… I reported yesterday on an investigation that has caught up Netanyahu, his son, Yair, possibly his wife, Sara, and his former chief of staff Ari Harow. …
Today, a Channel 2 news report snares a new player in the scandal, Shlomo Rechnitz. There’s a baseball saying: you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. As this criminal probe expands, I’ll try to keep the players clearly identified and offer some background.
Rechnitz comes from a wealthy, extended ultra-Orthodox family based in California. The scion of the family and Shlomo’s uncle, is Robert Rechnitz, a real estate investor who founded the Bomel Companies and an Israeli subsidiary, Bomel Israel. He has been vice chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition and founded a Congressional lobbying group on behalf of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system (or should I say, “racket system?) the Iron Dome Tribute. He even developed a branding slogan: “the Humane Defensive Weapon.” I always thought the words “humane” and “weapon” were oxymorons. But not in the topsy-turvy world that is pro-Israel advocacy.
I learned all this not from Wikipedia or Rechnitz’s corporate biography, but from the corporate PR firm Rechnitz hired to polish his image, the Friedlander Group. Unfortunately, he didn’t hire them to monitor the reputation of his children and close family members. Because now two of them are in very hot water.
His nephew, Shlomo owns the largest nursing home conglomerate in California: Brius Healthcare Services (brius is the Yiddish version of the word for “health”). The State of California has investigated his firm numerous times for violations of health regulations. He was the subject of a class-action suit. His Pasadena nursing care facility was accused of recruiting felons as patients. Several employees faced criminal charges from that escapade. He complained once to the Sacramento Bee that the charges against him made him out to be “the Charles Manson of the nursing home business.” I’m guessing no one from Friedlander was available to accompany him to this interview. That image really sticks in your mind.
Not to mention the time he announced that his employees, for whom he’d purchased 18,000 Powerball tickets, had won the Powerball jackpot. The NY Times even featured him in a major story. Well, it turns out it wasn’t true. It was all a hoax, supposedly perpetrated by the son of one of the “winning” employees.
Rechnitz is also reported to have bought the anti-Haredi blog, Failed Messiah, written for years by Shmaryahu Rosenberg. Rechnitz and many of his associates had been skewered in its posts for years. Though conditions of the sale were not made public, they apparently bar Rosenberg from creating a new blog; or at least one covering the same subject as his old one. That online property promptly disappeared from the internet. Clearly, the Haredi community had withstood the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune from Rosenberg’s pen for too long. The tycoon stepped in to end the attacks. Lately, a new iteration of the blog, Lost Messiah, was launched by readers of the old blog who wished to maintain the service it had done to the Orthodox community and the Jewish world.
Rechnitz appears to be playing a lead role in the Scandal of the Day as a major donor to Netanyahu and the Likud. His uncle, Robert, was the western chair of American Friends of the Likud, which would mean he both donated and raised massive sums from Orthodox Jews on behalf of the Israel far-right. As such, the elder Rechnitz would’ve worked closely with Ari Harow, the man in the spotlight of the current scandal. That’s how Shlomo would’ve come to the attention of the Israeli police investigating the money-laundering operation.
I haven’t dug deeply into the background of Victor Deutsch, Harow’s former business partner. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he too is Orthodox and perhaps a close friend of the Rechnitz family. If this guess turns out to be true, Deutsch would have excellent motive to benefit Harow and the Likud by the sort of fraudulent business transaction they’re accused of arranging, in selling the latter’s company for $3-million in largely unaccounted-for funds.
Another Rechnitz facing the glare of bad PR is Jona, Robert’s son and cousin to Shlomo. Jona attended Yeshiva University and was photographed during his student days visiting the Cave of the Patriarch, a venerated settler holy site where Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers.
Jona began his career in real estate working for Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel. Leviev, who began his own career as a blood diamond merchant to the stars, also maintains vast real estate holdings in the U.S., Britain and Israel. His company has also built Israeli settlements. Jona helped manage the Leviev real estate portfolio in New York until they had a falling out. After that, Rechnitz formed his own company, JSR Capital.
Jona and another wealthy Hasidic Jew have been swept up in the bribery and corruption scandal which has rocked the De Blasio administration in New York City. They did favors for the corrupt head of the city prison officers union, Norman Seabrook, and offered gifts and benefits to senior police officers in the precinct where they lived. Among the crooked deals was a $60,000 payment to Seabrook (paid in a $1,000 Ferragamo hand bag) in return for the union boss’ steering $20-million to a Rechnitz associate’s investment fund. Seabrook was miffed as he’d been told he could net $150,000 from the arrangement.
Among other favors were all-expenses paid gambling junkets to Las Vegas on a private jet. Another part of the entertainment provided was a prostitute dressed as a flight attendant whose “services” included far more than providing drinks and snacks.
Presumably, Rechnitz did this so he could gain favorable service response and attention from local police personnel in Brooklyn Orthodox neighborhoods. But he had even bigger ambitions, which led him and his associate to make six-figure donations to various DeBlasio political fundraising vehicles once he’d won the Democratic mayoral primary.
Jona lobbied the City Council and succeeded in gaining a $655,000 “discretionary” allocation to underwrite a “cultural sensitivity” police training seminar hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which was Rechnitz’ pet project. Presumably, part of the curriculum was learning sensitivity to the special interests of the Haredi community. You certainly won’t find any sensitivity to the Muslim community in this program.
All of this paints a portrait of a wealthy Haredi family parlaying money into political clout on a local, national and international scale. Unlike other American families in which wealth is wielded within discrete nuclear families, in the Haredi world extended families (clans) unite to pursue objectives that benefit both their families personally and their extended Orthodox communities. It’s certainly cleaner and less deadly than the old Italian mob. But as the Netanyahu investigation shows, it’s no less venal and corrupt.
An Israeli official says the details of an investigation into allegations of large-scale money laundering by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be made public soon.
The official, whose name was not mentioned in reports, said on Saturday that police believe that they have adequate evidence to make the probe public this week or early next week.
Some of the inquiry materials had originated in other, unrelated investigations, but they have now been linked to the money laundering case involving the Israeli prime minister.
The police and the attorney general’s office think it is untenable to keep the investigation secret anymore due to its sensitivity, he said, adding that a decision was made to make an official announcement about the case.
Police have so far prevented leaks to the media concerning the probe, but there were reports of people being summoned for questioning by the police’s anti-fraud unit.
Recently, Israeli media said the investigation against Netanyahu focuses on foreign funds he received after resuming office in 2009. The premier has dismissed the allegations.
Netanyahu is also implicated in a separate fraud case involving French tycoon Arnaud Mimran, who is said to have previously made unrelated donations to the Israeli premier.
Earlier this week, a French court convicted Mimran of fraud and sentenced him to eight years in prison and one million euros in fines in a 2008-2009 fraud case.
On Friday, Channel 10 reported that the latest police investigation into Netanyahu’s affairs involves suspicions of money laundering on a wide-scale.
The suspicion pertains to the alleged transfer of “large sums” to either Netanyahu or one of his family members and is not linked to campaign or political funding, it said.
The television said the investigation may require questioning abroad, but no investigators have yet been sent out of Israel.
A French court has sentenced to eight years in jail a tycoon, who previously made unrelated donations to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over a massive fraud scheme.
Arnaud Mimran was convicted of fraud on Thursday and sentenced to eight years in prison and one million-euro fine for the 2008-2009 fraud, which French authorities say resulted in a major tax shortfall.
Mimran has been on trial as a key suspect in a 283 million-euro scam in the trade and taxation of carbon emissions permits.
Half of the defendants were tried in absentia and one person was acquitted.
The tax scam case has been described as “the heist of a century” by French authorities.
During his trial, the French magnate also testified that on another occasion he had gave 1 million euros to Netanyahu’s election campaign.
Netanyahu’s office has denied any campaign payments and said the contribution was made in 2001 to a fund used while he held no office.
Mimran was convicted of tax offenses in France in the late 1990s as well.
Meanwhile, Israel’s police are reportedly probing whether the prime minister had received illegal contributions from foreign businessmen during his current tenure.
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, have become embroiled in a series of controversies about how their wealthy lifestyle is funded.
NAZARETH – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit Wednesday afternoon regarding the possible expulsion of Arab MK Hanin Zoabi from the Knesset.
Netanyahu’s demand came following Zoabi’s condemnation of the continued Israeli crimes against Palestinians and calls for lifting Gaza siege.
“With her actions and lies she crossed every line and she has no place in the Knesset,” Netanyahu claimed.
Earlier on Wednesday Zoabi caused an uproar on the Knesset floor when she strongly condemned the Israeli forces’ videotaped attack on Turkish activists who were killed during their participation in Freedom Flotilla in 2010. The murderer has to pay compensation for the families of Turkish victims, she said during a debate discussing the newly-signed deal between Israel and Turkey. Zoabi considered the deal as a “murder confession.”
Zoabi demanded the Israeli government issue an apology both to the “political activists” aboard the Mavi Marmara, on which she sailed in solidarity, and to herself, from those who “incited against [her] for six years.”
During the debate, Israeli MKs tried to physically attack Zoabi following her address. Several MKs began shouting and moved toward the podium to complain. “Come hit me! Come hit me!” Zoabi shouted to the MKs who were pointing and yelling at her.
As MKs mobbed the stage, Zoabi shouted “they murdered” and “shut up” repeatedly. When Deputy Knesset Speaker Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu) asked her to apologize, Zoabi said: “The Israeli soldiers who murdered are the ones who need to apologize! You need to apologize!”
The Joint List strongly denounced the attack, considering it a “fascist assault.” It added, “The racist and bloody attack against Joint List MKs has notably escalated, calling for an end to the continued incitement against Arab MKs and Hanan Zoabi in particular”.
In May 2010, a flotilla of six ships headed to Gaza but Israeli navy forces intercepted and boarded them and forced them to dock in Israel after brutally attacking the passengers. Nine of the Turkish activists were killed during the attack.
Zoabi’s comments came a day after Israel signed a deal with Turkey to restore ties, after years of frosty relations exacerbated by the flotilla attack. The deal stipulates that Israel would pay Turkey $20 million in compensation to families of the victims.
Israel, which is widely believed to possess hundreds of atomic bombs, says it is not yet ready to ratify a UN pact on banning nuclear tests adopted nearly 20 years ago.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Lassina Zerbo, the head of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) Organization, on Monday that Tel Aviv’s ratification of the pact is dependent on regional developments.
The treaty, which will ban all nuclear explosions, was signed in 1996, but will only go into effect when it has been ratified by all parties that possessed a nuclear reactor or some nuclear technology.
Israel is widely believed to have between 200 and 400 nuclear warheads, though it refuses to confirm or deny its existence under a policy of deliberate ambiguity.
The regime has also refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), denying international access to its atomic arsenal.
The issue of ratification “is dependent on the regional context and on the appropriate timing,” the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying.
In a familiar muddying of the waters, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent the past week talking up peace while fiercely criticising Friday’s summit in France – the only diplomatic initiative on the horizon.
As foreign ministers from 29 nations arrived for a one-day meeting in Paris, Netanyahu dusted off the tired argument that any sign of diplomatic support for Palestinians would encourage from them “extreme demands”.
France hopes the meeting will serve as a prelude to launching a peace process later in the year. French president Francois Hollande said he hoped to achieve a “peace [that] will be solid, sustainable and under international supervision”.
With astounding chutzpah, Israeli official Dore Gold compared the summit to the “height of colonialism” a century ago, when Britain and France carved up the Middle East between them. He conveniently overlooked the fact that it was the same British colonialism that promised a Jewish “homeland” in place of the native Palestinian population.
Earlier, Netanyahu and his new defence minister, the far-right Avigdor Lieberman, had publicly committed themselves to an “unceasing search for a path to peace”.
In a two-minute interview on CNN, spokesman David Keyes managed to mention the formula “two states for two peoples” no less than five times.
Rather than the French initiative, Netanyahu averred, Israelis and Palestinians should be left to engage in the kind of face-to-face talks “without preconditions” that have repeatedly failed. That is because Israel, as the much stronger party, has been able to void them by imposing its own conditions.
Netanyahu, it seems, is keen on any peace process, just so long as it’s not the current one launched in Paris.
Part of the reason for bringing Lieberman into the government was to provide more diplomatic wriggle room. With Lieberman cementing Netanyahu’s credentials with the far-right, he is now free to spout vague platitudes about peace knowing that his coalition partners are unlikely to take him at his word and bolt the government.
But while the domestic front has been secured, rumbles of dissent reverberate abroad.
Europe is increasingly fearful that an emboldened Israeli government may soon annex all or major parts of the West Bank, stymying any hope of creating even a severely truncated Palestinian state.
The Paris conference is a sign of the mounting desperation in Europe to restrain Israel.
While France is not about to engineer a breakthrough, Netanyahu is nonetheless worried.
It is the first time Israel has faced being dragged into talks not presided over by its Washington patron. That risks setting a dangerous precedent.
Although US secretary of state John Kerry attended, he was decidedly cool towards the summit. Yet Netanyahu worries that this time Washington may not be able – or willing – to watch his back.
If the conference leads to talks later in the year, that will be when Barack Obama is preparing to bow out as president. Netanyahu is afraid of surprises. Israeli officials have been in near-panic that Obama may seek payback for the years of humiliation he endured from Netanyahu.
One way might be for Washington to agree to French oversight of the talks, following a tight timetable and establishing diplomatic “teams” to solve final-status issues.
Even if negotiations fail, as seems inevitable, parameters for future talks might be established.
Netanyahu also knows that the wider atmosphere is likely to leave him singled out as the intransigent party.
A report by the Quartet, due soon, is expected to criticise Israel for its past failure to take steps towards peace. And a report last week by a joint team of US and Israeli defence experts suggested Israel’s “security concerns” about Palestinian statehood are not as intractable as claimed.
Netanyahu wants instead to deflect attention to a “regional peace summit”. The key has been Egypt’s support for a revival of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the Arab Peace Plan of 2002. It promised Israel normal relations with the Arab world in return for ending the occupation.
Israel’s sudden interest in the plan is odd, given that it has not been discussed in cabinet since the Saudis unveiled it 14 years ago.
In truth, Netanyahu backs the idea because he knows reaching a region-wide agreement would be impossible with the Middle East in turmoil.
israeli officials have already insisted that parts of the 2002 plan need “updating”. Israel, for example, wants sovereignty over the Golan, Syrian territory it seized in 1967, and which currently promises newfound oil riches.
At the summit, the Saudi foreign minister said Israeli efforts to “water down” the plan would be opposed. Egyptian officials have hurried to distance themselves from the Netanyahu proposal and throw their weight behind the Paris process.
Still, Israel will try to ride out the French initiative until Obama’s successor is installed next year. Then, Netanyahu hopes, he can forget about the threat of two states once and for all.
Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).
Hardline Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman has reportedly accepted an offer by embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be the minister of military affairs.
Israeli sources said Lieberman accepted the post after Netanyahu agreed to his demands during a Wednesday afternoon meeting that lasted less than an hour.
The decision came after Netanyahu summoned current minister of military affairs Moshe Ya’alon and reportedly upbraided him for supporting an analogy between Israel’s situation and Nazi Germany.
Lieberman, who heads the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party and previously served twice as foreign minister, convened a press conference earlier in the day to talk about his demands.
Among his priorities was introducing the death penalty for the Palestinians who are accused of carrying out attacks against Israelis.
“If it is true that we are being offered the defense portfolio, pension reforms and the death penalty bill, that is a respectful offer, it is serious, there is what to talk about,” Lieberman said.
“The offers must be official and on the table, without mediators and with full transparency. The prime minister has my phone number,” he added.
Lieberman has on many occasions drawn headlines by questioning the loyalty of Arab minorities in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands to the Tel Aviv regime.
He has also called on the Israeli regime to treat Palestinian resistance movement Hamas the same way as the United States treated “the Japanese in World War II.”
The notorious politician has also openly supported a soldier charged with murder for shooting dead an injured Palestinian.
Netanyahu’s ruling coalition has a shaky majority of one in the 120-member Israeli Knesset, making his administration vulnerable to any falling-out among his political allies.
His offer to far-right Lieberman has been interpreted as an attempt to add Yisrael Beitenu party, which has six Knesset seats, to the ruling coalition.
Ya’alon has been at loggerheads with Netanyahu ever since he said senior military officers should “speak their mind,” in apparent defense of earlier comments by Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Yair Golan.
Golan had stirred an uproar earlier this month by saying he was concerned by some of the extremist voices within the Israeli reigme, likening it to Germany under Nazi rule.
Golan, then the commander of the West Bank military division, purportedly said, “It is unimaginable that in an effort to ensure our soldiers’ safety, we can destroy whole apartment buildings.”
“Killing women, children, uninvolved civilians. Unacceptable. The use of force in civilian areas must always be kept under control, and restricted to the minimum necessary,” he was heard saying.
He was apparently referring to the Israeli practice of demolishing the houses of Palestinians suspected of involvement in attacks against Israelis. The destruction of the houses just displaces the families, including women and children, who live there and who have no links to the alleged attacks.
Following Golan’s remarks, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement, saying he “remains firm in his conviction that the comparison that was made to Nazi Germany was inappropriate and damaged Israel in the international arena.”
Netanyahu summoned Ya’alon late on Sunday, reportedly to reprimand him for his remarks in defense of Golan.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have reportedly adopted a “shoot-to-kill” policy during clashes with Palestinians.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed since last October, during heightened tensions over Israel’s move to deny Palestinians entry into the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Dozens died by a single shot to the head or chest, a clear indication of the shoot-to-kill policy.
The official brutalities against Palestinians, including the demolitions, have also emboldened extremist Israeli settlers to conduct attacks of their own against Palestinian families. One arson attack by Israeli extremists against a Palestinian house in August 2015 led to the killing of the entire family living there, including an 18-month-old boy.
In another testimony to the Israeli policy of allowing killings, a court ruled on Tuesday to have the chief arsonist in the August 2015 attack released.
Hardly a day goes by without Israel accusing Palestinian leaders of incitement against the state and its citizens. They argue that such incitement was one of the triggers for the seven-month long uprising which has seen forty Israelis killed by Palestinians, mostly in knife attacks, and over two hundred Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces, many executed while posing no threat to anyone. Such accusations of Palestinian incitement extend all the way up to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He admitted recently that there is some incitement from the Palestinian side in his interview with Israeli Channel 2 TV. On other occasions, Saeb Erekat, General Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and its chief negotiator has also accepted that there is some incitement from the Palestinians.
Incitement as far as Israel is concerned covers a wide spectrum, from calling those killed by Israel “martyrs” to objecting to repeated incursions by Jewish settlers into Al-Aqsa Mosque, and including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign; seeking membership in international organisations such as the International Criminal Court; calling Israel out as an apartheid state; describing the horrific impact of the occupation to the UN General Assembly; and even reminiscing about the towns and villages (most of which have been wiped off the map by Israel) from where Palestinian refugees come and to which they long to return.
Israel has worked tirelessly to convince the so called “international community” to accept its definition of “terrorism” and make it cover any form of resistance that is quite legitimate, including throwing stones. Even attacks against Israeli soldiers maintaining an illegal occupation in Palestine are deemed to be “terrorism”. The international community now works according to Israel’s definitions and narrative and seems to require the victims, the occupied people, to be exemplary and simply curse their predicament but do nothing about it. How many victims of an acknowledged crime are required to protect the criminals? The Palestinians under Israeli occupation are.
The situation is the same across the Atlantic. US presidential candidates making their obligatory, embarrassing pilgrimage to the main pro-Israel lobby group conference, AIPAC, earlier this month joined in this nauseating spectacle of dancing to Israel’s tune. Their words were carbon copies of what an Israeli spokesman would say. They accused the Palestinians of raising their children to hate and of loving death more than life. Both are inaccurate and very racist accusations designed to pander to the lobby. Only Bernie Sanders skipped this festival of anti-Palestinian hatred and then took Clinton to task for barely mentioning the Palestinians in a recent debate between the two Democrat front-runners for the White House.
While Palestinians can understand why Israel trivialises the impact that the loss of their homeland in 1948 (the Nakba) and the occupation of the remaining 22 per cent in 1967 (they Naksa) have had on them, they cannot fathom how and why supposedly intelligent people like the presidential candidates can be so insensitive to this. The fact that they see the Palestinians as the villains and their Israeli colonisers and occupiers as the victims is like being stabbed in the heart. To call on them to submit to Israel’s brutal occupation is in itself a form of incitement.
If the Palestinians are guilty of incitement, then what does Israel’s 24/7 occupation amount to? What the Palestinians can do pales into insignificance when compared to Israel’s deliberate daily provocation and humiliation of subjugated people in the hope of a reaction, to which the so-called Israel Defence Forces (IDF) can “respond”. This provocation – and provocation is not a strong enough word to convey the impact it has — is the most significant incitement of young Palestinians to take matters into their own hands. If those calling on them not to react could put themselves in their position for even one day and be on the receiving end of what it is like to live under occupation, I am confident that they would understand why they might be driven to violence.
The list of examples of incitement by Israel is long.
When Zionists claim that historic Palestine belongs to the Jews and use this to argue not only that modern day European Jews with no connection to the land have a “right to return” but also deny the same right to Palestinian refugees driven out of their homes and land in 1948 by Jewish terror groups, that is incitement by Israel.
When Palestinian children are abducted in the night by the army of an occupying power; denied legal rights including representation; shackled when brought to court; and made to sign confessions in Hebrew, that is incitement by Israel.
When an Israeli armoured bulldozer accompanied by dozens of soldiers arrives and demolishes a Palestinian home in occupied East Jerusalem under the pretence of the lack of a building permit, then that is also incitement by Israel.
When illegal Jewish settlers protected by the security forces throw a family out of their home in Sheikh Jarrah, and move into it themselves, that is incitement by Israel.
When Israeli settlers break into the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the security forces and claim that the mosque site is theirs, then that is incitement by Israel.
When Muslims are barred from reaching their holiest mosque in Palestine at the whim of the Israeli security forces, then that is incitement by Israel.
When homes are built for Jewish Israelis on Palestinian land and the owner’s movement is restricted to allow them freedom of movement, then that is incitement by Israel.
When the IDF fires tear gas canisters into Palestinian schools causing the children to suffocate or faint, then that is incitement by Israel.
When the occupying state takes over the main mosque in Hebron and divides it between Jews and Muslims, and determines when Palestinians can and cannot pray in it, then that is incitement by Israel.
When the occupation authority builds roads which encroach on Palestinian land for use by Jewish settlers only, then that is incitement by Israel.
When Jewish settlers terrorise the local population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and even murder Palestinians such as Mohammed Abu Khdair and the Dawabshe family under the protection of the IDF, then that is incitement by Israel.
When Israel lays siege to 1.8 million human beings in the Gaza Strip for ten years with no prospect of the blockade ending, then that is incitement.
When the occupiers use the most powerful and devastating weapons on earth, save for nuclear weapons, to kill and maim in war after war against the Palestinians in Gaza, then that is incitement by Israel.
As far back as 2006, PLO Secretary General Dr Erekat said, “The Israeli ministry of defence is telling its citizens to carry weapons when trailing in the occupied West Bank near Palestinian villages.” This, he added, is an outrageous case of incitement to violence against Palestinians that reflects Israel’s official policy and mindset. “It should be of grave concern to the international community.”
Israeli incitement goes right to the top. In the 2015 general election campaign Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu incited the Jewish population against Israel’s Palestinian citizens when he said, “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves” as if they were a swarm of cockroaches. He was also accused of incitement by Palestinian citizens when he promised Israeli Jews, “We will dramatically increase law enforcement services in the Arab sector.” Netanyahu told the press at the site of a shooting that Israel “will open new police stations, recruit more police officers, [and] go into all the towns and demand of everyone loyalty to the laws of the state.” Israeli lawmaker Miri Regev incited against African refugees claiming, “Heaven forbid [that] we compare Africans to human beings.”
At a recent conference to counter the BDS movement, an Israeli minister called for the “civil targeted killing” of BDS leaders like Omar Barghouti. Even foreign political figures have been the subject of incitement as Saeb Erekat has noted. He strongly condemned the hateful Israeli campaign against Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom following her legitimate calls for an investigation into Israel’s extrajudicial killing of Palestinian civilians.
Those searching for a peaceful resolution to the injustice affecting Palestinian must recognise Israeli provocations and incitement as serious contributing factors to the violence. They cannot expect the occupied Palestinians, victims of Israel’s colonisation project, to turn the other cheek when slapped. That cheek is badly bruised and cannot take any more humiliation, provocation and, yes, incitement by Israel.
Dan Illouz is an Israeli lawyer and a former legal adviser to both the Knesset’s leadership coalition and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He is also a big fan of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On April 13, he wrote an opinion piece for the Jerusalem Post entitled, “A Fresh Perspective: Understanding Netanyahu’s Mind.”
Among the many synonyms of “fresh” offered by your average on-line dictionary are “unusual” and “undeveloped.” Though Illouz would certainly not agree that these terms fit his effort to explain the Prime Minister’s consciousness, it turns out that they actually do.
For instance, there is his unusual claim that “Netanyahu is one of the deepest thinkers among world leaders.” At the same time Illouz emphasizes that Netanyahu comes from a “very ideological” background bequeathed to him by both his Revisionist Zionist father, Benzion Netanyahu, and the American neoconservative worldview. As we will see, both outlooks are undeveloped one-dimensional frames of reference.
It is true that our perceptions reflect a worldview structured by the aspects of family and society we choose to embrace, or rebel against. It could go either way. According to Illouz, Netanyahu has embraced the restricted worldview of a brand of Zionism that teaches that, if the Jews are to survive in the modern world, they must be militarily all powerful and remain unmoved by any and all calls for compromise with alleged enemies.
Also, according to Illouz, Netanyahu sees the world through the myopic lens of the American neoconservative movement, which preaches that both the United States and Israel are allies in a never-ending battle of good against evil. The unalterable consequences of compromise in such a struggle have been taught to us by the history of the 1938 Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler. All such compromises in this imagined struggle must end up in catastrophe, especially for the Jews.
The conclusions Illouz draws from this description of Netanyahu’s mindset are, to say the least, baffling. Not in the sense that Netanyahu is cemented into a worldview that itself is modeled on a narrow slice of history. This indeed seems to accurately describe him. But rather in the claim that by seeing the world this way, the Israeli prime minister shows himself to be a “deep thinker.”
What does it mean to be a “deep thinker”? It should entail some capacity to break free of the structural framework or the worldview we start out with. For example, a degree of independent thought that allows us to discern when the past serves as a useful guide to the present and when it does not. This all adds up to an ability to be original – to understand present circumstances in novel ways that lead to breakthrough solutions to problems, be they political, social or scientific.
That is what it takes to think deeply. Does Benjamin Netanyahu qualify? No, he does not. He is no more a “deep thinker” than George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or John Bolton. Then why does Illouz say he does qualify? Because this Israeli lawyer, who is himself no “deep thinker,” mixes up profundity of thought with a skewed notion of “prudence” – which, in this case, he interprets as a “reluctance to embrace a utopian view of the world that progressives push forward.”
Examples of such “utopian views” are peace agreements such as the Iran accord, and the notion of “unilateral withdrawals.” In other words, Benjamin Netanyahu is a “deep thinker” because, in the name of “prudence,” he shuts down all consideration of diplomatic compromise. For Illouz that also makes him one of the world’s leading “realists.”
In truth, Illouz’s assessment of his Prime Minister’s mind is itself a product of the same narrow, static worldview shared by neoconservatives and Likudniks alike. For instance, according to Illouz, Netanyahu’s refusal to withdraw from the Occupied Territories (O.T.) is stark realism motivated by a desire to “stop history from taking a wrong turn” – as it did in 1938.
The comparison of the Palestinian desire for an independent state in the O.T. and the Munich agreement of 1938 is so patently inane that I won’t waste words on it. But Israel’s absorption of the territories can be judged as the very opposite of realism – it is a utopian (actually dystopian) scheme that is in the process of doing untold damage to both Jews and Palestinians while isolating Israel from the rest of the world.
There is a contradiction between profundity of thought and the ideologically determined worldview. To be in a position to achieve the former, one must, at the very least, eschew the dogmatic aspects of the latter. Neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor Dan Illouz are capable of doing this.
Analyzing Illouz’s presentation is not hard. His mistaken take on “deep thinking,” the lessons of history, the notions of realism and utopianism are quite obvious. This being the case one might ask why the editors at the Jerusalem Post thought it proper to print such balderdash? Perhaps because they too see the world in the same one-dimensional fashion.
If we are to believe the reports coming out of Israel, the Jewish majority there is undergoing an unchecked withdrawal into itself. The “us against the world” attitude that has always characterized some of world Jewry has now taken command in Israel. And, except for a small portion of the population that has managed to break free of this warped worldview (and as a consequence is being labeled as traitors), the mass of Israeli Jews are following their Pied Piper leaders into dangerous isolation.
This state of detachment has led to a series of policy decisions that are anything but realistic. The continuing expansion of illegal settlements and destruction of Palestinian houses, the resulting ethnic cleansing, the utter barbarism of Israeli policy toward Gaza, and the labeling as terrorist behavior all reactions against these policies, mark an official, and internally popular, worldview that is increasing detached from reality.
Dan Illouz’s piece in the Jerusalem Post is a clumsy effort to rationalize this way of thinking and seeing.
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conducted a cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights for the first time in history, in order to stress that the region had been “captured from Syria almost a half of century ago” and that it has been Israeli territory ever since, calling on the international community to recognize this fact.
According to the draft resolution on Syria, which has been endorsed by US, Russia and other states, the Golan Heights were unlawfully captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and must be returned to Syria.
Benjamin Netanyahu promised not to oppose the resolution of the ongoing crisis in the neighboring country, provided that the Syrian peace process doesn’t impinge on Israeli security.
“I made a decision to hold a Cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights, to convey a clear message: the Golan Heights will remain in Israeli hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan,” said Netanyahu. This can be regarded as a symbolic gesture reflecting Israel’s adamant determination not to abandon the Golan Heights.
When Syria gained independence from French rule in 1944, the Golan Heights became part of the country and was later incorporated into Quneitra Province. Most of the province was conquered by Israel in 1967 and 1973, which conducted a policy of ethnic cleansing, forcing over 130,000 people to flee their homes.
Once again the AIPAC annual pantomime in Washington DC has played itself out while the world outside watches aghast at the gullibility of America’s political elite. And how they flocked to hear the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech.
Whatever happened to the Un-American Activities Committee set up to investigate disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens and public employees, one wonders?
“The terrorists have no resolvable grievances. It’s not as if we could offer them Brussels or Istanbul, or California or even the West Bank,” said Netanyahu. “That won’t satisfy their grievances because what they seek is our utter destruction and their total domination. Their basic demand is that we should simply disappear.”
Funny, the Israelis have been working for nearly 70 years to make the Palestinians disappear. Domination is their specialty.
“The only way to defeat these terrorists is to join together and fight them together… with political unity and with moral clarity. I think we have that in abundance….” Achingly funny.
“The chain of attacks from Paris to San Bernardino to Istanbul to the Ivory Coast and now to Brussels, and the daily attacks to Israel… This is one continuous assault on all of us.” No it isn’t.
And who is this “we”? It’s Netanyahu’s endless attempt to push the old ‘hasbara’ line to make us think we’re all in it together.
A few years back ‘The Israel Project’, a US media advocacy group, produced a revised training manual to help the worldwide Zionist movement win the propaganda war, keep their ill-gotten territorial gains in Palestine and persuade international audiences to accept that their crimes are necessary and conform to “shared values” between Israel and the civilised West.
- “Draw direct parallels between Israel and America—including the need to defend against terrorism…. The more you focus on the similarities between Israel and America, the more likely you are to win the support of those who are neutral. Indeed, Israel is an important American ally in the war against terrorism, and faces many of the same challenges as America in protecting their citizens.”
Note how Israel’s strategy is almost totally dependent on the false idea that they are victims of terror and western nations need to huddle together with Israel for mutual protection.
- “The language of Israel is the language of America: ‘democracy,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘security,’ and ‘peace.’ These four words are at the core of the American political, economic, social, and cultural systems, and they should be repeated as often as possible because they resonate with virtually every American.”
If so fluent in this language, why won’t Israel acknowledge their neighbours’ rights to democracy, freedom, security and peace and end their military oppression? Level-headed people have begun to realize who the terrorists really are. And it is obvious by now that allowing parallels to be drawn between Israel and America only serves to increase the world’s hatred of America.
- “A simple rule of thumb is that once you get to the point of repeating the same message over and over again so many times that you think you might get sick — that is just about the time the public will wake up and say ‘Hey, this person just might be saying something interesting to me!’ But don’t confuse messages with facts…”
The only people who are interested these days are the ‘Friends’ and the other assorted stooges in thrall to the Israelis and the politicians they have bribed.
- “Successful communications is not about being able to recite every fact from the long history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is about pointing out a few core principles of shared values—such as democracy and freedom—and repeating them over and over again…. You need to start with empathy for both sides, remind youie, on average, ten times to be effective.”
Is democracy a shared value? Around Western nations, maybe. But Israel is an ethnocracy and a rather nasty one. Is freedom a shared value? The world is still waiting for Israel to allow the Palestinians their freedom after decades of brutal military occupation.
As La Clinton and others perform their obscene ritual acts of obeisance let us ponder what being a Friend of Israel really entails. It means aligning yourself with the vilest villainy. It means embracing the terror and ethnic cleansing on which the state of Israel was built.
It means embracing the dispossession at gunpoint and oppression of the native Palestinians. It means embracing the discriminatory laws against those who remain.
It means embracing the jackboot thuggery that abducts civilians, including children, and imprisons and tortures them without trial.
It means embracing the theft and annexation of Palestinian land and water resources, the imposition of hundreds of military checkpoints, severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods, and maximum interference with Palestinian life at every level.
It means embracing the strangulation of the West Bank’s economy and the cruel blockade on Gaza.
It means embracing the denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination and return to their homes.
It means embracing the religious war that humiliates Muslims and Christians and prevents them from visiting their holy places.
It means endorsing a situation in which hard-pressed British and American taxpayers are having to subsidise Israel’s illegal occupation of the Holy Land.
And if, after the most recent bloodbaths inflicted by the Israelis on Gaza, you are still Israel’s special friend, you are comfortable with blowing to smithereens hundreds of children, maiming thousands more, trashing vital infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, power plants and clean water supplies, and causing $6billion of devastation that will take 20 years to rebuild. And, by the way, where is the money for that coming from?
By then you should consider how you no longer qualify for membership of the human race.
BETHLEHEM – Israel’s Knesset on Monday night passed the first reading of a bill that would allow MKs to expel lawmakers, in what has been roundly condemned as a political campaign launched against the parliament’s Palestinian members.
The law could see lawmakers suspended from their duties if voted for by 90 MKs — three-quarters of Israel’s lawmakers — for behavior deemed inappropriate.
The bill — an amendment to an existing law — could see an MK suspended for “negating” the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incitement to racism, or supporting an armed struggle against Israel, according to the Association for Civil Rights (ACRI) in Israel.
It stipulates that grounds for suspension can be proved solely by a statement provided by MKs, the group said.
A draft of the bill was submitted and approved upon the urging of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who last month called for the suspension of three Palestinian MKs when they visited the families of Palestinians killed while allegedly carrying out attacks on Israelis.
The three MKs — all members of the Joint Arab List, which represents Palestinians with Israeli citizenship — were later suspended by the Knesset’s Ethics Committee.
During Monday’s Knesset meeting, the Joint List slammed the bill as “racist and unconstitutional.”
“The suspension law has only one aim, to strike against the political existence of Palestinians in Israel,” the coalition of four Palestinian parties said in a statement following Monday’s vote.
It condemned the bill as a “continuation of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians” by Israel, which it said was carried out through incitement and threats.
“What Netanyahu does not understand is that just as ethnic cleansing failed to strain our (Palestinian) existence, political cleansing will not succeed in stopping our political movement and resistance,” the Joint List went on.
“We reject that a radical and racist occupation government draws limits on our political capability by setting conditions on our parliamentary membership,” the group added.
Ahead of Monday’s meeting, Joint List head Ayman Odeh warned last month that he and other Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset may resign if the bill was passed.
The first reading was passed despite efforts by ACRI to urge MKs to vote against the bill, saying that “freedom of expression is expressed precisely through respecting and being inclusive of positions that are considered extreme.”
“This law is being promoted to harm the Arab MKs, whose statements and actions do not find favor with the political majority,” ACRI said.
Netanyahu’s championing of the bill has exacerbated longstanding frustrations from members of the Joint List who say they have faced staunch resistance from the Israeli government since they came together.
The coalition was formed ahead of the last round of Israeli elections to fight for the rights of Israel’s Palestinian minority, which rights groups say has faced systematic discrimination for decades.