Monday, April 23, 2007

Alison Weir: PBS: Some Muslims are OK --Crossroads Series

Thanks once again to the indomitable and very special Alison Weir for exposing the deep racism, corruption and vicious ideology of PBS as exemplified on their Crossroads series. On this issue it seems that they felt they could mimic the ruthless arrogance and irresponsibility of Bush and Cheney. What they are doing is worse than Imus because of the context. Apparently they thought that because of those they designated as their victims, there would be no price to pay. Now what if it were more widely understood who the terrorists were on 9/11? It's noteworthy that on 9/11, most people, including those on the left, prefer to believe Bush.
(See Alison Weir's outstanding article for The Link



Bob wrote:

This is a great commentary by Alison Weir, journalist-activist-humanitarian extraordinaire. Although she generously offers the hope that PBS will redeem itself via the final series, I can have no such optimism and indeed was made hopping mad at PBS (our tax money; our PBS!!) by the general content and tenor of her discourse. My recurring thought/outrage was: this is a loaded deck just as a State Department panel/conference on the Holy Land morass with no intelligent Muslim, much less any Palestinian, in sight, or a Senate/House hearing featuring only "moderate" and "radical" Jewish Zionists as MidEast "experts" makes me hopping mad. I hope everyone will take Alison's suggestion and contact the PBS Ombudsman. Letters to editors as the series unfolds are also appropriate as expressions of resistance to imbalanced presentation...Bob

Willis wrote:

This piece was so good, I have printed it for distribution to my Chaminade University Course in THE MIDDLE EAST tonight. I hope some of my student will watch the PBS series, and with the Alison Wier piece in their hands!

Willis H A Moore, Adjunct Faculty in History and Political Science, Chaminade University of Honolulu

April 17, 2007

Some Muslims Are Not Bad
The Message of PBS's "Crossroads" Series

I attended an extremely disturbing event Thursday night. It was hosted by WETA, the PBS station in Washington DC, and was part of the national launch of an 11-part PBS series, "America at a Crossroads," to begin airing April 15. It featured clips from the series followed by a panel discussion with some of those involved in the films, moderated by Robert MacNeil. The panel discussion represented a "wide" spectrum of opinions: all the way from, at one end, suggesting that all Muslims are terrorists to, at the other end, suggesting that some Muslims are not terrorists.

In other words, from what we were shown on Friday, it appears that much of the series contains subtle, intellectually "acceptable" Muslim-bashing. While the title of the series claims that it is focusing on America, many of the clips seemed to be focusing, over and over again, on Islam, largely examining "bad Muslims" (the majority) with a few "good Muslims" thrown in (often consisting of those who bash bad Muslims).

One entire program in the series, funded with federal money dispensed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), is dedicated to Richard Perle, the neoconservative strategist who pushed for "regime-change" in Iraq and is now promoting it once more in Iran. While his opponents are also included in the segment, Perle is given the opportunity to rebut each one; the film was produced by his associate Brian Lapping. The title of the program, "The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom," seems to indicate a perspective that few facts would support. While only short clips were shown on Friday, Perle's approving, and welcomed, presence at the screening seems to indicate a happy CPB-PBS-Perle relationship. Happy for Perle that is; not for those of us who are less than pleased at manipulations that destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives, at least, and whose agenda appears to be an Israeli American empire based on a mutilating sword, and whose deathly swath cuts many ways.

At the other end of Friday night's "A" through "C" gamut of views was Michael Isikoff, whose rebuttal of Perle's claims about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction was deservedly applauded by the audience. Isikoff's own clip portrayed him as a crusading investigative reporter, a la Dustin Hoffman in "All the President's Men." However, it turned out that Isikoff's form of crusading reporting was not to uncover presidential malfeasance but to expose "dangerous Muslims," i.e. those who oppose tyrannical regimes or who dare to suggest that Hamas and Hezbollah are resistance movements opposing brutal Israeli aggression.

Practicing the reverse of A.J. Liebling's dictum that the duty of journalism is "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," Isikoff's offering in this series appears to be to go after arguably the most attacked community in the US today. A few miles away from where Isikoff was being feted by PBS for his work in exposing "Muslim terrorists," Sami Al-Arian (who has never been convicted of any crime, but who has spoken out passionately in favor of Palestinian rights) is spending his fourth year in prison, largely in solitary confinement. Perhaps Isikoff will now turn his investigative skills to examining the role of Israel and its partisans in Al-Arian's persecution and in the Crossroads series itself. He may wish to begin with CPB's head, Cheryl Halpern, a former chairwoman for the Republican Jewish Coalition, who, according to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, currently sits on the board of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), whose husband is a member of AIPAC, and whose family has business interests in Israel. Her predecessor at CPB was similarly solicitous of Israel, as are so many of the neocons now associated with the organization.which brings me to my next point:


It is interesting that in an 11-program series focused largely on the Middle East, no mention is made of the core issue of the region: the enormous injustice perpetrated in 1948 when Israel ethnically cleansed most of the indigenous population, and its ongoing and ruthless efforts in this direction today. While the series focuses on the activities of people who are opposing past and present dispossession, it appears that no mention is made of the oppression they are resisting. It is a little like describing the actions of someone being attacked by wolves without mentioning the wolves.

The issues in the Middle East and 9/11 have far more to do with the usual causes of war, competition over territory and resources, than with religion. Nevertheless, there are religious dimensions to the conflict, and it would certainly be valuable to explicate these. Yet PBS ignores the fact that there are three major religions centered in the Middle East, not just one, and that the major ethnic-cleansing at the region's core was done in the name of one of the two religions ignored in the series. If one of the religions is going to be examined, with much of the focus on its alleged warts, it seems to me that the other two should be exposed to equal scrutiny. Why was this not done?

Fundamentalist Jewish settlers are among the most fanatic and violent populations in the Middle East, and they proclaim that their violence is endorsed, even required, by their religion. Growing numbers of Christians endorse and fund this violent dispossession of the world's original Christians and others, and also claim to base their activities on their religion. Similarly, violent Jewish and Christian extremists operate in the United States, some cells defined, even by the US government, as "terrorist." While at least six out of PBS's eleven programs focus on Muslims and their connections to violence, not a single program focuses on Jewish extremists who torture farmers, attack children regularly, and whose core beliefs include the proposition that a non-Jew is "not worth the fingernail of a Jew." Similarly, there is not a single program examining American Christians who advocate violence at home and abroad, and who eagerly anticipate mass slaughter, in the name, they say, of their religion.

Moreover, with all this attention on Islam, one would at least expect some depth from a $20 million, publicly funded series that spends so much time on this subject. Sadly, however, despite a surface appearance of balance, there is much to suggest that PBS has actually provided little more than tokenism. In Washington DC there are numerous scholars on Islam, many of them living and working within a short distance of Friday's event. Yet, PBS gave us a panel in which two Jews and one Christian informed us about Muslims. While I suspect that no one would accuse the panelists of undue humility, I sincerely doubt that even one would claim to be an Islamic scholar. In addition, for the only program of the series in which a Muslim is the main "expert" on Muslims, PBS has chosen to utilize a woman whose new-found media fame, and resultant fortune, have come from attacking Muslims.

Soft Core

Let me emphasize that I am not accusing PBS of hate speech. I fully anticipate that the 11-part series will contain many uplifting and accurate statements about Islam and Muslims. My expectation is that the series will be skillfully produced, its approach will be intelligent, and its tone will be tolerant. (One of the shows that received Public Broadcasting Corporation funding for the series, by neoconservative Frank Gaffney, a member of the Project for a New American Century who previously worked under Perle, was deemed too openly "alarmist" and has been postponed for further editing. A second program, by yet another neoconservative, Robert Kaplan, is also being held for broadcast later.)

Overall, I expect that the series will provide what appear to the general public to be nuanced and thoughtful answers. My concern is simple: that it will so rarely, if ever, ask the right questions. Most of all, I am worried that in its many hours of programming, the wolves, and these are many and diverse, will be missing.

In some ways, the title of the series is quite correct; America is indeed at a crossroads, but of a very different nature than the series discusses. Either we will continue to let our mainstream media, from the "public" to the commercial, from the liberal to the conservative, manipulate Americans into fear and hatred of Muslims, thereby enabling Israeli and American aggression; or we will stand up and oppose this media manipulation, and refuse to allow the resultant policies of barbarism.

During the question and answer period following the screening, I briefly raised a few of the points mentioned above. (Robert MacNeil responded that PBS probably should have included something about Israel-Palestine; Isikoff misconstrued what I said and then disagreed.) Afterwards, several people came up to tell me they agreed with my comments. One man who expressed deep concern at the targeting of a minority population explained his own experience with such activities: he had fled Nazi Germany at the age of seven.

Instead of undertaking a thinly veiled prosecution of Muslims in which it found some of the accused "not guilty," it would have been valuable for PBS to do what it claimed: examine ourselves and the divergent paths from which we must choose. Either we will continue in the direction promoted by Perle, Gaffney and others, and continue destroying more and more of the globe, and quite possibly ourselves; or we will turn back to efforts to build a nation and a world in which ethnic agendas and outmoded tribalisms give way to universal principles of justice, equality, and coexistence.

In my opinion the second path is not only the direction that morality decrees, it is also the only path that will ever provide the safety from violence and cruelty that we all seek for ourselves and our children.

If you agree, I hope you will let PBS ombudsman Michael Getler ( know: 703-739-5290. He's never returned any of my phone calls (even in his previous incarnation as ombudsman at the Washington Post); maybe he'll return yours.

Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew ( Her blog is She can be reached through either website.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Global Research on the Mysterious Death of Dr. David Kelly, the UK Whistleblower

Annie Machon and her partner, and MI5 colleague, David Shayler make clear in her book about whistleblowing on the intelligence services that they have grave doubts about the official story that Dr David Kelly committed suicide. However they provide no evidence, indeed the opposite, saying that the government had destroyed his career and he would have had a hard time going forward.. The brief article below presents some of the evidence. -- Ronald

Chris wrote:
It would appear from this article that Norman Baker, MP, announced his findings at a public meeting last Wednesday. Googling appropriately reveals reports only in The Daily Mail, not a leading newspaper. I have seen no reference in any TV news programme though to be fair I haven't looked. The Argos is a local Brighton/Lewes newspaper.


Mysterious Death of Dr. David Kelly: Murder theory that just won't go away

MP Norman Baker sets out in detail why he believes the secret service murdered Dr David Kelly

Global Research, April 14, 2007
The Argus - 2007-04-13

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The greatest British conspiracy theory of the modern age was unveiled this week. Lewes MP Norman Baker set out in detail for the first time why he believes the secret service murdered the Government scientist Dr David Kelly.

MILES GODFREY and KATYA MIRA report on a one-man crusade for the truth which has catapulted an unassuming Parliamentarian into the international spotlight.

It was the start of 2006 and the time was right to bring down the British Government. In March last year Norman Baker, serial thorn in the side of the establishment and by his own admission "not the Prime Minister's favourite person", resigned his role as a frontbench MP for the Liberal Democrats.

It was a typically low-key announcement, timed to coincide with the anointment of the party's new leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

The time had come, the MP said, for a new man to take over.

But to those who knew Norman Baker, the decision to resign was made for another reason.

It would allow him more time to do what he does best: investigate, challenge, push, probe - specifically into the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly. He was about to embark on an amazing investigation into the murky world of secret service agents, national security and the death of the man who very nearly halted the start of the war in Iraq.

If he could prove conclusively that members of the Government had conspired to get rid of Dr Kelly, it would have been - and still could be - the biggest single scandal this country has ever known.

The official report into the death of Dr David Kelly concluded he committed suicide after a row between the BBC and the Government over the "sexed up" dossier on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction thrust the normally private scientist into the glare of the limelight.

But Mr Baker didn't believe a word of it. He said at the time: "The public out there can smell a rat and they don't think it's finished business either."

The scientist's death was, the MP said, just too convenient, too riddled with inconsistencies and so unlike a man like Dr Kelly.

His year-long investigation culminated on Wednesday night at a meeting at which he proclaimed Dr Kelly had been murdered and set out his evidence.

Mr Baker told a packed community hall in Lewes: "I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that this could not be suicide.

"The medical evidence does not support it and David Kelly's state of mind and personality suggests otherwise.

It was not an accident so I am left with the conclusion that it is murder."

He told of how the world's leading WMD expert had spent the morning before his death sending "upbeat emails" and even booking himself a flight to Iraq from his rural home in Southmoor, near Oxford.

Mr Baker questioned the cause of death - a haemorrhage caused by cuts to the ulnar artery in the wrist.

He said such wounds were "matchstick thick" and hidden, difficult to get to, as well as rarely leading to death.

The knife said to have been used was a gardening pruner Dr Kelly had kept since childhood - an unlikely and blunt choice.

Paramedics have said he had lost little blood and was "incredibly unlikely" to have died from the wound they saw.

Police said 29 tablets of the painkiller Coproxamol were missing from his home but all that was found in Dr Kelly's stomach was the equivalent of one fifth of a tablet.

The MP told The Argus: "It has taken more than a year to investigate and it has been an incredible and fascinating journey which has taken a large number of twists and turns.

"I have met experts on weapons of mass destruction in Brussels and uncovered more evidence about the lies the Government told about weapons of mass destruction before the war."

Along the way Mr Baker has had personal run-ins with high-profile Government figures, not least Tony Blair.

He said: "I wouldn't say it has been easy, certainly the Foreign Office has done a lot to put obstacles in my way and other people have too. It has been hard work but at the same time it has been extremely worthwhile."

He has also been hugely encouraged by the public, who he claims can see Dr Kelly's death for what he says it was. Mr Baker said: "There is a world in Westminster and the rest of the world and I think most people in the public world can see that Dr Kelly was murdered.

"He was the world's foremost expert on weapons of mass destruction who could single-handedly destroy the Government's case for war so it was no wonder he was killed.

"It may have also been intended as a message to other people out there who speak to the press when the Government doesn't want you to.

"I was appalled at his death and at the Hutton Inquiry into it. It was a procedural disaster from start to finish and I felt compelled to look into it."

Mr Baker has signed a book deal to explain in greater detail his findings on Dr Kelly's death and he expects to publish it later this year.

But the MP insists he will continue to investigate.

He has nagging doubts about the official line taken over the recent Navy hostages taken in Iran and over the death of Robin Cook, the MP who resigned in protest at the Iraq war.

He said: "Robin Cook was on Ministry of Defence land, I believe, when he died and certainly I have doubts over what happened."

There are those, of course, who doubt Norman Baker's theories.

But for every person out there who does there are an equal number for whom the MP has become a beacon of truth in an increasingly murky world.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Petras & Finkelstein Debate the Primacy of the Pro - Israeli Lobby

Debating the Primacy of The Pro-Israel Lobby

The debate between James Petras and Norman Finkelstein

Intifada February 8, 2007

Hosted and produced by Hagit Borer for the SWANA (South and West Asia and North Africa) Collective of KPFK

Hagit Borer: There is little question in anybody's mind about the special relation between Israel and the United States. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid to the tune of more than $3 billion dollars a year, plus miscellaneous additions like surplus weaponry, debt waivers and other perks. Israel is the only country that receives its entire aid package in the beginning of the fiscal year allowing it to accrue interest on it during the year. It is the only country which is allowed to spend up to 25% of its aid outside of the United States, placing such expenditures outside US control. Apart from financial support, the United States has offered unwavering support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians, and has systematically supported Israel's refusal to make any effective peace negotiations or peace agreements. It has vetoed countless UN resolutions seeking to bring Israel into compliance with international law. It has allowed Israel to develop nuclear weapons and not to sign the nuclear anti-proliferation treaty and most recently it strongly supported Israel's attack on Lebanon in July of 2006. Support for Israel cuts across party lines and is extremely strong in Congress where criticism of Israel is rarely if ever heard. It also characterizes almost all American administrations from Johnson onwards, with George W. Bush being possible the most pro-Israel ever.

What is the reason for this strong support? Opinions on this matter vary greatly. Within strong pro-Israeli circles, one often hears that the reason is primarily moral: the debt that the United States owes Israel in the aftermath of the Holocaust; the nature of Israel as the sole democracy in the Middle East; Israel as the moral and possible strategic ally of the United States in its War on Terror. Within circles that are less supportive of Israel and which are less inclined to view Israel and Israel's conduct as moral, opinions vary as well. One opinion stems from the position of Israel being a strategic ally of the United States - its support is simply payment for services rendered coupled with the stable pro-American stance of the Jewish Israeli population. Noam Chomsky, among others, is a proponent of this view. According to the opposing view, the United States' support for Israel does not advance American aims, it jeopardizes them. The explanation for the support is to be found in the activities of the Israel Lobby, also known as the Jewish Lobby, or as AIPAC (the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee), which uses its formidable influence to shape American foreign policy in accordance with Israeli interests. The opinion as most recently been associated with an article published in the London Book Review, co-authored by Professor Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Professor Walt of Harvard University.
This debate is the topic of our program today.

Let me introduce our guests: Norman Finkelstein is a professor of political science at De Paul University. Welcome to our program, Norman. Norman Finkelstein: Thank you.

Hagit Borer: Professor Finkelstein is the author of several books on the history of Zionism and the role of the Holocaust in present day Israeli policies. His latest book, published in 2005 , Beyond Chutzpah, on The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.

Our second guest is James Petras. James is an Emeritus Professor of sociology at SUNY Binghampton. Welcome to our program, James.

James Petras: Glad to be here, Hagit.

Hagit Borer: Professor Petras is the author of numerous books on state power and the nature of globalization in the context of the US and Latin America, and most recently in the Middle East. His latest book, published in 2006, is titled The Power of Israel in the United States. Perhaps starting with you, James, perhaps you could tell us by way of a short opening statement where you would place yourself on this issue of a debate on the source of the United States lasting and enduring support for Israel.

James Petras: Well, I think I would probably argue that the pro-Israel lobby, the Zionist Lobby, is the dominant factor in shaping US policy in the Middle East, particularly in the most recent period. And I think one has to look at this beyond AIPAC. I mean, we have to look a whole string of pro-Zionist think tanks from the American Enterprise Institute on down, and then we have to look at a whole power configuration, which not only involves AIPAC, but also the President of the Major American Jewish Organizations, which number 52. We have to look at individuals occupying crucial positions in the government, as we had recently with Elliott Abrams and Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and others. We have to look at the army of op-ed writers who have access to the major newspapers. We have to look at the super-rich contributors to the Democratic Party, Media moguls etc. And I think this, together with the leverage in Congress and in the Executive, is the decisive factor in shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East. And I want to emphasize that.

Hagit Borer: James, just to stop you and maybe we can also have some kind of an opening statement from Norman.

Norman Finkelstein: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I would say that I situate myself on the spectrum somewhere towards the middle. I don't think it is just the Lobby which determines the US relationship with Israel. And I don't think it is just US interests which determine the US relationship with Israel. I think that you have to look at the broad picture and then you have to look at the local picture. On the broad picture, that is to say, US policy in the Middle East generally speaking, the historical connection between the US and Israel has been based on the useful services that Israel has performed for the United States in the region as a whole. And that became most prominent in June 1967, when Israel knocked out the main challenge, or potential challenge, to US dominance in the region, namely Abdul Nasser of Egypt. So, on the broad question of the US-Israel relationship that is the regional relationship, I think it is correct to say that the alliance has been based fundamentally on services rendered. On the other hand, it is very clear from looking at the documentary record, that the US was euphoric when Israel knocked out Egypt - or knocked out Nasser and Nasserism, it is also clear from looking at the documentary record, that the United States has never had any big stake in trying to maintain Israel's control over the territories it conquered in the June 1967 war, that is to say, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, the Syrian Golan Heights and, at that time, the Jordanian West Bank and Jerusalem. The US clearly had no stake in it and already from July 1967, wanted to apply pressures on Israel to commit itself from fully withdrawing. It was pretty obvious, if you look at the record again, that Israel, at that point, was able to bring to bear the Lobby. In 1967-68 it meant principally the forthcoming Presidential election and the Jewish vote. It was to bring to bear the power of the Jewish vote to resist efforts to withdraw. And since '67, the Lobby has been very effective, I think, in raising the threshold before the US is willing to act and force an Israeli withdrawal pretty much like the withdrawal it forced on Indonesia in 2000 to leave Timor. The two occupations begin in roughly the same period: in 1974, Indonesia invades Timor with the US green light and in 1967, Israel conquers the West Bank, Gaza and so forth with the US green light. And so the obvious question is: Both occupations endured for a long period. The Indonesian occupation was infinitely more destructive, killing more than one-third of the East Timorese population. But it is true to say come 2000 the US does order Indonesia to withdraw its troops. Why hasn''t it done so in the case of the Israel-Palestine occupation? And there I think its true to say, 'It's the Lobby'.

Hagit Borer: I have a feeling that one of the things we really need to start with when we try to address this issue is: What is it that we recognize, if we could recognize, on more or less a global level, as 'American Interests'? Such that we can say that they have so some degree systematically characterized different US Administrations. This is because it seems to me that it would be very difficult to evaluate to what extent policies that are going on with respect to Israel aren''t compatible with American interests, if we don't talk a little bit about what we perceive to be 'American interests'. So James, would you like to talk about that a little bit?

James Petras: Yes, I would. As a matter of fact, on that question, we have to be clear if we are talking about the US government and corporate interests in the Middle East, in particular, or if we are talking about what should be US interests.

Hagit Borer: Let's talk about what they are.Let's say, what the aims of various administrations are as opposed to what is in the best interest of either the American or the Israeli people, which may be very different.

James Petras: Very good. On that count, I think it is very clear that US policy is directed toward empire-building, extending its political, economic and military control over the world as a whole and, in particular, in the Middle East. And it pursues that policy, either through military means or through market mechanisms, such as the expansion of corporations, the capture of pliant client regimes, etc. And if we look at the Middle East, in particular, the US has been very successful in securing agreements with most of the oil-producing countries, except Iraq and Iran, and even there it is mainly because of its own rejection of relations with both those countries. US oil companies have done extremely well through non-military means. They have expanded their commercial ties- Goldman Sachs has just signed a big agreement with the biggest Saudi bank. Britain is organizing a secondary market in Islamic bonds. Wall Street is very interested in that. None of the oil companies supported a war in Iraq. And it is part of the rubbish that has been peddled - that the war was about oil. The oil companies were doing fabulously before the war and were very nervous about getting involved in a war. This, I think, leads us to the whole question of 'why then' if it was prejudicial to the major US economic interests. As we can see, there were many US military people who were opposed to going into Iraq because they felt it would prejudice the US overall military capacities to defend the Empire - just like the war in Viet Nam prejudiced the capacity of the US to intervene in Central America against the Sandinistas, against the overthrow of the Shah, etc. So from the point of view of global imperial interests, the war in Iraq was certainly not on the behest of the oil companies. I have looked at all the documents, I''ve done interviews with oil companies, I''ve looked at their publications for the five years in the run-up to the war and there is absolutely no evidence. On the contrary, if you pursue research on the various members of the Zionist power configuration in the United States, which I think is a conceptually more correct way of talking about this, rather than 'the Lobby', you will find that people of dubious loyalties, like Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle and Elliott Abrams - the felon, that had an agenda of furthering Israel's interests.

Hagit Borer: James, maybe we should go on with this: Basically if I understand what your are saying, your are suggesting that up to the point of getting involved militarily with Iraq, you would characterize American policies in the Middle East - you know, the Lobby notwithstanding, as extremely successful. So, I am just wondering.

James Petras: It's what we call 'market imperialism'.

Hagit Borer: Yes. Norman, do you want to comment on this?

Norman Finkelstein: Well. You have to look at the interests at many different levels. And unfortunately it becomes murky and complicated, where one would prefer a simple picture, I don't think it is all that simple when you try to figure it out. Number one, you have to look at the interests in terms of who is defining them. And, I agree, I think it is fairly obvious certainly to your listeners that there are different interests that are being defined by corporate power, or are being defined democratically by the desires and choices of ordinary people in any democratic system. So, lets limit ourselves to the first - the question of the corporate interests, since obviously they are playing the dominant role in determining US policy. Or it should be obvious, not that it always is.

Hagit Borer: Let's assume it is fairly obvious.

Norman Finkelstein: It's playing the determinant role. Then you have to look at 'how do they conceive the best way to preserve and expand their interests.' Now the way they perceive it may seem to a person like you and me to be irrational. It's that they are pursuing policies which are actually hurting them. But the fact that they may seem irrational to us, does not mean that that is the way they perceive these as the best way to preserve their interests. So you take the concrete case at hand. It may be the case that it was irrational for the US to go into Iraq because there are other ways to control the oil, or as some people have argued, that the market mechanisms are such that, on a world scale, you no longer need to control a natural resource in order to make sure you get the lowest price or make sure it is flowing at the lowest price. Control isn''t all that important anymore in the modern world. It is not like when Lenin was writing his Imperialism. Now that may be rationally correct and maybe there is a good argument for making it. But that doesn''t mean that those in power aren''t making decisions to further their own interests, which may seem irrational to us. In the case of Iraq, if you look concretely at what happens: Number 1 - There is no evidence, whatsoever, that people like Wolfowitz or the others were trying to further an Israeli agenda.

Hagit Borer: Let me interrupt. What would be the Israeli agenda, if there was one?

Norman Finkelstein: There is an Israeli agenda, and I am not disputing it. The Israeli agenda is basically the following: Israel does not care which country you smash up in the Middle East, just so long as, every few years and, sometimes, every few months you smash up this or that Arab country to send a lesson or to transmit the message to the Middle East that we are in charge and whenever you get out of line we are going to take out the 'big club' and break your skull. Now, it happens that in the late 1990's that Israel would have preferred the skull that was cracked would have been the Iranian one. There was no evidence that Iraq was upper most on the Israeli agenda. In fact, all of this talk about the famous document that was written up by these neo-cons to attack Iraq - that famous document - was handed to Netanyahu when he came to office to try convince him to put Iraq at the top of the agenda. It's not as if Israel passed that document to the neo-cons, who then plotted to get the US government to attack Iraq. It was the opposite. Israel would have preferred to attack Iran. However, once those in our government, maybe for misguided reasons for all I know, decided to fasten on to Iraq - that is to attack Iraq - Israel was of course 'gung ho' because Israel is always 'gung ho' about smashing up this or that Arab country. That has always been its policy for the last hundred years - since the beginning of Zionism. The most common place, the cliché of Israeli power is 'Arabs only understand the language of force'. So, when the US embarked on its campaign against Iraq, the Israelis were gleeful - but they are always gleeful. It doesn''t mean that people like Wolfowitz, let alone people like Cheney, are trying to serve an Israeli agenda. There is no evidence for claims like that. Its pure speculation based on things like ethnicity.

Lets take a simple example, that, I'll call him James, I don't usually call people by their first names, but Jim Petras mentioned.Let's take the case of Elliott Abrams. These are interesting cases. Elliott Abrams is the son-in-law of Norman Podhoretz. And Norman Podhoretz was the first big neo-conservative supporter of Israel, the editor of Commentary , the magazine. But if you look at people like Podhoretz, you look at their history, I'll take a book which I am sure Jim is familiar with, in 1967 Podhoretz publishes his famous memoir called Making It. It's how he succeeded and made it in American life. He was a young man and the editor of Commentary Magazine. You read that book, his celebrated memoir written two months before the June 1967 war, there is exactly one half of one sentence in the whole book on Israel. People like Podhoretz, Midge Decter, all the neo-cons.I have gone through the whole literature on the topic and have read it quite carefully. Before June 1967, they didn''t give a 'hoot' about Israel. Israel never comes up in any of their memoirs, in any of the histories of the period. They become pro-Israel when Israel is useful to them in their pursuit of power and fortune in the United States. Elliott Abrams is as committed to Israel as his father-in-law, Norman Podhoretz, was committed to Israel: When it is convenient and when it is useful. This idea of trying to serve an Israeli agenda, especially coming from somebody as sophisticated as Jim Petras, strikes me as absurd. He knows as well as I do that power.

Hagit Borer: Lets me just interrupt to let James.

James Petras: Its very strange that one says Wolfowitz was not influenced by the Israeli agenda when he was caught passing documents to Israel in the 1980's. And Douglas Feith lost his security clearance for handing documents to Israel. Elliott Abrams has written a book calling for maintaining the 'purity' of the Jewish race.

Norman Finkelstein: I know. They write that crap.and you believe them? Jim, do you think they care.?

James Petras: Its not a question of believing them, it's a question of looking at the documentary evidence of uncritical, support for Israel in all of its policies - A position that is taken by the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations. They give unconditional support! Hagit Borer: Let me perhaps interject here a little bit. I think that there a couple of things. One is.I am wondering, for instance, I don't know whether you would agree, James, with the particular Israeli interest that Norman had identified with respect to the invasion of Iraq. But assuming that you would agree that the Israeli interests is precisely that, namely to smash some Arab country mainly because it is a 'good idea'. James Petras: I think that's very superficial. Hagit Borer: The question is also.has it been in American interests? So we have seen America go after countries, which are sometimes, in terms of their power, are otherwise really quite negligible - just so as to make a point that anybody who dares to stand up to American power is just a bad example and needs to be smashed.

Norman Finkelstein: I totally agree with that.

James Petras: Israel was running guns to Iran as late as 1987 during the infamous Iran-Contra Scandal.To say that they weren''t interested in destroying Iraq as a challenge to Israel's hegemony and Iraq's support for the Palestinians, particularly funding the families of assassinated Palestinian leaders.that's absurd. And I think . Norman Finkelstein: Oh look. Hagit Borer: Could I stop you at this particular point.because we need to take a station break. James Petras: I want to answer your question. Hagit Borer: We will come back to it.At this point I think we should try to shift the topic a little bit and. James Petras: Let me finish my last comment. I think when the Pentagon offices are flooded, like a crowded bordello on Saturday night, with Israeli intelligence officers, crowding out even members of their own Pentagon staff - full of Mossad, full of Israeli generals, in the making of Iraq policy, I don't think you can say that they are 'just any old Pentagon officials'. I think you can't dismiss the fact that Feith, Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams have a lifetime commitment to putting Israel's interests as their prime consideration in the Middle East. I think it is absurd to think that somehow they just happen to be right-wing policy makers that happen to support a militarist policy. Wolfowitz designed the program. Feith put together the Office of Special Plans, the policy board that fabricated the information for the Iraq war. They were constantly consulting on a day-day, hour-to-hour basis with the Israeli government. This has absolutely been documented a hundred times and I think it is impossible to deny this and say 'Well, you can't deduce policy from ethnic affiliations." Yes, you can! When that ethnic group puts forward a position that puts the primacy of a foreign government at the center of their foreign policy and prejudices the lives of thousands of Americans.its economic interests in the area.then it's absurd to say, 'These are a bunch of irrational policy-makers.'

Hagit Borer: James, let me pursue this and actually go into a slightly different point. That is: Wouldn''t it be possible, you know, it's a question for both of you, for instance to think about whatever the neo-con group's not a group that represents Israeli interests, it's a group which represents interests which 'happen' to perhaps coincide for both countries and which represent alliances of particular politicians in both countries with one another, and particular power configurations in both countries with one another - but not by any means - all Israeli politicians or the entire Israeli power structure - or all American politicians or all American power structures.

James Petras: Absolutely.

Hagit Borer: So in that case, these are not really American interests. These are just interests of a particular group of people, which is just as interested in bringing to effect in the United States as it is in Israel. Its just basically, if you wish, a wonderful symbiotic relationship. What would you say, Norman to something like that?

Norman Finkelstein: I''ve said in my remarks at the beginning that there is an overlapping of interests in a regional level for reasons for which, in part you suggested earlier. You said that the United States often goes after weak regimes as a kind of demonstration effect of its power and Israel also has a desire for demonstrating its power. Often there is an overlapping, or confluence, of interests. I think, however, its also true to say on the specific question on the occupation - there is a conflict of interests. Were there not a Lobby, its quite likely that the US would have exerted the kinds of pressures needed to force an Israeli withdrawal. On questions like Iraq and Iran, I don't see any evidence whatsoever, of its being driven by cloak in dagger type of operations in the Pentagon. These operations, which Jim mentions, are so trivial - next to the very high level planning that goes on between the United States and Israel, conscious, legal high-level planning on a daily basis. High level planning and high level coordination. You don't have to conjure up 'cloak and dagger' tales, many of them true, going on inside the Pentagon, in order to demonstrate there is collusion, planning and coordination between the United States and Israel. The question is not whether that goes on, the question is 'whose interests are being served by it?' There is this notion that somehow they are managing to distort and deform US policy in a crucial region, on a crucial resource, doesn''t, in my opinion, have any basis in fact. It defies any kind of reason or any kind of common sense reasoning - especially coming from, in my youth, I used to be a student of James Petras at SUNY Binghamton from 1971-74 and he used to be a Marxist and at that time he would tell you how people in power act from interests, which spring from .a basis in which they are the main beneficiaries.

Hagit Borer: Norman, let me ask you .

Norman Finkelstein: Just a second.Mr. Wolfowitz., Mr Feith and all the others.their power springs from the American state. If Israel gets stronger, their power does not increase. If the United States gets weaker, their power decreases. So now we are having this weird phenomenon of people, due to their ethnic loyalties, are willing to strengthen another state and thereby weaken the sources of power from which their power comes.that doesn''t sound believable. James Petras: This is a convoluted thinking. I am sure Norman didn''t take that logic from my classes. I'm afraid he has gone off the track somewhere - despite some very good books he has written on the Zionist 'shakedowns', on the Holocaust and the refutation of the plagiarism of Dershowitz. I am afraid that when it comes to dealing with the predominantly Jewish lobby, he has a certain blind spot, which is understandable. In many other national and ethnic groups - where they can criticize the world but when it comes to identifying the power and malfeasance of their own group..

Hagit Borer: I think maybe we should all.perhaps we can move away from this topic. OK?

James Petras: Let me finish my sentence. There is nothing 'cloak and dagger' about the multiplicity of pro-Israel groups, that have pressured Congress, that are involved in the executive body in shaping American policy in the Middle East. The US does not support any other colonial power, it has opposed colonial occupation/imperialism since World War II. They opposed the British occupation of the Suez in 1956/1955. They have been pushing these countries of Europe and other countries out in order to establish US hegemony through economic and military agreements. The policy with the Israelis is very different from the policies the US follows everywhere else in the world. It's the only country that gets $3 billion dollars a year for 30 years. This is not just something that happens because of 'cloak and dagger'. This is the result, as Norman knows - as a very brilliant analyst, from organized power, an organized power that openly admits and states very explicitly that Israel is their major concern.and 'what's good for Israel is good for the United States'. They say that, Norman. Norman Finkelstein: I know that. But regardless of what they say. Hagit Borer: Let me interrupt you. I need to do a station ID and maybe we could change the topic.

James Petras: OK. Norman was a good student of mine.

Hagit Borer: I think that at this point we can agree that you guys have a lot of mutual respect for each other. But obviously you do not agree on some topics. I wanted to move on to the question of whether there are in fact cases that show that when there are conflicts of interests, say between the US and Israel, that there are instances where the United States does in fact pressure Israel to at least in some cases to act in ways which are against what Israeli wishes would be. Because it seems to me that if we don't find cases along these lines, then basically the discussion becomes one of 'the eyes of the beholder'. We see a lot of cooperation, a lot of joint interest, but they could be coming from either side. If there are cases where perhaps there are interests, which part ways and where we can see in fact there is a discord that we can talk about. Norman, since you are the one who believes that this is a possibility, could you talk about that?

Norman Finkelstein: Well, the thing is: I don't want to make the argument that these kinds of individual cases can prove one side or the other. You pick up a book by Steve Zunes, and he is going to demonstrate that the US government always gets its way. You pick up something by somebody on the other side, and they are going to demonstrate that it's Israel that always gets its way when there are conflicts of interests. And each side can give a list of examples - to demonstrate his or her case. I don't think you can prove anything by citing a handful of cases on one side - Professor Chomsky will cite the recent case where Israel was severely reprimanded by Bush for trying to sell technology to China -and then you will find cases on the other side. Even though it's important to look at the empirical record, I don't think the empirical record - in and of itself- resolves the question. Let me give you a couple of examples of how I think it works: Let's take two prime examples. Let's start with 1948. Why did President Truman recognize Israel? There are all sorts of debate about that question. One claim that is constantly made was/is the role of the Jewish lobby. Namely Truman was heading for elections and wanted in particular, the New York vote.and the Democratic Party wanted Jewish money. It was due to the Jewish lobby of its time that Truman quickly recognized Israel, even though he was bound to alienate Arab interests which were very hostile to Israel's founding. What does the record show? I have gone through the record very carefully. The records shows: Number 1 - our main interest at that time was in Saudi oil and the US enters into discussions with the Saudis: 'What will you allow the US government to do regarding the founding of the state of Israel?' And the Saudis basically said the following: 'We will let you recognize Israel, but if you supply arms then there is going to be trouble. They are referring to arms after Israel was founded when there was an imminent war. What does the US do? It recognizes Israel, that is to say, it goes the limit. Truman goes the limit, because he wants that Jewish vote and he wants Jewish money. But he immediately slaps an arms embargo on the region. And the Secretary of State, Marshall, at the time says: 'It looks like Israel is going to lose the war.' That is what our intelligence tells us. We were wrong, but that is what US intelligence said at the time. So they were willing to let Israel be annihilated, because that's what our intelligence told us, if the price was losing the support of the Saudis. It is true that Truman went the limit - the limit was 'recognizing Israel' to get the Jewish vote, but he never went beyond the limit of alienating a prime US interest in the region, namely the Saudis. Let's take 1956, which Jim mentioned, but I don't think he knows what happened. In 1956, it's true - the United States told Britain, France and Israel - they had to get out of Egypt. And its true, we looked very anti-colonial. But the only reason the United States did that was because the British, the French and the Israelis acted behind the back of the United States. The very moment the tri-partite invasion of Egypt occurred, the US was plotting to overthrow the government of Syria. And the US wanted to knock-out Nasser, but they didn''t like the timing - because the timing was not the US choosing but rather the British, French and Israelis behind our backs. Once again it was the US interests that determined US policy, not any commitment to anti-colonialism or crap like that. It was the US interest.

James Petras: He's had five minutes already. I demand equal time. He's been giving us long lectures. If you look at US policy toward Israel, the US alienates practically the whole world in favor of a tiny country, which has practically no economic value to the United States, which is a diplomatic albatross and has its own hegemonic, military and political interests in dominating the Middle East. We go into the United Nations and we alienate the whole of Europe and the Third World when Israel destroys Jenin, when it engages in genocidal policies in the Occupied Territories, when it violates the Geneva Agreements. The US backs it and totally discredits itself before anyone seriously concerned with international law, with the niceties of international relations. I am not just talking about Moslem opinion, Arab opinion.I am talking about world opinion. Secondly, to say that the United States has overlapping interests with Israel is totally 'off the wall', I mean - I don't know where Norman's head is. The United States gets involved in countries to set up neo-colonial regimes. They are not into occupying and setting up colonial governments. They'd prefer local clients. And they had one in Lebanon - with the President (Fouad) Sinoria - who was receiving US backing when Israel attacks Lebanon, presumably to attack Hezbollah - but totally undermines the US puppet. Is that is US interests?

Norman Finkelstein: Yes.

James Petras: And when you talk about the fact that Israel is taking measures, overlapping with US policy-makers, you are overlooking the fact that most of the US generals were opposed to the war in Iraq and the Israeli agents in the United States, and that's what they are and they should register themselves as agents of a foreign power, were attacking them (the generals) as wimps, attacking them because they wouldn''t follow the war precepts of the Zionists in the Pentagon. There is a whole string of military officials and conservative politicians who were opposed to going into Iraq. And if you look at the data .if you look at Cheney, Cheney was getting his from Irving (Scooter) Libby - another landsman, another member of the fraternity linked to Wolfowitz. He's a protégé of Wolfowitz.

Norman Finkelstein: I think Cheney can think for himself.

James Petras: Look, if you are trying to set up a matrix of power, dealing with US policy-making in the Middle East, to simply say that this is 'shared interests' without looking at the fact that the Israelis blew up a US surveillance ship, killing scores of US sailors and get away with it and continue to get US economic aid and the US officers that were wounded or murdered by the Israeli warplanes, with US flags flying over the ship, and say.that's overlapping interests. That's chutzpah! That is really chutzpah. And it is very revealing that you went into a detailed explanation, or purported to be explanation, about the Suez, that you leave out that in 1967 the Israelis are the only country in US history that bombs a US ship and doesn''t even have to apologize - and receives no retaliation from the United States. Now that is 'power' for you. That's 'influence' for you. And I thank to deny these realities.and say: 'this is just overlapping interests, the Zionists have no power in the US government or if they are Zionists then they are not tied to Israel etc..' That's a strange kind of Zionist that doesn''t have allegiance to the state of Israel.

Hagit Borer: We have only five minutes left. I want to ask you about a couple of things that I want the cover. Maybe the most important one has to do with the fact that this debate, about the Israel Lobby in general has broken surface into the mainstream in the last year or so. Of course, a lot of it had to do with the Mearsheimer and Walt article, and subsequently, let's say, by the attacks on Carter's book. There were attacks before and reviews and debates about the role of the Lobby before. But they never made it too the mainstream and they were never reviewed by, lets say, the New York Review of Books, and they were never discussed by major outlets in the United States. In fact the Mearsheimer and Walt article originally was turned down for publication by the Atlantic Magazine that had commissioned it. So maybe you can comment a little bit about why this debate is finally breaking surface and why is it that it is now a much more legitimate thing to debate within American mainstream circles.

James Petras: I'll give your three fast reasons: One, because of the disaster in Iraq, the public is open to discussion, particularly with the prominence of Zionists in bringing about the war - so I think you have public opinion open because of the discontent with the war and their concern about who got us into the war and into this mess. Second reason is that there is an inter-elite fight in the United States, between sectors of the military, sectors of the Congress, conservatives versus the pro-Israel crowd, the pro-war crowd. And the third reason is the arrogance and bullying by the Zionists, in particular, their organizations that go around trying to prevent this discussion has backfired and I think people are fed up with the Zionist banning (the play about Rachel) Corrie in New York and elsewhere - so I think these are the reasons.

Hagit Borer: James, we have to move on. We have only a few minutes. We have only a minute and a half. So Norman, could you say some final words?

Norman Finkelstein: Well, I agree with the reasons.maybe I wouldn''t state them the same way as Jim does. Its clear that the debacle in Iraq forms the overall framework for the opening up of discussion. In my opinion, that's probably not the most positive result because its going to end up with, I think, creating a 'scapegoat' for disastrous war by the US. I think the second reason is that the Israeli approach which seemed to have been successful since 1967, the approach of simply applying force to every break in conformity with US policy, of applying overwhelming force, plainly is not working. And so there are questions about the 'usefulness' of Israel's guidance and instruction in how to control the Middle East. It has not worked in Iraq and it proved to be a disaster in Lebanon this summer (July-August 2006). So there is a question about the 'effectiveness' of the Israeli approach, in addition to the effectiveness of Israel itself as a 'strategic asset', which is very different than it was in 1967. And the third reason, it seems to me is that, Israel is becoming more and more what you might call a 'bloated banana republic' with scandals daily and this kind of squandering of resources and that being the case - it has alienated large sectors of American 'liberal' Jewish opinion.

Hagit Borer: I thank you very much, James and Norman. I think on this point of accord between you, we need to end. Thank you so very much for being here.

Quite independently of this blog, Blogger Xymphora wrote:

Watch Finkelstein do the Chomsky
This is sad. Norman Finkelstein, who has done such important work in ripping Dershowitz apart – admittedly, an absurdly easy task – shows his true colors as a ‘Zionist lite’ and feebly attempts to make the argument, against mountains of conclusive evidence to the contrary, that the Lobby wasn’t really behind the attack on Iraq. Fortunately for truth and sheer decency, he is up against James Petras, who rips every one of Finkelstein’s pathetic arguments to shreds without even raising a sweat. You can see how important the Lobby is for Zionists when someone like Finkelstein has to look like a fool in order to protect it. Finkelstein even mentions my old friend Lenin, and the single most ridiculous of the Chomsky arguments, regarding Israeli arms deals to China, an issue I must return to (as, contrary to Chomsky’s desperate argument, the facts regarding covert Israeli sales of secret American military technology to China so conclusively proves the power of the Lobby).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Krugman gets it half right: Democrats are fighting their base

The terrific Paul Krugman gets it half right in this important column. The Democratic base and a large section of independents understands that the Iraq war is doing everything the Bush-Cheney clique intended: the destruction of Iraqi and (somewhat more subtly) US civil society, the destabilization of the Middle East and, if they can pull it off, enlarging the war to Iran and Syria.

So the question is why, faced with the most brutal and destructive president in US history, the opposition won't challenge him on the most obvious and critical policy question facing the US and the international community.

Krugman's answer is that the Democrats are afraid to challenge the president despite the overwhelming majority begging them to do just that. Either Krugman is in denial about the power of the big New York money men or he chooses the better part of valor.

Alexander Cockburn and led the way in pointing out how Democratic leader, Rahm Emmanuel, has successfully headed off the most vocal and effective anti-war Democratic candidates from last November's elections. Emmanuel, on behalf of the Democratic Party, which is beholden to those extremist Zionist billionaires, has played a key role in insuring that there is no effective majority in Congress for immediate withdrawal -- something the whole country desperately wants and needs.

Similarly we observe no outcry from Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid to roll back torture, warrantless wiretapping, the stripping of habeas corpus. These are all seen as measures to control THEM, the Muslims, the anti-Zionists, the liberals and moderates, all those who represent threats to Israel and who are soft on terrorism.

April 16, 2007
New York Times
Op-Ed Columnist
Way Off Base
(note copyright issues)
Normally, politicians face a difficult tradeoff between taking positions that satisfy their party’s base and appealing to the broader public. You can see that happening right now to the Republicans: to have a chance of winning the party’s nomination, Republican presidential hopefuls have to take far-right positions on Iraq and social issues that will cost them a lot of votes in the general election.

But a funny thing has happened on the Democratic side: the party’s base seems to be more in touch with the mood of the country than many of the party’s leaders. And the result is peculiar: on key issues, reluctant Democratic politicians are being dragged by their base into taking highly popular positions.

Iraq is the most dramatic example. Strange as it may seem, Democratic strategists were initially reluctant to make Iraq a central issue in the midterm election. Even after their stunning victory, which demonstrated that the G.O.P.’s smear-and-fear tactics have stopped working, they were afraid that any attempt to rein in the Bush administration’s expansion of the war would be successfully portrayed as a betrayal of the troops and/or a treasonous undermining of the commander in chief.

Beltway insiders, who still don’t seem to realize how overwhelmingly the public has turned against President Bush, fed that fear. For example, as Democrats began, nervously, to confront the administration over Iraq war funding, David Broder declared that Mr. Bush was “poised for a political comeback.”

It took an angry base to push the Democrats into taking a tough line in the midterm election. And it took further prodding from that base — which was infuriated when Barack Obama seemed to say that he would support a funding bill without a timeline — to push them into confronting Mr. Bush over war funding. (Mr. Obama says that he didn’t mean to suggest that the president be given “carte blanche.”)

But the public hates this war, no longer has any trust in Mr. Bush’s leadership and doesn’t believe anything the administration says. Iraq was a big factor in the Democrats’ midterm victory. And far from being a risky political move, the confrontation over funding has overwhelming popular support: according to a new CBS News poll, only 29 percent of voters believe Congress should allow war funding without a time limit, while 67 percent either want to cut off funding or impose a time limit.

Health care is another example of the base being more in touch with what the country wants than the politicians. Except for John Edwards, who has explicitly called for a universal health insurance system financed with a rollback of high-income tax cuts, most leading Democratic politicians, still intimidated by the failure of the Clinton health care plan, have been cautious and cagey about presenting plans to cover the uninsured.

But the Democratic presidential candidates — Mr. Obama in particular — have been facing a lot of pressure from the base to get specific about what they’re proposing. And the base is doing them a favor.

The fact is that a long time has passed since the defeat of the Clinton plan, and the public is now demanding that something be done. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed overwhelming support for a government guarantee of health insurance for all, even if that guarantee required higher taxes. Even self-identified Republicans were almost evenly split on the question!

If all this sounds like a setting in which Democrats could win big victories in the years ahead, that’s because it is.

Republicans will, for a while at least, be trapped in unpopular positions by a base that’s living in the past. Rudy Giuliani’s surge into front-runner status for the Republican nomination says more about the party than about the candidate. As The Onion put it with deadly accuracy, Mr. Giuliani is running for “President of 9/11.”

Democrats don’t have the same problem. There’s no conflict between catering to the Democratic base and staking out positions that can win in the 2008 election, because the things the base wants — an end to the Iraq war, a guarantee of health insurance for all — are also things that the country as a whole supports. The only risk the party now faces is excessive caution on the part of its politicians. Or, to coin a phrase, the only thing Democrats have to fear is fear itself.

cuibono wrote:
cuibonote: "And the answer is..." (to the Q. Ronald poses): In a nutshell, UFPJ.

Which the Dems believe can be counted on to do in 2008 what they did in 2004: hold hands w/ the designated War Candidate-Lite & sing Happy Days Are Here Again. "Anybody But Bush, Hurrah For Our Side!" You think it will be "different this time"? Based on what? I'm all ears.

As near as I can tell, the main so-called "peace movement" leadership is actually a Misleadership in bed with the zionist-controlled tweedlecrat party. And I do mean JVP.

Yes, there are a handful of Demos who are really very convincing. Some may actually be sincere. But their main impact on the process is to provide cover for the other ones.

And thus perpetuate mass addiction to Tweedlism.

The challenge becomes how to wean a major sector of the Demo Base -- Labor, Civil Rights, the Healthcare movement, this "peace" movement? -- away from kneejerk support of anything Israeli.
The challenge as it appears to me right now & here in the Big Tomato, is how to establish a Pole* within this anti-Iraqupation movement that plays no footsie with Zionism, which means none with the Dumbocrat party or any of its subsidiaries, JVP, PDA, UFPJ, whoever.

Yes, we can cooperate toward shared objectives, as long as they're strictly defined, and no gag rules are imposed. But those of us who are really serious, and who are alert enough to have a clue what's going on, need to get together and really get clear about this Zionism business, about the true character of the so-called "state of israel" & its "democratic" Apartheid system.

Which for a lot of people means cracking some books, doing some serious homework. Which means getting up off the "do sthg even if it's wrong" addiction to mindless activism for activism's sake, & taking a little time to figger out where all this is going.

Which for me means finding a way to communicate what I know in a way that at least a few of the newbies can grasp it. Not that I know everything, but Miz Elliott din't raise no dummies. Quiet as it's kept, after all this "Time In Grade" I do know where a whole lot of the answers can be found, or how they can be collectively developed. Or if I don't, I know who to ask. (I do have to criticize myself: I haven't been communicating the message very effectively. But I'm working on it.)

However, I'm clear about this much: the question of what UFPJ/PDA really stands for must be placed at the very top of the movement's agenda. Until that question is squarely confronted, all this "Peace Activism" is nothing but masturbation.

*if no Pole is available, try a Littauer? -de] Ashcroft was less political than Gonzalez

How could we have imagined that we were tossed from the proverbial frying pan when Ashcroft was fired? We didn't realize then that the reason he was fired was because, according to Bush and Cheney, he wasn't sufficiently political. --Ronald

From Laura Rozen's

April 14, 2007 Justice Department's independence 'shattered,' says former DOJ director:

... Ashcroft's Justice Department appointees, with few exceptions, were not the type of people who caused you to wonder what they were doing there. They might not have been firm believers in the importance of government, but generally speaking, there was a very respectable level of competence (in some instances even exceptionally so) and a relatively strong dedication to quality government, as far as I could see.

Under Gonzales, though, almost immediately from the time of his arrival in February 2005, this changed quite noticeably. First, there was extraordinary turnover in the political ranks, including the majority of even Justice's highest-level appointees. It was reminiscent of the turnover from the second Reagan administration to the first Bush administration in 1989, only more so. Second, the atmosphere was palpably different, in ways both large and small. One need not have had to be terribly sophisticated to notice that when Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey left the department in August 2005 his departure was quite abrupt, and that his large farewell party was attended by neither Gonzales nor (as best as could be seen) anyone else on the AG's personal staff. Third, and most significantly for present purposes, there was an almost immediate influx of young political aides beginning in the first half of 2005 (e.g., counsels to the AG, associate deputy attorneys general, deputy associate attorneys general, and deputy assistant attorneys general) whose inexperience in the processes of government was surpassed only by their evident disdain for it. ...

Xymphora/The Forward: A handful of extreme billionaires control the media

Good morning, class:
The question for today is:
Is Canadian blogger Xymphora correct when he writes that a "handful of extreme Zionist Jewish Billionaires control much of the American media, and use such control to influence American politics?"
Take out your notebooks, and in 150 words or more explain why you think he's right or wrong.
-- Ronald

Xymphora wrote:
Lobbyology 101: Media Control
Thursday, April 12, 2007
It is apparently the height of anti-Semitism to point out that a handful of extreme Zionist Jewish Billionaires control much of the American media, and use such control to influence American politics. Sam Zell is probably about to own the Tribune Company, which owns 23 television stations and many newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, From an article in the Forward on Zell (emphasis throughout in red):

“The Chicago Tribune, the company’s flagship publication, has had a famously antagonistic relationship with the Jewish community in Chicago – historically because of its right-wing, isolationist stance during World War II, and more recently because of its critical coverage of Israel. Newspaper watchers say that Zell and the Tribune will be an interesting mix.”


“Even before the Tribune went with Zell’s bid to take the company private, it was clear that the white, Anglo-Saxon culture of the Tribune would be challenged by a Jewish businessman. The major bidder besides Zell was Los Angeles Jewish businessman Eli Broad and his business partner, Ronald Burkle, (who has widely but wrongly been described as Jewish). The deal for the Tribune is not closed, and Broad and Burkle still could be able to best Zell’s offer of $34 a share.

Another Jewish businessman, Hollywood supermogul David Geffen, is said to be in talks now with Zell to buy control of the Los Angeles Times. The Times is the largest single property owned by the Tribune and has a contentious history with the Los Angeles Jewish community, strikingly similar to the Tribune’s in Chicago.”

and (on the hilarious ‘debate’ on whether Zell’s ultra-Zionist politics will end up influencing the newspapers):

“Given that Zell appears to be close to closing the deal for the Tribune, much media scrutiny has shifted toward how his background might shape the papers. One question that is asked frequently is whether Zell will follow the model of Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, who has pressed his political views on his media properties, or whether he will concentrate only on the business side.

In an interview with the Tribune last week, Zell suggested that he would not be involved editorially. ‘Do I look naive enough to think I have any influence about what people write?’ Zell asked in his blunt fashion.

Still, Zell has made it clear that he does have an interest in the things his new media properties cover. In the interview last week, he said that his favorite newspaper columnists are Charles Krauthammer, Thomas Friedman and David Brooks, all of whom are Jewish and two of whom write frequently and sympathetically about Israel.

Zell himself is a major donor to causes in the Middle East. His donations include a $3.1 million donation to the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center in Israel and separate donations to the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, a right-wing Israeli think tank. In the United States, he has given major gifts to such Jewish causes as the American Jewish Committee and a Chicago Jewish day school named after his father. All this is on top of his political donations, which have gone mostly to Republican candidates.”


“Ken Reich, a former Los Angeles Times reporter who operates a blog about the paper, said he assumes that Zell will shape the policy of his papers to some degree.

‘If he cares about the State of Israel, he won’t want his newspaper to be out there chipping away at Israeli interests,’ said Reich, who reported mostly on politics during his 39 years at the Times.

Reich said that at the Times, shifting the editorial policy would require only that Zell be consulted in the hiring of the new editorial page editor – a position that was recently vacated.

‘It would not take very much tweaking by him to sharply alter the Times editorial policy on the Middle East,’ Reich said. ‘I tend to expect this to happen.’”


“Zell’s arrival at the Tribune has been met with some disappointment in Los Angeles. That has included newspaper staffers who have expressed anxiety over the financial deal structured by Zell whereby he uses employee pensions to finance most of the deal, putting in only $315 million himself and pushing much of the risk onto the employees.” (Xymphora's emphasis in red)

Seth writes:
In a message dated 4/16/2007 3:23:45 PM Eastern Standard Time, writes:

Charles Krauthammer, Thomas Friedman and David Brooks, all of whom are Jewish and two of whom write frequently and sympathetically about Israel

Krauthammer is one of the key neo-con ideologues. He is a far-right fanatic--you cannot get any worse than this wheelchair bound psychiatrist (Dr Sttrangelove type) --except--maybe--neo-con Mussulini admiirer and Ollie North partner during contra affair Michael Ledeen. I think Kauthammer still claims Iraq was
involved in 9--11, and strongly advocates bombing Iran. Friedman--a centrist Zionist--is far-left compared to Krauthammer. He originsally supported Iraq war, but later had second thoughts
Anyone whose favorite columnists include CK is not going to take a laiisez fauire position: It won't b e long befpre Chicago Tribune reads like the NY Post. There will be some purges at the Tribune.

Carl wrote:
Dear Ronald
It's an empirical question that can be researched --- once you have definitions of 'handful', 'extreme', 'Zionist', 'Jewish', and 'much'. "Billionaires' seems unambiguous enough although one can be quite influential with somewhat less.
Also, ownership is only part of the problem. Advertisers have influence, official sources are the providers of the basic commodity of the news media: news stories, and, last -- but by no means least: accusations of antisemitism are a handy way of dealing with independent journalists.
Sorry, I don't think I've used enough words.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Exchange on Palestine and the Lobby: Blankfort, Dunbar-Ortiz and Kaminer

I am forwarding the following exchange with historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz regarding Matan Kaminer's article in Political Affairs, not because she asked me to do so, but because I think that an open debate on the issue of "The Lobby" is important and the failure to have this debate or even talk about the subject has been a major contributing factor to the sad state of American politics today and to building a movement that would seriously challenge the status quo. My message follows her for easier reading.-JB

-----Original Message-----
>From: Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
>Sent: Apr 11, 2007 10:16 AM
>To: Jeffrey Blankfort
>Subject: Re: On the Lobby: Matan Kaminer responds and my response to him
>Jeffrey, thanks for sending out Matan's piece and the
>correspondence. I very much agree with Matan's analysis, and, as
>usual, have questions of yours.
>you write:
>"Moreover, I have yet to see any argument of substance that
>demonstrates what strategic benefits the US gains from Israel's
>occupation and continuing theft of Palestinian land . .. This is not
>to say that in the absence of Israel that the US would be any less
>imperialistic, but it's activities in the Middle East would have been
>markedly different. It would, I am sure, not have launched or have
>been able to launch the current war against Iraq without the public
>and hidden orchestration of a score of mostly Jewish neocons and the
>support of the lobby (of which the neocons are a key part !) that
>even as Madeline Albright recently admitted, is the greatest foreign
>policy disaster in US history and which was opposed from the start by
>the old line US establishment represented by the senior George Bush,
>by his former Sec of State, James Baker and their National Security
>Advisor Brent Scowcroft, none of whom were considered friendly to
>either Israel or American Jewry, and all of whom have far greater
>connections to the oil industry than anyone in the current
>administration, including Dick Cheney. And those divisions in the US
>ruling class over America's unconditional support for Israel run
>quite deep, a reality of which the ideologically encapsulated
>American left is totally ignorant and apparently wishes to remain so."
>Actually, Jeffrey, I don't think you have an understanding of how US
>imperialism works in the post-colonial era. You might read Samir
>Amin's, Empire of Chaos to gain a better understanding. Israel is
>useful as a Western enclave (or at least its ruling class's
>maintenance of that stance) precisely to keep the region unsettled
>and chaotic. Iraq has been "mismanaged" as all the US imperialists
>are now saying, but none of them opposed it initially. Sometimes it
>seems that you want to see the empire managed more rationally, rather
>than dismantled.
>You write: "...long before the Christian Zionists appeared on the
>Jeffrey, I'm sorry, but you also don't know anything about Protestant
>fundamentalism, within which I grew up. US Protestant
>fundamentalists are inherently Christian Zionists. They are
>biblical literalists, and the Book of Revelation (which I had to
>memorize when I was 12 years old) says that the Jews must return to
>Israel, and when they do, Christ will return and take all believers
>to heaven (the Rapture), of course, leaving the Jews to burn in
>hell. I recall very well the celebration in my rural Southern
>Baptist church when the state of Israel was founded in 1948. I was
>10 years old. Believe, our nearly illiterate preacher was not in
>touch with the Israeli lobby.
>I hope you will send my comments to your list.

Dear Roxanne,

I have not read "Empire of Chaos", but I am familiar with the position that you say it takes. I see it as yet another one that attempts to employ Marxist analysis to deny or address the historical facts that refute it. A reason must be found, it seems from this perspective, to explain the unconditional US support for Israel and if one doesn't work, let's try another. What must be avoided at all costs is to "blame the Jews," in this case, the organized Jewish community establishment in the US that makes up the heart of the pro-Israel lobby. If the "chaos" theory is what is in play in the Middle East, why not in other parts of the globe? In Latin America, the US failure in Iraq has rendered it incapable of dealing with the increasing march towards the left led by Venezuela. What is it capable of doing regarding North Korea?

You also write, in response to my statements that Bush Sr. Baker, and Scowcroft opposed the war, that "none of them opposed it initially." This is simply not true and their opposition was not secret nor were their reasons. (When Dubya was asked by NBC's Tim Russert why he was disagreeing with Bush Sr. about the war, Junior replied, "I answer to a higher father.") They preferred a weakened, but stable regime under Saddam to the "quagmire" they predicted that would be produced by a US occupation, and although it was not spelled out, the predictable coming to power of the Shia which would then link up with Iran. Yes, they were much more capable managers of US imperialism while having been openly critical of Israel, but this does not mean that I support them or am content with a more efficient form of US world hegemony.

If we are looking for the origins of the current Iraq war, we have to take their opposition into account and explain why, while at the same time examining what forces in US society were orchestrating the false intelligence and fomenting the war propaganda and the finger, whether it fits into Marxist theory being beside the point, points to the right wing of the Jewish establishment, the neocons and its influential think tanks, i.e., the Washington Inst. for Near East Policy (created by AIPAC), the American Enterprise Inst., and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, none of whose roles ever seem to be discussed, let alone mentioned, in what passes for "left" critiques of the war in Iraq which we are told is simply about "oil" and the US desire to control Iraq's vast oil reserves. Anyone knowledgeable about how the oil system works knows how oversimplified that explanation is. Of course, oil, is the key factor in the region, but, if there is one thing that oil producers require, its huge profits from the war notwithstanding, is stability in the region where the oil is being produced because pipelines and drilling platforms are very vulnerable to attack. Needless to say, there is no evidence that the oil companies supported the war and had they been allowed to, they would have happily made a deal with Saddam and we would have had no war at this point in time. To point that out does not put me in bed with the oil companies or Saddam. It's just the way it would have been had not Israel and it's US lobby been around to exert its power on the scene.

As for the power of the Christian Zionists and when it emerged as a political force, it has been eagerly seized upon by, if not welcomed, by those who dismiss or downplay the power of the Jewish Zionists. They succeed in distorting its power as well as its history as a political force. While there is a long record of Christian support for Zionism I have yet to find any evidence that it played a significant role in building US support for Israel on Capitol Hill until Begin was elected Prime Minister and invited Jerry Falwell to visit Israel, which then led to a visit by Pat Robertson and the rest is history. Even today, they are nowhere near as powerful in Washington as those in the "Left" like to think they are and their presence and growth has not demonstrably changed the already dominant position of the Jewish lobby in Washington. That the Christian Zionists before WW2 were not significant politically nor until relatively recently was that they were not embraced or welcomed by the leading elements of American Jewry. As Israel's behavior has come under increasing attack by mainstream US churches, the lobby, becoming desperate, began to embrace the evangelicals, and particularly so, when, a few years ago. Falwell and Robertson were invited to hold prayer breakfasts at the Israeli embassy. What is rarely mentioned by those recalling the early days of Christian support for Zionism is that the dominant religious message prior to World War 2 was largely "anti-Jewish" led by Father Coughlin who railed against Jews on his national radio program and by the likes of Gerald L K Smith with his publication, "The Cross and the Flag."

As a friend who had worked as a staff member of a former Congressman wrote me this morning, one of the insidious aspects of the lobby's power is that pro-Israel Jewish members of Congress have been routinely assigned committee chairmanships that give them the power to oversee legislation in areas that have been politically critical for Israel, not just foreign aid, but South Africa, which under Howard Wolpe, was able to neutralize efforts to penalize Israel for selling arms to the South African apartheid regime, and Latin America, where the US was criticized for aiding the Contras in Nicaragua, and the death squad regimes of El Salvador and Guatemala, while ignoring the major role played by Israel in all three of those countries. (This myopia was also to be found among the various solidarity committees that were, at the time, Jewish dominated.)

What troubles me is that those who reject the position that the Israel Lobby, Jewish Lobby, Zionist Lobby, however one names it, is the dominant factor in shaping US Middle East policy, have never taken the time to actually do the research, to read the books that have been written on the subject. (In an email to a friend several years ago, rejecting a suggestion that he debate me on the issue of the lobby, Noam Chomsky wrote that it was my "obsession." As for him, he wrote, "I don't write about it, I don't talk about it") I suspect that underlying their position is the unexpressed feeling that to accept the truth about the negative role played by the organized Jewish establishment in America would be to somehow betray those Jews with whom you and others were so active over the years in struggling for civil rights, in the unions for the 8-hour day, and for progressive causes in general while ignoring the one glaring exception, the expulsion of the of Palestinians from their land and the right to return to it, which most of those very same Jews either vigorously defended, quietly accepted or ignored. This happens to be a sad piece of history of the Old Left and much of what was called the New Left in the 60s that I know all too well from direct experience with both. It is time to get past that and accept reality as it is, not how you would like it to be.



>On Apr 11, 2007, at 12:34 AM, Jeffrey Blankfort wrote:
>Dear Matan,
>Thanks for the prompt reply and the family update.
>One of the most critical failings in your analysis and of those who
>downplay the influence of the lobby, most notably Noam Chomsky, was
>expressed when you wrote:
>"The one undeniable empirical fact is that for three decades and more
>American government policy and the Israel lobby's demands have been
>very close. Not always identical - there have been crises - but
>certainly very close, in an almost unprecedented way. "
>Chomsky and others have postulated this as proof that the lobby only
>appears to be powerful because its interests are in line with
>Washington's imperial interests whereas the lobby's critics, among
>them myself, question whether support for Israel has, in fact, been
>in keeping with the US global interests and take the position
>advanced by Stephen Green in "Taking Sides," that Israel and its
>supporters in the US define the limits of action that a US president
>may take in issues relating to Israel and it is left to the president
>to set policy within those limits. Any honest examination of the
>history of US-Israel relations shows this to have been the case.
>What is not generally known since Chomsky and those who agree with
>him tend to ignore it, is that as Uri Avnery pointed out more than 20
>years ago, every US president beginning with Nixon have attempted to
>get Israel to withdraw from lands it occupied in 1967 and with the
>exception of Carter forcing a withdrawal from the Sinai, they have
>been forced to pull back when Israel called on its US lobby to rally
>Congress on its behalf. Neither Israel nor its US lobby have ever
>forgiven Carter for Camp David despite it having removed Egypt as a
>military threat since, as I am sure you aware, as Ben-Gurion pointed
>out (in Sharett's diary), Israel requires external enemies in order
>to maintain a sufficiently high state of vigilance, not to mention
>diaspora support. These presidents were not seeking an end to
>Israeli occupation to benefit the Palestinians or the Syrians, but to
>eliminate an ongoing source of friction with the Arab and Muslim
>world which brings no strategic benefits to the United States.
>Moreover, I have yet to see any argument of substance that
>demonstrates what strategic benefits the US gains from Israel's
>occupation and continuing theft of Palestinian land while it should
>be obvious that a truncated Palestinian state in the West Bank and
>Gaza would not only be of no threat to the US, it would most likely
>and quickly, out of economic necessity, fall right into the US orbit
>along with Jordan or face economic strangulation as it is
>experiencing today. Arafat certainly made it clear that he was ready
>to jump into the lap of any US president and Abbas and his pathetic
>spokesperson Erekat are even more eager to do so. It was the late
>general Matti Peled who pointed out that the explanation that Israel
>receives support from the US because it is a "strategic asset" was
>invented to justify the continuing support of Israel by the US after
>Begin's election thirty years ago and the recirculation in the US
>press of the accusations made by Einstein, Arendt, and other
>prominent Jews in 1948 that Begin was a fascist in the Nazi mold.
>This is not to say that in the absence of Israel that the US would be
>any less imperialistic, but it's activities in the Middle East would
>have been markedly different. It would, I am sure, not have launched
>or have been able to launch the current war against Iraq without the
>public and hidden orchestration of a score of mostly Jewish neocons
>and the support of the lobby (of which the neocons are a key part !)
>that even as Madeline Albright recently admitted, is the greatest
>foreign policy disaster in US history and which was opposed from the
>start by the old line US establishment represented by the senior
>George Bush, by his former Sec of State, James Baker and their
>National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, none of whom were
>considered friendly to either Israel or American Jewry, and all of
>whom have far greater connections to the oil industry than anyone in
>the current administration, including Dick Cheney. And those
>divisions in the US ruling class over America's unconditional support
>for Israel run quite deep, a reality of which the ideologically
>encapsulated American left is totally ignorant and apparently wishes
>to remain so. I am not one to quote Lenin, but he is alleged to have
>said, or written, "Be as real as reality." I have yet to meet a self-
>styled Leninist today who meets that standard nor a Trotskyist, for
>that matter.
>Now, I can well understand that given the censorship that is exists
>within the international left on the subject, that you would know
>very little about the lobby's history and its role in making Israel a
>country to which American politicians of both political parties
>routinely pledge their allegiance (more often than they do to the US)
>and why many of these same politicians who have no problem
>criticizing the president of the United States, or the head of state
>of any other country (but one), on the floor of Congress are
>literally afraid to criticize a prime minister of Israel, any prime
>minister, knowing that to do so would be a career threatening, if not
>career ending decision.
>Whether or not the lobby represents the majority of American Jews is
>irrelevant when one considers that that it is made up of the entire
>organized Jewish establishment which includes more than 60
>organizations, 150 community relations councils and federations,
>thousands of synagogues, and Washington's major think tanks. If there
>is a single thread that holds them all together it is their support
>of continued US political, military and economic assistance to Israel
>and their universal opposition to the Palestinian right of return. I
>am not aware of a single organization of any significance among
>American Jews that does not subscribe to these positions and I have
>studied the subject quite thoroughly for a number of years. As a
>group, moreover, Jews have long dominated the major donor list of the
>Democratic Party and by giving sums to key players in the Republican
>Party, assured their compliance with the lobby's wishes long before
>the Christian Zionists appeared on the scene. To pretend that their
>being Jewish is less significant than than the fact that they are
>also wealthy capitalists may be comforting but will fool no one,
>least of all the politicians who are on the receiving end of their
>To get an understanding of how the lobby works and how it shapes US
>Middle East policy, I recommend that you purchase over the internet
>the following books: Edward Tivnan's "The Lobby," Stephen Green's
>"Talking Sides: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel,"
>former Congressman Paul Findley's "They Dare to Speak Out," JJ
>Goldberg's (the editor of the Jewish weekly Forward) "Jewish Power"
>and most recently, Jim Petras's "The Power of Israel in the US."
>Also, you may be interested in three articles of mine:
>Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict:
>The Israel Lobby and the Left: Uneasy Questions: http://
>A War for Israel:
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Matan Kaminer
>Sent: Apr 10, 2007 5:58 AM
>To: Jeffrey Blankfort
>Cc: Reuven Kaminer , Eilat Maoz , gokce gunel
>Subject: Re: Politcal Affairs: Kaminer: The Colonial Drama of Israel
>& Palestine (and JB's response)
>Hi Jeff,
>Thanks for your reply. I am Reuven's grandson and Noam's son, by the
>way. I don't know how well I can respond to your criticism, as I am
>really not versed in the facts and figures of the "Israel lobby"
>debate. This is why the points I make briefly below will not be
>empirically based, but rather points of principle. Let me start by
>saying that if I came across as insinuating that any attempt to
>understand the question of the Israel lobby's power is anti-Semitic,
>then I apologize. Such smearing would indeed place me in the same
>ranks as Dershowitz and the others you mention, but it was certainly
>not my intention.
>That said, there are several ways of approaching the question. The
>one undeniable empirical fact is that for three decades and more
>American government policy and the Israel lobby's demands have been
>very close. Not always identical - there have been crises - but
>certainly very close, in an almost unprecedented way. So the question
>must be addressed.
>But there are a few pitfalls along the way. One is the conflation of
>the terms "Jewish", "Israeli" and "Zionist", which I think you are
>not being careful enough to avoid. The fact that many wealthy
>political donors are Jewish and may or may not belong to AIPAC does
>not mean that they represent the American Jewish community in any way
>(most American Jews are not wealthy); similarly, it does not mean
>that they represent the interest either of the state of Israel or of
>its citizens; neither does their Jewishness make their support of
>Zionism a question not worth trying to answer (not all wealthy Jews
>throughout history have been right-wing Zionists). In reality, the
>only generalization one can make about wealthy donors is that they
>are wealthy; this is where we should look for the connection, not in
>their Jewishness.
>It is true that the Zionists conflate Jew, Israeli and Zionist. They
>are hypocritical in the extreme when they then turn around and label
>others who fall into that trap as "anti-Semitic" . However, this does
>not mean that "it is okay" to do as they do. In fact, this is one of
>the main points where leftists need to fight against Zionist
>propaganda, and this is what I tried to contribute to in my article.
>The footnote in the article, where I mention that most of the
>American funding for Israel goes right back to America, was not meant
>to suggest that the profit the US arms industry makes from this
>funding is necessarily the main explanation for the aid. The point
>was that this money should not be seen as just an irrational gift,
>and I stand by that.
>I think that any real understanding of the support the US extends to
>Israel must take into consideration the US empire's own reasons for
>this support. I am not clear on whether you disagree with me on this.
>Do you think supporting Israel is bad for US imperialism? Do you feel
>that it doesn't make any difference, and that these are separate
>issues? Or do you disagree with the assumption I have made, up to now
>implicitly, that US foreign policy is, and always has been,
>imperialistic, and that progressive people all over the world should
>join the fight against it?
>Thanks again for your reply. Please feel free to send copies of our
>correspondence to anyone you like.
>In solidarity,
>On 4/10/07, Jeffrey Blankfort wrote:
>The following article I came across today in my email box and is
>quite interesting in that it represents a view of Israel's
>traditional Marxist Jewish "left." The author, I assume is the son of
>a Jewish American, Reuven Kaminer, a Marxist who emigrated to Israel
>decades ago and whom I met and interviewed there in 1983 when a son,
>Noam, was a member of Yesh G'vul, the refusenik Israeli reservists
>who refused to serve in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon,. The journal,
>Political Affairs, is a venerable publication which used to be close
>to the US Communist Party. I think the article is worth reading but
>did not want to send it without some critical comments.-JB
>Dear Matan,
>I have just read your interesting article in Political Affairs in
>which you asked for responses. There are a number of problems I have
>with it, but one in particular, is of immediate concern.. In dealing
>with one of the most serious issues that has enabled the current
>situation in Israel/Palestine to continue and worsen by the day,
>i.e., the role and influence of what in Israel is described as the
>American "Jewish Lobby," you end up with the same mistaken conclusion
>and make the spurious accusation or implication of "anti-semitism"
>that have blocked the arteries of the Palestine solidarity movement
>and contributed to its utter failure in the US and elsewhere.
>Frankly, they are only dissimilar in tone and length from the ravings
>of Alan Dershowitz and the ADL's Abe Foxman but carry the same message..
>You write:
>"On both sides of the Atlantic, demands to stop preferential
>treatment for Israel have treated this treatment as a kind of
>irrational gift, instead of as the self-interested maneuver it
>obviously is [5]. This stance comes within spitting distance of the
>various conspiracy theories surrounding the "Jewish lobby", and the
>road leading from these to blatant anti-Semitism is quite short."
>To say that Israel is supported because two-thirds of its military
>aid is used to subsidize the US arms industry, a pittance when
>compared, for example, with the outright sales of the industry to
>Saudi Arabia, does not begin to account for the total hold that the
>lobby has held over both houses for Congress and both political
>parties for at least the past four decades, over the White House with
>the exceptions of Ford, Carter, and Bush Sr., or the well documented
>Zionist and philo-zionist domination of the mainstream media.
>Only those who are ideologically blinded can fail to see that the
>lobby, that is the organized American Jewish establishment, has
>hijacked the America political system and has done so for Israel's
>benefit. (It is not the only culprit in the field, but the only one
>with total "bi-partisan" support) It is not a secret that all the
>presidential candidates are whoring after Jewish money and pledging
>their allegiance to Israel, something that they have, in fact, been
>doing for years, as have members of Congress, and that virtually ever
>big donor mentioned in the media is Jewish. Is this of no consequence
>or is even raising the issue and asking the question, "anti-semitic"
>in your eyes?
>Similarly, you do not explain why "in Europe the economic and
>political profit accrued by the European bourgeoisie through its
>support of Israel is not usually an issue." While I am aware that the
>EU is Israel's largest trading partner, it hardly a significant one
>from the EU's standpoint and it is not clear what you mean by
>"political profit" unless you are referring to the monetary and
>political support that Judeophallic European leaders receive from
>Jewish organizational lobbies in their respective countries, such as
>the neo-fascist Zarkosy in France, Merkel in Germany or Blair in the UK.
>What I have found disturbing, but after some years amusing and
>predictable, is that the only two sectors of US and Western society
>that view Israel as a "strategic asset" of the US and use this
>argument to explain the massive economic and critical support that
>the US has given Israel over the years is the organized world-wide
>Jewish establishment and what passes for "the left." It is not
>surprising that the former continues to show signs of ever
>increasing power, as we have most recently seen in the West's
>groveling response to Israel's most recent war on Lebanon while the
>latter, in the US, Europe, or for that matter, Israel, is barely able
>to draw a breath.
>It is something to think about.
>I have copied this message to my entire mailing list along with your
>original article. You are quite likely to get responses from some of
>them. In any case, I will be happy to pass whatever comments you wish
>to make on to them.
>Jeff Blankfort
>The Colonial Drama of Israel and Palestine
>By Matan Kaminer
>Political Affairs
>4-09-07, 8:24 am
>Seen from this side of the Mediterranean, the Western (and especially
>European) view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exhibits a strange
>trait. One often feels that one is playing a part in a play scripted
>by others, and that deviations from the allotted role may be frowned
>upon by the audience. Of course, the most obnoxious version of this
>theatrical piece is the one in which the Israeli is cast as a brave
>liberal David, up against the brutish Muslim Goliath. Seeing as I am
>writing for a left audience and not for The New York Times, this play
>does not concern me here. Often, though, one feels that the
>international left is also sitting down to watch a drama; this one
>might be titled Colonialism.
>Before I go on, let me clarify that I see the situation in Israel/
>Palestine as colonial, and that as a left activist in Israel I see
>anti-colonialism as a central theoretical and practical aspect of my
>activity. But a facile and a-historical importation of anti-
>imperialist stances from other times and places will be useless or
>worse in the struggle for a free Palestine and a socialist and
>democratic Middle East. Our colonialism is different; and although it
>is a family relation of the earlier European colonialisms and a close
>ally of the current, American-led neo-colonialism, it is distinct
>from these and must be fought in different ways.
>Outside the left, and perhaps even to some within it, it might
>nowadays be seen as objectionable to call Zionism a colonial movement
>or Israel a colonialist power. This would strike the father of
>political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, as strange. He was an avid
>colonialist who explicitly envisioned the Jewish homeland as a
>European colony under imperial protection. The revival of the Hebrew
>language, never championed by Herzl (the Jews in his utopia spoke
>German), has obscured this link by using ancient roots in new ways.
>However, the Hebrew name used for the first Zionist settlements,
>moshava, can only be translated as "colony"[1] .
>A colony in search of a metropole
>Colonialism is not only resident latently at the root of Israel's
>existence; it is in full bloom today. One workable definition of the
>term is "the control or governing influence of a nation over a
>dependent country, territory, or people"[2], and this definition
>obviously fits the situation. Of course, ours is in many ways an
>anomalous colonialism. Perhaps the most obvious anomaly is the lack
>of distance between colony and metropole. Israel (the "governing
>nation" or metropole) and Palestine (the "dependent country" or
>colony) are hard to distinguish, not only in terms of geography but
>also of demography: a fifth of Israeli citizens are in fact
>Palestinians, and a substantial portion of the remainder is descended
>from Jewish families that lived in the Arab Middle East for
>generations and spoke Arabic.
>In earlier drafts of this article, I hesitated between the headings
>"a colony without a metropole" and "a colony which is its own
>metropole". I finally settled on the rather vague phrasing which
>heads this section. But it is apt, because the Zionist leadership,
>from Herzl to Olmert, has always looked across the seas for a
>metropole. Since 1967 the military responsibilities of the metropole
>have been borne by the United States, with Europe sharing in economic
>responsibility (and benefits). But politically Israel remains
>independent, and not just in a nominal way. Labeling Israel as "the
>fifty-first state" or as "nothing but" an American colony is
>intellectually lazy and politically dangerous.
>Why politically dangerous? Because there is another important aspect
>in which Israeli colonialism remains bereft of a metropole: Israelis
>have nowhere to go. Many Israelis are descended from refugees
>(whether from Europe or the Middle East), and most are acutely aware
>of the fact that while the US and Europe may aid us in various ways,
>the majority of Israelis will never be accepted in these countries as
>full citizens the way the repatriated European settlers were. This is
>why no current in the Israeli left, however radical, has ever called
>for "repatriation" or any other kind of transfer of the Israeli
>Jewish population away from Israel.
>Colonialism within colonialism
>Of course, the ten thousand Israeli settlers evacuated from the Gaza
>Strip in 2005 did have somewhere to go: they were well taken care of
>by the Israeli government. Abroad as well as in Israel there is much
>confusion over the distinction between opposition to the occupation
>of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and opposition to the Zionist
>colonial project in general. I will not attempt any conclusive
>clearing-up of the confusion here, but I believe a careful double
>application of the category of colonialism can be conceptually and
>politically helpful.
>In 1967 Israel conquered the portions of British Mandatory Palestine
>previously occupied by Jordan and Egypt [3] and, for the first time,
>took on colonialist aspects in a form familiar to European eyes.
>Colonists, military rule, paternalism, resistance, and repression:
>all of these had existed in Israel/Palestine before, but in forms
>much less obviously resembling those of European colonialism. After
>the occupation, though, even the relations between the "general
>public", the settler right and the state began to bear comparison to
>those in colonialist France, oscillating from harmonious national
>unity to moments of crisis (as in the Algiers putsch and the Rabin
>However, as the settlers themselves like to remind Israelis, it is
>hard to pinpoint the essential difference between Tel Aviv and Ariel
>(the largest settlement in the West Bank). It seems that the
>eagerness of the Israeli left (and not only its Zionist sections) to
>denounce the colonialism in the Occupied Territories sometimes serves
>as a mechanism of denial: the Green Line (the 1948 border) is
>essentialized, and the creation of a Palestinian state in the West
>Bank and Gaza is seen as a panacea for all our troubles. The racist
>discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and the
>theocratic dictatorship over personal life – both aspects of Israeli
>colonialism that were clearly born long before '67 – are put on a
>back burner, or expected to resolve themselves "after we make peace",
>and this is of course without mentioning the return of the
>Palestinian refugees.
>Of course, setting priorities is an ugly but necessary part of doing
>politics. I am not denying that stopping the ongoing siege of Gaza is
>a more urgent matter than legalizing marriage between two Israeli
>citizens of different religions [4]. But just as one does not have to
>accept that there is no alternative to capitalism in order to demand
>an increase in the minimum wage, there is no logical contradiction
>between calling for immediate and total withdrawal from the Occupied
>Territories and a critique of Israeli colonialism that does not
>ignore its powerful operations on both sides of the Green Line.
>However, talk of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
>conflict – as opposed to support for talks with the Palestinian
>leadership and a negotiated settlement – does not go hand in hand
>with such an analysis.
>The International Angle
>The above brings me to the tenuous conclusion that Israeli society
>lives on both sides of the colonial coin. We are colonizers and
>colonized at the same time. This is not surprising or particularly
>anomalous. Colonial society is often stratified, and there can be a
>near-continuum between the top and the bottom of the colonial
>hierarchy. Those near the top, like the Aztec princes under the
>Spanish viceroy, are still colonized; their position is comparable to
>that of the Israeli elite.
>Near the top, then, but not quite there. Who is, then? To answer this
>question we need to go beyond nations to classes. The apex of the
>colonial pyramid is most certainly outside of the Middle East, in the
>Olympic heights where the G8, the IMF and NATO live; the reins are
>held in the clutch of the globalized bourgeoisie. This power resides
>not simply in Europe or the United States (or in Japan for that
>matter), but in the hands of those who rule these countries.
>We come again to the drama in which we Israelis must play our part
>opposite Palestinians, Iranians, Lebanese and many others. Who are we
>performing for, and why are they enjoying it? Why do the Western mind
>and the Western left dedicate so much time and energy to watching
>this play, analyzing it and attempting to influence it?
>Could we find an analogy between the way Israelis watch the wrestling
>match of the settlers against the Palestinians and the way Westerners
>watch Israelis and Arabs go at it? Does viewing this anachronistic
>microcosm provide catharsis? Is European society projecting its
>feelings of guilt for its failure to stand up to imperialism in its
>sinister homegrown variety onto the only blatant colonialists still
>around after the death of South African apartheid?
>Developing an anti-colonialist politics
>How could a subtler anti-colonialism inform the politics of radical
>Israeli and international activists? I purposely exclude Palestinian
>activists from the question, as this article is written as a
>communication between Israeli and European. Colonialism may have
>taken on a bizarre, atavistic shape in Israel, but it is no less a
>part of the world system than the current French involvement in
>Africa. This means first of all that Europeans must take
>responsibility for the intimate collaboration of their own
>governments with neo-colonialism in the Middle East and with its
>faithful ally, the Israeli state. North American activists, perhaps
>out of a greater alienation from their own elite, have become more
>demanding in the Bush era. But in Europe the economic and political
>profit accrued by the European bourgeoisie through its support of
>Israel is not usually an issue. There is no reason why this should
>not change.
>On both sides of the Atlantic, demands to stop preferential treatment
>for Israel have treated this treatment as a kind of irrational gift,
>instead of as the self-interested maneuver it obviously is [5]. This
>stance comes within spitting distance of the various conspiracy
>theories surrounding the "Jewish lobby", and the road leading from
>these to blatant anti-Semitism is quite short.
>For Israelis, anti-colonialist politics means taking the long view.
>It means looking beyond various state "solutions" within the
>framework of neo-liberal capitalism towards the articulation of joint
>struggles with Palestinians and other Arabs against reaction, whether
>neo-liberal or fundamentalist. It means turning away from seeing the
>"international community" as a fair arbitrator and towards a vision
>of alliance with the social movements of the third world – including
>the third world of immigrants and dissidents in the belly of the
>imperialist beast, and also including workers, women, ethnic
>minorities and other oppressed groups in the Middle East.
>All of us – and this applies to Palestinians as well – must remind
>ourselves that without a globalized politics that demands
>redistribution on a world scale, attempts to remedy the situation in
>Israel/Palestine will only intensify the exploitative power of the
>Arab, Israeli and global bourgeoisies over the rest of us. We must
>resist the facile imitation of the experience of European
>decolonization, which can lead us to reformist national "solutions".
>We must link the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to the
>struggles of immigrants and refugees around the world for human
>rights. We must think long-term about the possible lives of Jewish
>Israelis in a post-Zionist Middle East, and we must turn this
>eventuality from an apocalyptic threat into a viable alternative.
>The proportion of migrant workers in the Israeli population is
>already one of the highest in the developed world. These Africans,
>Latin Americans and Asians have been brought here to replace the
>troublesome Palestinian workers whom we have locked behind walls;
>they are periodically shipped off to make sure they don't get any
>ideas. Thus, today the Levant is once again seeing populations moved
>around by force of hunger and violence, an imperialist tactic this
>part of the world has known at least since the days of the Assyrian
>Empire. The struggles of the Palestinians and of oppressed people in
>Israel can, and should, become part of the wider struggle for a world
>without borders and without masters.
>--Matan Kaminer is an Israeli left activist. He would be happy to
>receive comments at The author wishes to
>thank Eilat Maoz for her vital comments and criticism.
>[1] The "colonialism within colonialism" (see below) of the 1967
>occupation has a linguistic aspect. While the word moshava ("colony")
>and the linguistically related yishuv ("settlement") and mityashvim
>("colonists", "settlers") are currently seen as politically neutral
>and retain a positive, if somewhat naïve, connotation in Israeli
>culture, the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are called hitnah)
>aluyot, a word with a different root which echoes the Hebrew
>colonization of Canaan in the Old Testament. This epithet, originally
>borne with pride by the settlers (mitnah)alim), has understandably
>acquired a negative connotation over the years, and the settlers
>themselves now prefer the words yishuv and mityashvim.
>[2] Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://
> (accessed: February 24,
>[3] It also conquered the Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt) and the Golan
>Heights (from Syria). I will not discuss these here.
>[4] Jews are not allowed to marry non-Jews in Israel. Such marriages
>are recognized by the State only when performed abroad.
>[5] For instance, most of the money sent to Israel as military aid
>returns to the West as arms purchases.
> >From

Jeff Blankfort writes:
The following contribution to the discussion of the Israel Lobby between Matan Kaminer and myself is unique because it comes from someone who has actually worked inside the legislative system on both the national and state levels and therefore speaks from an experience that only the handful of persons on my list who have actually served in Congress (and experienced the workings of The Lobby directly ) can claim. As Peggy McCormack points out, this lobby has penetrated and infiltrated our political system, literally hijacked it, in a way that is totally without precedent. The results may be invisible on the surface in the US but they are visible on a daily basis in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, and if the lobby has its way, Iran. This message should open the eyes of those who defend the lobby's actions as being completely within the spirit of American democracy, when clearly one sees that it is consuming what is left of it from the roots.-JB

Peggy McCormack wrote:

Dear Jeff and anyone else:

The Lobby and American Campaigns

I am so glad that this discussion about the lobby is open, now, to outsiders. My name is Peggy McCormack, and I have worked inside Congress and the California Legislature off and on for 30 years. I am currently teaching at a small college.

Almost everyone who talks about "the lobby", including Jeff Blankfort, who is absolutely the best on this subject (especially of the role the lobby plays with state and local governments and labor unions), are woefully ignorant of the inner workings of Congress. Congress may be the last place that any form of representation of "the people" takes place. As it gets more and more controlled by monied interests, Congress becomes more and more homogeneous. However, with regard to foreign policy, there are always the few brave members who routinely challenge American Imperialist policy. This was certainly true with regard to Latin America, Vietnam and other US imperialist debacles.

It is not true of Israel. Have you questioned how this came about? When it came about? I worked in many Congressional Campaigns and with many Political Campaign firms. Most of the really good campaign firms are controlled by Zionists (read Tom Hayden's article in Counterpunch). They function as money laundries, provide expensive services for practically nothing, demand loyalty to Israel, walk out in the middle of campaigns if candidates do not swear loyalty to Israel, and as private consultants have great impact on reapportionment processes in major states. I am familiar with California because the Campaign Firm that routinely tried to take my former boss out of Congress either by running primary candidates against him, or reapportioning him out, has run the reapportionment in California for the Democrats since 1970. There are other Zionist entities, such as the Congressional Committee for and Effective Congress that "helped" Democrats throughout the US with their reapportionment and made sure that some anti-Israel candidates had districts drawn in order to make picking them off in a primary easy.

Congressional candidates are frightened of the lobby. They certainly don’t want putting up with the hassles of having the "lobby" come after them, but worse, they fear being targeted. Ask Jim Moran, Congressman from Virginia’s 8th District who refused to vote for every anti-Palestinian resolution that came before Congress, and spoke out against the nasty occupation of Palestinians. He endured day to day torment , outrageous surveillance, electronic eavesdropping bugs, photos by Zionist paparazzi’s who followed him, and on and on.

Part of the problem of uncovering the details of how the Lobby works in effectively controlling the campaign technology and expertise is the need for research. My ex-Communist party friends here in California are as ignorant of how the behind the scenes political campaign work is done, as the average citizen. A quick example I often use: I was once hired by a campaign to literally keep volunteers busy and away from the major activity of the campaign. Donations, of course, and endorsements (In the Democratic Party labor), are the milk of American politics. Since the bulk of donations to the Democrats come from Israeli support groups, and Labor, (Blankfort has documented how the Zionists control Labor PAC committees) the power of the Israeli “lobby” becomes clearer and clearer. Tie that to the overpowering control by campaign firms themselves, and yes, Ariel Sharon is right "We own the Congress".

If I could interview Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucus members "off the record" I would uncover recent and current campaign practices that my former boss endured, and sadly, that I watched intimately when I worked in campaigns myself -- loans (that quickly come due if the member steps out of line, as my boss did), "loyalty oaths" prepared speeches, imbedded campaign workers, imbedded Congressional staff, partially paid by various lobbies (this could not happen if AIPAC and their dozens of clones had to register as foreign lobbyists).

Oh, and all those campaign firms that do the extremely expensive work of polling, paid voter registration, and precinct analysis (remember campaign firms do not have to report any of this work) – who pays for that? Blessed candidates get the benefits, but at what cost? It is interesting to note that the power of the lobby grew as campaigning became more and more computerized, and the need for more and more “experts” entered the game.

If I had the time and money, I would investigate this phenomenon, I don’t, but someone needs to look at the “way it works”. Peg McCormack