The American Studies Association, a 60-year old US academic organization with 5,000 members, passed a resolution on Wednesday committing to the boycott movement against Israel.
Citing its commitment to “the pursuit of social justice” and to “the struggle against all forms of racism,” the ASA revealed in a statement published on its website that it had voted to support the academic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
“The American Studies Association endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” the statement read.
“The ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.”
ASA noted the “significant role” played by the United States “in enabling the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements and the [apartheid] Wall in violation of international law, as well as in supporting the systematic discrimination against Palestinians, which has had documented devastating impact on the overall well-being, the exercise of political and human rights, the freedom of movement, and the educational opportunities of Palestinians.”
The BDS movement has gained traction over the past years, as a growing number of scholars and academic entities have committed to the cause.
More than 950 scholars working in American institutions have endorsed the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
The Association for Asian American Studies became the first US academic organization to officially support the boycott movement in April.
In May, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking withdrew from an Israeli conference, citing his decision to respect the Israel boycott.
President Obama’s actions are unlikely to stray outside the parameters the Israel lobby is willing to accept. But there is a growing movement that is challenging the lobby’s stronghold on U.S. politics.
By Alison Weir | Palestine News | Spring 2013
Whenever a US president begins a term of office many people round the world are curious about what policies he may pursue on Israel-Palestine. They wonder if he will once again call on Israel to reduce its settlement activities as almost every president has done at least once.
Will he condemn Israeli aggression, or only Palestinian rockets? Will he push a “peace process” in which virtually all the American mediators are Israel partisans or will a few non-Zionists be permitted to play a role?
As Barack Obama began his second term as president, these questions came up again. But these are the wrong questions. Instead, to predict what he will do, one only needs to ask what the Israel lobby is likely to require.
The president won’t always do what the lobby demands – on rare occasions he may deviate a bit from its dictates– but a large percentage of the time he will dutifully do what the lobbyists command.
In other words, in order accurately to analyse American policies in the Middle East, to predict how they will change or not and to develop effective ways to revamp them in the directions that are so urgently needed for humanitarian relief and real peace, it is essential to understand the decisive role the Israel lobby plays in the United States.
Presidents and politicians from both major parties have long been extremely aware of this lobby. It may greatly improve or impede their chances of winning an election, of passing legislation, of receiving positive press coverage, of, quite simply, going on to bigger and better things.
Through the years the lobby for Israel has been a decisive factor in the defeat of Republicans Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey (at one time a Presidential contender) and Charles Percy (another Presidential contender) and Democrats Adlai Stevenson, William Fulbright, Earl Hilliard, Cynthia McKinney and quite likely many more.
Politicians from both parties attend the annual convention of its major lobbying arm, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and pledge their loyalty to this foreign country. President Barack Obama, whose early and major backing came from members of the Israel lobby, gave his first post-nomination speech at the AIPAC convention.
Yet, despite the lobby’s inordinate power, most Americans are only minimally aware of it. For decades surveys have shown that the large majority of Americans don’t wish to take sides on Israel-Palestine, a reflection of a public that is uninformed about how much of our tax money goes to Israel and how decisively our government is, indeed, taking a side.
This widespread lack of awareness about the role of the Israel lobby in determining American policies is particularly startling given that the movement on behalf of Israel has been active in the United States for over 100 years and that it played a significant role in Israel’s creation.
By the 1920s it was able successfully to promote its policies over those recommended by the US State Department; by the 1940s it had added Pentagon policies to those it could overrule and both presidential candidates Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey were currying its favour; by 1967 it was able to push its cover story on Israel’s lethal attack on the US naval ship Liberty over opposition by high ranking admirals, the director of the CIA and the Secretary of State; and by 1977 the head of AIPAC could state with accuracy: “We have never lost on a major issue.”
Half a century ago the Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigating lobbying activities found an illicit cycle in which the Israel lobby succeeded in procuring money for Israel, some of this was then secretly funneled back into these groups, which then used this money to lobby for still more American tax dollars to Israel.
The hearings concluded that Israel operated “one of the most effective networks of foreign influence” in the United States. Yet, since the media reported on this so little, most Americans are unaware of these extremely grave findings.
The term “Israel lobby” fails to do justice to the extraordinary scope and composition of this special interest group. Below is a small sampling of the American organisations that work on behalf of Israel. Virtually all have multi-million dollar budgets; a few have endowments in the hundreds of million dollars and most of them are funded by tax-deductible donations:
- The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC): $100 million endowment,  $60 million annual revenues.
- The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP): $23.5 million net assets. $9.4 million annual revenues.
- International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (aka Stand for Israel): $100 million annual revenues.
- Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF): $80 million net assets, $60 million annual revenues.
- Hadassah (Women’s Zionist Organization of America): $400 million net assets, $100 million annual revenues.
- Jewish Community Relations Councils, in cities all over U.S.: Boston annual revenues $2.5 million; Louisville annual revenues $7-10 million; Detroit $734,000, New York $4.5 million, etc.
- JINSA Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs: $3 million annual revenues.
In addition to these nonprofit organisations, there are dozens of political action committees (PACs) that donate to political candidates on the basis of their positions on Israel. Most of these disguise their purpose by using such deceptive names as “Northern Californians for Good Government,” “National Action Committee,” “American Principles,” etc.
While other issue-based PACs almost always announce their focus publicly, in 2012 only two of the pro-Israel PACs made any reference to Israel in their names. While US media frequently discuss the gun rights lobby, the largely uncovered pro-Israel PACs gave almost twice as much money to candidates – and the donations went to both parties.
In addition, there are numerous individuals who play an extremely important role in the Israel lobbying effort. Two examples are political campaign mega-donors Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson. Saban donated $12.3 million to the Democratic Party in 2002 alone and has contributed millions more to pro-Israel organisations.
Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate, set a new record in political donations by giving $70 million in the 2012 elections, nearly triple the previous highest amount. He also funds such pro-Israel organisations as Birthright Israel which takes thousands of young Jewish Americans on recruiting visits to Israel.
In other cases, it is individuals with a different kind of power – the power to affect which information reaches the American public and which does not. One example is Eric Weider, whose Weider History Group publishes eleven history magazines in the United States, the largest history magazine publisher in America (and, according to its website, the world).
Given this reality, President Obama’s actions are unlikely to stray outside the parameters the Israel lobby is willing to accept. While the media are making a great deal over the very mild apology Israel made to Turkey for having murdered nine of its citizens, crediting Obama with this alleged break-through, none of the news reports seem to mention that Israel has largely failed to apologise to the US for the death of 19-year-old dual American Turkish citizen, Furgan Dogan, who was killed with five bullets, one to his face at point blank range.
Congressional actions can also be expected to remain within what the Israel lobby directs, though here, too, there may be rare occasions where the lobby seems to have lost – such as the confirmation of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defence.
However, the alleged triumph that some pro-Palestinian writers are proclaiming for Hagel’s appointment is a bit overblown. Before he was allowed to take his position, he was made to grovel humiliatingly before his Congressional interrogators, retract acceptable statements he had made earlier in his life and all but swear devotion to Israel (like all top government officials seemingly must do).
This degrading spectacle surely made it clear to Hagel that he better watch his step in the future and made it even clearer to ambitious Americans of all ages that they must be extremely careful about any statements they make about Israel and its lobby if they are to achieve their political ambitions.
Despite the power of the lobby, however, the situation is not as bleak as the above may suggest. There is a highly diverse movement in the US that opposes this lobby and it is steadily growing.
The Left, which for decades was largely silent on Israeli abuses of human rights, has finally become active on the issue. Similarly, both traditional conservatives and libertarians frequently oppose aid to Israel and this opposition is becoming more outspoken. While this stance is often motivated by fiscal considerations, in many cases it is also fuelled by outrage at Israeli cruelty and by genuine empathy with Palestinians.
The money being mobilised on this side is only a small fraction of the other and some of the groups within this movement could arguably be considered simply a more reasonable and compassionate arm of the Israel lobby in that their advocacy is often framed according to what “is good for Israel” while failing to address the inherent injustice of an ethnic state imposed on a multicultural region.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the opposition to current US policies is growing increasingly important. The tide may not yet have turned but it is certainly in the slowing phase that must come first.
To use another oft-quoted and particularly apt metaphor, lobbies thrive in the dark. More and more people in the US and elsewhere are shining light on this one, steadily reducing its power.
While there are numerous deeply significant issues, an increasing number of individuals are deciding to focus on this one, the core issue of the Middle East and the cause of war after war, including the current “war on terror” and demonisation of Muslims.
To use the framing posed by journalist Glenn Greenwald, an expanding number of people are refusing to prioritise domestic issues over the killing of Arab and Muslim children on the other side of the world.
Therefore, despite the enormous power of the Israel lobby in the US, this growing movement is quite likely to overcome the obstacles confronting it and to join history’s other successful movements against oppression.
The main question is how long this will take, and how many more massacres, and possibly wars, will occur in the interim.
 Even Aaron David Miller admitted they acted as “Israel’s lawyer” – Miller, Aaron David. “Israel’s Lawyer.” Washington Post 23 May 2005, posted by Matt Miller Opinion Writer. Online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/22/AR2005052200883.html
 Findley, Paul. They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby. Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill, 1985. Online at http://archive.org/stream/They-Dare-To-Speak-Out-Paul-Findley/They_Dare_to_Speak_Out_Paul_Findley_djvu.txt and Mearsheimer, John J., and Stephen M. Walt. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
 Weir, Alison. “Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the United States Was Used to Create Israel.” IfAmericansKnew.org. 2012. Web. http://ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/history.html
 Smith, Grant. “Where Did AIPAC Come From?” Antiwar.com. N.p., 09 Oct. 2007. Web. http://antiwar.com/orig/gsmith.php?articleid=11727 and Neff, Donald. “Ulbright Called for U.S. Defense Pact With Israel But Was Labeled Anti-Semite.” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs August-September (1997): 96. Online at http://www.wrmea.org/wrmea-archives/188-washington-report-archives-1994-1999/august-september-1997/2677-middle-east-history-it-happened-in-august-.html
In 2009, the Economist reported: “AIPAC has an annual budget of around $60m, more than 275 employees, an endowment of over $130m and a new $80m headquarters building on Capitol Hill.” http://www.economist.com/node/14753768
 Weir, Alison. “The Empire Behind World’s Largest History Magazine Chain: How American History Magazine Censored Palestine.” CounterPunch Dec. 6, 2012. Online at http://ifamericansknew.org/media/weider.html
 Lynch, Colum. “U.N. Panel Endorses Report Accusing Israel of Executions aboard Aid Flotilla.” Washington Post 30 Sept. 2010, A Section. Online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/29/AR2010092907110.html?wprss=rss_print/asection
 “Did Your Favorite Progressive Senator Sign AIPAC Letter To Obama Telling Him To Stand Up For Occupation? Here Is The List.” MJ Rosenberg, Mar. 2013. Online at http://mjayrosenberg.com/2013/03/19/did-your-favorite-progressive-senator-sign-aipac-letter-to-obama-telling-him-to-stand-up-for-occupation-here-is-the-list/
- How AIPAC Rules (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel Lobby Dominates Congress, Media Covers it Up (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Organ trafficking & Israel – A message from Alison Weir (gilad.co.uk)
Attempting to un-censor my letter to the editor, College of Charleston’s campus newspaper, “CisternYard”
Awhile ago the pro-Israel editor of the College of Charleston’s online campus newspaper published two articles containing offensive accusations against me — one even before I spoke on campus and one afterward.
The newspaper has now finally posted my response – but it isn’t listed in any of the website’s menus; standard practice would be to list it in the Opinion section.
In other words, editor Sarah Sheafer (who calls Israel her “second home”) has officially “published” my response, thus finally adhering to journalistic requirements, while keeping the op-ed virtually invisible to the vast majority of the newspaper’s readers.
My emails to Sheafer about this bizarre situation have brought no change, and now the staff is gone for a week. I plan to continue to request that the newspaper include my letter in the Opinion section, where letters to the editor and op-eds would normally be… but perhaps not if they expose uncomfortable facts about Israel and its partisans…
Op-ed for CisternYard
On April 19th I spoke at the College of Charleston at an event sponsored by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a local organization called Charleston Peace One Day.
The title of my lecture was “Israel-Palestine: What the Media Leave Out,” and in it I documented the extremely flawed nature of US news coverage of this conflict. This material was gleaned from 12 years of researching this subject, eight statistical media studies, independent reporting trips to the region, many dozens of articles on the topic, and an upcoming book.
Sadly, the two articles on my talk by the CofC student newspaper, one before my lecture and one after, exemplify the deeply faulty reporting frequently found in articles concerning Israel. In addition to numerous inaccuracies, they violated some of the basic principles of journalism.
Sarah Sheafer, the newspaper’s editor in chief, wrote both articles. Sheafer’s first article consisted of accusations by Israel-partisans claiming that I was “anti-Semitic” and labeling my talk – in advance – “hate speech.” Sheafer repeated inaccurate claims about me without investigating their veracity, and failed to include my very public rebuttals of these falsehoods. While Sheafer included interviews defending the event in the name of academic freedom and free speech, she did not include any defense of me or response to the terrible accusations about me.
Violating a fundamental principle of journalism
And in violation of the most basic tenet of fair reporting, she never attempted to contact me to respond to the claims. This ignored one of the most fundamental requirements of journalistic ethics: According to the Society of Newspaper Editors, “Persons publicly accused should be given the earliest opportunity to respond.”
Her piece similarly failed to quote anyone in favor of my my work, though I have been honored to receive plaudits from diverse sources and have been asked to speak at a multitude of universities and other venues both in the U.S. and abroad. Nor did her very long article contain any information about my multitude of articles describing Palestinian suffering under occupation or those on Israel’s lethal attack on a US Navy ship.
When I discovered Sheafer’s article and emailed and phoned her to discuss it, she did not return my call and did not respond to requests to print a rebuttal. (She did eventually email us back.)
The second article followed my talk. This article again focused on defamatory claims (I am called anti-Semitic in the second paragraph), misquoted me at times, and incompletely depicted what took place, though it included some information from my presentation in the second part of the article (the part least likely to be ready by readers in a hurry).
While Sheafer stated that there was “incivility” during the event, the reality is that a large group of fanatic Israel partisans (perhaps in part stirred up by Sheafer’s first article) attended the event, shouted over my attempts to answer their questions fully and respectfully, and ultimately prevented CofC students from engaging in the kind of extended question-and-answer discussion that normally follows a presentation and that students have a right to expect. Particularly troubling is the fact that apparently some CofC faculty were involved in this behavior.
Several students wrote me after the event apologizing for this group. One said, “This conduct was deeply embarrassing to me as a student. I felt you were treated rudely and disrespected.” The person went on to write, “I respect how calmly you maintained your professional demeanor and continued to be courteous and respectful to the audience.”
Following my presentation, which included a video and numerous slides, Sheafer apologized for not contacting me for her previous story and finally interviewed me. However, she included none of the information I gave her in her second article. Nor did the newspaper print a formal correction or apology.
In the piece, she quoted many of the hostile questions addressed to me by a somewhat organized group that had clearly come to the event to do battle, and then either misquoted my answer, included only a small part of it, or, in most cases, completely left it out.
Perhaps this is because the questioners and allied mob largely shouted over all my answers to their questions; it’s possible that Sheafer often couldn’t hear my full responses. I certainly had trouble hearing myself.
While Sheafer reported on my presentation and included much valuable information, she left out some of the most important points and watered down others.
She failed to report the fact that, in the current uprising, over 12 times more Palestinian children have been killed than Israeli children, and that 91 of them were killed before a single Israeli child was killed. She omitted the fact that US media consistently and erroneously term Israeli actions “retaliation,” and primetime news shows report on Israeli children’s deaths at rates up to 14 times greater than they report on Palestinian children’s deaths.
Sheafer similarly omitted the information I provided about a 2003 Capital Hill briefing in which a commission that included a four-star admiral, a rear admiral, and the highest-ranking recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor reported that Israeli forces had tried to sink a US Navy ship, had killed 34 American servicemen and injured over 170, and that rescue flights had been recalled because the President of the United States said he “didn’t want to embarrass an ally.”
These extremely grave statements on Capitol Hill by this extraordinarily high-ranking commission can be found in the Congressional Record.
Perhaps Sheafer’s most significant violation of journalistic ethics was to assign herself to cover these events in the first place, rather than sending a neutral reporter.
The fact is, as Sheafer publicly admits, she has a strong emotional attachment to Israel, once writing: Israel is “the country I consider my second home.”
The particular article with this statement was written on Nov. 15th, 2012, the day a 10-month-old Gaza baby was killed by Israeli forces – the fourth Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces that week – though Sheafer mentions none of these deaths.
While Sheafer says that she condemns “some of [Israel’s] controversial decisions (i.e. illegal settlements),” her piece focuses on her intense anguish over Israeli difficulties, her deep empathy with Israelis (at one point she writes she wishes she were there), and, tellingly, her anger at those who criticize Israeli actions.
She wrote this column during an Israeli onslaught in which Israeli forces killed at least 169 Gazan men, women, and children, and Palestinians killed 6 Israelis, none of them children. (During the previous year, Israelis had killed 64 Palestinians in Gaza, while Gazans had killed no Israelis.)
None of these facts are in Sheafer’s column, “Israel At War.”
While Sheafer and the group who disrupted this event consider themselves pro-Israel and brevity requires me to identify them as such, in reality I feel that their actions do not benefit Israelis.
Israel was created through violence and has been maintained through violence, a reality that is not only tragic for the Muslim and Christian victims of this violence, but is also tragic for Israelis themselves.
If Israelis are to live a normal existence free of war and conflict, it is essential that they change their policies and become a nation that treats all people with equality, an approach that many Israelis desire, and that they recognize the historic injustice at the core of the conflict.
Such a policy change, however, is unlikely to occur while American politicians continue to bankroll Israel to the tune of over $8 million per day and to provide diplomatic cover no matter what the Israeli state does. This blind support gives the Israeli government such power that its leaders feel free to ignore Palestinians, other world players, and dissenting Israelis alike.
Given this seemingly blank check of American financial and diplomatic support, Israeli leaders feel no need to negotiate honestly to reach a compromise in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians can share the land that is sacred to all three groups. This won’t change until Americans become sufficiently informed on this issue to demand changes to US policy.
It is essential that Americans learn the facts on this issue. I believe strongly that we have the power to bring peace to the core issue in the Middle East – a conflict that has spawned numerous wars, caused dangerous instability to the region and the world, and has placed Americans increasingly in danger.
It is sad that an event on this urgent issue was in many ways sabotaged. I hope that additional speakers providing factual information will be invited to lecture at the College of Charleston, and that they will not receive the treatment I experienced.
Alison Weir is the president of the Council for the National Interest and executive director of If Americans Knew. She is a former journalist and has a degree in journalism.
While this may seem like a relatively small matter, it is part of a significant and disturbing pattern. Please see a related article, How Israel partisans use the press to block facts from reaching Americans, and still another, The Coverage and Non-Coverage of Israel-Palestine, which specifically includes a small section on student journalists:
“…an article entitled “Jewish journalists grapple with ‘doing the write thing,’” in the Nov. 23, 2001 Jewish Bulletin of Northern California [interviewed Jewish] journalism students about how they would cover Israel. Its findings were inconclusive. Some students felt they would cover Israel impartially, some didn’t. The Bulletin described one of the latter, Uzi Safanov: “’I’m a Jew before being a journalist, before someone pays me to write,’ he said. ‘If I find a negative thing about Israel, I will not print it and I will sink into why did it happen and what can I do to change it.’ Safanov said that even if he eventually wrote about negative incidents that happen in Israel, he would try to find the way ‘to shift the blame.’”
Another also spoke of the need to protect Israel: “’On campus there is already so much anti-Israeli sentiment that we have to be careful about any additional criticism against Israel,’ said Marita Gringaus, who used to write for Arizona State University’s newspaper. ‘This is our responsibility as Jews, which obviously contradicts our responsibilities as journalists…’”
Thirteen years ago I knew very little about Israel-Palestine. Like most Americans, this seemed to be a distant, confusing conflict that had little to do with me. I was unaware –again, like most Americans – that American taxpayers give Israel over $8 million per day, more than we give to any other nation.
I was unaware that our nation has vetoed numerous United Nations efforts to reign in Israeli aggression; resolutions that were supported by almost every other country around the world. I was unaware that US actions were enabling a massive land theft and ongoing ethnic cleansing that has caused profound tragedy in the Middle East, deep damage to our own nation and endangered American lives.
My personal awakening to these facts and others began in the autumn of 2000 when the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada began and was, for a while at least, in the American news. I grew curious about this conflict, determined to follow the news on it, and noticed quickly how one-sided the news coverage appeared to be. While we heard from and about Israelis frequently, the Palestinian side seemed to be largely glossed over at minimum, and was sometimes completely hidden.
I began searching for additional information on the Internet and was astounded at what I learned. Israeli forces were killing hundreds of largely unarmed Palestinian men, women and children; many of the children were being killed by gunshot wounds to the head.
While some Israelis were also being killed during this period, these deaths were far fewer and virtually invariably occurred after Palestinian deaths. Over 90 Palestinian children were killed before a single Israeli child. Over 140 Palestinian men, women and children living on their own land were killed before anyone in Israel was.
As I learned the nature of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the true history of the region, it began to seem to me that this was the longest and possibly most significant cover-up I had ever come across. I finally decided to quit my job as the editor of a small community newspaper in northern California and go and see for myself what was going on, travelling to Israel-Palestine as a freelance reporter in February and March of 2001.
When I returned I created an organisation called “If Americans Knew” to provide the full facts to my fellow citizens and to study why and how US news coverage was failing to do this.
Israel-centrism and patterns of distortion
We have conducted a number of statistical studies on this issue and found that US media were covering Israeli deaths in far greater detail than they were covering those of Palestinian.
For example, the New York Times was reporting on Israeli children’s deaths at a rate seven times greater than they were covering Palestinian children’s deaths; this didn’t even include the far larger number of words and amount of personal information given about Israeli victims compared to Palestinians. We also found that primetime network news programmes were covering Israeli children’s deaths at rates up to 14 times greater than the coverage given to Palestinians.
I discovered a system of reporting from the region in which a violent conflict between an officially “Jewish state” and the Muslims and Christians it had dispossessed (and was in the process of dispossessing further) was being covered most of the time by journalists with legal, familial or emotional ties to Israel. A great many are Israeli citizens (though this is almost never disclosed) or married to Israelis, their children also being Israeli.
I discovered that the Associated Press control bureau for the region, from which virtually all news reports that appear in US newspapers were transmitted, was located in Israel and was staffed almost entirely by Israeli and Jewish journalists (many of whom had served in the Israeli military).
I learned that the son of the New York Times bureau chief was serving in the Israeli military while his father was reporting on the conflict. In fact, I discovered that it was common for journalists in the region reporting for American media to have close personal ties to the Israeli military; that at least one staff member had been serving in the Israeli military even as he was reporting for the NY Times; that US News & World Report’s senior foreign correspondent, who had covered and written about the Middle East for more than 40 years, had a son serving in the Israeli army during the time he was reporting there; that Middle East “pundit” Jeffrey Goldberg, whose commentary pervades both the print and broadcast media, is an Israeli citizen who served in the Israeli military.
I learned that CNN anchorman Wolf Blitzer lived in Israel for many years, at one point travelled around the US as the “voice of Israel” and had worked for an Israel lobby publication.
I learned that Time magazine’s bureau chief was an Israeli citizen, and that NPR’s long-time correspondent from the region had an Israeli husband who had served in the military and may be an Israeli citizen herself.
I also discovered that this pattern of Israel-centrism went beyond the regional reporting. In fact, the regional filtering of the news may not even be the most significant factor in the broken media reporting on this issue that Americans receive.
Within US-based journalism per se I discovered patterns of Israel-centrism that were deeply troubling. In some cases I personally experienced the intentional suppression of information on Palestine. Following are a few examples.
San Francisco Chronicle
While I was on my first trip to the Middle East I had met with a managing editor at the San Francisco Chronicle before I left and told him of my intention to report from the region. He had been quite interested and asked me to send him my first-hand reports.
During my trip, despite the difficulties in doing this, I sent him several reports at a time when almost no other American journalists were in the West Bank or, especially, Gaza. None were printed.
Finally, he sent me an email saying that he might be able to publish some of my reports, but that this would be “political”. This was unusually honest but quite troubling. It should not be “political” to publish on-the-scene reporting.
While he never explained the obstacles confronting such reports, I suspect they had to do with the fact that the top editor at the time, Phil Bronstein, tilts toward Israel; that numerous advertisers were pro-Israel; that the pro-Israel power structure is extremely strong in California; that pro-Israel organisations in the US invariably mount protests and boycotts if newspapers stray too far from their preferences; and that others are frequently afraid of being called “anti-Semitic” and of the potential damage honest journalism on this topic could do to their careers.
A few years later a journalist who had worked for the Chronicle for many years, Henry Norr, was fired by Bronstein. While a different rationale was put forward for Norr’s termination, Norr himself believes that the real reason was his activities related to Palestine. He had written a column about an Intel factory constructed illegally on Palestinian land and had also given a lunchtime briefing to staffers about a trip he had taken to the West Bank.
Still another former Chronicle journalist has described the inner workings related to news coverage of Israel-Palestine; that most of those editing wire copy were Israel partisans, that this journalist was largely kept away from editing reports on the issue; and that there was an atmosphere in which anti-Arab cartoons were sometimes posted on a bulletin board.
In 2004 our organisation conducted a statistical study of the Chronicle’s coverage during the first six months of the Second Intifada and discovered that the Chronicle had covered 150 per cent of Israeli children’s deaths and only 5 per cent of Palestinian children’s deaths. Before releasing it to the public I phoned Bronstein to meet with him to present it in person, the normal protocol. He failed to return my phone calls. At a public forum I again requested such a meeting. In front of a large audience Bronstein promised to meet. Yet, he later again refused to return phone calls and this meeting never transpired.
We then released our report publicly and distributed it as widely as possible. In addition, some groups and individuals disseminated thousands of fliers containing some of our key charts and statistics, headlined “What Children Matter?” These activities, of course, received considerable attention, and I feel were far more valuable than a meeting.
Gannett is one of the top news chains in the US. According to its website, it consists of 82 daily newspapers, including USA TODAY, and it reaches 11.6 million readers every weekday and 12 million readers every Sunday. USA TODAY is the nation’s top newspaper in print circulation, reaching 6.6 million readers daily.
In addition to its newspapers, Gannett owns 23 TV stations, which reach 21 million households, covering 18.2 per cent of the US population. It also delivers news on 9,500 video screens located in elevators of office towers and select hotel lobbies across North America.
In 2001 a Gannett reporter who was writing a series of articles in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, heard about my trip to the region six months before the attacks and phoned me for an interview. He was extremely interested in my story and ended up calling me several more times for follow-up interviews, asked me to send him all my reports from my trip, and upon receiving them he was quite complimentary about their quality.
The reporter then sent a photographer to take pictures of me in my home for the article, had her express mail them to him, and said the story would be coming out soon.
We were in the process of creating the If Americans Knew website at the time and hurried to make this live, since this would be major exposure.
A little later I went on a speaking tour and a reporter from a community newspaper in a tiny newspaper chain in New York State interviewed me for his paper. A few days later he wrote to me saying that the newspaper owner had killed his article. He said this was the first time this had ever happened to him.
I then realised that I had never seen the Gannett newspaper article on me and If Americans Knew. I emailed the reporter, told him about this incident, and asked him if I had missed his article or whether the same thing had happened to him. I hadn’t missed it. He said that his editor had similarly killed the story.
I later saw an article by this reporter about Americans visiting Iraq who were highly critical of the US government. It is interesting that this subject matter was permissible, but not a feature on someone critical of Israel.
National Public Radio – Vermont and Michigan
Several years later I was on a speaking tour in Vermont and New Hampshire and was to be interviewed on a local affiliate of the influential National Public Radio network. When I arrived at the radio station it turned out that the radio host who had agreed to do this was not available and another person was going to do the interview, someone called Neal Charnoff.
Charnoff and the programme producer took me back to the studio where they would record the interview for later broadcast. Oddly, the regular sound engineer was told he could go outside and take a break, and the producer took over.
The host began his first question with a statement that my articles contained “anti-Semitic” overtones. I interrupted him immediately, said this was untrue, and asked him what he was talking about – which specific articles or statements that I had written did he claim were “anti-Semitic”?
He could not answer. I wondered if he had even read anything I had written or whether he was simply repeating the unfounded accusations by the Anti-Defamation League, a fanatically pro-Israel organisation that has been implicated in a vast spying operation on Americans.
Flustered at the embarrassment at having made a statement based on no evidence, he began the interview again in a more normal fashion. I told him about my trip to the West Bank and Gaza Strip and what I had found.
Within a few minutes, and sooner than the scheduled end of the interview, he stopped it. He turned off the equipment and said they would not be airing it.
I was shocked and asked him why not. There was then a brief conversation in which he, and to a lesser extent the producer, defended Israel against the statement of facts I had made about what I had seen. The producer, who seemed to be more reasonable – and who also may have realised that Charnoff’s intention to kill the interview so publicly would reflect badly on the station – said that she was sure they would be able to broadcast something.
They eventually did so. They did not, however, include information on my upcoming talks in the area, information that would normally have been included. I noticed later that Charnoff’s interviews frequently seem to focus on the Jewish experience and that a disproportionate number of the authors, musicians, etc., that he highlights on his programme are Jews.
Another incident took place in another NPR affiliate, this one in Ann Arbor, Michigan, location of the University of Michigan, one of the top public universities in the United States.
One way that we and other groups try to get around the media’s reluctance to report fully and accurately on Palestine is through the placement of paid advertising. Sometimes even this is censored.
WUOM, the largest NPR affiliate in the state of Michigan, apparently at the direction of its head, Steve Schram, refused to run a spot giving the name of our organisation. Then, when we challenged this censorship, the station supplied a number of fraudulent and ever-changing explanations. Only after fighting this over a year and involving the university administration and a small sit-in in the WUOM office were we able to force them to include our name in a paid advertisement.
American History Magazine/Weider History Group
Still another incident occurred when we tried to buy an advertisement in American History magazine. The ad was to promote the autobiography of CNI’s founder, former US Congressman Paul Findley. We were told that the magazine would not publish the advertisement because CNI was “anti-Israel”. In fact, they informed us that none of their other 10 magazines would run the ad either.
We were amazed to learn that almost all the national popular history magazines in the United States are published by the Weider History group; American History, World War II, Military History, Vietnam, Armchair General, the Civil War, etc.
According to its website, the Weider History Group is the largest chain of history magazines in the world, making its pro-Israel bias particularly important. George Orwell’s words suggest the significance of the Weider censorship within its history magazines: “Who controls the past controls the future.”
As their censorship of our ad because they considered us “anti-Israel” would suggest, the Weiders are very close to Israel. The co-founder of the Weider empire is one of six North American chairmen of the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, which takes political leaders, corporate executives, investors and entertainment personages on private trips to Israel to increase their support for the country.
A Weider foundation has given large grants to another Aish HaTorah-connected organisation, the Los Angeles-based American Friends of Aish Hatorah, a nationalistic Israeli organization that promotes Israel in the United States and has a programme to create and equip advocates for Israel on American campuses. Aish has been connected to the production of pseudo-documentaries promoting Islamophobia that were distributed in America.
The Weiders originally brought future movie star and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the US and played a major role in building both his personal and political career. Weider patriarch Joe Weider once proclaimed proudly, “We created Arnold.” As California governor, Schwarzenegger promoted Israel, stating, “I love Israel. When I became governor, Israel was the first country that I visited.”
The Media role in US policy formation
Thirteen years ago when I grew curious about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I had no idea that my questions would lead me to discover such an extraordinary pattern of influence on behalf of a foreign country in the US media.
This influence, I believe, may be the single most significant factor in creating America’s uniquely massive support for Israel. If American news organisations had been reporting fully and accurately on the region; if they had exposed the pro-Israel lobby’s power and manipulation in the United States; if they had covered the damage done to Americans by policies centred on what would “benefit” Israel rather than Americans (though not, I believe, those Israelis dreaming of peace), I have no doubt that US policies would be vastly different than those we see today.
Moreover, I feel that it is US support for Israel that has supplied the economic, military and diplomatic support for Israel to continue with astoundingly aggressive and oppressive policies. As such, exposing and overcoming pro-Israel power over information in the US about Israel-Palestine may, I believe, be the most important activity that those seeking justice and peace in the Middle East can undertake.
Providing Americans with the full facts on the region; on the determining influence on our media, our government and our country by Israel and its partisans; and on the devastating, wide-ranging damage created by the current situation, will eventually, I have no doubt, bring the momentous change that is so urgently needed. In fact, given that the US has a history of being a very changeable country, if enough resources are devoted to this effort, such a transformation could occur in less time that some long-time observers might expect.
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew and president of the Council for the National Interest. She is the author of Against our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of how the United States was used to create Israel. For copies write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Cynthia McKinney: Israel Lobby shaping US policy (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Obama’s Peace Antics in Israel – Four More Years of This? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
RepresentativePress | October 20, 2007
“In fact, the Wilkerson report does not refute the notion of an Israeli link; he addresses only Israeli-U.S. contacts in early 2002, whereas by later in 2002 and 2003 the evidence is overwhelming that Israel and particularly the Israel lobby were pushing hard for the war.” – KATHLEEN and BILL CHRISTISON
- Israeli PM: Iran threat dwarfs all others (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Programming note – Gaius on Thom Hartmann this Friday talking Climate Catastrophe (americablog.com)
In late May the Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley campus newspaper, published letters to the editor defaming If Americans Knew and me personally.
As soon as I became aware of these letters, online, I phoned the person responsible for the letters section, Jonathan Kuperberg, to ask if they had also been published in the print newspaper. I did not reach Kuperberg but left him a voicemail politely asking this question. Kuperberg did not return my call, but I have since learned that they were also in the print publication distributed all over the campus (and probably beyond).
I then wrote a letter to the editor (see below) and sent it to the Daily Cal early the next morning, May 30th. The following day, when I again had received no response, I re-sent the letter and copied other Daily Cal editors.
The managing editor sent a short reply email saying that the opinion editor (Kuperberg) would be considering my letter and told me that in the summer they only print letters once a week.
The Daily Cal has now printed the next week’s letters to the editor and did not include my letter. In fact, although I know personally of at least four additional letters sent to them on this topic, they printed none of them.
Meanwhile, oddly, the defamatory letter against me remains at the top of their letters section.
It doesn’t take an expert to know that such behavior is unconscionable. Newspaper ethics codes – and normal concepts of fairness – affirm the right of a person accused of wrongdoing to respond. The American Society of Newspaper Editors Statement of Principles, for example, decrees: “Persons publicly accused should be given the earliest opportunity to respond.”
In addition, letters containing factual errors should also be corrected.
My letter, and at least one other, should have been published. Last night I emailed the editors asking when they are going to print my letter. None has yet replied. I have now phoned the office and finally reached an editor in person. She said that staff members were talking about this and that Kuperberg would get back me today. I thanked her and said I look forward to hearing from him.
I truly hope that this doesn’t turn into another Michigan Radio situation, in which the Ann Arbor NPR affiliate under director Steve Schram refused to run our announcement, refused to return email and phone calls, lied about their behavior to the public, and only finally aired our announcement over a year later following public pressure.
It would be nice if Kuperberg and the Daily Cal would simply do the right thing.
Below is my letter:
Commissioner pushes pro-Israel pro-war falsehoods
To the Editor:
I was saddened that an ad about Israel-Palestine in the Daily Californian (now posted on our website) elicited vitriolic, nonfactual letters attacking me personally and our organization, If Americans Knew.
It is particularly troubling to see such a letter by a City of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission member, Thyme Siegel (“Anti-Israel ad breaks trust, propagates lies,” May 21-27).
In her letter, Ms. Siegel claims that in 1967 Israel was “attacked by all its neighbors.” However, even Israel discarded this initial falsehood many years ago. In reality, Israel perpetrated a sneak attack on Egypt that wiped out most of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground, launching what is called the Six Day war.
During that very rapid war of conquest, Israel also attacked a US Navy ship, killing or injuring 200+ Americans and destroying a $40 million ship (they eventually gave us $6 million compensation for the ship).
Even more disturbing than Ms. Siegel’s misrepresentation of history are her claims about Iran, in which she uses the same kind of inflammatory, inaccurate rhetoric that was used against Iraq, another perceived Israeli adversary.
Such mendacious rhetoric led to a tragic, unnecessary American war; the deaths of millions of Iraqi men, women, and children and thousands of Americans (many more left permanently maimed); and triggered a financial meltdown that cost multitudes of Americans their jobs, businesses, homes, and happiness.
It is time to expose and oppose the manipulation that has created war and misery for over 60 years. Americans give Israel over $8 million per day; we have the power to end the carnage. May this generation of college students be the ones to do it.
Executive Director, If Americans Knew, and President, Council for the National Interest
Final Call to attend The International Movement for One Democratic State in Israel/Palestine Conference
The Munich Conference
The International Movement for One Democratic State in Israel/Palestine
June 30 – July 1, 2012
This is the final call to attend and register for the Munich Conference to launch the International Movement for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel which will be held in Munich Germany on June 30 – July 1, 2012. If you did not register, please take the time to do so and to read the information below. Attached you find the following documents:
1. A copy of the Program, and
2. A copy of the Draft of the Munich Declaration of the International Movement for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel for your input.
For those of you who already registered we are encouraged by your plan to attend and look forward to your active participation. This conference is designed to maximize cordial discussions among participants. All activists will be accorded equal time and treated equally to foster friendly relations and atmosphere.
Please do not hesitate to contact us for additional information.
Speakers – Dr. Ghada Karmi , Dr.Oren Ben Dor, Dr. Norton Mezvinsky , Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh
The international project to create two states in Israel-Palestine has not only failed, it is leading to greater suffering and dangers for all. Under its cover, Israel has imposed conditions in the Gaza Strip that now shock the conscience of the world. The destruction of Palestinian homes and the hideous Apartheid wall present an appalling portrait of incremental ethnic cleansing. Conditions in the West Bank are argued by some to indicate superficial gains, but to everyone else look each day more like a Bantustan. Since 1948, Palestinians who are Israeli citizens found themselves deprived of equal human, economic, political, and legal rights, their land and natural resources expropriated, their culture co-opted, and their history falsified and maligned. The Palestinian people are being split geographically and politically and the Middle East is heading toward a future of endless conflict and war.
We will no longer watch passively while a fraudulent “peace process” builds such a future for Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Israel-Palestine and in the entire region. We propose to our brothers and sisters around the world that further delay in acting on the reality standing before us has become morally unacceptable.
The conflict in Israel-Palestine cannot be resolved until its fundamental source is addressed. That source is the premise of partition. We reject the Zionist claim that Jewish people have rights to a separate state in Palestine that deprives Palestinians of their rights to live freely and with equal rights in their ancestral homeland. But we reject just as strongly the equally racist idea that Israeli Jews and Palestinians are unable to peacefully share a non-ethnic democratic state and find a new future together in a unified country.
We declare our conviction that the only just, viable and stable solution to the conflict is to establish one democratic state in Palestine, in all the territory now controlled by Israel between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, with all Lebanese and Syrian lands to be returned to their rightful owners. A unified state is the only way to restore the rights of the Palestinian people and ensure true security, freedom, and equality for Palestinians, Israeli Jews and all the people of the land. We call on all who agree with us to join us in launching a global movement to establish this democratic state in historic Palestine for all its citizens: current Israeli Jews, Palestinians including those expelled from Palestine in the last century and their descendants. The new state shall be established on universal democratic principles that guarantee equality, non-discriminatory, and transparent laws and policies.
Building on the Madrid, London, Boston, Haifa, Stuttgart, and Dallas conferences and the various initiatives, in Munich we will assemble to affirm a unified Declaration for the International Movement for One Democratic State in Palestine and debate and agree on a plan of action. In league with those elsewhere who agree with us we will structure and launch an international Movement for One Democratic State that promises safety, freedom and equality for all the people of Palestine/Israel.
Who can participate?
We welcome and encourage groups/chapters that are active in Justice and Peace issues in Palestine to participate and send representatives to the conference. Certain individuals will be invited in their individual capacity for their contribution to the cause of ODS and justice and peace in Palestine/Israel. We will strive to adopt all decisions by unanimous consent. In the event that consensus is not reached, decisions will be adopted by a majority vote.
Date and place of conference:
The conference will take place on June 30 to July 1, 2012 in the city of Munich, Germany. Prior to the conference, all participants will be provided with copies of the various declarations and initiatives on the one democratic state in Palestine/Israel for their prior consideration. Participants will be asked to review them and suggest a unified declaration to be submitted to an address for this purpose prior to the Munich Conference. At the conference, the participants will only be asked to act on and adopt a common single Declaration for the international Movement of One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel.
Conference cost and registration:
Due to the fact that this conference is an independent initiative, all participants are asked to pay for their expenses and to make their own transportation and accommodation arrangements. The host group will provide participants with a list of recommended places to stay and directions. But it is up to the participants to make their own plans. To register please go to:
This event is co-sponsored by One Democratic State in Palestine (Texas, USA) and Palästina Komitee München- Palestine Committee (Munich, Germany)
Co-Organiser Dr. Gabi Weber, Freiburg
- Solidarity and Realpolitik: My Response to Jeff Halper (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- One State vs. Two States in Historic Palestine (altahrir.wordpress.com)
There are few crimes more despicable than stealing your neighbour’s water, and polluting what’s left, then watching him and his children suffer thirst, disease and ruin. Most of us would want nothing to do with the perpetrators of such evil.
British Water describes itself as the voice of the water industry. It talks about best practice and corporate responsibility, and lobbies governments and regulators on behalf of its members. No doubt it does a good job. It also has international ambitions including in the Middle East. So presumably it knows what’s going on water-wise in the Holy Land.
British Water should know, for example, that the 400-mile long structure known worldwide as Israel’s Apartheid Wall bites deep into the Palestinian West Bank dividing and isolating communities and stealing their lands and water.
If the wall was simply for security, as Israel claims, it would have been built along the internationally-recognised 1949 Armistice Green Line, although not even this is an official border. The wall’s purpose is plainly to annex plum Palestinian land and water resources for illegal Israeli settlements, and to that end it closely follows the line of the Western Aquifer.
In 2004 the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled that the construction of the wall is “contrary to international law” and Israel must dismantle it and make reparation for damage caused. The ICJ also ruled that “all states are under an obligation not to recognise the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction”.
But the wall marches on, aided by American tax dollars and America’s protective veto, so that Israel can wield complete control over the water resources it sees as necessary to the regime’s present and future needs. This makes the Palestinians, who sit on top of enough water to be self-sufficient, entirely dependent on Israel for God’s life-giver. Israel also consumes most of the water from the Jordan River despite only three per cent of the river falling within its pre-1967 borders. Palestinians now have no access to it whatsoever due to Israeli closures.
Most of the Coastal Aquifer, on which Gaza’s inhabitants rely for water, is contaminated by sewage and nitrates, and is unfit for human consumption. Children particularly are at great risk. The aquifer is depleted and in danger of collapse. The damage could take generations to reverse, say experts.
During Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) in 2008-09 over 30km of water networks were damaged or destroyed in addition to 11 wells. A UN fact-finding mission (the Goldstone Report) considered the destruction “deliberate and systematic”. Proper repairs have been impossible these last three years because Israel blocks the import of spare parts.
“Thirsting for Justice” is an aptly-named campaign by the Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene group, a coalition of 30 Palestinian and European humanitarian organisations, including Oxfam. It calls on European governments to put pressure on Israel to respect international law and the Palestinians’ basic rights to water and sanitation.
Under the warped arrangements of the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (1995) Palestinians are only allowed to extract 20 per cent of the “estimated potential” of the mountain aquifer beneath the West Bank. Israel not only takes the balance (80 per cent) but overdraws its sustainable yield often by more than 50 per cent. A Joint Water Committee was set up to implement the agreement but Israel was given veto power and the final say on decisions. As a result, a number of essential projects for Palestinians have been denied or delayed. To make up for part of the supply shortfall, Palestinians are forced to buy water from the Israeli national water company Mekorot, some of which is extracted from wells within the Palestinian West Bank. In other words they are having to buy their own water, and at inflated prices.
Oxfam, which is very active on the ground in Gaza, confirms that 90-95 per cent of water from Gaza’s only source, the Coastal Aquifer, is undrinkable. At the current rate the aquifer will be unusable by 2016 and the damage irreversible by 2020.
Gaza residents are restricted to an average of 91 litres of water per day compared to 280 litres used by Israelis. 100-150 litres a day are required to meet health needs, says the World Health Organisation. Marginalised Palestinian communities in the West Bank survive on less than 20 litres per capita per day, the minimum amount recommended by WHO to sustain life in an emergency.
Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are said to have full legal rights to nearly 750 million cubic metres of water but they have to make do with a trickle, or go without, while Israelis fill their swimming pools, sprinkle their lawns and wash their cars. In Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp the water is turned off for days. When the street taps come on again, usually for a few hours, there’s a desperate scramble to refill domestic tanks and other containers before the next cut.
Haaretz last month reported the French parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee findings on the geopolitical impact of water in confrontation zones like Israel-Palestine.
According to the report, water has become “a weapon serving the new apartheid. Some 450,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank use more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians that live there. In times of drought, in contravention of international law, the [illegal] settlers get priority for water”.
Israel is waging a “water occupation” against the Palestinians, says the report accusing the Israelis of “systematically destroying wells that were dug by Palestinians on the West Bank” as well as deliberately bombing reservoirs in the Gaza Strip in 2008-09. Furthermore, “many water purification facilities planned by the Palestinian Water Ministry are being blocked by the Israeli administration.”
Head of the Palestinian Water Authority Shaddad Attili observed: “Palestinians need to be able to access and control our rightful share of water in accordance with international law. The Oslo Accords did not achieve this. Without water, and without ensuring Palestinian water rights, there can be no viable or sovereign Palestinian state.”
Not content with robbing the Palestinians of their water, the Israelis are in the habit of flooding Palestinian fields and villages with untreated sewage from their hilltop settlements.
Against this background British Water has decided to cooperate with MATIMOP, an Israeli government agency that has been ordered to enter into international agreements and “aggressively expand opportunities for Israel’s industry”.
Always eager to oblige, the UK Trade and Investment Department’s briefing on Environment Opportunities in Israel contains this advice: “Israeli companies are keen to form alliances with companies abroad, and this is where the UK can benefit. In addition, growing development and marketing costs compel Israeli environmental companies to seek cooperation with foreign partners. The UK are world leaders in many aspects of the environment and so the UK and Israel complement each other and have much to offer each other in this sector. Teaming up with Israeli environment companies will give UK companies access to innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. UK companies can also benefit by providing their experience in marketing and management for Israeli companies.”
British Water signed a Memorandum of Understanding with MATIMOP on 21 December, so close to the Christmas holidays that it went unnoticed here. The event was not even recorded on British Water’s website but it was proudly featured on the embassy of Israel site and treated by the Israeli press as a triumph. MATIMOP calls it “a strategic cooperation agreement”. Executive Director Israel Shamay said: “We are pleased to be working closer with British Water than we have worked with any foreign trade organisation before. The UK water sector is well respected internationally for its world-leading capabilities, solutions and services, making it the perfect partner to help commercialise and market Israeli innovation and R&D in this sector.”
British Water agreed the text for an announcement by the Embassy of Israel but didn’t release it themselves, apparently happy for Tel Aviv’s propaganda boys to take care of it. In the press release MATIMOP says: “Israel has been coping with water scarcity since its founding.” Yes, coping by thieving.
The Palestinians have been subjected to the longest and most brutal military occupation in modern times and are held prisoner within the fragmented remnants of their own country, unable to develop its resources or travel freely within it to find work, attend university, visit family, or worship at their holy places in Jerusalem. Is helping Israel to become a water superpower really the right thing for British Water to be doing?
British Water’s CEO David Neil-Gallacher was asked: “EU agreements require Israel to show “respect for human rights and democratic principles” and provide for the agreement to be suspended otherwise. Does the MATIMOP agreement include similar good behaviour conditions?”
His reply: “The agreement with MATIMOP is a Memorandum of Understanding. Both parties are professional organisations with admirable aims and objectives.”
Another question: “British Water will be aware that Israel illegally occupies its neighbour Palestine and has seized control of its water resources. The path of Israel’s 400-mile separation wall closely follows the line of the Western Aquifer and encloses key supplies. In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the construction of the wall in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, is ‘contrary to international law’ and ‘all states are under an obligation not to recognise the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction’. In the circumstances, should ethically-minded British companies allow themselves to become embroiled?”
Neil-Gallacher was unfazed: “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘embroiled’ or ‘ethically-minded’. The aim of the MoU is for businesses to work together for the good of the global water industry. It’s no part of our role to exchange philosophical concepts with you. The arrangement with MATIMOP is one of commercial intent for the benefit of UK and Israeli companies.”
Finally, “is British Water being evenhanded in this Holy Land confrontation zone? Are you offering help to the Palestinian Water Authority? Have you responded positively to the sea-water desalination project for Gaza and other programmes for West Bank towns and villages?”
Neil-Gallacher: “We notify our member companies of potential commercial opportunities wherever they may arise, leaving them — as they’re best-qualified — to weigh the relative attractiveness of different markets.”
David Neil-Gallacher is also Director-General of Aqua Europa, which does the same sort of job on a Europe-wide basis. This was his parting shot:
“Regions of tension are bound to engender strong views and conflicting principles, and it’s usually notoriously difficult to discern unequivocal moral ascendancy on the part of any of those involved. In my dealings with our companies active in the region, however, I’ve never seen any evidence that they are lacking in principle or moral locus. British Water’s perspective has to be a commercial one. We do our best to conduct our activities in the best interests of our part of British industry and strictly within the requirements of the law.”
How will British Water avoid complicity with Israel’s endless oppression of the Palestinians and the deadly strife with its other neighbours in the region? Perhaps Neil-Gallacher should ask one of his own member companies, Veolia, what can happen if caught up in Israeli projects that violate international law. Veolia dumps Israeli waste on Palestinian land and is helping to build and run a tramway connecting Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements. The company must rue the day it crossed the line to fall foul of those nice folks at BDS — the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement.
- 2013 Budget: ‘Difficult Cuts’ for Americans, Jackpot for Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- UK helps Israel steal Palestinian water (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Stealing Palestine’s resources is illegal, despite Israeli court ruling (alethonews.wordpress.com)