only within a process that would not lead to the death of our scientists.”
Iran today refuses to provide information or access to 18 scientists, academics and military personnel the US would like to interview. Western media cites this tidbit as though it is a sign of bad faith negotiating – like the Iranians have something to hide. But ask Iranian officials about this sticking point and you learn: “The list of 18 is specifically an American demand. It was a demand already rejected by Iran before the Lausanne framework agreement three months ago. It isn’t even on the table – the Americans haven’t brought up the issue again.”
There are times in Vienna when an agreement seems further away than ever. Everyone agrees that the seven countries at the table want this done, the US and Iran – for different reasons – at the forefront of the ‘hopefuls.’
But when you look at the nitty-gritty of what is being discussed and how far apart the sides are on simple things like ‘process’ and ‘positioning,’ it isn’t hard to wonder whether an Iran nuclear deal is even in the cards.
The press corps huddling over lattes in the lobby may be better-employed researching articles on “what if there is no Iran deal?” After all, as Iran’s Zarif said just a few days ago, “If there’s no deal, it’s not the end of the world.”
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She tweets @snarwani
November 28, 2014
It now appears that the longest drawn out negotiations in history since the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War will again be prorogued. I am, of course, referring to the P5+1 talks in Vienna seeking to come up with a peaceful resolution to the problem of Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons program. Today represents the third deadline as the negotiations have already been extended twice, ostensibly to permit further discussion of details of timing for the lifting of sanctions as well as verification and inspection procedures.
I refer to a “nonexistent” program as the frequently cited intelligence suggesting that a weapon was being developed has turned out to be based on forgeries provided by the Israelis. Currently, both the CIA and Mossad agree that no such program exists though both Washington and Tel Aviv persist in suggesting that Iran might change its mind and therefore must not even be able to develop relevant technologies in the future.
In theory an agreement should have been reached long ago as the two basic elements are well understood: Iran wants an end to sanctions and the United States plus its negotiating partners want a verifiable end to existing and potential programs in Iran that could possibly produce a nuclear weapon. The devil would appear to be in the details but that is not necessarily the case as the real problem is political. The talks have in fact been subject to a relentless media campaign by Israel and its friends in the U.S. to derail any possible agreement, to include a number of appearances by none other than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before both the United Nations and the U.S. Congress. Netanyahu has been warning that an Iranian weapon is imminent since 1996 and he has even produced a cartoon showing a bomb with a ticking fuse to illustrate his thinking on the issue.
The intensity of the anti-Iran campaign has increased to a boiling point as the end of June deadline has approached, to include full page ads in newspapers and a rash of editorials, op-eds and letters to the editor. If you read an article about the negotiations on an unmoderated site like yahoo you will see numerous comments trashing Iran using the same misspellings and phrases, suggesting that they originate in the banks of paid students organized and directed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
In order to avoid constantly rehashing the same material, the well-funded and highly creative exploration of Persian perfidy has meant in practice that the media and punditry are constantly raising new issues that have nothing to do with the nuclear weapons themselves. These have included demanding that a contrite Iran confess that it once sought a weapon, addressing the state of possible missile delivery systems in the discussions, assessing Iran’s intentions as a regional power, critiquing the country’s human rights record and examining Tehran’s support of organizations that critics choose to describe as terroristic. Congress is on record calling for the prevention of Iran’s “capability” to construct a weapon, a threshold that it already has passed. Presidential wannabe Senator Marco Rubio has even demanded that Iran recognize “Israel’s right to exist.” The latest wrinkle is to insist on assurances over what might happen in ten years’ time when any agreement negotiated currently will presumably expire.
Assuming that the neocons’ other pet projects to go to war with Russia and eventually also China do not actually materialize and that we will all still be here in a decade, it has to be recognized that what is occurring in Vienna this week is already a war. On one side are the serious players, including Secretary of State John Kerry acting for the president as well as the Russians, Germans, Chinese, British and French, all of whom understand that no agreement leaves armed conflict as the only remaining option. They realize that a major explosion in the Persian Gulf would be disastrous for all parties and potentially even for the world economy. On the other side are the naysayers from Israel and its formidable amen section, deeply embedded in the media and among politicians at all levels. Many believe that, as Israel firster mega billionaire Sheldon Adelson has recommended, all Iran really needs is an admonitory nuclear strike to show the Mullahs that we are serious about the military option.
As in any war it is important to know what the enemy is doing. That generally requires massive mobilization of resources to collect intelligence, but in this case we are fortunate in that our enemies write for the Washington Post, The Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal when they are not, collectively speaking, busy appearing on the Sunday morning talk shows and on Fox.
My favorite Queen of Mean among the pro-Israel shock troops is Jennifer Rubin, who writes a blog appropriately labeled “Right Turn” for the Washington Post. In previous incarnations before she found her niche with editorial page chief Fred Hiatt at the Post Jennifer wrote for neocon house organs Commentary, Human Events and Bill Kristol’s The Weekly Standard. Jenn has ungraciously referred to President Barack Obama as the “most anti-Israel president ever.” Ben Smith at Politico describes her as “caustic and single minded” possessing an “intense and combative interest in foreign affairs and politics in general, and in Israel in particular – the sole bumper sticker on her gray Honda Pilot reads, “JERUSALEM IS NOT A SETTLEMENT. It’s Israel’s Eternal And Undivided Capital.” A recent comment on one of her pieces observed “Science is wrong. The world revolves around Israel. Jennifer knows it to be true. Bibi told her.”
Rubin writes about Iran frequently. Between June 16th and the 26th she penned no less than seven articles attacking the Mullahs – “Obama ignores Iran’s human rights atrocities,” “The Iran missile mistake,” “Democrats, Republicans, neutral experts reject Iran sellout,” “The Iran debacle unfolds,” “Iran appeasement relies on self-delusion,” “Can these forces stop a rotten Iran deal?” and “Iran sanctions back on the table.” All of her writing on Iran beats to death the same theme, i.e. that Iranians are both evil and liars and are out to destroy Israel. Driven by her obsession with Israel, she is constantly at work finding connections and seeing things that the rest of us cannot discern, appreciating as she does that there is always an Israeli angle as well as an evil Muslim narrative hidden somewhere as long as one looks long and hard enough. One of her most recent gems “Can these forces stop a rotten Iran deal?”, which appeared on June 25th, does a good job recounting recent commentary by all her friends in the Israel Lobby who are opposing a nuclear deal, which to her mind represents objective opinion. As is always the case, I searched in vain for any real evidence that Iran in any way threatens the United States but that does not appear to be on her agenda. She does, however, quote a number of Israeli politicians.
And Rubin is far from a lonely voice crying in the wilderness. The New York Times featured a story last Wednesday revealing that “former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers” had written a letter advising caution on the possible Iran agreement. The article describes in some detail the objections of Dennis Ross, David Petraeus, Robert Einhorn, Gary Samore, Stephen Hadley and General James E. Cartwright. The signatories, who are accepted at face value in the article, should give one pause. Ross is chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute (which opposes intermarriage of Jews with non-Jews) and has been described as “Israel’s lawyer” while Hadley, a National Security Adviser for George W. Bush, believes that Iran is intent on dominating much of the Middle East and has a nuclear program that “…is a complex threat to international peace and stability.” Einhorn, who helped “devise and enforce the sanctions against Iran,” and Gary Samore have been persistent critics of the ongoing negotiations. Samore is a fixture at the Harvard Belfer Center, a neocon stronghold, and heads United Against Nuclear Iran. Petraeus is probably the best known of the signatories but I will leave it up to the reader to judge his integrity.
If one were looking for someone who might just entertain the thought that Iran has a legitimate point of view it would not be found in the letter nor in the Times coverage. But the most astonishing thing about the article is what the editors chose not to mention, an omission that would appear to constitute deliberate obfuscation of the letter’s intent. The Times notes towards the end of the article that the letter was commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), but it does not reveal that WINEP is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is an organization that is de facto opposed to any agreement with Iran that is not endorsed by Benjamin Netanyahu, which means no deal at all.
Interestingly, Israel is not mentioned even once in the letter nor in the Times coverage of it even though it certainly loomed large in the mind of Ross in particular and likely for all of the other co-authors. One might also note that the arguments against the possible agreement made by the signatories is based on the reader’s acceptance of the view that Iran is some kind of global threat, though they make no attempt to explain how that is so and they also assume that its rulers are not to be trusted without an intrusive inspection regime directed against all military facilities in the country, something that no government anywhere could possibly accept. The five signatories of the letter all claim to support a negotiated settlement with Iran but they are just not happy with what Obama has come up with, which is a characteristic line for many of those who in reality want no agreement at all.
Finally, in a completely bizarre instance of the Israel Lobby’s unwillingness to miss any opportunity in its campaign against Iran, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft traveled to Israel last week with an entourage of 20 Hall of Fame football players. They met with Prime Minister Netanyahu who lectured the players, attired in their Hall of Fame gold Jackets, all about Iran by using a football metaphor: “Iran is one yard away from the goal line. If they get nukes, the preeminent terrorist regime of our day will be armed with nuclear weapons. That’s dangerous for the United States and for Israel and for the entire world. And our effort today is to make sure that we block them and push them back.” The appreciative players gave Bibi a game jersey, a helmet and a signed football in return.
And so the enormous smear campaign against Iran goes on, though I suppose we can always hope that Obama will show a little intestinal fortitude and go ahead with an agreement. I will most certainly never watch the New England Patriots again, but I made that decision some time ago based on their win at any cost ethos. Indeed, since the Israel Lobby is very much in the game of punishing critics as it is doing with its odious website Canary Mission perhaps it is past time for a little pushback coming from Americans who would like to take their government back. Folks like myself who object to the Lobby’s overweening influence over our foreign policy might initiate personal boycotts of the products and business interests of those billionaires who are the most enthusiastic supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu and who are the enablers of Israel’s crimes against humanity. It would be partial payback for nearly seventy years of systematic abuse of America’s true interests. Don’t attend their sporting activities, don’t buy their products, don’t watch their films and don’t stay in their hotels or play in their casinos. Such a reckoning would certainly include people like Robert Kraft, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, as well as Hollywood moguls Haim Saban and Arnon Milchan. Milchan notoriously spied against the U.S. for Israel and is still walking around free, which I don’t quite get. I won’t suggest any additional names but other over the top friends of Likudnik Israel are easily identifiable through Google. As the Mikado’s Lord High Executioner once put it, “I’ve got a little list.”
June 29, 2015
The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has flown from Vienna to Tehran for consultations after holding tough negotiations with his Western counterparts on the Iranian Nuclear program. The negotiations on the final bargaining conditions of Tehran’s nuclear program have ended with no result and it’s become evident that they will pass over the Tuesday deadline. RT is joined by political commentator Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich.
The presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders — an anti-Russia, Israel-supporting politician from Vermont — revives an archaic feud among leftists. The old debate about “sewer socialism” is back.
In the early part of the 20th century, there was a broad movement of people in the United States who advocated the overthrow of capitalism. Among them were many revolutionaries like Eugene Debs, William Z. Foster, Lucy Parsons, and Paul Robeson.
However, there was another current of people who called themselves “socialists” but had no interest in revolution. They were called “sewer socialists.” The term originated in reference to Victor L. Berger, a “socialist” who ran on a platform of improving the city’s sewer system and eventually became the mayor of Milwaukee. The sewer socialists did not want to overthrow capitalism, but simply to be elected to local public office and improve government policy. They wanted to make a global system built on exploitation of people all over the world a little more comfortable for those living within the western economic centers.
The battle between these two poles of the left movement – with the revolutionary and anti-imperialist wing of socialism on the one hand and the “sewer socialist” wing on the other — played out on a global level. Commenting on the debate, Russian socialist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin described the trend this way: “The bourgeoisie of an imperialist ‘Great’ Power can economically bribe the upper strata of ‘its’ workers by spending on this a hundred million or so francs a year, for its superprofits most likely amount to about a thousand million… this little sop is divided among the labour ministers, ‘labour representatives’… labour members of War Industries Committees… labour officials, workers belonging to the narrow craft unions…”
In the modern United States, it isn’t sewer socialism but “Vermont socialism” that plays the role of the ‘Labor Ministers.’ US Senator Bernie Sanders is running for president, and openly describes himself as a “socialist.” Despite using this word to describe himself, with many well intentioned anti-capitalist activists supporting him, Sanders’ platform in reality articulates a strategy for strengthening global monopoly capitalism and its expanding militarism.
Big Oil’s Campaign Against Russia
Currently, Wall Street is doing all it can to suppress Russia, a rising competitor on the global markets. US oil and natural gas corporations in particular want to attack and isolate the Russian Federation, as hydraulic fracking floods the market and drives down oil prices and profits. As Russia stabilizes and expands, continuing to export more and more natural gas, big business desperately needs to purge the country’s oil from the global market.
In service of the western oil and natural gas cartels, US agents overthrew the democratically elected government of Ukraine. The orgy of street violence in Kiev that deposed Yanukovich was conducted with the direction of the CIA and billions of dollars in US funding. In Ukraine, the intervention of the United States has pushed a formerly peaceful country into civil war and installed a fanatically anti-Russian government. Russia now faces a hostile, US-aligned regime directly on its doorstep. Civil war is unfolding as the peoples of eastern Ukraine have taken up arms against it.
US-funded terrorists are waging a campaign of death and destruction in Syria, another Russian-aligned country. Hundreds of thousands have already been killed. The US and its allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan continue to pour money into the so-called “Free Syrian Army” — a group that openly tortures, kidnaps, and beheads innocent people, and has a history of collaborating with ISIS.
Despite giving demagogic anti-corporate speeches, Sanders brags that he is even more in line with big oil’s anti-Russia campaign than President Obama. “The entire world has got to stand up to Putin. We’ve got to deal with sanctions, we’ve got to deal with freezing assets,” he declared in a TV interview with FOX news host Bill O’Reilly.
In the same interview, he declared: “You’ve got to totally isolate them politically. You’ve got to totally isolate them economically… You freeze assets that the Russian government has all over the world… International corporations have huge investments in Russia, you could pull them out…”
A “Socialist” who Loves War and Israel
Sanders is very much a friend of the military industrial complex. In his home state of Vermont, Sanders “rarely misses a photo opportunity with Vermont National Guard troops when they are being deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.” While criticizing Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Sanders consistently votes for the massive US military budget. In fact, Sanders is vocally very supportive of Obama’s drone strikes program, and has worked to bring US military research corporations into his home state to set up facilities.
As a highly rated ally of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, Sanders has consistently voted and spoken out in support of Israel. When criticized for it, he often replies with standard Israel lobby talking points, saying things like, “Hamas is sending missiles into Israel… some of those missiles are coming to populated areas…” Other than vaguely saying that Israel may have “overreacted,” he blatantly supports and defends Israeli military policy.
Sanders openly believes that the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation is “terrorism,” and that the existence of a “Jewish state” on Palestinian land is somehow ethical. In his 2013 interview with Playboy, he declared: “The Palestinians must fulfill their responsibilities to end terrorism against Israel and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
A Friend of the Rising Police State
As a loyal ally of military corporations, he not only supports their war against people in Ukraine, Syria, and Palestine, but also their profitable activities at home. Big business is making huge profits from a prison industrial complex as well as the rapid expansion of the role of police in US society. As police patrol the halls of elementary schools, and “stop and frisk” people on the streets without probable cause, it is young African-Americans who are their primary targets.
Sanders has never been an opponent of the prison industrial complex or the rising incidents of police violence. In Michael Moore’s 2009 film “Capitalism: A Love Story,” Moore interviewed Sanders and asked him to explain what it meant to be a socialist. Sanders responded with a vague, populist rant in which he portrayed the police as victims: “We’ve become very religious in worshipping greed. We put on the front pages of magazines guys who have made millions of dollars, we ignore the cops… who every day are doing so much in improving the lives of people.”
More recently, in response to the massive uprising against police brutality and mass incarceration in the United States, Sanders has declared: “Look, the issue here is…. I was a mayor for eight years, and being a cop is a very, very difficult job. But the word has got to get out that when police act inappropriately, and of course in this case there has to be a thorough investigation.” Sanders gives standard, Obama-style talking points on the issue, saying he supports “body cameras” and wants more community cooperation and involvement with police departments.
Inevitably, whenever the issue of police brutality is raised, Sanders changes the subject to economics. In response to the Baltimore uprising after the killing of Freddie Grey, Sanders declared, without ever even mentioning Grey’s name: “In the neighborhood where this gentleman lives, as I understand it, the unemployment rate is over 50 percent, over 50 percent. What we have got to do as a nation is understand that we have got to create millions of jobs, to put people back to work, to make sure that kids are in schools, and not in jails…. so they’re not hanging out on street corners.”
No one can deny that unemployment is a huge problem, especially for Black and Brown communities in the United States. However, Eric Garner wasn’t choked to death by a bill collector. The direct issue at hand is the fact that police officers have essentially been given a “license to kill” by the courts, and routinely face no penalty after blatantly and intentionally killing people of color.
By diverting the conversation to economics and not calling out the police in harsh terms, and then using racially loaded phrases like “hanging out on street corners,” Sanders is essentially saying: “If only Black people had more economic opportunities, they wouldn’t be worthless, low-life criminals who the police have to kill.”
A Bigger Slice of Empire?
Often Bernie Sanders is asked what it means to be a socialist. He does not respond with a call for public management of the economy, “workers’ control of the means of production,” a workers and farmer’s government, or any of the definitions of “socialism” used by socialists historically. Instead, he talks about Norway, Sweden, and other US-aligned imperialist countries. He emphasizes that these countries have a national health service, and provide free university education. […]
Sanders’ political viewpoint, based on his experience of decades in governing his home state — where only 1.2% of the population is Black — has been: “If we give white middle class Americans a bigger slice of the pie, they will be far more willing to line up with Wall Street against Russia, China, Iran, and the Palestinians.”
Lenin accurately described leaders like Sanders as “opportunists and social-chauvinists,” saying, “They are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers…” Back in 1916, Lenin urged his followers to “go down lower and deeper, to the real masses… teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution.”
The following year, Lenin and the Bolsheviks were victorious. Capitalism, along with its mischievous and demagogic defenders like Bernie Sanders, was overthrown in Russia. That was nearly 100 years ago. How this battle will play out among 21st-century leftists remains to be seen.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Much of the media has been abuzz with President Barack Obama’s announcement that, as NBC put it: “the government will no longer threaten to criminally prosecute families of American hostages who pay ransom to get loved ones back from such groups as ISIS…”
The NBC report — and virtually every other report on this subject I’ve seen — have made no mention of when the U.S. government did pay for hostages in the Iran-Contra Affair. That’s when the Reagan administration sold arms to Iran in exchange for hostages and illegally used the funds for the Contras in Nicaragua.
An extreme example of media mis-reporting was Jake Tapper who claimed on November 18, 2014: “It’s a policy the U.S. government has never wavered on. America does not negotiate with terrorists. You have heard them say that, but now the Obama administration is ordering a full review of how it does deal with hostage situations in light of recent criticism from families of Americans brutally murdered by ISIS terrorists.”
So, I tweeted to Tapper: “never wavered on negotiating for hostages? I guess Iran-Contra didn’t happen.”
He tweeted back: “good point, we should we have couched that”
I responded: “No corrections on cable. Cause, 24-hour news.”
And indeed, no correction was forthcoming. Because it’s not like CNN has a lot of time to fill to educate, especially younger viewers about what happened in Iran-Contra.
Particularly insidious is Tapper’s notion that he should have “couched that” differently. Firstly, it avoids acknowledging that what he said was false: “It’s a policy the U.S. government has never wavered on.” That’s just a brazen lie.
But in a subtle way, his response is even worse. Tapper, it would seem, is tacitly blaming himself for not finessing the lie better. Perhaps he thinks it would be better had he said: “Administration after administration has declared they don’t negotiate with terrorists, but now, that policy is being reconsidered…” This would fulfill the goal of creating a false impression while not being so oafish as to outright lie. And in some way, that’s what most of the media did on this story (and countless others) — create the impression that the U.S. has never traded for hostages without outright lying about it.
All this helps put Iran-Contra, one of the few instances when the machinations of policy were exposed to public scrutiny to at least some degree, further into the memory hole. Indeed, what’s called the Iran-Contra Affair helped bring some light on several insidious policies, including plans to outright suspend the U.S. Constitution.
Another deceitful aspect of this story is it further solidifies the “definition” of terrorist that’s commonly employed by major media being whoever the U.S. government says is a terrorist. These hypocrisies certainly include as FAIR and others have noted not calling Dylann Storm Roof a terrorist. But outside even that discussion is if the violence of the U.S. government and its allies shouldn’t be called terrorism.
Much is also lost by not understanding the dynamics around the Iran-Contra Affair — which involved the U.S. arming both Iran and Iraq while those two countries fought a bloody war. Dahlia Wasfi in her recent piece “Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq war redux” points out that the U.S. government is in effect doing the same thing in the Mideast now — arming warring sides. She writes: “Just as with Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, the people in the battlefields of Syria and Iraq pay the highest price. And just as was the case in the 1980s, the devastation of these countries serves U.S. and Israeli hegemony.”
Just nine days after the fall of the World Trade Center, George W. Bush announced that he was imposing a radical new policy on virtually the entire globe: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
As dramatic as the statement was, just about every phrase was open to question in one form or another. But rather than launching into a long and vigorous debate about the meaning of terrorism or America’s right to impose diktat on the world at large, congressmen turned their minds off and gave Bush a standing ovation.
Today, the same Bush Doctrine is sinking beneath the waves as a growing portion of the punditocracy declares that some forms of terrorism are better than others and that harboring a terrorist may not be so bad if it advances U.S. interests. But once again, the response is not questioning, debate, or even applause, but silence.
The latest evidence of a sea change in establishment thinking is a blog that Ahmed Rashid, a prominent Middle East correspondent, recently published on The New York Review of Books website. Entitled “Why We Need al-Qaeda,” it argues that Al Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate, Al Nusra, are evolving in a more moderate direction in growing contrast to its rival, the super-violent Islamic State. So why not use Al Nusra as a counterforce against both Bashar al-Assad and ISIS?
As Rashid puts it: “Unlike ISIS, which demands absolute subjugation of the inhabitants of any territory it conquers (surrender or be executed), al-Nusra is cooperating with other anti-Assad groups and recently joined the ‘Army of Conquest’ alliance of rebel militias in northern Syria. Moreover, in contrast to ISIS’s largely international and non-Syrian fighting force, al-Nusra’s fighters are almost wholly Syrian, making them both more reliable and more committed to Syria’s future.
“Meanwhile, in interviews with Al Jazeera, al-Nusra leaders have vowed not to attack targets in the West, promoting an ideology that might be called ‘nationalist jihadism’ rather than global jihad. In recent months, al-Nusra’s leaders have toned down the implementation of their own brutal version of Islamic law, while putting on hold their own plans of building a caliphate.”
Thus, according to Rashid’s viewpoint, Al Nusra is cooperative, patriotic, unthreatening to anyone other than Assad, and in favor of a kinder and gentler form of shari‘a as well. Yet, Rashid argues, that while Turkey and the Arab gulf states recognize that change is afoot, the U.S. keeps its eyes resolutely shut:
“With 230,000 killed and 7.6 million people uprooted in Syria alone, the Arab states want a quick end to the Assad regime and a viable solution for Syria. They know that solution will never come from the weak moderate opposition, and that any lasting peace will require support by the strong and ruthless Islamist groups fighting there.”
Gulf States’ Favorite
So the gulf states are backing the second most ruthless Islamist group in Syria (Al Qaeda’s affiliate) in hopes of offsetting the first most ruthless (ISIS) and making short work of the Baathist regime in Damascus. But as Arab leaders prepare for direct negotiations with Al Nusra, Rashid warns, “the only one not at the table could be the United States.”
This is dramatic stuff. After all, Rashid is not taking aim at some minor doctrine, but one that has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy since 9/11. Moreover, he’s not the only one talking this way. Since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew to Riyadh in early March to meet with Saudi King Salman and discuss ways of upping support for the Syrian Islamist opposition, there has been a veritable boomlet in terms of calls for a rapprochement with Al Qaeda.
Within days of the Riyadh get-together, Foreign Affairs went public with an article arguing that even though “the United States is the closest it has ever been to destroying al Qaeda, its interests would be better served by keeping the terrorist organization afloat.” Lina Khatib, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, wrote a few weeks later that “while not everyone likes Nusra’s ideology, there is a growing sense in the north of Syria that it is the best alternative on the ground – and that ideology is a small price to pay for higher returns.”
Charles Lister of the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center, wrote that Al Nusra is undergoing a “moderating shift.” Frederic Hof, Obama’s former envoy to the Syrian guerrillas and now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the group has become “a real magnet for young Syrian fighters who don’t have any particular jihadist or even radical sectarian agenda.” They are drawn to Al Nusra, he explained, for two reasons – because it’s “well-resourced” and because it “seems to have been willing to fight the regime and not to engage in some of the corrupt activities and warlordism that you would find elsewhere within the panoply of Syrian opposition.”
So, Rashid’s views are hardly unique. Nonetheless, they’re the most explicit and upfront to date, an indication that support for an alliance with Al Qaeda is on the upswing and that advocates are growing bolder and more self-confident. So how should ordinary people who are not part of the elite foreign-policy discussion respond?
For one thing, they might notice that such articles are remarkably one-sided and poorly reasoned. Rashid may be “one of Pakistan’s most respected journalists,” as the BBC puts it, someone whose work has appeared in such publications as the Daily Telegraph and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Yet shooting holes through his arguments is child’s play.
Take his claim that “al-Nusra’s leaders have toned down the implementation of their own brutal version of Islamic law.” Whatever the difference between Al Nusra and ISIS on this score, it’s less impressive than Rashid lets on.
The Soufan Group, a New York-based security firm headed by a Lebanese-American ex-FBI agent named Ali H. Soufan, notes, for instance, that while Islamic State released a video in January showing its forces stoning an accused adulteress, Al Nusra released one around the same time showing its forces shooting two women for the same alleged offense. Since the victims in either case were killed, the difference, as the Soufan Group noted, was purely “stylistic.”
Rashid claims that Al Nusra is less extreme in its hostility to Shi‘ism, in part because it thinks “anti-Shia fanaticism” is backfiring and becoming “an impediment to gaining more territory.” Indeed, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, Al Nusra’s commander-in-chief, told Al Jazeera in a rare interview on May 27 that his forces were willing to welcome Alawites, as Syria’s Shi‘ites are known, back into the fold.
“If they drop weapons,” al-Julani said, “disavow Assad, do not send their men to fight for him and return to Islam, then they are our brothers.” But when he described Alawism as a sect that has “moved outside the religion of God and of Islam,” the meaning became clear: Alawite must either convert or die.
Whether this makes Al Nusra less genocidal than ISIS is open to debate. According to the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, Al Nusra recently massacred more than 20 Druze villagers in northwestern Syria – reportedly after a local commander denounced them as kuffar, or infidels, while al-Julani, in his Al Jazeera interview, specified that Christians must pay the jizya, a special head tax imposed by Islamic law, as well – a stipulation Syria’s ten-percent Christian minority is not likely to find very reassuring.
Ordinary people viewing this from afar might notice that the government that al-Julani is seeking to overthrow is officially secular and non-discriminatory and that even Obama has conceded that it has “protected the Christians in Syria,” as he told a Syrian Christian delegation last September. They might also notice that Rashid’s article is in other respects highly revealing, although not in ways he cares to admit.
For instance, Rashid writes that U.S. policy in the Middle East is beset by “growing contradictions.” This is obviously correct. But the problem is not that Washington refuses to face facts about Al Nusra’s alleged moderating trend, but that the U.S. is attempting to hammer out an accord with Iran while struggling to preserve its alliance with Israel and the Arab gulf states, all of whom regard Iran as public enemy number one.
Obama’s Fence Straddling
The effort has led to monumental fence straddling. While entering into talks with Iran, the Obama administration has given the go-ahead to Saudi Arabia’s two-month-old assault on Iranian-allied forces in Yemen while turning a blind eye to growing Turkish and Saudi support for anti-Iranian terrorists in Syria.
While paying lip service to the Bush Doctrine that he who harbors a terrorist is as bad as a terrorist, the Obama administration made no objection when the Saudis and Turks donated U.S.-made TOW missiles to Al Nusra-led forces in northern Syria or when the Saudi bombing campaign allowed Al Qaeda to expand in Yemen.
It’s a mixed-up policy that has people in the Middle East shaking their heads. Yet Rashid adds to the confusion by misrepresenting the Saudi role. He writes, for instance, that the Arab States are swinging behind Al Nusra because they “want a quick end to the Assad regime and a viable solution for Syria,” when, in fact, Saudi Wahhabists have sought from the start to impose a government much like their own, as a report by U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency observed back in August 2012.
Rather than “viable,” such a government would be precisely the opposite for a highly variegated society like Syria with its large Christian, Shi‘ite, and Druze minorities fearful of Sunni fundamentalist domination – yet the gulf states, backed by the U.S., have pushed on regardless.
On the issue of Al Qaeda’s brutal intolerance, Rashid adds, “For Arab leaders, determining whether al-Qaeda has really changed will depend on the group’s long-term attitude toward Shias,” suggesting that the gulf states are seeking a fairer outcome for Syria’s Alawites.
But this is misleading as well since Saudi attitudes toward the kingdom’s own 15-percent Shi‘ite minority are deeply oppressive and seem to be getting worse.
According to the Cambridge scholar Toby Matthiesen, for example, Saudi Shi‘ites are barred from the army and the National Guard as well as the top rungs of the government. State-mandated schoolbooks denounce them as “rejectionists,” while, according to the independent scholar Mai Yamani, they cannot testify in court or marry a Sunni and must put up with abuse from Wahhabist clerics who regularly preach that killing a Shi‘ite merits a greater heavenly reward than killing a Christian or a Jew.
Since Salman’s accession in late January, there is no sign of a softening. Indeed, by bombing Yemen’s Shi‘ite Houthi rebels and stepping up support for fanatically anti-Shi‘ite rebels in Syria, Salman gives every indication of intensifying his anti-Shi‘ite crusade and taking it abroad.
Neocons pushing for an explicit alliance with Al Nusra are thus attempting to plunge the U.S. ever more deeply into a growing sectarian war. Ordinary people might also notice that such “experts” expound their views from cushy posts financed by Qatar (the case with Brookings’ Doha Center) or by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain (the case with the Atlantic Council).
Yet Congress doesn’t care about such conflicts of interest and the White House is too intimidated to speak out, while the American people at large are not consulted. Questioning and debate are more imperative than ever, yet they are as absent as they were back in 2001.
Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US, said this is a recent interview:
Yes not only the names you mention but the depth to which Jews, American Jews were involved in policymaking not just in this administration but even in the previous administration… was immense, and in my discussion of the relationship between American Jewry and the state of Israel, I talk about how the founding fathers of Zionism– and mothers of Zionism– did not anticipate the American Jewish success.
… They could not foresee a situation that I encountered regularly, which is, six Jews sitting in the White House, three Israelis and three American Jews, discussing the Palestinian state. It happens all the time. Very often the only non Jewish person in the room was the vice president or the president. The American Jewish story is a huge success story which doesn’t fit into some of our deepest Zionist impulses and ideology.
While Oren acknowledged the enormity of Jewish-Zionist influence in the US government, he later mildly excoriated American Jews for not being pro-Israel enough in their policy decisions, citing the “assimilated” character of many such Jews in the US administration. This is an audacious claim, seeing as many American Jews act as professional emissaries for Israel through organizations like AIPAC and the ADL. Apparently that’s not good enough for the hardline ‘we want it all’ crowd running Israel. Anything less than full, unabashed shilling for Israeli imperialism is seen as a betrayal by the Likudnik elite.
According to Oren, Israel is “predicated on the notion that there is a Jewish people, and that is irrespective of where you live, whether you’re living in Washington or living in Hadera in Israel, we belong to the same people, and we should have some affinity and a better sense of understanding of one another.”
In other words, the former Israeli diplomat is conceding that he expects Jews, no matter their nationality, to be more loyal to Israel than their host countries.
A wounded takfiri of Al-Nusra Front terrorist group was killed on Monday when a group of Druze in Majdal Shams attacked an Israeli military ambulance taking him and his fellow terrorist to hospital for treatment, occupation police said.
“A crowd attacked an ambulance with stones near Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights,” as it was transporting two wounded gunmen operating in Syria, a police statement said, adding that one of the injured “died after the attack”.
It said that the second Al-Nusra gunman was in a serious condition, and that two soldiers who were also inside the vehicle had been lightly wounded.
The Zionist Public radio earlier said that around 200 Druze from Majdal Shams had pelted the ambulance with stones, forcing it to stop, and dragged the wounded gunmen from the vehicle.
Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident “very serious” and vowed those behind the attack would be held to account.
“We will not let anyone take the law into their hands and prevent the army from carrying out its mission,” he said in a statement, appealing for leaders in the Druze community to maintain calm.
The attack came amid growing concern for the fate of Syria’s Druze minority who are surrounded by takfiris operating in the country.
Tensions have flared in Druze areas of northern occupied Palestine and the Zionist-occupied Golan Heights after Al-Nusra Front takfiri group surrounded a government-held Druze village on the Syrian side last week.
Monday’s attack came hours after another group of Druze also blocked and threw stones at an army vehicle they believed was transferring wounded mercenaries for treatment, Zionist police said.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the first incident happened in the northern Zionist settlement of Horfish and that the Druze tried to check the identities of those inside the ambulance.
The Druze threw stones at the vehicle as it tried to drive off, she said, adding that one Druze was moderately injured in the incident.
Officials say there are 110,000 Druze in northern Occupied Palestine, and another 20,000 in the Zionist-occupied Syrian Golan.
CAIRO – The Egyptian military has constructed a trench along the border of Rafah to prevent smugglers from operating in the area, the army said.
The trench is 20 meters deep and 10 meters wide and is located two kilometers from the border with Gaza outside of Rafah city.
The new infrastructure — part of a larger buffer zone being constructed in the area — is intended to prevent smugglers from driving their vehicles to the opening of tunnels along the border.
A military official said that the army plans to expand the trench and install watchtowers along its length.
Work on the buffer zone on the Egyptian side began in February 2014, but was at the time slated to extend only about 300 meters in urban areas and 500 meters in rural areas.
After a bombing killed more than 30 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in October 2014, however, the military stepped up a campaign to build the buffer zone amid accusations of Hamas support for the group that carried out the attack.
Hamas, which denies Egyptian accusations, has suffered poor relations with the Egyptian government ever since the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they were closely allied, was thrown out of power in July 2013.
Deteriorating relations between Egypt and Hamas come at a high price to Gaza’s 1.8 million residents for whom the smuggling tunnels have served as a lifeline to the outside world since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007.
The US State Department has accused Iran of supporting international terrorist groups, claiming the country’s terrorist activities continue.
The department said in its annual report on Friday that Iran is supporting those militant groups fighting against the ISIL terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
The report also said the Islamic Republic increased its military aid to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and Shia fighters in Iraq last year.
Washington alleges that Tehran is increasing its support for Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance movements.
This is while the report makes almost no mention of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which are widely believed to be the main supporters of terrorists in the Middle East. The US itself stands accused of financing and arming militants in the region.
In an interview with Press TV on Friday, American political commentator Dr. Kevin Barrett said that the United States is the primary sponsor of the ISIL terrorists.
“It seems that they’re using a very self-serving definition of terrorism here and elsewhere,” he said.
“It’s ironic though that Iran has been bashed primarily for fighting against the people that this very report says are the world’s biggest terrorist threat and that would be ISIL and Takfiri terrorists,” Dr. Barrett added.
He also noted that Iran “has been the biggest single force fighting against that particular brand of terrorism that this report says it’s getting out of control.”