Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pollard and Vanunu: A tale of two spies

from al-monitor, Nov. 24, 2015

Jonathan Pollard’s release from a US prison Nov. 20 has not relieved the Israeli public of the affair that has haunted it for the past three decades. Likud Knesset House Committee Chair David Bitan was quick to prepare legislation granting Pollard a monthly state stipend for the rest of his life along with subsidized rent and health care. In a congratulatory letter to the former convict, Zionist Camp member Nahman Shai, head of the Knesset caucus advocating for Pollard, wrote that the “lobby will not rest and not cease.” In fact, he has set a new challenge for the caucus: to lift the restrictions on the Jewish spy that “violate [his] civil rights.” Shai pledged that the caucus would not halt its advocacy until Pollard is allowed to leave the United States for a destination of his choice, “first and foremost, Israel.”

Summary⎙ Print While criticizing the restrictions the US has imposed on released spy Jonathan Pollard and attempting to legislate state allocations for him, Israeli politicians ignore their government's restrictions on nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu.
Author Akiva EldarPosted November 24, 2015
TranslatorRuti Sinai

In July, the same Shai gave listeners of Kol Barama radio an idea of the acts committed by the man for whom a special Knesset caucus was established. “It’s hard for us to comprehend the notion of a person betraying his homeland,” said Shai. “There was money, he got paid for his activity, he got paid, maybe he didn’t get everything but he received payment [$30,000 a year]. It’s also a kind of espionage … He tried to sell documents to other countries, too, not just to Israel.” Nonetheless, Shai added that after Israel assumed responsibility for Pollard’s actions and granted him Israeli citizenship, it was incumbent upon it to go the whole nine yards on his behalf.

Not only did Shai brand Pollard a traitor to his homeland and a paid spy, he also compared him with Mordechai Vanunu, Israel’s “nuclear spy.” In 1988, Vanunu was convicted of treason and aggravated spying for selling the British Sunday Times classified documents about the inner workings at the Dimona nuclear facility. A court sentenced him to 18 years in prison. For the first 11 years of his sentence, he was kept in complete isolation.

In fact, the two affairs share many similarities. Vanunu, like Pollard, worked for a defense agency, abused his employer’s trust and inflicted serious damage to his country's national interests. Both had ideological motivations, albeit wrapped in cash. Vanunu sought to shatter the conspiracy of silence surrounding Israel's nuclear capabilities and the public's reluctance to know about goings-on at Dimona. Avner Cohen, author of “Israel and the Bomb” and a lecturer on nuclear studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California, argues that Vanunu was not a spy at all. Rather, he considers him the “original Edward Snowden.”

Like Pollard, even after Vanunu served his entire sentence, he was considered a ticking time bomb of secrets. He, too, was prohibited contact with the media and permission to leave the country. Although it has been more than a decade since Vanunu's release, and almost 30 years since he was jailed, he is still not a free man. This is where the similarity between the two convicted felons ends.

Pollard got his own Knesset caucus, an (illegally constructed) East Jerusalem building named after him (“Jonathan House”), assistance for his financial rehabilitation and organized efforts to embellish his motives and actions. Vanunu, on the other hand, still bears the mark of Cain, of a traitor and spy. Not a single Knesset member has lifted a finger to remove the travel restrictions on him and the other limitations imposed by state security. No major media outlet has slammed the security agencies' “vindictiveness” against Vanunu. Reporters are too busy with the Pollard release circus. Commentators are shocked by the restrictions placed on Pollard by the US government.

Israelis having different attitudes toward the two spies is not unusual. It is typical of the lack of symmetry between Israel’s attitude toward those who harm its security and the attitude it demands toward Jews who harm the security of their homeland. One can assume that had Pollard been an American Jew who joined Mossad and sold a million classified documents to US intelligence out of greed — after offering his services, so it's been reported, to South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, Iran and Australia — the Israeli public and its elected officials would have condemned any attempt by an American president to intervene on his behalf. What would the Knesset members lobbying for Pollard have said about a US congressional caucus lobbying for the release of an Israeli Pollard? How would the media relate to a proposed bill in Congress providing him lifetime financial support and subsidies for his rent and medical expenses?

The first lesson of the Pollard affair is that the capacity for compassion has no religion, and the capacity for forgiveness has no nationality. Your hero is often the enemy of the other party and vice versa. The second lesson is that “security needs” are not moral disinfectants or stain removers. Anyone who decides to run a spy in the territory of an important ally must keep in mind that there is a limit to what close friends are willing to put up with. The third lesson is that there are times when the true hero is the politician who curbs his desire for publicity. The noisy politicos did not shorten Pollard’s sentence by a single day and perhaps had the opposite effect. The media bonanza they have been riding since his release will not cut short the parole restrictions imposed on him. In fact, the opposite might transpire.

Read more:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Shadows of Algeria: the Lost Context of the Paris Attacks

NOVEMBER 17, 2015


It wasn’t just one of the attackers who vanished after the Paris massacre. Three nations whose history, action–and inaction–help to explain the slaughter by Isis have largely escaped attention in the near-hysterical response to the crimes against humanity in Paris: Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The French-Algerian identity of one of the attackers demonstrates how France’s savage 1956-62 war in Algeria continues to infect today’s atrocities. The absolute refusal to contemplate Saudi Arabia’s role as a purveyor of the most extreme Wahabi-Sunni form of Islam, in which Isis believes, shows how our leaders still decline to recognise the links between the kingdom and the organisation which struck Paris. And our total unwillingness to accept that the only regular military force in constant combat with Isis is the Syrian army – which fights for the regime that France also wants to destroy – means we cannot liaise with the ruthless soldiers who are in action against Isis even more ferociously than the Kurds.

Whenever the West is attacked and our innocents are killed, we usually wipe the memory bank. Thus, when reporters told us that the 129 dead in Paris represented the worst atrocity in France since the Second World War, they failed to mention the 1961 Paris massacre of up to 200 Algerians participating in an illegal march against France’s savage colonial war in Algeria. Most were murdered by the French police, many were tortured in the Palais des Sports and their bodies thrown into the Seine. The French only admit 40 dead. The police officer in charge was Maurice Papon, who worked for Petain’s collaborationist Vichy police in the Second World War, deporting more than a thousand Jews to their deaths.

Omar Ismail Mostafai, one of the suicide killers in Paris, was of Algerian origin – and so, too, may be other named suspects. Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers who murdered the Charlie Hebdo journalists, were also of Algerian parentage. They came from the five million-plus Algerian community in France, for many of whom the Algerian war never ended, and who live today in the slums of Saint-Denis and other Algerian banlieues of Paris. Yet the origin of the 13 November killers – and the history of the nation from which their parents came – has been largely deleted from the narrative of Friday’s horrific events. A Syrian passport with a Greek stamp is more exciting, for obvious reasons.

A colonial war 50 years ago is no justification for mass murder, but it provides a context without which any explanation of why France is now a target makes little sense. So, too, the Saudi Sunni-Wahabi faith, which is a foundation of the “Islamic Caliphate” and its cult-like killers. Mohammed ibn Abdel al-Wahab was the purist cleric and philosopher whose ruthless desire to expunge the Shia and other infidels from the Middle East led to 18th-century massacres in which the original al-Saud dynasty was deeply involved.

The present-day Saudi kingdom, which regularly beheads supposed criminals after unfair trials, is building a Riyadh museum dedicated to al-Wahab’s teachings, and the old prelate’s rage against idolaters and immorality has found expression in Isis’s accusation against Paris as a centre of “prostitution”. Much Isis funding has come from Saudis – although, once again, this fact has been wiped from the terrible story of the Friday massacre.

And then comes Syria, whose regime’s destruction has long been a French government demand. Yet Assad’s army, outmanned and still outgunned – though recapturing some territory with the help of Russian air strikes – is the only trained military force fighting Isis. For years, both the Americans, the British and the French have said that the Syrians do not fight Isis. But this is palpably false; Syrian troops were driven out of Palmyra in May after trying to prevent Isis suicide convoys smashing their way into the city – convoys that could have been struck by US or French aircraft. Around 60,000 Syrian troops have now been killed in Syria, many by Isis and the Nusrah Islamists – but our desire to destroy the Assad regime takes precedence over our need to crush Isis.

The French now boast that they have struck ISIS’s Syrian “capital” of Raqqa 20 times – a revenge attack, if ever there was one. For if this was a serious military assault to liquidate the Isis machine in Syria, why didn’t the French do it two weeks ago? Or two months ago? Once more, alas, the West – and especially France – responds to Isis with emotion rather than reason, without any historical context, without recognising the grim role that our “moderate”, head-chopping Saudi “brothers” play in this horror story. And we think we are going to destroy Isis…

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared.

Friday, November 20, 2015

CNN Punished Its Own Journalist for Fulfilling a Core Duty of Journalism

from The Intercept

Glenn Greenwald
Nov. 20 2015, 12:23 p.m.

CNN yesterday suspended its global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, for two weeks for the crime of posting a tweet critical of the House vote to ban Syrian refugees. Whether by compulsion or choice, she then groveled in apology. This is the original tweet along with her subsequent expression of repentance:

This all happened after The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple complained that her original tweet showed “bias.” The claim that CNN journalists must be “objective” and are not permitted to express opinions is an absolute joke. CNN journalists constantly express opinions without being sanctioned.

Labott’s crime wasn’t that she expressed an opinion. It’s that she expressed the wrong opinion: after Paris, defending Muslims, even refugees, is strictly forbidden. I’ve spoken with friends who work at every cable network and they say the post-Paris climate is indescribably repressive in terms of what they can say and who they can put on air. When it comes to the Paris attacks, CNN has basically become state TV (to see just how subservient CNN is about everything relating to terrorism, watch this unbelievable “interview” of ex-CIA chief Jim Woolsey by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin; or consider that neither CNN nor MSNBC has put a single person on air to dispute the CIA’s blatant falsehoods about Paris despite how many journalists have documented those falsehoods).

Labott’s punishment comes just five days after two CNN anchors spent 6 straight minutes lecturing French Muslim civil rights activist Yasser Louati that he and all other French Muslims bear “responsibility” for the attack (the anchors weren’t suspended for expressing those repulsive opinions). The suspension comes just four days after CNN’s Jim Acosta stood up in an Obama press conference and demanded: “I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world . . . . I guess the question is– and if you’ll forgive the language– is why can’t we take out these bastards?” (he wasn’t suspended). It comes five days after CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour mauled Obama on-air for not being more militaristic about ISIS (she wasn’t suspended); throughout 2013, Amanpour vehemently argued all over CNN for U.S. intervention in Syria (she wasn’t suspended).

Labott’s suspension also comes less than a year after Don Lemon demanded that Muslim human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar state whether he supports ISIS (he wasn’t suspended); in 2010, Lemon strongly insinuated that all Muslims were responsible for the 9/11 attack when he defended opposition to an Islamic Community Center in lower Manhattan (he wasn’t suspended). During the Occupy Wall Street protests, CNN host Erin Burnett continuously mocked the protesters while defending Wall Street (she wasn’t suspended) and also engaged in rank fear-mongering over Iran (she wasn’t suspended). I could literally spend the rest of the day pointing to opinions expressed by CNN journalists for which they were not suspended or punished in any way.

By very stark contrast, career CNN producer Octavia Nasr was instantly fired in 2010 after 20 years with the network for the crime of tweeting a positive sentiment for a beloved Shia imam who had just died, after neocons complained that he was a Hezbollah sympathizer. Earlier this year, Jim Clancy was forced to “resign” after 30 years with CNN for tweeting inflammatory criticisms of Israel. As I’ve pointed out over and over, “journalistic objectivity” is a sham for so many reasons, beginning with the fact that all reporting is suffuse with subjective perspectives. “Objectivity” does not ban opinions; it just bans opinions that are particularly disfavored among those who wield the greatest power (obviously, no CNN journalist would be punished for advocating military action against ISIS, for instance).

But there’s a more important point here than CNN’s transparently farcical notion of “objectivity.” In the wake of Paris, an already-ugly and quite dangerous anti-Muslim climate has exploded. The leading GOP presidential candidate is speaking openly of forcing Muslims to register in databases, closing mosques, and requiring Muslims to carry special ID cards. Another, Rand Paul, just introduced a bill to ban refugees almost exclusively from predominantly Muslim and/or Arab countries. Others are advocating exclusion of Muslim refugees (Cruz) and religious tests to allow in only “proven Christians” (Bush).

That, by any measure, is a crisis of authoritarianism. And journalists have historically not only been permitted, but required, to raise their voice against such dangers. Indeed, that is one of the primary roles of journalism: to serve as a check on extremism when stoked by political demagogues.

The two most respected American television journalists in the history of the medium are almost certainly Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. The legacies of both were shaped by their raising their voices in times of creeping radicalism and government overreach. Murrow repeatedly inveighed against the extremism of Congressional McCarthyism, while Cronkite disputed Pentagon claims that victory in the Vietnam War was near and instead called for its end: “the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” Neither could survive at the climate created at CNN:

As Murrow said in justifying his opposition to the Wisconsin Senator and his allies: “there is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his [sic] responsibilities.”

It’s not hard to envision the impact that this CNN action will have on the next journalist who considers speaking up the way Labott (very mildly) just did: they know doing so could imperil their career. In the face of the kind of emerging extremism now manifest in the U.S. (and Europe), that journalistic climate neuters journalists, renders them impotent and their function largely irrelevant, and – by design or otherwise – obliterates a vital check on tyrannical impulses. But that’s what happens when media outlets are viewed principally as corporate assets rather than journalistic ones: their overriding goal is to avoid saying or doing anything that will create conflict between them and those who wield the greatest power.

* * * * *

I did two interviews yesterday where I was able to more or less to comprehensively set forth my views on the behavior of the U.S. media following Paris, which I must admit – notwithstanding my very low expectations – has surprised (and horrified) me in terms of how subservient it is. First, there was this interview on Democracy Now (starting at 13:00; relevant segments are here and here), which generated more response than any I’ve ever done on that show, and this shorter one on France24.

Glenn Greenwald

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Connecticut branch of the AFL-CIO has voted to back key elements of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

from the electric intifada
Ali Abunima

AFL-CIO is the largest US labor federation, counting dozens of unions with a combined membership of almost 13 million workers as its affiliates – 200,000 of them in Connecticut.

At the Connecticut branch’s convention in October, delegates passed a resolution calling on the national AFL-CIO to adopt BDS “in connection with companies and investments profiting from or complicit in human rights violations arising from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel, and to urge its affiliates and related pension and annuity funds to adopt similar strategies.”

It also calls on the US to “diligently apply all diplomatic and economic tools to bring an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to support a fair and just peace in which the people of Israel and Palestine can live in peace and security in accordance with international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The resolution notes that Unite, the largest union in United Kingdom and Ireland, has backed BDS.

Democratic Party ties
The move is significant because while many rank-and-file members of AFL-CIO-affiliated unions have supported Palestinian rights, the same has not been true for the federation’s leadership.

The national AFL-CIO worked closely with the US Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War to subvert left-wing movements and governments around the world.

It has contributed millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and remains closely tied to that party’s pro-Israel establishment.

Both the administration of President Barack Obama, as well as his would-be successor Hillary Clinton, oppose any form of boycott of Israel, including of its settlements.

“Giant stride”
In September, a delegation of Connecticut trade union leaders traveled to Palestine in response to an invitation from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.

It included David Roche, president of the Connecticut Building and Construction Trades Council, who co-sponsored the resolution along with John Harrity, president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists.

Reverend David W. Good, who co-led the delegation for the Tree of Life Educational Fund, spoke last month about the Israeli abuses the participants witnessed:

Good made the case for BDS, arguing that “the fulcrum of change is with us.”

“I’m very, very thankful for the union members who came back from our last Tree of Life journey resolved to be in solidarity with workers in Palestine,” Good added.

Following the vote, resolution co-sponsor John Harrity said: “We are proud that the [Connecticut] AFL-CIO, through the action of elected delegates from the large spectrum of unions that make up our federation, voted to endorse the resolution.”

Stanley Heller, a longtime Palestine solidarity activist in Connecticut, called the state’s AFL-CIO vote “a giant stride forward.”

“There’s probably going to be a discussion about BDS in trade unions all across the country,” Heller predicted. “Unions will discuss whether the labor adage ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ will be applied to Palestinian working people too.”

The Connecticut AFL-CIO did not respond to The Electronic Intifada’s repeated requests for comment and the organization does not appear to have issued any statement about the resolution.

The Connecticut AFL-CIO vote predictably generated reactionary disgust. “You are supporting a people and a culture that seeks to annihilate Israel,” Elie Goretsky commented at the federation’s Facebook page. “Ergo, your organization endorses anti-Semitic beliefs and activities.”

“Sickened to see that you racist pigs choose to support terrorists,” added Corey Multer, who suggested that the federation change its name to “ISIS-FL-CIO Connecticut.”

As news about the decision spreads, there is likely to be a more organized backlash than mere abuse on Facebook.

In August, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) became only the second national union in the United States, and the largest so far, to vote to back BDS.

UE – which is not affiliated with AFL-CIO – now finds itself under legal assault by the Israeli intelligence-linked lawfare group Shurat HaDin, which has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

A UE spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada last month that the union was confident the complaint would be dismissed.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hillary Clinton Is No Friend of Israel

from Haaretz
The Democratic presidential candidate’s love letter to Israel last week was simply embarrassing, and proves she is an obstacle to what is best for the Israeli state.

Gideon Levy 08.11.2015

Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in South Carolina, October 31, 2015. The Palestinians know she's not fighting for them.Reuters
Democratic primary enters new phase after Sanders, O'Malley target Clinton
Hillary Clinton and her best friend dish on hummus, Bibi, the moon, and gardening
Five ways Sidney Blumenthal advised Hillary Clinton on Israel
Hillary Clinton's election as U.S. president would ensure Israel’s continued decline and degeneration. And so she is not a friend, but an enemy. She must not be allowed to deceive and present herself as a friend of Israel, as she tried so ingratiatingly to do in an article published in The Forward (“How I would reaffirm unbreakable bond with Israel — and Benjamin Netanyahu”) last week. The tear ducts were targeted as she wrote of how she assisted Magen David Adom in being accepted to the International Red Cross. But she and those like her – false friends of Israel – have been one of the curses on this country for years. Because of them, Israel can continue to act as wildly as it likes, thumbing its nose at the world and paying no price. Because of them, it can destroy itself unhindered.
Whether Clinton believes what she wrote or simply wanted once again to sell her soul for a fistful of dollars from Haim Saban and other Jewish donors, the result is extremely embarrassing. A love letter to Israel, the likes of which no U.S. statesman would ever write to another country. Americans believe “Israel is more than a country – it’s a dream,” she states. Most of the world calls it a nightmare, yet Clinton says a dream. What dream exactly? The dream of tyrannical control over another people? Racism? Nationalism? The killing of women and children in Gaza?
What happened to the Hillary Rodham Clinton who in her youth fought for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, and as a lawyer specialized in children’s rights? Did she not hear what her dream state is doing to Palestinian children? What happened to the glorious career woman who was considered liberal and justice-seeking on her way up? Did she forget it all? Does money buy everything? Or, when it comes to Israel, do all principles suddenly change?

Did the former secretary of state not hear about the Israeli occupation? After all, she didn’t mention it once in her article. This is not the time or place to anger Saban. To Clinton, Israel is a “thriving democracy” and to hell with the violent and totalitarian regime in its backyard. And so Clinton is also an enemy of peace and justice. She doesn’t believe there has been the slightest damage to Palestinian rights. Israelis being stabbed in Jerusalem “appalls” Clinton. Palestinians being unjustifiably shot to death, meanwhile, fails to register with her. They will love her for that on Fifth Avenue. Religious figures who encourage killing are, of course, only Muslim; only Israeli security must be vouchsafed. The synagogues of Manhattan will love that, too. Clinton pledges to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her first month in office. Also, that she will send a delegation of the U.S. Army’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to Israel. What for, exactly?
For Clinton, this isn’t “just about policy,” it is “a personal commitment to the friendship … and our vision for peace and security.” One could, of course, explain away this sorry, honey-dripped statement with the need to raise more money from Jews. But one cannot ignore the content. Clinton is a leading candidate to become the next president of the United States, and her commitment to the continued Israeli occupation and its funding has been proven in the past. The Palestinians are also reading her words. What are they supposed to think in the face of this one-sided extremism? What can they expect in light of such outright disregard for their fate? Hope for change, which has already taken a beating during President Barack Obama’s time in office, will not be able to rise if Clinton is president.
Most American Jews will support her, some because they think she is good for Israel. Well, dear brethren, she is not. A person who supports the continued occupation is like a person who continues to buy drugs for an addicted relative. This is neither concern nor friendship; it is destruction. Perhaps some ignorant Republican would be preferable in the White House after all. But, on second thoughts, he would surely be funded by Sheldon Adelson.
read more:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

When ‘Black Lives Matter’ is linked with ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’ - The Washington Post Inbox

When ‘Black Lives Matter’ is linked with ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went before a joint meeting of Congress in March to outline his opposition to a possible nuclear agreement with Iran, fawning lawmakers received him as Joshua, the conqueror of Jericho; Gideon, the wily military leader against Israel’s enemies; and Samson, the extraordinarily strong vanquisher of Philistines, all rolled into one.

Netanyahu returns to Washington to be received at the White House on Monday. He leaves behind a homeland racked by deadly waves of stabbings, shootings and car rammings. Michael Herzog, retired Israel Defense Forces brigadier general and son of Israel’s president from 1983 to 1993, told Politico that the “whole eruption” in Israel represents “young people . . . taking matters into their own hand out of frustration, incitement, and various other reasons.” He said, “It could go on, this low-key four, five, six incidents a day, for quite a while.”

Colbert I. “Colby” King writes a column -- sometimes about D.C., sometimes about politics -- on that runs on Saturdays. In 2003, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. King joined the Post’s editorial board in 1990 and served as deputy editorial page editor from 2000 to 2007. View Archive
A far cry from the foreign threat that brought Netanyahu to Washington in the winter.

Much has happened since the perfume of honeysuckles in March gave way to November’s smoky bonfires.

Then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), mastermind of Netanyahu’s March 3 White House end run to Congress, is out of office.

The nuclear deal that Netanyahu and congressional Republicans tried to derail is in effect.

And then there was the less noticeable Oct. 10 event on Capitol Hill that drew attention to Israel, though not by name.

The occasion was the gathering of thousands of mostly African American men at the west front of the Capitol to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.

One speaker, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago — and President Obama’s pastor until 2008 — used the occasion to deliver a paean to the Palestinians.

Whether Wright’s speech hit the mark with those in attendance is open to speculation. There was, however, no mistaking his aim: to equate and link the plight of Palestinians in the Middle East with the quest of blacks for full equality in the United States.

“The youth in Ferguson and the youth in Palestine have united together to remind us that the dots need to be connected,” Wright told the crowd, according to media reports.

Citing what he called the “three-headed demon” of “racism, militarism and capitalism,” Wright implored the gathering to “stand beside our Palestinian brothers and sisters, who have been done one of the most egregious injustices in the 20th and 21st centuries.”

“Apartheid is going on in Palestine,” Wright said. “As we sit here, there is an apartheid wall being built twice the size of the Berlin Wall in height, keeping Palestinians off of illegally occupied territories, where the Europeans” — presumably Israelis — “have claimed that land as their own.”

Drawing on the black chant, Wright observed, “Palestinians are saying ‘Palestinian lives matter,’ ” and added, “We stand with you, we support you, we say God bless you.”

As a longtime supporter of Israel, and a believer — as Obama is — that Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, I don’t think Israel gained attention in a good way that day.

I fear the larger society, fixated on Israel’s security concerns, may be missing what’s going on here at home: a developing divergent African American perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Pew Research Center poll this year showed that with regard to the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, 72 percent of whites had “a lot” or “some” sympathy for Israel. That number fell to 50 percent among African American respondents. What’s more, 20 percent of blacks had “a lot” of sympathy for Palestinians, but only 10 percent of white respondents reported they felt that way.

The linkage of the Black Lives Matter movement with groups that share the goal of isolating and crippling Israel through the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is the latest manifestation of this reality.

And it certainly doesn’t help black people feel much better about Israel when, according to former Obama aide Dennis Ross’s new book, “Doomed to Succeed,” national security adviser Susan Rice reportedly charged that Netanyahu’s posture against the Iran deal was outrageous — that the Israeli leader did everything but “use ‘the N-word’ in describing the president.”

Nor does it improve relations when Netanyahu’s newly appointed spokesman, Ron Baratz, suggests that Obama is anti-Semitic. What does that make the millions of white and black Americans who support the president? Baratz has since apologized, and Netanyahu said his spokesman doesn’t speak for him. Sort of like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.

Obama and Netanyahu have much to talk about Monday. Their policy and personal differences, for sure. Israel’s ability to protect itself must be high on the agenda. But so should its inclination to make common cause with the Republican caucus and not the Obama-led U.S. government.

That, Netanyahu needs to understand, has both foreign and domestic ramifications.

Read more from Colbert King’s archive.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Israel's Top Generals Split With Benjamin Netanyahu on Roots of Terror Wave

From the Jewish Daily Forwar
J.J. GoldbergNovember 3, 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu probably thinks he got the last laugh after the international uproar he touched off with his “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews” speech on October 20. But he just might have opened up a whole new can of worms.

The Israeli prime minister was bombarded with criticism by everyone from Knesset opposition leader Isaac Herzog to German Chancellor Angela Merkel over his claim that the extermination idea was first proposed to Hitler by the Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. The critics all said it was a historical untruth, a distortion of the Holocaust and a diminishment of the evil of Nazism. Merkel went as far as to rebuke Netanyahu and insist that Germans, not someone else, bore responsibility for the Holocaust.

Netanyahu, it turned out, was quick to concede the main point. He never meant to suggest that Hitler wasn’t responsible for the Holocaust, he said the next day. A week later he conceded further that the genocide idea hadn’t come from the mufti. He said he merely wanted to point out that Husseini, a founding father of Palestinian nationalism, was an enthusiastic accomplice of Hitler’s and that genocidal, Nazi-style anti-Semitism was the primary motivating force in his opposition to Zionism. And that today’s Palestinian leadership continues to revere Husseini and his legacy.

And with that, the subject was more or less closed. Critics around the world, it seems, were satisfied that Netanyahu understood the magnitude of Hitler’s crime. All he was really trying to say was that Palestinian nationalism traces its roots to genocidal anti-Semitism. And to world opinion such an imputation apparently isn’t a problem. So Netanyahu came out a winner from the seeming embarrassment. He discredited the current Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas as being politically descended from those who admired genocide. A good day’s work.

Coincidentally or not, however, voices have been raised in a most unlikely corner to insist that Palestinian hostility to Israel — including Palestinian terrorist violence — is at least partly a response to Israeli actions and policies, and not simply a deep-seated hatred of Jews. That corner is the Israel Defense Forces.

In the days after Netanyahu’s speech, two active-duty IDF generals who are among the army’s top experts on Palestinian affairs spoke out publicly to state that Palestinian violence is driven to a considerable degree by anger at Israeli actions. One of the two went a step further, warning that only a serious Israeli diplomatic re-engagement with the Palestinians will help to quell such violence over the long term.

This might seem like more of the same-old, same-old that we’ve been hearing for several years now: questioning of Netanyahu’s policies by senior figures in the Israeli defense establishment. But it’s not. This is something new.

Up to now, almost all public pushback from the security community has come from retired ex-service chiefs who are now private citizens and free to speak their minds. Their unanimity may well tell us something important about Israeli defense doctrine, as I’ve argued before. And indeed, many of them remain in close touch and intimately involved as reservists in current military and intelligence activity.

But there’s a difference when active-duty generals speak out. IDF generals — unlike, say, Israeli cabinet ministers — are not free to spout off publicly with opinions that contradict their immediate bosses. When they do speak out, therefore, their views can be assumed to reflect those of the IDF command. Accordingly, for a high-ranking, active-duty general to voice a view that’s at odds with strongly held views of the prime minister is nothing less than shocking, because it’s the voice of the IDF. And that’s what has started happening now.

The first general to speak out was Major General Nitzan Alon, currently chief of the General Staff Operations Directorate. He moved up last May after nearly a decade as commander of Israel’s military presence in the West Bank — first as commander of the Judea-Samaria Division, then as chief of Central Command. Alon testified on October 22 in a trial involving two settlers accused of incitement for publishing the Kahanist-leaning Jewish Voice website.

“Some of the motivation of the Palestinians to carry out terror attacks is due to the violence of right-wing elements in the West Bank,” Alon told the court, according to Haaretz and numerous other news sources.

“In my understanding there are many reasons for Palestinian violence, some of them related to the murderous behavior of the terrorists, some related to religious and nationalistic motives, and a certain part, not the main part, that is related to revenge activity due to the activity of Israelis against Palestinians,” Alon was quoted as saying.

He also said that “a significant part of Israeli violence against Palestinians stems from Palestinian violence against Israelis. Some of the incidents are revenge for terror or violence.” In other words, we are witnessing what’s known in the West — much to the displeasure of the Israeli and pro-Israel right — as a cycle of violence.

The second general to cause waves was Brigadier General Guy Goldstein, deputy chief of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. That’s the IDF unit in charge of maintaining relations between the military, as legal sovereign in the territories (under Israeli law, the territories aren’t annexed to Israel but rather are held by the army), and Palestinian civil authorities.

Speaking October 28 at an academic conference in Netanya on rehabilitation of Gaza, Goldstein said that the wave of Palestinian terrorist violence plaguing Israel would not disappear — though it might rise and fall in intensity — “unless there is some significant change, partly if not mostly on the diplomatic front.”

“What Israel is facing is not a wave of escalation,” Goldstein was quoted as saying. “but a confrontation that is expected to continue if not intensify and bring changes in the Palestinian arena. Even if there’s a certain calming in terrorism and disturbances, without a diplomatic process all the conditions for a continuation of the confrontation will remain and are expected to erupt again. The central challenge: the ability of the Palestinian Authority to control the confrontation. Over time the risk grows that it will lose control and stability will be undermined.”

Of the two generals’ comments, Goldstein’s caused the greater public uproar. As deputy chief of the Coordinator’s office, he can only say what his bosses say — his immediate superior, chief coordinator Major General Yoav “Paulie” Mordechai, and above him the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot.

What Goldstein did was to give the public a rare peek at what the military and intelligence chiefs are telling the prime minister and the cabinet in closed sessions. Now we know exactly what the Netanyahu government is hearing from the people whom it pays to read and understand the events on the ground. Hearing — yet ignoring.

Rephrased in plain English (the comments above are my translation from Goldstein’s Hebrew), Goldstein is saying that force alone, the government’s current response to the unrest, will not bring calm. And by implication, that there are diplomatic options — viable options from the standpoint of Israeli security as the army reads it — that the government is choosing not to pursue.

But while Goldstein’s comments are more sweeping, Nitzan Alon’s may be more telling, if only because they signal the return one of the IDF’s fastest rising stars to the public eye for a moment. During his long tenure as the IDF’s chief face to the West Bank, he was enormously unpopular among the settlers. He was considered a leftist, hostile to the settlers, overly sympathetic to Palestinian rights. They grumbled, correctly, that his wife, Mor Nitzan, was active in the left-wing women’s peace group Machsom Watch. Settler activists occasionally held protest demonstrations outside his home.

When he was promoted from commander of the Judea-Samaria Division to chief of Central Command in December 2011 by then-chief of staff Benny Gantz, it evoked howls of protest. Commentators on the Israeli right viewed it, again correctly, as something of a declaration of independence, if not downright defiance, by Gantz, who had become chief of staff the previous February.

Gantz had been a compromise appointee, chosen after the army’s recommendation for chief of staff, Gadi Eizenkot, was vetoed by Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak, and their own favorite was then disqualified over a minor real estate scandal. In appointing Alon, Gantz was laying down an early marker that he was part of the IDF consensus.

Last February Eizenkot, now 55, became chief of staff. In May he appointed Alon, 50, to be chief of operations, one of the top positions at General Staff headquarters. Alon is one of several young up-and-comers being groomed for the top spot in the next round or two. The other top name being talked about is Aviv Kochavi, 51, currently chief of Northern Command and previously chief of military intelligence — and chief of operations before that. What they all share is a reading of Israel’s security situation that’s at odds with the Likud consensus.

That reading starts with the knowledge, which they experience daily and share with the government, that cooperation between the IDF and the Palestinian security services under Mahmoud Abbas’s command continues unabated. And that Abbas is doing his best to calm the current unrest. They know from their daily contact with their Palestinian counterparts that the steady diet of insults hurled at Abbas by Israel’s political leaders — from accusations of incitement to implications of Nazism — weakens him and makes their job harder.

They know that the Palestinian security services, from the leadership on down, cooperate with Israeli security in the hope and expectation that it will lead to Palestinian independence. And that removal of that hope — as Netanyahu seemed to do when he told a Knesset committee on October 26 that Israel needs to maintain full control of the territory “for the foreseeable future” — will lead to a breakdown of cooperation and threaten Israeli security.

Nobody but the most paranoid conspiracy theorists thinks the Israeli military would ever consider disobeying the orders of Israel’s democratically elected civilian government. But neither are its leaders planning to ignore the realities on the ground and pretend black is white and up is down in order to feed someone else’s fantasies. And as things on the ground get more and more out of hand, they’re less and less inclined to keep the facts secret.

Read more: