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Who is the Boss and Who is the Servant in this Photo?

saibama

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | December 11, 2013

It’s kind of one of those pictures that are “worth a thousand words,” don’t you think? What you’re looking at is Obama onstage with media mogul and Israeli dual national Haim Saban, who has stated previously, “I’m a one issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” The photo was taken last weekend at the Saban Forum, held in Washington. During the event Saban and Obama appeared together for what was billed as a “conversation” on the Middle East, but basically it was a one-on-one press conference—with Saban doing the grilling and Obama doing the answering. Do the facial expressions in the photo, the body language, suggest anything to you—like for instance which of the two figures is dominant and which is submissive?

Saban, of course, has lots of money. In 2002 he provided a $13 million grant which established the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and which is part of the larger Brookings Institution think tank. Today he is a major funder of political candidates, particularly of the Democratic Party. You can go here and watch a 48-minute video of his “conversation” with Obama, which includes a few questions from the audience towards the end (all of the people selected to ask questions in that closing segment, coincidentally, happen to be Israelis). At one point, Saban jokingly remarks upon how “obedient” Obama is. A little later in the video, Obama states the following:

“The one thing I will say to the people of Israel is that you can be assured, whoever is in the office I currently occupy, Democrat or Republican, that your security will be uppermost on our minds. That will not change.”

Does it not strike you as a curious comment? Why would the security of a foreign nation be “uppermost” in the minds of the leaders of a supposedly sovereign country? But then maybe America is no longer a sovereign nation.

Obama indeed proves his “obedience” by never once bringing up Israel’s nuclear weapons. Much of the conversation is dominated by talk about Iran’s domestic nuclear energy program. The president at one point repeats the standard, stock-in-trade “options-on-the-table” remark—which in essence is nothing more than a threat to attack Iran—yet nowhere, in the entire 48-minute video, does the subject of Israel’s nuclear weapons come up.

A report on the Saban Forum was posted recently at the Mondoweiss blog. While the article mentions the “conversation” between Obama and Saban, much of the piece is devoted to the remarks of John Kerry, who delivered the keynote address for the event. Allison Deger, the author of the report, notes that Kerry expressed the view that Palestinians in the West Bank are deserving of “state institutions” (as opposed to an actual state) of their own, a comment which seems to have prompted Deger to draw the conclusion that “Palestinian statehood is not on the table in the current round of peace talks.” It is a not unreasonable conclusion to draw.

Kerry also referred to Palestinians as a “demographic time bomb” threatening to jeopardize Israel’s “future as a democratic, Jewish state”—apparently the secretary of state’s first public expression of concern over the so-called “demographic threat.” But perhaps most interesting is what Deger reports on comments by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who also attended the event:

Even though Lieberman was amongst a crowd of Washington and Israeli officials familiar with his anti-Arab diatribes, audible gasps could be heard throughout the room when he called to expel Palestinian citizens of Israel. A diplomat from the Russian embassy seated next to me even choked. Another moment of discontent between the plated-dinner audience and Lieberman passed when the foreign minister made a forlorn pun at Sen. Joe Lieberman. Otherwise the foreign minister was amongst allies.

Much has been made of the recent bone of contention between Obama and Netanyahu over the negotiations with Iran, with some suggesting that the US president is beginning to assert himself and to defy the Israeli lobby on some key, important issues. Is it simply wishful thinking on the part of some commentators? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that, but if there was any note of defiance struck at last weekend’s Saban Forum, all I can say is it is extremely difficult to detect.

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Update-12/11/13:

The following information on Saban comes from Wikipedia:

In March 2008, Saban was among a group of major Jewish donors to sign a letter to Democratic Party house leader Nancy Pelosi warning her to “keep out of the Democratic presidential primaries.” The donors, who “were strong supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign”, “were incensed by a March 16 interview in which Pelosi said that party ‘superdelegates’ should heed the will of the majority in selecting a candidate.” The letter to Pelosi stated the donors “have been strong supporters of the DCCC” [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and implied, according to The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that Pelosi could lose their financial support in important upcoming congressional elections.

And also this:

Regarding Jane Harman AIPAC Controversy, in April 2009, New York Times, quoting anonymous sources, said a caller promised her that Saban would withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post.”

And additionally this:

Saban says his greatest concern is to protect Israel. At a conference in Israel, Saban described his formula. His three ways to influence American politics were: make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.

December 12, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Who is the Boss and Who is the Servant in this Photo?

Democracy Syrian-style

By Ken Meyercord | Dissident Voice | September 27, 2013

One thing about the ongoing crisis in Syria almost never mentioned in our media — even the alternative media — is the role of the nonviolent opposition to the Baathist regime. After the uprising began in the spring of 2011, the government engaged this opposition in discussions about reform of the Syrian political system. Out of these discussions came a new constitution, approved in February 2012 by 90% of the electorate in a popular referendum with a 57% turnout rate.

Prior to the new constitution, Syria was officially a one-party state: the Baathist party, to which the current and former president belonged, being that party. In 2007 the nomination by the Syrian parliament of Bashar al-Assad as President of Syria was approved by 98% of the electorate with a 96% turnout rate — just the sort of mandate you would expect of an authoritarian regime. Under the new constitution Syria became a multiparty state; elections to parliament were open to any political party.

In May of last year parliamentary elections under the new constitution were held. There were two blocs contending for the vote: the pro-government National Progressive Front, comprised of 6 parties, and the oppositional Popular Front for Change and Liberation, which included two parties. Of the 250 seats in the assembly, the Baathists won 134 seats with 34 seats distributed among the other parties in the National Front, including 6 seats for the two factions of the Communist Party. The opposition shared 5 seats. Seventy-seven members of the new parliament were not affiliated with any party. The constitution stipulates that at least half of the members of the assembly must be workers or farmers.

In other words, the Syrian parliament encompasses a diversity of opinion we can only dream of seeing in our own Congress — quite a coup for the nonviolent opposition. An election for President is scheduled for next May, quite a concession for a man our media labels a “thug”, “dictator”, “tyrant”, especially as most governments, including our own, when facing a stressful situation become more authoritarian (e.g., Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, Palmer Raids of the 1920s, the Patriot Act, etc.) . What more does the violent opposition want? No wonder they have to rely on foreign Jihadists to do their fighting!

Critics of the Syrian regime will claim the elections were fraudulent, or, as the Obama administration put it, “ludicrous”. I have no idea whether this is the case and would welcome the views of those better informed than me. I suspect critics of the elections seldom offer any supporting evidence for their claims. Every country grapples with seeing that their elections are fair (cf. Voter ID laws). Before we dismiss the newfound democracy in Syria as a sham, maybe we should give it a chance, especially as the lives of thousands of people — mostly Syrian but perhaps some of our own — are at risk. If the administration’s goal in Syria is regime change, maybe it should wait and see whether the Syrian people effect it in a peaceful manner next spring or, if the incumbent is re-elected, accept the fact that democracy doesn’t always work out the way we would like.

Postscript: If you didn’t know about recent political developments in Syria, don’t feel bad. I attended an event today where none of the speakers — neither Cole Bockenfeld and Stephen McInerney of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) nor Shadi Hamid, Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution — were aware of the elections held under the new Syrian constitution.

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Ken Meyercord is an avid follower of foreign affairs who has visited over 70 countries and worked in four of them. He has a Master’s in Middle East History from the American University of Beirut. He produces a public access TV show called Worlddocs which he bills as “bringing the world to the people of the Washington, DC area through documentaries you won’t see broadcast on corporate TV.”

September 27, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on Democracy Syrian-style

Gatekeeping for Zion

By Philip Giraldi | America-Hijacked | May 9, 2013

People like myself who are either paleoconservatives or libertarians generally base their opposition to Israel and its Lobby on the costs of the de facto alliance, both financial and in terms of the wars and political chaos it has triggered. We try to demonstrate how damage to rule of law and actual U.S. interests has been a byproduct of the relationship and seek to explain what a sane U.S. foreign policy might actually look like, end of story. But it is a different sensibility coming from the more humanitarian inclined political left of the spectrum, which one would assume to have a natural inclination to oppose purveyors of oppression and human suffering. With that in mind, I would observe it is remarkable how ineffective the left has been in mobilizing any serious opposition to Israel’s policies.

There is a kind of groupthink that might provide an explanation for the lack of results in spite of what sometimes appears to be frenzied activity on the part of the cluster of liberal groups that focus on the Middle East. Gatherings to “Expose AIPAC” often focus on strategy and training, hardly discussing or challenging the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at all. They also frequently fail to confront the full array of predominantly Jewish groups actively promoting Israel to include The Hudson Institute, WINEP, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, MEMRI, the American Enterprise Institute’s foreign policy wing, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The plethora of well-resourced and actively engaged Jewish groups involved in foreign policy and more particularly Israel promotion is a fact of life inside the Beltway and a critical element supporting the interventionist narrative in spite of the country as a whole becoming decidedly war weary.

At the same time, most American Jews are actually either cool or even hostile to the policies of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Peter Beinart has called for a boycott of goods produced in the Israeli settlements while Jeffrey Goldberg has denounced a coalition partner in Netanyahu’s government, writing “The Jewish Home party advances an ideology that will bring about the destruction (the self-destruction) of Israel.” This reaction to the Israeli drift rightwards politically speaking probably explains why most organizations on the political left that are critical of Israel are themselves led by American Jews and, to their credit, they are very outspoken regarding Israel’s human rights violations and its policies towards the Palestinians. But it sometimes seems that they are restrained in their critiques, something that might be attributed to what could be referred to as Jewish identity politics. Instead of biting the bullet and confronting the fact that it is leading Jewish organizations and their in-the-pocket politicians that have quite plausibly been the sine qua non in unleashing a series of actual and impending wars against the Muslim world, they instead sometimes serve as gatekeepers to frame and divert an uncomfortable truth while looking for alternative explanations.

Part of the problem is that even though major Jewish organizations’ support of interventionism represents what is only a minority opinion among Americans in general, they pretend to represent everyone who is Jewish and have successfully sold that canard to both congress and the media. And make no mistake, it is the financial and political muscle of Jewish groups like Anti-Defamation League, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, The American Jewish Committee, and the AIPAC that have given the green light to the hard line Israeli governments that have done so much damage to U.S. interests over the past decade. Christian Zionists are highly visible and are frequently cited to demonstrate the diversity of the Israeli Lobby, but they are largely irrelevant in terms of the actual dynamics of the pro-Israel effort. The reality is that no other national lobby can gather 13,000 of the faithful to its convention and count on the enthusiastic presence of numerous politicians from both parties as AIPAC does every year. But in spite of the quite visible power of the Jewish organizations it is sometimes more convenient and less troubling to look instead for other reasons to explain Tel Aviv’s misbehavior.

Progressives who are nervous about mentioning the shameless politicking of Jewish organizations frequently parrot what I call the Noam Chomsky rationalization, engaging actively in criticizing Israeli behavior while at the same time blaming the Middle East farrago on outside forces like American imperialism, capitalism, or oil. This approach largely exonerates Israel from actual blame for what it does and it also by extension minimizes the role of the Jewish groups that constitute the core of the pro-Israel lobby because it is claimed that Washington drives the Israeli government’s behavior based on its own self-interest not vice versa. As a result, the critics seldom question the legitimacy of the self-defined Jewish state and they are sometimes reluctant to support any measures that would actually do damage to Israel and its perceived interests.

Norman Finkelstein, a reliable progressive critic of Israeli actions, is of the Chomsky persuasion. He believes that the United States would have attacked Iraq anyway based on its own interests whether or not the fervently pro-Israel neocons had occupied key positions in the Pentagon, National Security Council, and White House. Finkelstein, in an article on the Israel Lobby, maintains that “fundamental U.S. policy in the Middle East hasn’t been affected by the Lobby,” rejects the view that Israel is a liability for U.S. national interests and states instead that it is a “unique and irreplaceable American asset.” He describes American Jewish elites as only “’pro’ an Israel that is useful to the U.S.” He insists that the neocons do not “generally have a primary allegiance to Israel [or] in fact, any allegiance to Israel.” The evidence, however, suggests otherwise: even agreeing that the Iraq war had a number of godfathers, the folks in the Pentagon and White House who cooked the books and led the charge had extremely well documented strong personal and even financial ties to Israel, so much so that several of them were accused of passing classified information to the Israeli Embassy.

The shaping of the narrative to minimize the role of organizations that are demonstrably Jewish – albeit unrepresentative of Jewish opinion in America -has also been very effective in some media circles. An April 2007 ninety minute presentation on PBS’s Frontpage with Bill Moyers “Buying the War,” a critical look at the genesis of the Iraq invasion, did not mention Israel’s supporters even once. And one only has to consider the recent Obama trip to Israel as well as the interrogation at the Chuck Hagel nomination, which was driven by organizations like AIPAC from behind the scenes, to realize that the United States government is no free agent when it comes to Middle Eastern policy. Ignoring the dominant role of “Jewish leaders” and the well-funded organizations that they head which falsely pretend to represent their entire community is a convenient obfuscation if one does not want to address causality, a bit like being concerned about global warming without looking at the actual science.

President Obama recognizes the power represented by Jewish groups acting as a cohesive and focused political entity when he meets with them collectively in the White House, so why the reluctance in recognizing and confronting their persistent pro-war, pro-intervention agenda? At a March 7th session, shortly before his trip to Israel, Obama met with Alan Solow, Lee Rosenberg and Michael Kassen of AIPAC; Barry Curtiss-Lusher of the Anti-Defamation League; David Harris of the American Jewish Committee; Jerry Silverman of Jewish Federations of North America; Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz; former Congressman Robert Wexler; Dan Mariaschin of B’nai B’rith; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street; and Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Admittedly the linking of Jewish organizations’ easy access to policymakers with their possible role in launching a string of failed wars in Asia and still more in the offing on behalf of Israel makes many people uncomfortable because it invites the dual loyalty critique and even more extreme commentary that is ultimately racist in nature, but there you have it. The president knows who is pulling his strings and so should the rest of us.

Americans can either confront the ugly realities of what has been going on for the past twelve years or they can pretend that what they are seeing is not really there. The gatekeepers are understandably concerned lest Washington’s next war be blamed on American Jews so it is far better to suggest against all evidence that Israel is a pawn of American imperialism or that recent wars have been about oil or capitalist exploitation. The reality is that if progressives (and the rest of us) really want to stop a proxy war against Syria followed by a catastrophic conflict with Iran we have to take the blinkers off and be willing to confront Jewish groups like AIPAC and the ADL directly and persistently.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Humanitarian Buffer Zones in Syria — How misinformation obscures the Israel lobby’s influence on U.S. foreign policy

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | October 15, 2012

A recent Russia Today report offers an insight into how misinformation on the internet helps to obscure the influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy. In an October 11 report on the widening Syria conflict, the Russian television channel’s website cited an interview with an independent journalist regarding news of the establishment of so-called humanitarian buffer zones on Syrian territory. According to the RT report, citing Nile Bowie, the idea originated with “US hawks”:

“The US think-tank – the Brookings Institute – in March 2012 published a report entitled ‘Assessing Regime Change Options in Syria,’ where they specifically cite the creation of a buffer zone or a humanitarian corridor as a means to base certain rebel groups in the region [and] to project force towards the Syrian government in an attempt to topple it. So that appears to be what is playing out at the moment.”

The facts above are basically correct. There is, however, a crucial omission. The report in question — actually entitled “Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change” — was the work of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. The Saban Center was established in 2002 when Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban pledged nearly $13 million to the Brookings Institution. As Saban told an Israeli conference in 2010, establishing think tanks — along with making donations to political parties and controlling media outlets — is one of “three ways to be influential in American politics.” The billionaire’s sole motivation for wanting to influence policy in Washington is no secret. “I’m a one-issue guy,” Saban famously told the New York Times, “and my issue is Israel.”

It’s also worth noting that at least one of the co-authors of “Saving Syria” appears to share Haim Saban’s overriding concern for Israel. In 2006, Kenneth Pollack, currently director of the Saban Center, was mentioned in the indictment against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman as one of the government officials who provided classified information on Iran to the then AIPAC employees charged with espionage.

Nile Bowie’s omission of the Israeli source of the regime change proposals for Syria appears to have been unintentional though. As recently as September 24, the Kuala Lumpur-based American journalist wrote about the pro-Israel connections of U.S. groups supporting the Malaysian opposition. So how did he miss the equally blatant Israeli connection behind the Saban Center’s blueprint for regime change in Damascus?

Bowie most likely learned of the Brookings report from “an alternative news blog based in Bangkok, Thailand covering geopolitics.” Run by a former U.S. marine by the name of Tony Cartalucci, the Land Destroyer blog (the second of ten sites linked to by Bowie’s blog) has written about “Assessing Options for Regime Change” perhaps more often than any other source. One of those pieces posted on October 3 entitled “Turkey Attempts to Trigger War Vs. Syria” even features an image of the Saban Center’s “Saving Syria.” The caption underneath the image, however, reads:

The Brookings Institution, Middle East Memo #21 “Assessing Options for Regime Change (.pdf),” makes no secret that the humanitarian “responsibility to protect” is but a pretext for long-planned regime change.

Apart from the Saban Center logo in the image, there is no mention of the pro-Israel think tank in the piece. While a site search for “Brookings” yields eight pages of results, there appears to be only one post that refers to the “Saban Center.” A search for “Haim Saban” yields no results.

In short, as long as people continue to trust dubious “alternative” sources of news such as Land Destroyer Report, the key role of the Israel lobby in pushing regime change from Damascus to Kuala Lumpur will remain obscure.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

October 14, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pro-Israel Saban Center Proposes New Framework for Persian Gulf Security

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | July 3, 2012

In the Saban Center for Middle East Policy’s newest Middle East Memo, “Security in the Persian Gulf: New Frameworks for the Twenty-First Century,” Kenneth Pollack proposes “a new security architecture for the region.” According to a summary on the center’s site:

Pollack analyzes security arrangements in other parts of the world and focuses on two options: expanding the GCC and turning it into a formal military alliance and creating an arrangement modeled on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. In weighing each option, Pollack finds that the latter can better furnish a path toward peace and security.

Any consideration of how likely Pollack’s CSCE model would contribute to “peace and security” in the Persian Gulf requires an understanding of whose interests the author and his employer represent.

The Saban Center was established in 2002 with a pledge of nearly $13 million from the Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban to the Brookings Institution. Having once admitted to the New York Times, “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel,” Saban told an Israeli conference in 2010 that establishing think tanks was one of his “three ways to be influential in American politics” — along with making donations to political parties and controlling media outlets — so that he could “protect Israel, by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship.”

Before becoming a senior fellow at the Saban Center, Kenneth Pollack was a member of the U.S. National Security Council. While advising on American security, Pollack was mentioned in relation to the 2005 criminal indictment against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman as one of the government officials who provided classified information to the two former AIPAC employees about Washington’s Iran policy. Presumably, all three were motivated, like Saban, by their overriding concern for the security of the Jewish state.

In light of Saban and Pollack’s profound concern for Israel’s security, “Security in the Persian Gulf” should be seen as yet another attempt to advance Israeli interests in the region by influencing American politics.

July 3, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Media Propagates Myth of Israel’s Non-Involvement in Syria

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | May 17, 2012

If you believe some Israeli analysts, Tel Aviv is fretting on the sideline of the ongoing multinational effort to bring down the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad that is taking a little longer than expected. In a May 11 “analysis” for Reuters apparently based solely on interviews with Israeli experts, Douglas Hamilton claims:

With the Syrian uprising now into its 14th month and Assad still firmly in power, Israel has few options other than to sit the crisis out, unable to influence the outcome of an upheaval that is sure to affect it.

The reality, however, is that the self-described Jewish state has plenty of options available to it to influence the outcome of the “upheaval” destabilizing its northern neighbour. Its most effective option is, of course, the influence it is able to exert over U.S. policy. As Haim Saban, a prominent “influencer,” once told an Israeli conference, there are “three ways to be influential in American politics” — make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.

And as I wrote last year:

The think tank part of Saban’s tripartite Israel-protection formula was initiated in 2002 with a pledge of nearly $13 million to the Brookings Institution to establish the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. In 2007, the Saban Center expanded operations with the launch of the Brookings Doha Center. Its Qatar-based project was inaugurated in February 2008 by the founding director of the Saban Center, Martin Indyk. A former research director at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Indyk had previously founded the AIPAC-created Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).

Keeping in mind the origins of the Brookings Doha Center, take a look at this recent “analysis” of the deteriorating situation in Syria:

The latest bombings primarily benefit the Syrian regime, analysts say, which, from the start of the 14-month revolt, has described the uprising as a Western-backed Al-Qaeda plot and its opponents as “terrorists” to justify its crackdown.

“Bashar al-Assad has said: ‘If anybody dares to challenge my rule, there will be chaos.’ What he said is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center.

Shaikh noted there was no clear link between the regime and the bomb attacks, as the opposition has charged, “but at the end of the day, the responsibility lies with the regime because it has pursued only a security approach.”

“It is the regime who created this environment and the international community has allowed the situation to drift,” he added.

Shaikh added that a small group like Al-Nusra Front would not be able to pull off such “sophisticated” attacks without the help of “much more professional forces.”

Indeed. But instead of looking for those “much more professional forces” among the special ops forces of the so-called Friends of Syria, trust an analyst working for an Israel lobby-created think tank to point the finger at the Syrian regime itself.

May 17, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Media Propagates Myth of Israel’s Non-Involvement in Syria