Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu making opening remarks at a joint White House press conference with President Donald Trump on Feb. 15, 2017. (Screenshot from White House video)
The other day, I asked a longtime Democratic Party insider who is working on the Russia-gate investigation which country interfered more in U.S. politics, Russia or Israel. Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied, “Israel, of course.”
Which underscores my concern about the hysteria raging across Official Washington about “Russian meddling” in the 2016 presidential campaign: There is no proportionality applied to the question of foreign interference in U.S. politics. If there were, we would have a far more substantive investigation of Israel-gate.
The problem is that if anyone mentions the truth about Israel’s clout, the person is immediately smeared as “anti-Semitic” and targeted by Israel’s extraordinarily sophisticated lobby and its many media/political allies for vilification and marginalization.
So, the open secret of Israeli influence is studiously ignored, even as presidential candidates prostrate themselves before the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both appeared before AIPAC in 2016, with Clinton promising to take the U.S.-Israeli relationship “to the next level” – whatever that meant – and Trump vowing not to “pander” and then pandering like crazy.
Congress is no different. It has given Israel’s controversial Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a record-tying three invitations to address joint sessions of Congress (matching the number of times British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared). We then witnessed the Republicans and Democrats competing to see how often their members could bounce up and down and who could cheer Netanyahu the loudest, even when the Israeli prime minister was instructing the Congress to follow his position on Iran rather than President Obama’s.
Israeli officials and AIPAC also coordinate their strategies to maximize political influence, which is derived in large part by who gets the lobby’s largesse and who doesn’t. On the rare occasion when members of Congress step out of line – and take a stand that offends Israeli leaders – they can expect a well-funded opponent in their next race, a tactic that dates back decades.
Well-respected members, such as Rep. Paul Findley and Sen. Charles Percy (both Republicans from Illinois), were early victims of the Israeli lobby’s wrath when they opened channels of communication with the Palestine Liberation Organization in the cause of seeking peace. Findley was targeted and defeated in 1982; Percy in 1984.
Findley recounted his experience in a 1985 book, They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby, in which Findley called the lobby “the 700-pound gorilla in Washington.” The book was harshly criticized in a New York Times review by Adam Clymer, who called it “an angry, one-sided book that seems often to be little more than a stringing together of stray incidents.”
Since then, there have been fewer and fewer members of Congress or other American politicians who have dared to speak out, judging that – when it comes to the Israeli lobby – discretion is the better part of valor. Today, many U.S. pols grovel before the Israeli government seeking a sign of favor from Prime Minister Netanyahu, almost like Medieval kings courting the blessings of the Pope at the Vatican.
During the 2008 campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama, whom Netanyahu viewed with suspicion, traveled to Israel to demonstrate sympathy for Israelis within rocket-range of Gaza while steering clear of showing much empathy for the Palestinians.
In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney tried to exploit the tense Obama-Netanyahu relationship by stopping in Israel to win a tacit endorsement from Netanyahu. The 2016 campaign was no exception with both Clinton and Trump stressing their love of Israel in their appearances before AIPAC.
Money, of course, has become the lifeblood of American politics – and American supporters of Israel have been particularly strategic in how they have exploited that reality.
One of Israel’s most devoted advocates, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, has poured millions of dollars in “dark money” into political candidates and groups that support Israel’s interests. Adelson, who has advocated dropping a nuclear bomb inside Iran to coerce its government, is a Trump favorite having donated a record $5 million to Trump’s inaugural celebration.
Of course, many Israel-connected political donations are much smaller but no less influential. A quarter century ago, I was told how an aide to a Democratic foreign policy chairman, who faced a surprisingly tough race after redistricting, turned to the head of AIPAC for help and, almost overnight, donations were pouring in from all over the country. The chairman was most thankful.
The October Surprise Mystery
Israel’s involvement in U.S. politics also can be covert. For instance, the evidence is now overwhelming that the Israeli government of right-wing Prime Minister Menachem Begin played a key role in helping Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980 strike a deal with Iran to frustrate President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to free 52 American hostages before Election Day.
Begin despised Carter for the Camp David Accords that forced Israel to give back the Sinai to Egypt. Begin also believed that Carter was too sympathetic to the Palestinians and – if he won a second term – would conspire with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to impose a two-state solution on Israel.
Begin’s contempt for Carter was not even a secret. In a 1991 book, The Last Option, senior Israeli intelligence and foreign policy official David Kimche explained Begin’s motive for dreading Carter’s reelection. Kimche said Israeli officials had gotten wind of “collusion” between Carter and Sadat “to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Kimche continued, “This plan prepared behind Israel’s back and without her knowledge must rank as a unique attempt in United States diplomatic history of short-changing a friend and ally by deceit and manipulation.”
But Begin recognized that the scheme required Carter winning a second term in 1980 when, Kimche wrote, “he would be free to compel Israel to accept a settlement of the Palestinian problem on his and Egyptian terms, without having to fear the backlash of the American Jewish lobby.”
In a 1992 memoir, Profits of War, former Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe also noted that Begin and other Likud leaders held Carter in contempt.
“Begin loathed Carter for the peace agreement forced upon him at Camp David,” Ben-Menashe wrote. “As Begin saw it, the agreement took away Sinai from Israel, did not create a comprehensive peace, and left the Palestinian issue hanging on Israel’s back.”
So, in order to buy time for Israel to “change the facts on the ground” by moving Jewish settlers into the West Bank, Begin felt Carter’s reelection had to be prevented. A different president also presumably would give Israel a freer hand to deal with problems on its northern border with Lebanon.
Ben-Menashe was among a couple of dozen government officials and intelligence operatives who described how Reagan’s campaign, mostly through future CIA Director William Casey and past CIA Director George H.W. Bush, struck a deal in 1980 with senior Iranians who got promises of arms via Israel in exchange for keeping the hostages through the election and thus humiliating Carter. (The hostages were finally released on Jan. 20, 1981, after Reagan was sworn in as President.)
Though the evidence of the so-called October Surprise deal is far stronger than the current case for believing that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign, Official Washington and the mainstream U.S. media have refused to accept it, deeming it a “conspiracy theory.”
One of the reasons for the hostility directed against the 1980 case was the link to Israel, which did not want its hand in manipulating the election of a U.S. president to become an accepted part of American history. So, for instance, the Israeli government went to great lengths to discredit Ben-Menashe after he began to speak with reporters and to give testimony to the U.S. Congress.
When I was a Newsweek correspondent and first interviewed Ben-Menashe in 1990, the Israeli government initially insisted that he was an impostor, that he had no connection to Israeli intelligence.
However, when I obtained documentary evidence of Ben-Menashe’s work for a military intelligence unit, the Israelis admitted that they had lied but then insisted that he was just a low-level translator, a claim that was further contradicted by other documents showing that he had traveled widely around the world on missions to obtain weapons for the Israel-to-Iran arms pipeline.
Nevertheless, the Israeli government along with sympathetic American reporters and members of the U.S. Congress managed to shut down any serious investigation into the 1980 operation, which was, in effect, the prequel to Reagan’s Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal of 1984-86. Thus, U.S. history was miswritten. [For more details, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative; Secrecy & Privilege; and Trick or Treason.]
Looking back over the history of U.S.-Israeli relations, it is clear that Israel exercised significant influence over U.S. presidents since its founding in 1948, but the rise of Israel’s right-wing Likud Party in the 1970s – led by former Jewish terrorists Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir – marked a time when Israel shed any inhibitions about interfering directly in U.S. politics.
Wanted Poster of the Palestine Police Force offering rewards for the capture of Stern Gang terrorists: 1. Jaacov Levstein (Eliav), 2. Yitzhak Yezernitzky (Shamir), 3. Natan Friedman-Yelin
Much as Begin and Shamir engaged in terror attacks on British officials and Palestinian civilians during Israel’s founding era, the Likudniks who held power in 1980 believed that the Zionist cause trumped normal restraints on their actions. In other words, the ends justified the means.
In the 1980s, Israel also mounted spying operations aimed at the U.S. government, including those of intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard, who fed highly sensitive documents to Israel and – after being caught and spending almost three decades in prison – was paroled and welcomed as a hero inside Israel.
Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in the photo from his U.S. Naval Intelligence ID
A History of Interference
But it is true that foreign interference in U.S. politics is as old as the American Republic. In the 1790s, French agents – working with the Jeffersonians – tried to rally Americans behind France’s cause in its conflict with Great Britain. In part to frustrate the French operation, the Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts.
In the Twentieth Century, Great Britain undertook covert influence operations to ensure U.S. support in its conflicts with Germany, while German agents unsuccessfully sought the opposite.
So, the attempts by erstwhile allies and sometimes adversaries to move U.S. foreign policy in one direction or another is nothing new, and the U.S. government engages in similar operations in countries all over the world, both overtly and covertly.
It was the CIA’s job for decades to use propaganda and dirty tricks to ensure that pro-U.S. politicians were elected or put in power in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa, pretty much everywhere the U.S. government perceived some interest. After the U.S. intelligence scandals of the 1970s, however, some of that responsibility was passed to other organizations, such as the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
NED, USAID and various “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) finance activists, journalists and other operatives to undermine political leaders who are deemed to be obstacles to U.S. foreign policy desires.
In particular, NED has been at the center of efforts to flip elections to U.S.-backed candidates, such as in Nicaragua in 1990, or to sponsor “color revolutions,” which typically organize around some color as the symbol for mass demonstrations. Ukraine – on Russia’s border – has been the target of two such operations, the Orange Revolution in 2004, which helped install anti-Russian President Viktor Yushchenko, and the Maidan ouster of elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
NED president Carl Gershman, a neoconservative who has run NED since its founding in 1983, openly declared that Ukraine was “the biggest prize” in September 2013 — just months before the Maidan protests — as well as calling it an important step toward ousting Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2016, Gershman called directly for regime change in Russia.
Another key issue related to Israeli influence inside the United States is the role of the neocons, a political movement that emerged in the 1970s as a number of hawkish Democrats migrated to the Republican Party as a home for more aggressive policies to protect Israel and take on the Soviet Union and Arab states.
In some European circles, the neocons are described as “Israel’s American agents,” which may somewhat overstate the direct linkage between Israel and the neocons although a central tenet of neocon thinking is that there must be no daylight between the U.S. and Israel. The neocons say U.S. politicians must stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel even if that means the Americans sidling up to the Israelis rather than any movement the other way.
Since the mid-1990s, American neocons have worked closely with Benjamin Netanyahu. Several prominent neocons (including former Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, Meyrav Wurmser and Robert Loewenberg) advised Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign and urged a new strategy for “securing the realm.” Essentially, the idea was to replace negotiations with the Palestinians and Arab states with “regime change” for governments that were viewed as troublesome to Israel, including Iraq and Syria.
By 1998, the Project for the New American Century (led by neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagan) was pressuring President Bill Clinton to invade Iraq, a plan that was finally put in motion in 2003 under President George W. Bush.
But the follow-on plans to go after Syria and Iran were delayed because the Iraq War turned into a bloody mess, killing some 4,500 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Bush could not turn to phase two until near the end of his presidency and then was frustrated by a U.S. intelligence estimate concluding that Iran was not working on a nuclear bomb (which was to be the pretext for a bombing campaign).
Bush also could pursue “regime change” in Syria only as a proxy effort of subversion, rather than a full-scale U.S. invasion. President Barack Obama escalated the Syrian proxy war in 2011 with the support of Israel and its strange-bedfellow allies in Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni-ruled Gulf States, which hated Syria’s government because it was allied with Shiite-ruled Iran — and Sunnis and Shiites have been enemies since the Seventh Century. Israel insists that the U.S. take the Sunni side, even if that puts the U.S. in bed with Al Qaeda.
But Obama dragged his heels on a larger U.S. military intervention in Syria and angered Netanyahu further by negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program rather than bomb-bomb-bombing Iran.
Showing the Love
Obama’s perceived half-hearted commitment to Israeli interests explained Romney’s campaign 2012 trip to seek Netanyahu’s blessings. Even after winning a second term, Obama sought to appease Netanyahu by undertaking a three-day trip to Israel in 2013 to show his love.
Still, in 2015, when Obama pressed ahead with the Iran nuclear agreement, Netanyahu went over the President’s head directly to Congress where he was warmly received, although the Israeli prime minister ultimately failed to sink the Iran deal.
In Campaign 2016, both Clinton and Trump wore their love for Israel on their sleeves, Clinton promising to take the relationship to “the next level” (a phrase that young couples often use when deciding to go from heavy petting to intercourse). Trump reminded AIPAC that he had a Jewish grandchild and vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Both also bristled with hatred toward Iran, repeating the popular falsehood that “Iran is the principal source of terrorism” when it is Saudi Arabia and other Sunni sheikdoms that have been the financial and military supporters of Al Qaeda and Islamic State, the terror groups most threatening to Europe and the United States.
By contrast to Israel’s long history of playing games with U.S. politics, the Russian government stands accused of trying to undermine the U.S. political process recently by hacking into emails of the Democratic National Committee — revealing the DNC’s improper opposition to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign — and of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta — disclosing the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street and pay-to-play aspects of the Clinton Foundation — and sharing that information to the American people via WikiLeaks.
Although WikiLeaks denies getting the two batches of emails from the Russians, the U.S. intelligence community says it has high confidence in its conclusions about Russian meddling and the mainstream U.S. media treats the allegations as flat-fact.
The U.S. intelligence community also has accused the Russian government of raising doubts in the minds of Americans about their political system by having RT, the Russian-sponsored news network, hold debates for third-party candidates (who were excluded from the two-party Republican-Democratic debates) and by having RT report on protests such as Occupy Wall Street and issues such as “fracking.”
The major U.S. news media and Congress seem to agree that the only remaining question is whether evidence can be adduced showing that the Trump campaign colluded in this Russian operation. For that purpose, a number of people associated with the Trump campaign are to be hauled before Congress and made to testify on whether or not they are Russian agents.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other establishment-approved outlets are working with major technology companies on how to marginalize independent news sources and to purge “Russian propaganda” (often conflated with “fake news”) from the Internet.
It seems that no extreme is too extreme to protect the American people from the insidious Russians and their Russia-gate schemes to sow doubt about the U.S. political process. But God forbid if anyone were to suggest an investigation of Israel-gate.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
Hava Nagila, y’all
Spring in Washington would not be complete without the city’s famous cherry blossoms and the annual “Policy Conference” meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The 15,000 plus participants began arriving on Sunday and will be here at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center until tomorrow morning, at which point many of them will descend on Congress like a swarm of ravenous locusts to make sure that our Solons on the Potomac are doing what is right by Israel.
AIPAC is the most powerful foreign policy lobby in Washington. It’s annual budget exceeds $77 million plus it has an endowment of $100 million. It has nearly 400 employees and also supports local chapters and initiatives throughout the United States.
What do all those employees do? They mostly lobby Congress and increasingly state legislatures shamelessly on behalf of a foreign country that has little in the way of actual common interests with the United States. When anything happens in the Middle East, AIPAC’s drones get to work, drafting up position papers detailing the Israeli position which are then placed by runners on the desks of every single congressman within a matter of hours. The congressmen, too lazy to engage in any real inquiry into what is going on, rely on the AIPAC research. That is, lamentably, how our system works. And if the congressman ignores the “expert” advice, AIPAC and its friends make sure he or she has a strong, well-funded opponent in the next election, someone who knows how to say “I love Israel” without moving his or her lips.
The current speakers’ list for the 2017 conference includes many of the leading political parasites that have long made the nation’s Capitol a “must miss” destination. I will not attempt to summarize what Michael Pence, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, Steny Hoyer and others said on Sunday night and yesterday as it was all basically the same speech, declaring undying love for Israel and the Jewish people and pledging that the United States will always have “Israel’s back,” whatever that is supposed to mean. Twenty-nine congressmen were featured as attendees on the AIPAC website but more than two thirds of the entire Congress is expected to appear for a photo op while muttering something about that apparently vulnerable “back.” Or do they mean backside? Whatever. I won’t name any more of the specific panderers as the reader probably already has a good idea who they are.
And, of course, the redoubtable Professor Alan Dershowitz was also a featured speaker, a wonderful human being who recently told us goyim that Jewish power in this country is both deserved and granted by Jehovah. It is interesting how Jews among themselves boast about their power but if a gentile so much as suggests the same thing it is anti-Semitism.
There were also two certifiable loonies among the speakers, apart from Dershowitz. They were Nikki Haley, America’s stalwart U.N. Ambassador, and Stephen Harper, until recently Prime Minister of Canada. Those who are following Haley’s meteoric career are probably aware that while governor of South Carolina she took the lead on making her state the first in the nation to legislate against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) which supports peaceful pressure on Israel to abandon its apartheid policies when dealing with its own Arab citizens as well as the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. Such legislation is an abrogation of First Amendment rights and will likely prove to be unconstitutional if it ever gets to the Supreme Court, but Haley clearly believed then and believes now that nothing is too good when it comes to Israel. Since going to the U.N., Haley has spoken more about Israel than about any possible American interests, pledging full support and protection for Netanyahu and his government. She blocked the appointment of a well-qualified Palestinian to a senior U.N. position purely because he was Palestinian. Ignorant of nearly everything that goes on in the world outside the U.S., it might be said that she is so horribly inept that she actually makes her ghastly predecessor Samantha Power look good.
Stephen Harper is another certified knee jerker when it comes to Israel. A fundamentalist Christian who believes the second coming of Christ is imminent, while Prime Minister he led what was possibly the world’s most pro-Israeli government. Harper described Israel as a light that “… burns bright, upheld by the universal principles of all civilized nations – freedom, democracy justice.” He has also said “I will defend Israel whatever the cost” to Canada, an interesting proposition for those who might have believed that his duty was to protect his own country and advance its interests. Harper, who has received awards from both Canadian and American Jewish organizations, personally endorsed Israel’s bombing of Lebanon in 2006, calling it “measured” even when Canadian peacekeepers were killed in the bombardment.
Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, also spoke at the conference. Why? I don’t know but it probably has something to do with characteristically liberal American Jews pulling their usual doublespeak trick, trying to pretend that fundamentally racist Israelis are not actually racist by inviting a black man to speak at a pro-Israel conference. I’ll bet he was paid handsomely to do so.
And former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, perhaps suggesting that love for Israel is truly international, spoke and was also probably paid handsomely to do so as he an incorporated brand. Between 2007 and 2015 Blair was the “special envoy” representing (and personally profiting from) the Quartet seeking to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. Marwan Bishara explained in The New York Times: “A natural panderer to power, Mr. Blair morphed his complicity with the United States over Iraq into a new complicity with Israel. The assumption that operates is that schmoozing with the powerful is the only way to make a difference. So while Mr. Blair worked to reform the Palestinian Authority’s finances, security and governance, he turned a blind eye as Israel expanded its illegal settlements and tightened its hold on the autonomous territories. In the process, Mr. Blair helped render the Palestinian Authority more, not less, dependent on Israel. Instead of protecting the Palestinians from the Israeli settlers, Palestinian security forces have since been protecting Israeli settlers from Palestinian resentment.” Blair also attacked the Palestinian leadership’s decision to seek United Nations recognition of the Palestinian state, calling it “deeply confrontational.” Bishara dismisses him as “Israel’s puppy.” As I am extremely fond of dogs, I would modify that to read “Israel and now AIPAC’s butt boy.”
The avenging angel Benjamin Netanyahu also addressed the conference by satellite link and yet again described the threat posed by Iran. The satellite visit was somewhat surprising, as he usually likes to drop by in person so he can pick up his annual tribute money from the U.S. Treasury. This year’s Danegeld will be $3.8 billion thanks to President Barack Obama, guaranteed for ten years, and there will be, of course, various supplements as the Israelis discover things that they just need to have to stave off Netanyahu’s wily Persians and fight the rising tide of anti-Semitism. A rising tide, which we have just learned, was carried out by an Israeli Jew who also holds U.S. citizenship, which again leads to the question why so many Israelis are allowed to have American passports even though they live in Israel and serve in the Israeli Army?
And, of course, Persia was an integral part of the conference as it is tough to want to destroy the entire Muslim Middle East without having a really formidable enemy to focus on. Iran fits the bill quite nicely, but speakers were also prone to skewer those terrible Ay-rabs who just do not want peace. And the Israeli’s settlements are not a problem, nosiree! The theme of this year’s gathering was, in fact, “Many voices, one mission,” the mission presumably being the expansion of Israel so it will stretch east to west from the Nile to the River Jordan and north to the Turkish border. The indigenous inhabitants will have to be removed, but as they are mostly terrorists that should be okay with the world community and Donald Trump. And with the 15,000 AIPAC attendees.
The AIPAC gathering is really all about subverting Congress, so it is a good thing that a large majority of Congressmen were attending, making the necessary bowing and scraping that much easier. And they will enjoy it even more when the 15,000 AIPAC loyalists descend on Capitol Hill as the conference ends to make sure that Congress is listening. Democracy in action is great, isn’t it?
Even though I jest about the absurdity of thousands of Americans who appeared to be confused about what country they actually live in gathering to honor a foreign country that has an army that acts like a terrorist group, does not believe in equal rights even for its own citizens and bans visitors who do not accept its more questionable policies, the AIPAC people are not a joke. They are a deadly serious threat to our own democracy and way of life as they have figured out how to use money and the power that money buys to leverage and corrupt the system in such a way as to produce wars and turmoil that have blown back on the United States and made every American citizen both less safe and poorer.
I have written and spoken before how AIPAC is ultimately doomed as Israel and its basic policies towards Arabs and its neighbors are unsustainable both from a human rights and practical point of view. But that does not mean that it is going away any time soon. The Israel Lobby has the U.S. Congress and media by the throat and the Trump administration promises to be completely uncritical in its relationship with Netanyahu and whatever homicidal kleptocrat might be in line to succeed him.
Ms. Haley and her peers in state governments have successfully pushed legislation in a majority of states that punishes anyone who tries to boycott Israeli institutions or products. On university campuses non-violent criticism of Israel is being suppressed. There is also increasing pressure to define any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism and therefore a hate crime, modeled on similar legislation in Canada, Britain and France. In a number of European countries it is a crime to challenge the standard narrative on “the Holocaust.” Why should that be? You can in much of Europe stand in a town square and say horrible things about your own country but if you criticize the factual basis of one particular “event” that took place in the 1940s you will go to jail.
So hang on to your hats, my fellow Americans. AIPAC is not going away and it will be doing all it can to keep neighboring Syria a cauldron of death and destruction while also calling for war on Iran. And AIPAC as well as the other bits and pieces of the Israel Lobby will have many Quislings in the Congress and U.S. media who will echo whatever they propose, even if it does grave damage to American interests. Meanwhile the billions and billions of dollars will continue to flow from an increasingly straitened United States to a wealthy Israel. At its conference AIPAC announced the latest windfall from America, applauding “… the U.S. House of Representatives for significantly bolstering its support of U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation in the FY 2017 defense appropriations bill. The House appropriated $600.7 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense programs.” That is on top of everything else Israel gets. Will it ever end? I don’t know.
US President Donald Trump has skipped the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, DC, amid reports of some differences between Washington and Tel Aviv on policy matters, a report says.
Trump dispatched US Vice President Mike Pence and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to speak to the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in his place, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The Trump administration, the newspaper reported, is pressing the regime of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a so-called peace deal with Palestinians that would halt the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, but Netanyahu is refusing to stop the settlement activity.
In addition, Netanyahu also wants to discuss with Trump ways and means of dealing with Iran, but the new US administration is still formulating its policy on the Islamic Republic, according to the report.
Netanyahu meanwhile spoke via satellite on Monday to the crowd gathered by AIPAC. He avoided any reference to the issue of illegal settlements, which Trump raised before their first meeting last month. The US president then said the rapid growth of settlements was an obstacle in reaching an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu also thanked Trump over a recent US budget request that “leaves military aid to Israel fully funded.”
‘Days of Israel bashing are over’
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley arrives to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, on March 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
In her address to AIPAC, Ambassador Haley promised that she would not allow a repeat of a resolution like the one passed by the UN Security Council in December last year when the Obama administration chose not to exercise the US veto power.
“The days of Israel bashing are over,” Haley vowed. “We have a lot of things to talk about, there are a lot of threats to peace and security, but you’re not going to take our number one democratic friend in the Middle East and beat up on them.”
“And I think what you’re seeing is, they’re all backing up a little bit. The Israel-bashing is not as loud,” she claimed.
The Security Council voted 14-0 in December to pass Resolution 2334, which demanded an immediate end to Israel’s “illegal” settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories.
The unanimous vote was made possible after the US broke away from its tradition of vetoing anti-Israeli measures and allowed the resolution to pass by abstaining from the vote.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle to the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.
The Palestinian Authority wants the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
This weekend, the annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Convention takes place where 15,000 of this diabolical Jewish lobby’s best and brightest meet to mix and mingle, celebrate the successes of the past year and more importantly, strategize for the coming year how best to maintain Israel’s strength. The claim is that it’s in America’s best interest, as well, but the truth is American citizens get zero from this one-sided relationship. Sure, a few American companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin make boatloads of cash through the sales of Apache helicopters and weapons to Israel, but for American tax payers, the return on investment is nothing more than our share of the guilt of mass slaughter of Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, and whomever challenges Israel’s dominance in the region.
This lobby is powerful. Some consider it to be a lobby like any other, but the truth is it differs in a few crucial ways. To start with, no other lobby forks over millions of dollars in campaign donations, on local and federal levels to push the agenda of and back a foreign government. Whether one supports or opposes the existence of the Jewish state, it cannot be denied it is, in fact, a foreign government. And no other lobby makes EVERY member of Congress sign an agreement that they will fully and unconditionally support the state of Israel economically, politically, militarily and diplomatically. On the rare occasion someone has refused to sign it, the AIPAC campaign to get them removed from Congress goes into full-force. Ask Cynthia McKinney how refusing to sign this agreement worked out for her.
Counter to this annual event is a protest of AIPAC. I’ve attended this protest four times. Different groups organize to meet at the Convention Center to denounce AIPAC’s hideous agenda and the impact it has on our government, the Palestinians and beyond. The protests are always peaceful with a diverse group of people and one can always count on seeing familiar faces including Orthodox Torah Jews, Neturei Karta. They adamantly oppose Zionism and the existence of the Jewish state. I attend independently, not as a member of any group.
This year I made the choice to forego the protest and attend the fourth annual conference, ‘The Israel Lobby And American Foreign Policy’ hosted by The American Educational Trust who publishes Washington Report On Middle East Affairs and The Institute For Research: Middle Eastern Policy. I only learned of the conference just last year and missed an impressive lineup. This year I got lucky as a friend had an extra ticket and was generous enough to let me have it. The presenters and keynote speakers were, again, impressive. The standouts for me were Palestinian legislator and scholar Hanan Ashrawi, Ilan Pappé, documentary filmmaker (Two Blue Lines, Native Sons), Tom Hayes, and American Journalist and author, Clayton Swisher, who managed the six-month undercover investigation that produced Al-Jazeera’s 4-part series, “The Lobby”, about AIPAC’s activities in the U.K. It’s stellar and you can watch it on YouTube.
Hanan Ashrawi is a powerhouse, just as I expected. She is monumentally clever, charismatic and a force to be reckoned with. Her main focus was the Israel Lobby and the duplicity of the “peace process”. Ilan Pappé geared his presentation towards seeing Palestine through the prism of settler-colonialism (a term I’ve grown disgusted with due to its inaccuracy of what’s really taken place, therefore it’s been adopted by controlled opposition groups. It invokes a romantic, pastoral image rather than the reality of the more accurate terms of genocide, ethnic cleansing, land theft, etc.), the lobby’s participation in forming/maintaining Zionist myths, and accurately identifying and exposing the myths so that efforts to end the conflict are based in reality.
While most of the speakers had interesting perspectives and personal experiences with the Israel lobby, I had a nagging, frustrating feeling that something was missing. Speaker after speaker, I continued to be underwhelmed. No one went far enough. No one drew the parallels between Gaza, Detroit, Athens, and Berlin. In the world in which we currently live, we are all Palestinians. There was quite a lot of focus on the impact in Palestine and to Palestinians and non-Palestinian supporters of this struggle, we are always elated to hear anyone acknowledge the injustice and continuing horrors inflicted upon them since 1948, but is the acknowledgement of what we already know all we can expect? Have we been so well trained by the oppressor to not expect more?
About an hour or so after the conference ended, I had an epiphany. AIPAC is convening to determine our future while pro Palestinians convened to reflect on the past. Over the course of 8.5 hours, it was evident what is AIPAC’s agenda, how duplicitous and ruthless are its methods, how it manipulates Congress and further exacerbates the suffering of the Palestinians and how it strong-arm’s our government out of billions of tax-payer dollars to support the foreign government of the Jewish state of Israel. The conference was a culmination of the past and the present. But, what about the future? Where is the strategic plan for the future? When AIPAC has their convention on Sunday, March 26, 2017, they will spend some time celebrating the successes of this past year, but the vast majority of their 8 hour day will be spent strategizing about the future, both immediate and long term. They will present the road map, step by step no doubt, with crystal clarity of what are their goals and exactly what steps need to be taken to bring them to fruition, so that next year’s celebration will be bigger than this year, followed by a whole new strategy for the coming year.
If there is anything we can learn from AIPAC, indeed this is it.
A bipartisan group of US senators in Congress have introduced a bill that would impose tighter sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile tests and other non-nuclear activities.
The bill was introduced on Thursday by 14 Democratic and Republican senators, including senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The legislation would set mandatory sanctions for anyone involved with Iran’s missile program and those who trade with them. It also would apply sanctions to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Lawmakers were expected to roll out the new sanctions ahead of a conference by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is scheduled to start Sunday.
Senators Bob Corker, Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin and Tom Cotton are among the bill’s sponsors.
Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, claimed that the new bill had been written not to interfere with the international nuclear accord reached with Tehran.
Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China — plus Germany started implementing the nuclear agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on January 16, 2016.
In February, US President Donald Trump undermined the multilateral deal by introducing a new round of sanctions against Iran following the country’s successful test-launch of a ballistic missile, which Washington said was a breach of the JCPOA.
The US Treasury Department said Washington had imposed sanctions on 13 individuals and 12 entities as part of an effort to ratchet up pressure on Iran over its missile program.
The United States claims that Iran’s recent missile test violated Resolution 2231 that endorsed the Iran nuclear agreement.
Tehran insists its missile tests do not breach any UN resolution because they are solely for defense purposes and not designed to carry nuclear warheads.
Criticizing their thuggery is anti-Semitism?
We have a president who is belligerent towards Iran, who is sending “boots on the ground” to fight ISIS, who loves Israel passionately and who is increasing already bloated defense budgets. If one were a neoconservative, what is there not to like, yet neocons in the media and ensconced comfortably in their multitude of think tanks hate Donald Trump. I suspect it comes down to three reasons. First, it is because Trump knows who was sticking the knife in his back during his campaign in 2016 and he has neither forgiven nor hired them. Nor does he pay any attention to their bleating, denying them the status that they think they deserve because of their self-promoted foreign policy brilliance.
And second, Trump persists in his desire to “do business” with Russia. The predominantly Jewish neocons always imagine the thunder of hooves of approaching Cossacks preparing to engage in pogroms whenever they hear the word Russia. And this is particularly true of Vladimir Putin’s regime, which is Holy Russia revived. When not musing over how it is always 1938 and one is in Munich, neocons are nearly as unsettled when they think it is 1905 in Odessa.
The third reason, linked to number two, is that having a plausible and dangerous enemy like Russia on tap keeps the cash flowing from defense industries to the foundations and think tanks that the neocons nest in when they are not running the Pentagon and National Security Council. Follow the money. So it is all about self-interest combined with tribal memory: money, status and a visceral hatred of Russia.
The hatred of Trump runs so deep that a leading neocon Bill Kristol actually tweeted that he would prefer a country run by bureaucrats and special interests rather than the current constitutional arrangement. The neocon vendetta was as well neatly summed up in two recent articles by Max Boot. The first is entitled “Trump knows the Feds are closing in on him” and the second is “WikiLeaks has joined the Trump Administration.” In the former piece Boot asserts that “Trump’s recent tweets aren’t just conspiratorial gibberish—they’re the erratic ravings of a guilty conscience” and in the latter, that “The anti-American WikiLeaks has become the preferred intelligence service for a conspiracy-addled White House.”
Now, who is Max Boot and why should anyone care what he writes? Russian-born, Max entered the United States with his family through a special visa exemption under the 1975 Jackson-Vanik Amendment even though they were not notably persecuted and only had to prove that they were Jewish. Jackson-Vanik was one of the first public assertions of neoconism, having reportedly been drafted in the office of Senator Henry Jackson by no less than Richard Perle and Ben Wattenberg as a form of affirmative action for Russian Jews. As refugees instead of immigrants, the new arrivals received welfare, health insurance, job placement, English language classes, and the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship after only five years. Max went to college at Berkeley and received an M.A. from Yale.
Boot, a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012, networked his way up the neocon ladder, including writing for The Weekly Standard, Commentary, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He was a member of the neocon incubator Project for a New American Century and now sits on the heavily neocon Council on Foreign Relations. Boot characteristically has never served in the U.S. military but likes war a lot. In 2012 he co-authored “5 Reasons to Intervene in Syria Now.” He is a reliable Russia and Putin basher.
Max Boot’s articles are smears of Donald Trump from top to bottom. The “closing in” piece calls for establishment of a special counsel to investigate every aspect of the Trump Team/Russian relationship. Along the way, it makes its case to come to that conclusion by accepting every single worst case scenario regarding Trump as true. Yes, per Boot “Putin was intervening in the presidential election to help Trump.” And President Barack Obama could not possibly have “interfered with the lawful workings of the FBI.” As is always the case, not one shred of evidence is produced to demonstrate that anyone associated with Donald Trump somehow became a Russian useful idiot, but Boot assumes that the White House is now being run out of the Kremlin.
Max is certainly fun to read but on a more serious note, the National Review is working hard to make us forget about employing the expression “neocon” because it is apparently rarely understood by the people who use the term. Plus its implied meaning is anti-Semitic in nature, something that David Brooks in an article pretty much denying that neocons really exist suggested thirteen years ago when he postulated that it was shorthand for “Jewish conservative.”
National Review actually searched hard to find a gentile who could write the piece, one Kevin D. Williamson, who is described as a “roving correspondent” for the magazine. His article is entitled “Word Games: The Right Discovers the Deep State.” Williamson begins by observing that using “neocon” disparagingly in the post-9/11 context acts either “as a kind of catalyst enabling a political reaction that revived a great many stupid and ugly myths about Jewish bankers orchestrating wars for profit…” or serves as a standby expression for a “Jew with politics I don’t like.”
Interestingly, I have never heard the “Jewish bankers” theory or disparagement of Jewish “politics” from the many responsible critics who have been dismayed by the aberrant U.S. foreign policy that has evolved since 2001. I don’t know how much money Goldman Sachs has made since the World Trade Center went down and that is not really the issue, nor is the fact that Jews overwhelmingly vote Democratic, which is a party that I don’t particularly like. Williamson dodges the increasingly held view that America slid into the abyss when Washington declared war on the entire world and invaded Iraq based on a tissue of lies, in large part to benefit Israel, which is what matters and why the enabling role of the neocons is important.
And one might reasonably argue that U.S. policy since that time has nearly always deferred to Israeli interests, most recently declaring its prime mission at the U.N. to be protecting Israel, then acting on that premise by forcing the resignation of a senior official who had prepared a report critical of Israel’s “apartheid” regime. I recognize that relatively few American Jews are neocons and that many American Jews are in the forefront in resistance to Israel’s inhumane policies, but the reality is that nearly all neocons are Jewish. And they are in your face every time you turn on the television or pick up a newspaper. Abrasive and abusive Professor Alan Dershowitz recently proclaimed that Jews should never apologize for Jewish power, saying that it is deserved and granted by God, but I for one think it is past time for a little pushback from the rest of us to make Washington protect American interests instead of those of Israel.
The neocon cult has been behind the promotion of Israel as well as the serial foreign policy misadventures since 2001. Do the names Perle, Feith, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Edelman, Ledeen, Senor, Libby and Nuland in and around the government as well as a host of others in think tanks and lobbies like AIPAC, AEI, WINEP, PNAC, FPI, FDD, JINSA and Hudson ring a bell? And do the loud voices in the media to include Judith Miller, Robert Kaplan, Charles Krauthammer, Jennifer Rubin, Fred Hiatt, Bret Stephens, Bill Kristol, the Kagans and the Podhoretzes, as well as the entire Washington Post and Wall Street Journal editorial pages, suggest any connivance?
They are all Jews and many are connected in terms of their careers, which were heavily networked from the inside to advance them up the ladder, often to include moving between government and lucrative think tank and academic positions. They mostly self-identify as neoconservatives and all share some significant traits, notably extreme dedication to Israel and embrace of the doctrine that the U.S. should not be shy about using military force, so it is interesting to learn from Williamson that they really do not constitute a cohesive group with shared values and interests as well as excellent access to the media and the levers of power. When did you last see an “expert” on the Middle East on television who was not Jewish?
Having made his pithy comments and dismissed neoconservatism-phobes as bigots, Williamson then wanders off subject into the Deep State, which, like neoconism apparently is some kind of urban legend being propagated by the poorly informed, whom these days he identifies as Trump supporters. He argues that the entities that are frequently cited as the Deep State, including the neocons, actually have quite divergent interests and it is unlikely that those interests should become “identical or aligned” to enable running of the country in an essentially clandestine fashion.
It is perhaps inevitable that Williamson is confused as he does not recognize how the American Deep State differs from that in most other countries – it is perhaps better described as the Establishment. Unlike in places like Turkey, it operates largely out in the open and ostensibly legally along a New York-Washington axis that constantly revitalizes itself through the revolving door allowing the entry of politicians and high government officials who create and enforce the legislation that benefits Deep State interests. Its components do indeed have different motives, but they come together in preserving the status quo, which benefits all parties, while little dissent comes from the Fourth Estate as the process plays out, since much of the media and many of the proliferating Washington think tanks that provide Deep State “intellectual” credibility are also part of the same malignancy. And yes, quite a bit of today’s Establishment is Jewish, most particularly financial and legal services, the think tanks, and academia. Many of them support or are part of the neocon persuasion and frequently also of the Israel Lobby.
The existence of a Deep State means that many issues that impact on the citizenry never are discussed as part of the political process, leading to jokes that the United States has only one political party with two wings. Issues like the relationship with Israel, though hotly debated by some of the public, are never really debated and are dealt with by consensus crafted by the politicians and the media. Significant policies like those relating to war and peace, healthcare and immigration were rarely seriously challenged prior to Trump because there is a broad agreement regarding what the Establishment will allow to take place. That is how the Deep State operates.
When it comes to foreign and national security policy the neocons are most definitely an integral part of the Deep State, using money and access to politicians to influence what is taking place without anyone seriously challenging their role. They are an essential cog in a system that is completely corrupt: it exists to sell out the public interest, and includes both major political parties as well as government officials. And it is so successful because it wins no matter who is in power, by creating bipartisan-supported money pits within the system. Monetizing the completely unnecessary and hideously expensive global war on terror benefits the senior government officials, beltway industries, and financial services that feed off it. Because it is essential to keep the money flowing, the Deep State persists in promoting policies that enrich its constituencies but otherwise make no sense, to include funding the unending and unwinnable wars currently enjoying marquee status in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and the gift of $38 billion to Israel.
Max Boot spews the kind of bile that is commonly seen or heard when the neocons zero in on their enemies. The National Review meanwhile provides cover for Max and others by suggesting that only anti-Semites or the demented could possibly have it in for neoconservatives or be wary of zany concepts like a Deep State. Together they generate the fog that makes it impossible to challenge certain aspects of the status quo. Maybe, just maybe, what Donald Trump has been saying about his predecessor’s Deep State inspired machinations are true. And just possibly there is a largely Jewish cabal within that Deep State, call it what you will, that works very hard behind the scenes to favor Israel while also pushing for a state of perpetual war, from which it benefits personally. I know that thinking that we Americans are on the receiving end of a vast and very effective conspiracy makes many uneasy, but history has taught us that sometimes our worst nightmares are actually true.
Everyone’s doing it
Those of us who voted for Donald Trump in hopes that he would turn out to be the peace candidate are facing disappointment. He has increased the already bloated military budget by $54 billion and has appointed an outspokenly anti-Russian and anti-Iranian active duty general as his National Security Advisor. A retired general with pretty much the same views heads the Pentagon. President Trump meanwhile vows to “extinguish” ISIS without presenting any plan regarding how exactly that might be accomplished.
The most important objective of all, resetting with Moscow to avoid World War 3, is in reverse gear, with the appointment of Fiona Hill, a critic of Vladimir Putin, as Russian specialist at the National Security Council. Meanwhile, our clueless United Nations Ambassador calls for Russia to withdraw from Crimea, where 58% of the population is Russian and only 24% is Ukrainian. Reports circulating in Washington suggest that the one phone call between Trump and Putin was a disaster, with the U.S. president demanding an end to the New START nuclear weapons reduction treaty, which the Kremlin wants to renew, before going off on a tangential monologue about his unexpected electoral victory.
In fact, even though the individual neocons have largely been outed from the foreign and security policy positions they once dominated it would not be completely inappropriate to suggest that their legacy of military interventionism lives on in terms of what the Trump administration has been so far promoting to keep America “safe.” Where all of this will go is anyone’s guess.
But if there is one constant in all of this it is the bright shining beacon of Israel, with Trump recently enthusing over the “unbreakable” bond between the two countries. One hopes that he misspoke and really meant “unbearable” or even “unspeakable” but it is clear from other indications that The Donald has succumbed to the inevitable Washington groupthink regarding America’s greatest ally and best friend in the whole wide world.
On Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss “trade and security issues” without anyone complaining that he was in violation of the Logan Act, which apparently only applies if you are talking to Russians. And a congressional delegation is in Israel right now studying the feasibility of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, which most foreign policy pundits consider to be a very bad idea. Meanwhile at the United Nations, the U.S. has blocked the appointment of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad as special representative to Libya. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley explained the veto, saying irrelevantly “For too long the U.N. has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel. The United States does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations.”
Ambassador Haley has also denounced the international body in general terms, stating that she was “underscore[ing] the ironclad support of the United States for Israel,” adding that “I am here to emphasize that United States is determined to stand up to the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias.” And if anyone failed to understand, on March 1st, U.S. envoy to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Erin Barclay told the group that it must drop its “obsession with Israel” or risk Washington withdrawing from the organization. The suggestion that the U.S. might consider departing came, incidentally, directly from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who proposed such action to Donald Trump to “delegitimize” the U.N. body.
It is ironic that in the midst of a media and congressional feeding frenzy on foreign interference in the U.S., the one country in the world that consistently leads Washington by the nose is immune from criticism. The subservient role dutifully played by every U.S. president since JFK when dealing with Tel Aviv has resulted in defining United States national interests in terms of Israeli perceptions. The real irony is that even though Trump is giving the Israelis everything they want and is bowing to the Israel Lobby and Jewish groups at every opportunity, it is still not enough. It is never enough. That is because the neoconservatives, who are mostly Jewish and themselves complete Israel-firsters, hate him, having overwhelmingly favored Hillary Clinton as president due to their conviction that she would be the more aggressive president. They now believe that if they succeed in forcing Trump’s resignation or impeachment they will return to power in whatever new government formulation is put in place, so they continue to pile on.
Israel’s friends characteristically either run or have the ear of the media and they are supported by a formidable Washington based lobbying machine to get their point across. Whenever anything happens in the Middle East or elsewhere that is related to Israel’s perceived interests the machine goes to work with multiple position papers presented to every congressional office the next morning by runners from AIPAC, AEI, FPI, WINEP, JINSA and FDD. No one else has the clout of the Israel Lobby.
And Trump is also being battered by Jewish interests coming from the political left. France’s greatest living poseur-hypocrite Bernard-Henri Levy, described as a “philosopher, filmmaker and activist,” has hammered Trump twice recently, first in The New York Times on January 19th. Levy, who has described the brutal Israel Defense Forces as “a democratic army, which asks itself so many moral questions” and who was a war-on-Libya cheerleader, warns that Trump is a threat to all American Jews. Why? Because even though he has showered benefits on Israel his love for the Jewish people is “insufficient.” Levy explains, “This love is precisely what is required of an American president in dealings affecting Israel.”
The reader might well be astonished by the chutzpah of Levy in demanding love on top of the $38 billion already in the pipeline and wonder even more why the New York Times would print such garbage. But the French whiz kid does not really explain his remark, instead going on to denounce the “betrayal” of Israel by President Barack Obama at the United Nations before explaining that as Trump is “deeply unpopular” it would not do for American Jews to embrace him closely even if it appears he is doing good things for Israel. And Levy provides “evidence” that Trump might not be what he seems, citing inter alia his speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in which he said he didn’t need their money. Levy sees this as a precursor to genuine, full blooded anti-Semitism, and speculates that Trump will take revenge against Jews to show “that he is indeed smarter than they are.” Why would he do that? Because he “respects only power, money and the perquisites of the palace.”
Levy’s second foray second foray, on CNN a month later, took Trump to task for his “incredible slip” on January 27th, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when he did not single out Jewish victims of Nazi crimes and instead cited all of those exterminated by the Germans. For Levy, Jewish deaths are intrinsically more memorable and valuable than those of others and the failure to grant them special status is a “tell-tale trope of Holocaust deniers” and a “hallmark of the new anti-Semitism.”
Bernard-Henri goes on to cite more evidence of Trump’s closet anti-Semitism, including the assertion that he has failed to address the reality of “Jewish children who go to school full of fear.” While it is possible to dismiss Levy as a completely self-serving bullshit artist who badly needs a haircut and a bath, he is far from alone. Also on the left there is the renowned Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University.
Dershowitz, threatening to leave the Democratic Party if it elected Keith Ellison chair of the party’s central committee, appeared frequently on television and in the print media claiming that Ellison was an enemy of Israel and of the Jewish people. The threat to leave the Democrats produced numerous jokes directed at the abrasive and unpopular lawyer somewhat akin to those crafted at the expense of the Hollywood celebrities who promised to leave the country if Donald Trump were elected president. Unfortunately, I have to note that neither Dershowitz nor Barbra Streisand has yet departed.
Ellison was the preferred candidate of the Bernie Sanders liberal wing of the party and initial opinion polls suggested that he would likely win the position. While Dershowitz’s bombast could be regarded with some amusement, there was another, darker side to the campaign to sideline Ellison, who is black, a Muslim and not openly hostile to the Palestinians. This last attribute inevitably made it possible to start a whispering campaign labeling him as anti-Semitic and a number of Jewish Democratic fundraisers, to include Israeli Haim Saban of Hillary Clinton fame, privately made it known that they would end their donations to the party if Ellison were elected. Barack Obama and the Clintons also piled on, even working the phones to stop Ellison.
When Ellison lost in a close result, Dershowitz announced that he would not be leaving the party after all because the result was a “victory in the war against bigotry, anti-Semitism, [and] the anti-Israel push of the hard left within the Democratic Party.” As evidence of Ellison’s anti-Israel sentiment Dershowitz cited the congressman’s vote against funding Iron Dome, which is the Israel missile defense system. “Can you imagine any reasonable person voting against a missile system designed to protect innocent civilians against terrorist rocket attacks?”
Indeed Dersh, but maybe the Israelis should be paying for it, not the American taxpayer, which is actually the crux of the matter. I for one am tired of the perpetual whining of Alan Dershowitz and international professional Jews like Bernard-Henri Levi, who is frequently in the U.S. doing richly rewarded speaking tours on the so-called “Synagogue circuit.” And someone should wake U.N Ambassador Nikki Haley up to the fact that her job is to take care of the American people, not Israel. Quite frankly, if these folks are so much in love with Israel they should go live there and leave the rest of us as well as the U.S. Treasury alone.
If we are heading into yet another round of Israel-centric foreign policy we will be inevitably involved in new wars, starting with Iran which has always been Netanyahu’s enemy of choice. And then there is Syria, where the Israelis would prefer a continuation of chaos, presumably carried out by Washington which can pay the bills and take the casualties. As Bernard-Henri Levy has made clear and the Talmud asserts, Jewish lives are more important than those of gentiles, so it is fit and proper that Americans should fight and die to make sure that Israel might prosper.
The controversy over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election shows no sign of letting up. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators recently introduced legislation that would impose sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its acts of “cyber intrusions.”
At a press event in Washington on Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, called Election Day 2016 “a day that will live in cyber infamy.” Previously, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, called the Russian hacks of the Democratic National Committee “an act of war,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, has claimed that there is near unanimity among senators regarding Russia’s culpability.
Despite all this, the question of who exactly is responsible for the providing WikiLeaks with the emails of high Democratic Party officials does not lend itself to easy answers. And yet, for months, despite the lack of publicly disclosed evidence, the media, like these senators, have been as one: Vladimir Putin’s Russia is responsible.
Interestingly, the same neoconservative/center-left alliance which endorsed George W. Bush’s case for war with Iraq is pretty much the same neoconservative/center-left alliance that is now, all these years later, braying for confrontation with Russia. It’s largely the same cast of characters reading from the Iraq-war era playbook.
It’s worth recalling Tony Judt’s observation in September 2006 that “those centrist voices that bayed most insistently for blood in the prelude to the Iraq war … are today the most confident when asserting their monopoly of insight into world affairs.”
While that was true then, it is perhaps even more so the case today.
The prevailing sentiment of the media establishment during the months prior to the disastrous March 2003 invasion of Iraq was that of certainty: George Tenet’s now infamous assurance to President Bush, that the case against Iraq was a “slam drunk,” was essentially what major newspapers and television news outlets were telling the American people at the time. Iraq posed a threat to “the homeland,” therefore Saddam “must go.”
The Bush administration, in a move equal parts cynical and clever, engaged in what we would today call a “disinformation” campaign against its own citizens by planting false stories abroad, safe in the knowledge that these stories would “bleed over” and be picked up by the American press.
WMD ‘Fake News’
The administration was able to launder what were essentially “fake news” stories, such as the aluminum tubes fabrication, by leaking to Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller of The New York Times. In September 2002, without an ounce of skepticism, Gordon and Miller regurgitated the claims of unnamed U.S. intelligence officials that Iraq “has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes … intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.” Gordon and Miller faithfully relayed “the intelligence agencies’ unanimous view that the type of tubes that Iraq has been seeking are used to make centrifuges.”
By 2002, no one had any right to be surprised by what Bush and Cheney were up to; since at least 1898 (when the U.S. declared war on Spain under the pretense of the fabricated Hearst battle cry “Remember the Maine!”) American governments have repeatedly lied in order to promote their agenda abroad. And in 2002-3, the media walked in lock step with yet another administration in pushing for an unnecessary and costly war.
Like The New York Times, The Washington Post also relentlessly pushed the administration’s case for war with Iraq. According to the journalist Greg Mitchell, “By the Post’s own admission, in the months before the war, it ran more than 140 stories on its front page promoting the war.” All this, while its editorial page assured readers that the evidence Colin Powell presented to the United Nations on Iraq’s WMD program was “irrefutable.” According to the Post, it would be “hard to imagine” how anyone could doubt the administration’s case.
But the Post was hardly alone in its enthusiasm for Bush’s war. Among the most prominent proponents of the Iraq war was The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who, a full year prior to the invasion, set out to link Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Writing for The New Yorker in March 2002, Goldberg retailed former CIA Director James Woolsey’s opinion that “It would be a real shame if the C.I.A.’s substantial institutional hostility to Iraqi democratic resistance groups was keeping it from learning about Saddam’s ties to Al Qaeda in northern Iraq.”
Indeed, according to Goldberg, “The possibility that Saddam could supply weapons of mass destruction to anti-American terror groups is a powerful argument among advocates of regime change,” while Saddam’s “record of support for terrorist organizations, and the cruelty of his regime make him a threat that reaches far beyond the citizens of Iraq.”
Writing in Slate in October 2002, Goldberg was of the opinion that “In five years . . . I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.”
Likewise, The New Republic’s Andrew Sullivan was certain that “we would find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I have no doubt about that.” Slate’s Jacob Weisberg supported the invasion because he thought Saddam Hussein had WMD and he “thought there was a strong chance he’d use them against the United States.”
Even after it was becoming clear that the war was a debacle, the neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer declared that the inability to find WMDs was “troubling” but “only because it means that the weapons remain unaccounted for and might be in the wrong hands. The idea that our inability to thus far find the weapons proves that the threat was phony and hyped is simply false.”
Opponents of the war were regularly accused of unpatriotic disloyalty. Writing in National Review, the neoconservative writer David Frum accused anti-intervention conservatives of going “far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies.” According to Frum, “They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies.”
Similarly, The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait castigated anti-war liberals for turning against Bush. “Have Bush haters lost their minds?” asked Chait. “Certainly some have. Antipathy to Bush has, for example, led many liberals not only to believe the costs of the Iraq war outweigh the benefits but to refuse to acknowledge any benefits at all.”
Yet of course we now know, thanks, in part, to a new book by former CIA analyst John Nixon, that everything the U.S. government thought it knew about Saddam Hussein was indeed wrong. Nixon, the CIA analyst who interrogated Hussein after his capture in December 2003, asks “Was Saddam worth removing from power?” “The answer,” says Nixon, “must be no. Saddam was busy writing novels in 2003. He was no longer running the government.”
It turns out that the skeptics were correct after all. And so the principal lesson the promoters of Bush and Cheney’s war of choice should have learned is that blind certainty is the enemy of fair inquiry and nuance. The hubris that many in the mainstream media displayed in marginalizing liberal and conservative anti-war voices was to come back to haunt them. But not, alas, for too long.
A Dangerous Replay?
Today something eerily similar to the pre-war debate over Iraq is taking place regarding the allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Assurances from the intelligence community and from anonymous Obama administration “senior officials” about the existence of evidence is being treated as, well, actual evidence.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told CNN that he is “100% certain” of the role that Russia played in U.S. election. The administration’s expressions of certainty are then uncritically echoed by the mainstream media. Skeptics are likewise written off, slandered as “Kremlin cheerleaders” or worse.
Unsurprisingly, The Washington Post is reviving its Bush-era role as principal publicist for the government’s case. Yet in its haste to do the government’s bidding, the Post has published two widely debunked stories relating to Russia (one on the scourge of Russian inspired “fake news”, the other on a non-existent Russian hack of a Vermont electric utility) onto which the paper has had to append “editor’s notes” to correct the original stories.
Yet, those misguided stories have not deterred the Post’s opinion page from being equally aggressive in its depiction of Russian malfeasance. In late December, the Post published an op-ed by Rep. Adam Schiff and former Rep. Jane Harmon claiming “Russia’s theft and strategic leaking of emails and documents from the Democratic Party and other officials present a challenge to the U.S. political system unlike anything we’ve experienced.”
On Dec. 30, the Post editorial board chastised President-elect Trump for seeming to dismiss “a brazen and unprecedented attempt by a hostile power to covertly sway the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.” The Post described Russia’s actions as a “cyber-Pearl Harbor.”
On Jan. 1, the neoconservative columnist Josh Rogin told readers that the recent announcement of sanctions against Russia “brought home a shocking realization that Russia is using hybrid warfare in an aggressive attempt to disrupt and undermine our democracy.”
Meanwhile, many of the same voices who were among the loudest cheerleaders for the war in Iraq have also been reprising their Bush-era roles in vouching for the solidity of the government’s case.
Jonathan Chait, now a columnist for New York magazine, is clearly convinced by what the government has thus far provided. “That Russia wanted Trump to win has been obvious for months,” writes Chait.
“Of course it all came from the Russians, I’m sure it’s all there in the intel,” Charles Krauthammer told Fox News on Jan. 2. Krauthammer is certain.
And Andrew Sullivan is certain as to the motive. “Trump and Putin’s bromance,” Sullivan told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Jan. 2, “has one goal this year: to destroy the European Union and to undermine democracy in Western Europe.”
David Frum, writing in The Atlantic, believes Trump “owes his office in considerable part to illegal clandestine activities in his favor conducted by a hostile, foreign spy service.”
Jacob Weisberg agrees, tweeting: “Russian covert action threw the election to Donald Trump. It’s that simple.” Back in 2008, Weisberg wrote that “the first thing I hope I’ve learned from this experience of being wrong about Iraq is to be less trusting of expert opinion and received wisdom.” So much for that.
Foreign Special Interests
Another, equally remarkable similarity to the period of 2002-3 is the role foreign lobbyists have played in helping to whip up a war fever. As readers will no doubt recall, Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, which served, in effect as an Iraqi government-in-exile, worked hand in hand with the Washington lobbying firm Black, Kelly, Scruggs & Healey (BKSH) to sell Bush’s war on television and on the op-ed pages of major American newspapers.
Chalabi was also a trusted source of Judy Miller of the Times, which, in an apology to its readers on May 26, 2004, wrote: “The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles. He became a favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles.” The pro-war lobbying of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has also been exhaustively documented.
Though we do not know how widespread the practice has been as of yet, something similar is taking place today. Articles calling for confrontation with Russia over its alleged “hybrid war” with the West are appearing with increasing regularity. Perhaps the most egregious example of this newly popular genre appeared on Jan. 1 in Politico magazine. That essay, which claims, among many other things, that “we’re in a war” with Russia comes courtesy of one Molly McKew.
McKew is seemingly qualified to make such a pronouncement because she, according to her bio on the Politico website, served as an “adviser to Georgian President Saakashvili’s government from 2009-2013, and to former Moldovan Prime Minister Filat in 2014-2015.” Seems reasonable enough. That is until one discovers that McKew is actually registered with the Department of Justice as a lobbyist for two anti-Russian political parties, Georgia’s UMN and Moldova’s PLDM.
Records show her work for the consulting firm Fianna Strategies frequently takes her to Capitol Hill to lobby U.S. Senate and Congressional staffers, as well as prominent U.S. journalists at The Washington Post and The New York Times, on behalf of her Georgian and Moldovan clients.
“The truth,” writes McKew, “is that fighting a new Cold War would be in America’s interest. Russia teaches us a very important lesson: losing an ideological war without a fight will ruin you as a nation. The fight is the American way.” Or, put another way: the truth is that fighting a new Cold War would be in McKew’s interest – but perhaps not America’s.
While you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage (or from reading deeply disingenuous pieces like McKew’s) as things now stand, the case against Russia is far from certain. New developments are emerging almost daily. One of the latest is a report from the cyber-engineering company Wordfence, which concluded that “The IP addresses that DHS [Department of Homeland Security] provided may have been used for an attack by a state actor like Russia. But they don’t appear to provide any association with Russia.”
Indeed, according to Wordfence, “The malware sample is old, widely used and appears to be Ukrainian. It has no apparent relationship with Russian intelligence and it would be an indicator of compromise for any website.”
On Jan. 4, BuzzFeed reported that, according to the DNC, the FBI never carried out a forensic examination on the email servers that were allegedly hacked by the Russian government. “The FBI,” said DNC spokesman Eric Walker, “never requested access to the DNC’s computer servers.”
What the agency did do was rely on the findings of a private-sector, third-party vendor that was brought in by the DNC after the initial hack was discovered. In May, the company, Crowdstrike, determined that the hack was the work of the Russians. As one unnamed intelligence official told BuzzFeed, “CrowdStrike is pretty good. There’s no reason to believe that anything that they have concluded is not accurate.”
Perhaps not. Yet Crowdstrike is hardly a disinterested party when it comes to Russia. Crowdstrike’s founder and chief technology officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, is also a senior fellow at the Washington think tank, The Atlantic Council, which has been at the forefront of escalating tensions with Russia.
As I reported in The Nation in early January, the connection between Alperovitch and the Atlantic Council is highly relevant given that the Atlantic Council is funded in part by the State Department, NATO, the governments of Latvia and Lithuania, the Ukrainian World Congress, and the Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk. In recent years, it has emerged as a leading voice calling for a new Cold War with Russia.
Time to Rethink the ‘Group Think’
And given the rather thin nature of the declassified evidence provided by the Obama administration, might it be time to consider an alternative theory of the case? William Binney, a 36-year veteran of the National Security Agency and the man responsible for creating many of its collection systems, thinks so. Binney believes that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked, writing that “it is puzzling why NSA cannot produce hard evidence implicating the Russian government and WikiLeaks. Unless we are dealing with a leak from an insider, not a hack.”
None of this is to say, of course, that Russia did not and could not have attempted to influence the U.S. presidential election. The intelligence community may have intercepted damning evidence of the Russian government’s culpability. The government’s hesitation to provide the public with more convincing evidence may stem from an understandable and wholly appropriate desire to protect the intelligence community’s sources and methods. But as it now stands the publicly available evidence is open to question.
But meanwhile the steady drumbeat of “blame Russia” is having an effect. According to a recent you.gov/Economist poll, 58 percent of Americans view Russia as “unfriendly/enemy” while also finding that 52 percent of Democrats believed Russia “tampered with vote tallies.”
With Congress back in session, Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain is set to hold a series of hearings focusing on Russian malfeasance, and the steady drip-drip-drip of allegations regarding Trump and Putin is only serving to box in the new President when it comes to pursuing a much-needed detente with Russia.
It also does not appear that a congressional inquiry will start from scratch and critically examine the evidence. On Friday, two senators – Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse – announced a Senate Judiciary subcommittee investigation into Russian interference in elections in the U.S. and elsewhere. But they already seemed to have made up their minds about the conclusion: “Our goal is simple,” the senators said in a joint statement “To the fullest extent possible we want to shine a light on Russian activities to undermine democracy.”
So, before the next round of Cold War posturing commences, now might be the time to stop, take a deep breath and ask: Could the rush into a new Cold War with Russia be as disastrous and consequential – if not more so – as was the rush to war with Iraq nearly 15 years ago? We may, unfortunately, find out.
James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s eastwestaccord.com. He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department.
Nobody wants them in Trump’s Washington
There is no limit to the hubris driven hypocrisy of America’s stalwart neoconservatives. A recent Washington Post front page article entitled “‘Never Trump’ national-security Republicans fear they have been blacklisted” shares with the reader the heartbreak of those so-called GOP foreign policy experts who have apparently been ignored by the presidential transition team seeking to staff senior positions in the new administration. Author David Nakamura describes them as “some of the biggest names in the Republican national security firmament, veterans of past GOP administration who say, if called upon by President-elect Donald Trump, they stand ready to serve their country again.”
“But,” Nakamura adds, “their phones aren’t ringing.” And I wept openly as he went on to describe how they sit forlorn in a “state of indefinite limbo” in their law firms, think tanks and university faculty lounges just thinking about all the great things they can do for their country. Yes, “serve their country,” indeed. Nothing personal in it for them. Nothing personal when they denounced Trump and called him incompetent, unqualified, a threat to the nation and even joined Democrats in labeling him a racist, misogynist, homophobe, Islamophobe and bigot. And they really got off when they explained in some detail how The Donald was a Russian agent. Nothing personal. It’s was only business. So let’s let bygones be bygones and, by the way, where are the jobs? Top level Pentagon or National Security Council only, if you please!
And yes, they did make a mistake about some things in Iraq, but it was Obama who screwed it up by not staying the course. And then there was Libya, the war still going on in Afghanistan, getting rid of Bashar and that funny business in Ukraine. It all could have gone better but, hey, if they had been fully in charge for the past eight years to back up the greatly loved Vicki Nuland at the State Department everything would be hunky dory.
Oh yeah, some of the more introspective neocons are guessing that the new president just might be holding a grudge about those two “Never Trump” letters that more than 200 of them eventually signed. Many now believe that they are on a blacklist. How unfair! To be sure, some of the language in the letters was a bit intemperate, including assertions about Trump’s personality, character and intelligence. One letter claimed that the GOP candidate “lacks self-control and acts impetuously,” that he “exhibits erratic behavior,” and that he is “fundamentally dishonest.” Mitt Romney, who did not sign the letters but was nevertheless extremely outspoken, referred to Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud.”
One of the first anti-Trump letter’s organizers, Professor Eliot Cohen described presidential candidate Trump as “a man utterly unfit for the position by temperament, values and policy preferences.” After the election, Cohen even continued his scathing attacks on the new president, writing that “The president-elect is surrounding himself with mediocrities whose chief qualifications seem to be unquestioning loyalty.” He goes on to describe them as “second-raters.”
Cohen, who reminds one of fellow Harvard bombast artist Alan Dershowitz, might consider himself as “first rate” but that is a judgment that surely might be challenged. He was a prominent cheerleader for the Iraq War and has been an advocate of overthrowing the Iranian government by force. He opposed the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense because Hagel had “made it clear that he [did] not want to engage in a confrontation with Iran.” Cohen, a notable Israel Firster in common with many of his neocon brethren, has aggressively condemned even well-reasoned criticism of the Israel Lobby and of Israel itself as anti-Semitism. Glenn Greenwald has described him as “extremist a neoconservative and warmonger as it gets.”
One has to wonder at the often-professed intelligence and experience of Cohen and his neocon friends if they couldn’t figure out in advance that backing the wrong horse in an election might well have consequences. And there is a certain cynicism intrinsic in the neoconservative whine. Many of the dissidents like Cohen, Robert Kagan, Max Boot, Eric Edelman, Kori Schake, Reuel Gerecht, Kenneth Adelman and Michael Morell who came out most enthusiastically for Hillary Clinton were undoubtedly trimming their sails to float effortlessly into her anticipated hawkish administration. Gerecht, who has advocated war in Syria, said of the Democratic candidate that “She’s not a neoconservative, but Hillary Clinton isn’t uncomfortable with American power.”
That the defeat of Hillary was also a defeat of the neoconservatives and their alphabet soup of institutes and think tanks is sometimes overlooked but was a delicious dish served cold for those of us who have been praying for such a result. It was well worth the endless tedium when watching Fox News on election night to see Bill Kristol’s face when it became clear that Trump would be victorious. Back to the drawing board, Bill!
And there may be yet another shocker in store for the neocons thanks to Trump. The fact that the new administration is drawing on the business world for staffing senior positions means that he has been less interested in hiring think tank and revolving door academic products to fill the government bureaucracies. This has led Josh Rogin of the Washington Post to warn that the death of think tanks as we know them could be on the horizon. He quotes one think-tanker as opining that “the people around Trump view think tanks as for sale for the highest bidder. They have empowered other centers of gravity for staffing this administration.” Rogin adds “If the Trump team succeeds in diminishing the influence of Washington think tanks and keeping their scholars out of government, policy-making will suffer. Many of these scholars hold the institutional knowledge and deep subject matter expertise the incoming administration needs.”
Rogin, who is himself a neocon who has been an associated “expert” with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) affiliated Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), is peddling bullshit. The record of the geniuses who have been guiding U.S. foreign policy ever since the Reagan Administration has not been exactly reassuring and can be considered downright disastrous if one considers Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Think tanks have agendas that in most cases actually work against the public interest. Their designation of staff as “scholars” is a contrivance as their scholarship consists of advocacy for specific causes and ideologies. They should be seen for what they are and what they are is not very pretty as they are into endless self-promotion. Fear mongering Danielle Pletka, who is vice president for foreign policy at the American Enterprise Institute, has supported every war coming out of the past two Administrations and has called repeatedly for more of the same to close the deal on Syria and Iran. Like Cohen, Rogin, Kagan, Gerecht and many other neocons she is both Jewish and an Israel Firster. And her annual salary is reported to be $275,000.
It is a pleasure to watch the think tanks begin thinking of their own demises. It is also intriguing to speculate that Trump with his populist message might just take it all one step farther and shut the door on the K Street lobbyists and other special interests, which have symbiotic relationships with the think tanks. The think tanks sit around and come up with formulations that benefit certain groups, individuals and corporate interests and then reap the rewards when the cash is handed out at the end of the year. How fantastic it would be to see lobbies and the parasites who work for them put out of business, particularly if our much beloved neoconservatives are simultaneously no longer calling the shots on national security policy and their think tanks are withering on the vine. What a wonderful world it would be.
With Donald Trump’s historic victory in the US Presidential Election this week it is appropriate to pause and take a moment to reflect about what the incoming President of the United States needs to do in order to Make American Great Again.
1) Trump has proposed restrictions on lobbyists acting for foreign governments and more specifically for former elected officials seeking or being offered employment by organizations such as these after leaving office.
He needs to implement and expand this restriction in order to curb the well-documented activities of the partisans of Israel as the principle abusers of the lobby system. To do this he needs to focus on the flow of capital between domestic jewish organizations (such as AIPAC, NORPAC, the Zionist Organization of America and the Anti-Defamation League), international Jewish organizations (such as Birthright Israel and the World Jewish Congress) and the Israeli government itself. In addition to requiring the Israel Lobby’s plethora of legal entities register as representatives of a foreign government (i.e. Israel) in compliance with current legislation.
This will help prevent the widespread abuse of the lobby and donor system by Israel’s partisans in the United States and abroad. In addition to making it difficult for Israel’s political agents to continue ring fence 3.8 billion of US taxpayer’s money to balance its own domestic budget deficit. (1)
2) Trump has stated that he intends to take China to task for its repeated violations of US intellectual property laws. This is laudable indeed, but Trump needs to expand this mandate to include other major violators of US intellectual property laws such as Israel. (2)
3) Trump has repeatedly affirmed that he intends to take a hatchet to all Free Trade Agreements that do not provide a net benefit to America. He has targeted NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) in particular, but he also needs to address ILFTA (the United States-Israel Free Trade Agreement) which has been running a deficit since it began in 1985. The latest figures available on the US trade deficit with Israel caused by ILFTA stand at $8 billion in goods and $466 million in services. (3)
4) Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to convene a special prosecutor to look into the charges that Hillary Clinton used an unsecured private email server to deal with official government business while she was Secretary of State in addition to her activities, along with her husband Bill, in regards to the Clinton Foundation.
He must do this, because if he does not then the neo-Conservatives – the avowed enemies of a foreign policy that puts America first in addition to being the strident partisans of Israel – will rally around Hillary and attempt to subvert Trump’s populist revolution for their own ends.
Further Trump must not limit the glaring light of judicial scrutiny to Hillary Clinton alone, but expand that focus across the whole pro-Hillary framework of think tanks, non-profits and media companies. Whose corruption and anti-American treason has been so decisively documented by the emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and published by Wikileaks.
5) Trump must distance himself from Israel and treat it as any other country with whom the United States has diplomatic relations. Unless he does so and stops treating Israel as a special case in terms of United States foreign policy. Then he will face difficult headwinds in his diplomatic relations within the Middle East and allow the Israel Lobby to rebuild its powerful grip on American foreign policy in the future.
None of these policy prescriptions are difficult to implement and indeed they come with a significant prize. Whether that be in diplomatic and moral capital, economic advantage and/or domestic security.
Without implementing these policies however Trump runs the very real risk that his populist revolution will be co-opted and infiltrated by the very establishment that he was elected into the highest political office to purge once and for all.
In short Donald Trump has to address the problem of Israeli power and influence in the United States in order to Make America Great Again.
It is that simple.
(2) Cf. Grant Smith, 2009, ‘Spy Trade: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy’, 1st Edition, Institute for Research: Middle East Policy: Washington D.C.
Photo by Jordi Bernabeu Farrús | CC By 2.0
Everyone claims to want to end the war in Syria and restore peace to the Middle East.
Well, almost everyone.
“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York told the New York Times in June 2013. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here.”
Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, stressed the same points in August 2016:
“The West should seek the further weakening of Islamic State, but not its destruction… Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys… Moreover, instability and crises sometimes contain portents of positive change… The American administration does not appear capable of recognizing the fact that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.”
Okay, not exactly everyone.
But surely the humanitarian website Avaaz wants to end the war and restore peace.
Or does it?
Avaaz is currently circulating a petition which has gathered over a million signatures and is aiming at a million and a half. It is likely to get them, with words like this:
“100 children have been killed in Aleppo since last Friday.
“Enough is enough!”
Avaaz goes on to declare: “There is no easy way to end this war, but there’s only one way to prevent this terror from the skies — people everywhere demanding a no-fly zone to protect civilians.”
No-fly zone? Doesn’t that sound familiar? That was the ploy that served to destroy Libya’s air defenses and opened the country to regime change in 2011. It was promoted zealously by Hillary Clinton, who is also on record as favoring the same gambit in Syria.
And when the West says “no-fly”, it means that some can fly and others cannot. With the no-fly zone in Libya, France, Britain and the United States flew all they wanted, killing countless civilians, destroying infrastructure and allowing Islamic rebels to help themselves to part of the country.
The Avaaz petition makes the same distinction. Some should fly and others should not.
“Let’s build a resounding global call to Obama and other leaders to stand up to Putin and Assad’s terror. This might be our last, best chance to help end this mass murder of defenseless children. Add your name.”
So it’s all about mass murder of defenseless children, and to stop it, we should call on the drone king, Obama, to end “terror from the skies”.
Not only Obama, but other “good” leaders, members of NATO:
“To President Obama, President Erdogan, President Hollande, PM May, and other world leaders: As citizens around the globe horrified by the slaughter of innocents in Syria, we call on you to enforce an air-exclusion zone in Northern Syria, including Aleppo, to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.”
The timing of this petition is eloquent. It comes exactly when the Syrian government is pushing to end the war by reconquering the eastern part of Aleppo. It is part of the massive current propaganda campaign to reduce public consciousness of the Syrian war to two factors: child victims and humanitarian aid.
In this view, the rebels disappear. So do all their foreign backers, the Saudi money, the Wahhabi fanatics, the ISIS recruits from all over the world, the U.S. arms and French support. The war is only about the strange whim of a “dictator”, who amuses himself by bombing helpless children and blocking humanitarian aid. This view reduces the five-year war in Syria to the situation as it was portrayed in Libya, to justify the no-fly zone: nothing but a wicked dictator bombing his own people.
For the public that likes to consume world events in fairy tale form, this all fits together. Sign a petition on your computer and save the children.
The Avaaz petition does not aim to end the war and restore peace. It clearly aims to obstruct the Syrian government offensive to retake Aleppo. The Syrian army has undergone heavy losses in five years of war, its potential recruits have in effect been invited to avoid dangerous military service by going to Germany. Syria needs air power to reduce its own casualties. The Avaaz petition calls for crippling the Syrian offensive and thus taking the side of the rebels.
Wait – but does that mean they want the rebels to win? Not exactly. The only rebels conceivably strong enough to win are ISIS. Nobody really wants that.
The plain fact is that to end this war, as to end most wars, one side has to come out on top. When it is clear who is the winning side, then there can be fruitful negotiations for things like amnesty. But this war cannot be “ended by negotiations”. That is an outcome that the United States might support only if Washington could use negotiations to impose its own puppets – pardon, pro-democracy exiles living in the West. But as things stand, they would be rejected as traitors by the majority of Syrians who support the government and as apostates by the rebels. So one side has to win to end this war. The least worst outcome would be that the Assad government defeats the rebels, in order to preserve the state. For that, the Syrian armed forces need to retake the eastern part of Aleppo occupied by rebels.
The job of Avaaz is to get public opinion to oppose this military operation, by portraying it as nothing but a joint Russian-Syrian effort to murder civilians, especially children. For that, they call for a NATO military operation to shoot down (that’s what “no-fly” means) Syrian and Russian planes offering air support to the Syrian army offensive.
Even such drastic measures do not aim to end the war. They mean weakening the winning side to prevent it from winning. To prolong a stalemate. It means – to use the absurd expression popular during the Bosnian war – creating an “even playing field”, as if war were a sports event. It means keeping the war going on and on until nothing is left of Syria, and what is left of the Syrian population fills up refugee camps in Europe.
As the New York Times reported from Jerusalem in September 2013, “The synergy between the Israeli and American positions, while not explicitly articulated by the leaders of either country, could be a critical source of support as Mr. Obama seeks Congressional approval for surgical strikes in Syria.” It added that “Israel’s national security concerns have broad, bipartisan support in Washington, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobby in Washington, weighed in Tuesday in support of Mr. Obama’s approach.” (This was when Obama was planning to “punish President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons without seeking to force him from power” – before Obama decided to join Russia in disarming the Syrian chemical arsenal instead, a decision for which he continues to be condemned by the pro-Israel lobby and the War Party.) AIPAC’s statement “said nothing, however, about the preferred outcome of the civil war…”
Indeed. As the 2013 report from Jerusalem continued, “as hopes have dimmed for the emergence of a moderate, secular rebel force that might forge democratic change and even constructive dialogue, with Israel, a third approach has gained traction: Let the bad guys burn themselves out. ‘The perpetuation of the conflict is absolutely serving Israel’s interest,’ said Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst for the International Crisis Group.”
The plain truth is that Syria is the victim of a long-planned Joint Criminal Enterprise to destroy the last independent secular Arab nationalist state in the Middle East, following the destruction of Iraq in 2003. While attributed to government repression of “peaceful protests” in 2011, the armed uprising had been planned for years and was supported by outside powers: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and France, among others. The French motives remain mysterious, unless linked to those of Israel, which sees the destruction of Syria as a means to weaken its arch rival in the region, Iran. Saudi Arabia has similar intentions to weaken Iran, but with religious motives. Turkey, the former imperial power in the region, has territorial and political ambitions of its own. Carving up Syria can satisfy all of them.
This blatant and perfectly open conspiracy to destroy Syria is a major international crime, and the above-mentioned States are co-conspirators. They are joined in this Joint Criminal Enterprise by ostensibly “humanitarian” organizations like Avaaz that spread war propaganda in the guise of protecting children. This works because most Americans just can’t believe that their government would do such things. Because normal ordinary people have good intentions and hate to see children killed, they imagine that their government must be the same. It is hard to overcome this comforting faith. It is more natural to believe that the criminals are wicked people in a country about which they really understand nothing.
There is no chance that this criminal enterprise will ever arouse the attention of the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, which like most major international organizations is totally under U.S. control. For example, the United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, who analyses and frames political issue for the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, is an American diplomat, Jeffrey Feltman, who was a key member of Hillary Clinton’s team when she was carrying out regime change in Libya. And accomplices in this criminal enterprise include all the pro-governmental “non-governmental” organizations such as Avaaz who push hypocrisy to new lengths by exploiting compassion for children in order to justify and perpetuate this major crime against humanity and against peace in the world.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org