Inner and Outer Ugliness: Congress Proves Once Again it is Occupied Territory

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By Richard Edmondson

In the photo above we see US Congressman Ed Royce of California discussing HR 11, a resolution he introduced condemning the UN Security Council for its recent action on Israeli settlements. You’ll also notice, to Royce’s right, Florida  Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen brushing her hair with a pink hairbrush.

The scene is from a debate in Congress which took place on January 5, 2017. Royce and a number of other congressional representatives (342 of them in all) became hot and bothered over the UN’s pointing out (correctly of course) that the settlements are illegal. The photo is a screen shot I took from a C-Span video.  It’s a long video, more than eight hours, but if you advance it to about the 5:19:52 mark, you can watch the entire House debate on HR 11, which not surprisingly includes a lot of groveling to Israel (hat tip to Greg Bacon).

Just to refresh your memory, the Security Council, by a vote of 14-0 with 1 abstention, passed a resolution on December 23 “condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.” Voting in favor were Russia, China, Malaysia, Venezuela, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Uruguay, France, Angola, Egypt, Japan, UK, Ukraine; the lone abstention was by the US.

The Security Council action was welcomed by a good many people the world over, although Benjamin Netanyahu threw a temper tantrum, claiming to have “absolute” proof the Obama administration had been secretly behind it. Other critics accused the US of a “betrayal” of its longtime “ally,” and an enormous amount of controversy erupted over the issue in the waning days of 2016 and carrying over into the new year.

Of course, anytime a dispute emerges between the US and Israel, members of Congress can always be counted upon to side with the latter rather than with their own nation–and this time was no exception.

“Today we put Congress on record objecting to the recent UN Security Council resolution that hurt our ally, that hurt Israel, and I believe that puts an enduring peace further out of reach,” fretted Royce.

Let me call once again your attention to the image of Ros-Lehtinen brushing her hair, for throughout a good portion of Royce’s speech, the Florida congresswoman–apparently unaware she was on camera–seemed preoccupied with primping and applying makeup to herself, this presumably in an effort to make herself look “beautiful.”

In the first frame of the montage below we see her with the pink hairbrush, followed by a shot of her rummaging in her purse. In the third frame she pulls out what appears to be lipstick or eyeliner (I’m not an expert on women’s makeup), and lastly applying it with her right hand while still holding the container with her left hand.

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In the following three frames we see a now cosmetically-adorned Ros-Lehtinen giving her speech before Congress and the C-Span cameras:

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“Our closest friend and ally, the democratic, Jewish state of Israel, has been under constant attack by the United Nations,” she claimed.

The Security Council resolution that occasioned Ros-Lehtinen’s diatribe specifically is entitled UNSC Resolution 2334. I put up a post about it on December 24 that contains its full text. The measure expresses “grave concern” that settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, are “dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines.” It also:

1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

For Ros-Lehtinen, however, UNSC Resolution 2334 was nothing more than an execrable attempt to “delegitimize” Israel–and all the more reason why swift passage by Congress of HR 11 was needed to repudiate it!

This resolution, Mr. speaker, will not undo the damage that has been done at the Security Council, but it sends an important  message to the world that the United States Congress resoundingly, and in a strong bipartisan manner, disapproves of the vote taken on resolution 2334, and it sends a warning to the nations that will gather in Paris next week to discuss the peace process that there will be repercussions if there is a move to introduce a parameters resolution before the 20th and in an effort to further isolate Israel. Our closest friend and ally, the democratic, Jewish state of Israel,  has been under constant attack by the United Nations. Abu Mazen and the Palestinians have pushed a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state, to undermine the peace process, to achieve unilateral statehood recognition.

For some reason–I’m not quite sure why–the sight of Ros-Lehtinen primping and then fulminating at the podium brought to mind a picture I once saw of an economically-impoverished elderly woman kissing a bird.

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I first came across this image several years ago in a poem posted by Nahida the exiled Palestinian, whose website, Poetry for Palestine, can be found here. Her poem is entitled “Beauty.”  It is not a lengthy poem at all. In fact, it contains a mere five very short, but very powerful, lines:

Sometimes, beauty is mistakenly understood;
Assuming that
If someone is beautiful, they are always good,
When truth is
When someone is good, they are always beautiful.

The woman whose picture accompanies the poem is beautiful in a way that Ros-Lehtinen is not. In addition to berating the Security Council, the Florida congresswoman also attacked the UN Human Rights Council.

“We’ve seen it at  the Human Rights Council where Israel is constantly demonized  and falsely accused of human rights violations while the real abusers of human rights go unpunished because that body has utterly failed to uphold its mandate,” she insisted. “This is a body that allows the worst abusers of human rights–like Cuba, Venezuela, and China–to actually sit in judgement of human rights worldwide. What a pathetic joke!”

It’s interesting that Ros-Lehtinen would single out Cuba, Venezuela, and China as being among “the worst abusers of human rights,” while saying nothing–zip–zero–about Saudi Arabia, a country that executes people by beheading and which currently holds the chair of the Human Rights Council.

 photo syrianchildren.jpg“Yet the only thing they can agree on is to attack Israel,” the congresswoman blubbered on, “the only democracy in the Middle East and the only place in the region where human rights are protected.”

Exceptions were taken to other UN deliberative bodies  as well.

“We’ve seen this scheme to delegtimize Israel at the General Assembly where in its closing legislative session, the General Assembly passed twenty–twenty–anti-Israel resolutions and only four combined for the entire world!” Ros-Lehtinen bellowed.

“These institutions have no credibility, and now we have the unfortunate circumstance of the White House deciding to abstain from this anti-Israel, one-sided resolution at the Security Council,” she added. “Our ally was abandoned, and credibility and momentum were given to the Palestinians’ schemes to delegitimize the Jewish state, to undermine the peace process, and while the damage has been done, Mr. Speaker, by this act of cowardice at the Security Council, we will have an opportunity to reverse that damage.”

What exactly she meant by “we will have an opportunity to reverse that damage” is unclear. Possibly the Trump administration has some plan to introduce a new measure at the UN. In any event, Ros-Lehtinen clearly seems to be a person of both inner and outer ugliness–though of course she is not the only member of Congress with such attributes. Perhaps the most groveling speech of all those given in Congress on January 5 was that delivered by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“The cornerstone of our special relationship with Israel has always been right here in Congress, this institution,” said Ryan. “The heart of our democracy has stood by the Jewish state through thick and thin. We were there for her when rockets rained down on Tel Aviv; we were there for her by passing historic legislation to combat the boycott divestment and sanctions movement; and we’ve been there for her by ensuring Israel has the tools to defend herself against those who seek her destruction.”

“I am stunned! I am stunned!” the House speaker continued, “at what happened last month! This government, our government, abandoned our ally Israel when she needed us the most! Do not be fooled. This UN Security Council resolution was not about settlements, and it certainly was not about peace. It was about one thing and one thing only. Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish democratic state. These types of one-sided efforts are designed to isolate and delegitimize Israel. They do not advance peace, they make it more elusive.”

If Ryan was the supreme groveler in the debate, Royce would probably have to rank a close second. One thing which seemed terribly to incense the California congressman about the Security Council resolution is that it doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to steal East Jerusalem.

“This dangerous resolution effectively states that the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, are in the words of the resolution ‘occupied territory.’ Why would we not veto that?” asked Royce.

“It also lends legitimacy to efforts by the Palestinian authority to put pressure on Israel through the UN rather than to go through the process of engaging in direct negotiations, and it puts wind in the sails of the shameful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement,” he added.

gzmrg4Royce also claimed that Israel, not Occupied Palestine, is suffering “bullying and harassment.” That may sound like the statement of someone living in a parallel universe, but it is a view shared by New York Congressman Eliot Engel, one of HR 11’s original cosponsors.

“Throughout its entire history the state of Israel has never gotten a fair shake from the United Nations,” insisted Engel. “Year after year after year member states manipulate the UN to bully our ally Israel, to pile on one-sided resolutions placing all the blame for the ongoing conflict on Israel.”

Even those representatives who spoke in opposition to HR 11, did so while expressing their support for Israel at the same time. One such member was Rep. David Price, a Democrat from North Carolina.

“The fact is, H Res 11 runs a real risk of undermining the US Congress as a proactive force working toward a two-state solution,” Price lamented. ” And in this period of great geopolitical turmoil and uncertainty, we must reaffirm those fundamental aspects of our foreign policy, including our strong and unwavering support for Israel, while also demonstrating to the world that we are committed to a diplomacy that defends human rights and promotes Israeli and Palestinian states  that live side-by-side in peace and security, a formulation that has characterized our country’s diplomacy for decades.”

Another who voted against HR 11 was Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois who is also married to Robert Creamer, the Democrat Party operative who was seen in a Project Veritas video discussing plans to have protestors show up at Trump rallies during the campaign. Schakowsky feels that a little bit of criticism of Israel is allowable at times, and furthermore she holds to this belief as a “proud Jew,” as she stated to her colleagues.

 photo thousandeyes_zps2c4c47c1.jpg“I stand here as a proud Jew and someone who throughout my entire life has been an advocate for the state of Israel, and I am standing here to oppose our H Res 11,” said the Illinois congresswoman. “And as a member of congress I have been committed to maintaining America’s unwavering support for Israel, which has lasted from the very first moments of  Israel’s existence. The US-Israel bond is unbreakable, despite the fact that the United States administrations have not always agreed with the particular policies of an Israeli government.”

Yes, to be sure, our own government and Israel’s have not always seen eye-to-eye, but funny how that never seems to stop the billions in US tax dollars flowing into the Jewish state’s coffers each year. Schakowsky went on:

Presidents from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush have each vetoed, and sometimes voted for, a UN resolution contrary to the wishes of Israel’s government at the time, and only the Obama administration, until two weeks ago, never, ever cast a vote against what Israel wanted. But opposition to the building of settlements on land belonging to Palestinians before the 1967 war was, with the exception of the land, of course, that’s going to be swapped, agreed to by both parties, has been the official US policy for many decades, contrary, again, to the assertions of H Res 11.  It has also been the policy of the United States to recognize that the only long term solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the violence, the loss of life, is to create two states, one for the Palestinians and one for Israel.

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Exactly how a contiguous Palestinian state is going to be created in a West Bank splotched and dotted with all those settlements, is something Schakowsky left unaddressed. But having voiced a few mild criticisms of Israel, the congresswoman apparently felt an overwhelming need for balance–and so she tossed out a few criticisms of the Palestinians for good measure.

“A two-state solution is the only way Israel can continue as both a democratic and a Jewish state living in peace and security that has eluded her from the very beginning,” she said. “The building of settlements is an obstacle to achieving that goal–and of course settlements aren’t the only obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The US resolution reiterates the Palestinian Authority security forces must continue to counter terrorism and condemn all of the provocations.”

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Provocations? It’s an interesting word when referring to a people who have been resisting land theft and occupation for more years than most of us have been alive. It also gives rise to a question: How is it possible to carry out “provocations” against a country or governmental entity that technically speaking is in all likelihood guilty of the crime of genocide? Of course it’s unlikely you’ll get an honest answer to that question from Schakowsky or any other member of Congress.

At any rate, HR 11–a resolution which not only impugns the Security Council but even criticizes the United States–passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 342-80, with 4 abstentions. You can go here to see  the roll call on the vote.

It was Jeffrey Blankfort who first coined the old saying about Washington being Israel’s “most important occupied territory.” I think it was sometime back in the late eighties or the nineties when Jeffrey made that comment, and if anything, over the years, it has become more profoundly true than ever.

Can Jews ever leave their Cult?

By Gilad Atzmon

Baruch Spinoza left the Jews. Heinrich Heine became a Christian. A few others, such as Israel Shamir and myself, a decade ago, simply drifted away.

Recently, Israeli historian Shlomo Sand announced that he too was no longer a Jew. I read his manuscript in Hebrew with great interest but soon realized that while he indeed stopped identifying as a Jew, he still hadn’t removed himself from kosher binaries.

“I don’t write for anti-Semites, I regard them as totally ignorant or people who suffer from an incurable disease,” (How I Ceased To Be A Jew  p’ 21). Lines like these, echoing as they do the language of the ADL, made me feel very uncomfortable and, when it came to the Holocaust, Sand, who is usually so astute and profound, somehow managed to lose it. The Nazis are  “beasts”, and their rise to power metaphorically he described as a “beast awakening from its lair.”  Despite my respect for Sand, I would expect a leading, inspirational  historian and a former-Jew to have moved beyond such banal  Hasbara-recycled clichés.

This week, in the Jewish progressive magazine Mondoweiss, Avigail Abarbanel, an ex-Israeli and anti- Zionist informed us that she too has now ‘left the cult,’. I agreed with most of Abarbanel’s arguments against Israel and Zionism but I was nonetheless alarmed at the intellectual dishonesty at the core of her argument.

“Rarely can people inside a cult see where they are. If they could, the cult wouldn’t be what it is” Abarbanel points out. “They think that they are members of a special group that has a special destiny, and is always under threat.

Thus does Abarbanel describe the Israelis, yet she fails to mention that this is also an accurate description of the Jewish left in general and the Mondoweiss/JVP cults in particular, to which she herself belongs. As we now know, just as Israel claims for itself a special place amongst the states of the world, so do the anti-Zionist Jews who, when it comes to Anti Israeli politics, operate within Jewish, racially exclusive political cells (JVP, IJAN etc.). So, if Abarbanel thinks that Israelis are at fault for being a ‘special group’ perhaps she should inform us what is the criterion that legitimates JVP and Mondoweiss being a special group within the solidarity movement?

Abarbanel continues: “cult members are taught from birth that the world outside is dangerous, that they have to huddle together for safety.” This is indeed a good description of Israeli collective psychosis, but it is also a prefect portrayal of Mondoweiss’ operational mode and it  puts Mondoweiss’ campaign against Alison Weir and Greta Berlin in perfect context. It also explains why Mondoweiss banned Jeffrey Blankfort and why the Jewish outlet changed its comment policy just to make sure that it can block any attempt to criticise the Jewish state in the light of Jewish culture and my own study of Jewish tribalism. Just like Israel, Mondoweiss is terrified of the ‘dangerous worl d out there’. As far as Abarbanel’s definition of cult is concerned, Mondoweiss, JVP and Israel are actually identical.

Abarbanel is obsessed with the holocaust and this is hardly surprising. The Holocaust is currently the most popular Jewish religion.  The Israeli prominent philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz observed in the 1970s that Jews believe in many different things but all Jews believe in the Holocaust.

“Have I forgotten the holocaust? No. Of course not,” Abarbanel writes. “Persecution of Jewish people throughout history was very real indeed.”

And if you expect Abarbanel, a psychotherapist by profession, to question why is it that Jews have been ‘hated throughout history,’ you’re probably wasting your time. In Abarbanel’s universe, the persecution of the Jews is a metaphysical constant. It is beyond questioning.

In her view, Jews are victims and the Goyim are oppressors.

“Jews were a hated and despised group among many cultures in Europe, and Jews have always had an uneasy co-existence with non-Jews. Any marginalised or persecuted group has an uneasy relationship with the dominant culture. Once you have been discriminated against it’s hard to trust.”

So again, despite ‘leaving the cult,’ Abarbanel’s take on the holocaust is well within that same Hasbara cult she claims to have left.

Actually, one would expect a psychotherapist to advise the Jews to look in the mirror and actually identify what is it about them that invokes so much animosity in so many different times and in so many different places. This is something Bernard Lazare, an early Zionist did just over a century ago when he identified what it was in the Jews that has made Jewish history into such a disastrous continuum. Sadly, Abarbanel falls far short of this task. Unable or unwilling to examine what is it in the Jew or in Jewishness that invokes animosity, for her, this is one step too far because to look into that question may suggest that Israel is not the problem, it is but a symptom of the problem.

In Abarbanel’s universe, the Jews are always the victims and all they have to do is to separate their victimhood from their identity. This is strange since if victimhood is embedded in Jewish existence, then surely it must also be inherent in Jewish identity. My guess is that the day Jews manage to distinguish between their victimhood and their identity will be the day they simply stop being Jews.

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Phyllis Bennis’ Delusions of ‘Massive Opposition’ to Israel Evaporate Under Harsh Light of Reality

Aletho News

By Jeff Blankfort | Dissident Voice | September 26, 2016

There is massive opposition to Israeli actions in the United States today, particularly importantly in the Jewish community, where there’s been an enormous shift in that discourse.

So you still have organizations, right-wing organizations like AIPAC that include very wealthy donors, no doubt, but they no longer can even make the claim–which was probably never true, but it certainly is no longer true–that they speak for the majority, let alone all, of the Jewish community.

You now have an organization like J Street in the center. You have Jewish Voice for Peace on the left, which has over 200,000 supporters across the country. So you have a very different scenario now of where public opinion is.

— Phyllis Bennis, interviewed on The Real News Network, September 14, 2016

Massive opposition to Israeli actions in the United States? Within the Jewish community? Who does Phyllis Bennis thinks she’s kidding and, as importantly, why is she doing so? That there is no sign of any activity or combination of activities in the US opposing Israel’s actions that qualify as massive among the larger public and definitely not within the Jewish community should be patently as well as painfully obvious.

Her comment becomes even more mystifying since it came on the day that Barack Obama announced that the US would award Israel a record breaking $38 billion in arms over the decade beginning in 2018. What opposition there was to the deal on the part of the public, much less the Jewish community, was barely visible.

This had been reflected a month earlier in the Democratic Party’s decision to bar any reference to Israel’s occupation or illegal settlement construction in its platform which was then approved without so much as a whimper by the convention delegates.  A week before, the Republicans, stepping back from their traditional lip service to the two-state illusion, discarded any notion that Israel would be obliged to surrender land to the Palestinians for their own state at any time in the future.

Bennis, speaking to The Real News Network’s Jaisal Noor, incredibly, portrayed the humiliating Democratic platform defeat as a victory:

I think he [Obama] is seriously misreading where the American people are at, where the Democratic Party is, where the public discourse on this question has shifted. I think he’s acting as if this was 20 years ago and no politician could do wrong by being more supportive than the other guy of Israel.

Now that’s not the case anymore. We saw that during the debate over the language on Israel and Palestine in the Democratic Party platform debate. (Emphasis added)

While it is true that there is less support for Israel among the youth and the Democratic Party’s base, what we learned from that debate was the degree to which the Congressional Black Caucus, including one of its most “liberal” members, Barbara Lee, is under the thumb of the Israel Lobby. Lee, appointed to the committee by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, cast the critical vote in the platform committee that eliminated any reference to Israel’s illegal occupation or the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements.

How Bennis could put a positive spin on that outcome should raise concerns not only about her judgment but also her agenda.

Despite the fact that it had been the subject of discussion in the US and Israeli media for more than a year, there was no attempt to mobilize opposition to the arms package for Israel, about which Bennis was being interviewed, by either Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) or the US Campaign to End Israel Occupation (USCEIO), the two largest organizations, ostensibly working for justice in Palestine over which Bennis appears to act as an éminence grise.

Bennis did not mention nor had either organization expressed support for or even note on their websites, the first of its kind lawsuit filed by the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy’s Grant Smith on August 8 that would block the announced arms deal on the basis of long standing US law that prohibits US aid to non-signatories of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty known to have nuclear weapons.

That Bennis, moreover, presented J Street in a positive light at that moment strongly suggests that projecting a positive image of the Jewish community within the Left and in the eyes of the larger public is her primary motivation.

J Street, after all, is nothing more than a light beer version of AIPAC. It was created for Jewish liberals whose self-image requires the display of an occasional whiff of conscience, but nothing that would jeopardize Israel’s domination of Washington. It was in such full applause mode over the arms deal that it issued a statement, welcoming it, on September 13, the day before the White House officially announced it:

J Street warmly welcomes the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel that will ensure Israel’s security and its qualitative military advantage over any potential enemy for the next 10 years.

We congratulate President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as all those who worked hard to produce this agreement, which represents the biggest pledge of US military assistance made to any country in our nation’s history.

And Jewish Voice for Peace? In a statement on the group’s website, JVP director, Israel-American dual citizen Rebecca Vilkomerson, after acknowledging that the deal had been “in months of negotiation,” declared that, As a result, the US is effectively underwriting Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies towards the Palestinians.”

True and well said, Rebecca, but what had JVP been doing to stop it during those months? And in the two weeks since, knowing that it is Congress that must ultimately approve the deal? Apparently nothing, judging from the constant stream of requests for money that arrive in my email box daily.

Rather ineffectively, if measured by the paucity of results, it has also been pushing for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) targeting companies doing business in the West Bank, giving it the appearance, if not the substance, of “doing something” for the Palestinian cause.

With steely determination, its leadership was also continuing a behind the scenes campaign to vilify and marginalize an individual and an organization, without the payroll and national outreach of JVP, that was attempting a nation-wide effort to alert the American people to the latest transfer of their earnings to Israel, namely Alison Weir and her organization, appropriately named “if Americans Knew.”

Through billboards, bus cards, bumper stickers, simulated checks, and postcards, carrying the slogan, “Stop the Blank Check for Israel,” Weir has made a tireless effort to inform all Americans, but particularly those without any vested interest in either Israel or Palestine, (who constitute the majority) about what is being done for Israel by the US government and members of Congress in their name. A useful exercise for readers would be to compare the If Americans Knew website with that of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Weir’s crime in the eyes of her critics is that she has ignored the Left choir and its gatekeepers and expressed a healthy willingness to speak to any group or media host that asks for her views on the largely hidden history of Israel’s domestic Zionist operations going back to World War One.  Several of those talk show hosts, which amount to a tiny fraction of Weir’s overall efforts, her attackers find objectionable even though some of them have appeared on the same programs.

Weir also has had the temerity to make exposing the cover-up by Congress and the media of Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty off the coast of Egypt during the 1967 war a critical part of her work. The unprovoked assault on a clearly marked intelligence ship by Israel’s air force and navy left 34 US sailors dead and 171 wounded. The subject is as off-limits for Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation, as well as the entire American Left, as it has been for the Jewish establishment. (The implications of that are worthy of an entire article by itself.)

Weir’s slim but fact-packed, copiously foot noted paperback, “Against Our Better Judgment” detailing the obscured activities of the Zionist Lobby both before and after Israeli statehood, has sold more than 27,000 copies on Amazon and, apart from making them more than a trifle jealous, has, I suspect, been an irritant to JVP and USCEIO whose founder and current policy director, Josh Ruebner, is, like JVP’s Vilkomerson, an Israel-US dual citizen. (This apparently raises no questions as would, say, if white South Africans had played prominent roles in the American anti-apartheid movement.)

What JVP really appears to be about is establishing the acceptable parameters within which those who support justice for Palestine can criticize Israel or Jewish support for it without being labeled anti-Semitic.

The latest target of Vilkomerson is Miko Peled, the son of former Israeli major general, Matti Peled, the only representative of Israel’s top military echelon ever to advocate for Palestinian justice.

Living in San Diego and now a US citizen, Peled has become one of Israel’s most forthright critics and supporters of the BDS movement but fell afoul of Vilkomerson over a tweet that she considered to be anti-Semitic.

Responding to the announcement of the arms deal, Peled tweeted, “Then theyr surprised Jews have reputation 4being sleazy thieves #apartheidisrael doesn’t need or deserve these $$.” Vilkomerson, in turn, tweeted, “No place 4 antisemitism in our movement” and congratulated the Princeton Committee for Palestine for using her tweet as the basis for canceling a scheduled speaking engagement by Peled at the university, “to show our commitment towards educating our campus about Israel-Palestine issues.”

If justification for Peled’s tweet is needed, all one has to do is read the op-ed in the Washington Post(9/14) by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and the speech before the AIPAC spawn, Washington Inst. For Near East Policy, by former Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon (Times of Israel, 9/15) in which each of them expressed their fury at Netanyahu for not getting yet more than the record $38 billion. Seriously. There is no limit to their sense of entitlement.

The USCEIO which usually follows JVP’s lead has yet to weigh in on the Peled controversy, but there are dated references to the arms deal for Israel on its website, including a petition to President Obama launched in September, 2015, asking him not to approve it. The petition gathered more than 65,000 signatures but since it was still collecting them the day Obama announced the deal, there is no indication it was ever sent.

Now, two weeks after Obama’s announcement, there is no mention of it on its website nor was there any suggestion that people should go beyond signing a petition and confront the members of Congress in their home districts who will be voting on the $38 billion appropriation.

This is particularly noteworthy while USCEIO will be holding its national conference in Arlington, VA, October 14 to 17, there is no mention of it on its tentative agenda.

That campaigns to stop aid to Israel are missing from the agenda of both USCEIO and JVP, I would argue, is significant given that, in the early 80s, it was a nationwide campaign on the part of Nicaragua solidarity activists to have the public call members of Congress in their districts that produced the Boland Amendment, halting a $15 million appropriation for the Contras.

For reasons that I can only speculate such a grassroots campaign has never been undertaken by either organization over which, as noted above, Phyllis Bennis exerts an outsized influence.

The speculation centers on Bennis’s past history of minimizing the importance of both Congress and the pro-Israel Lobby, most notably AIPAC, in formulating US Middle East policy.

In 2002, at a three-day conference at the University of California in Berkeley, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine, I took a seat with a friend in the back of a lecture hall where Bennis was speaking on a topic relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict. At one point in her presentation, having apparently seen me enter and looking directly at me, she interrupted her talk to loudly blurt out, “Congress is not Israeli Occupied Territory!”

I quickly assumed she was referring to an essay that I had written 10 years earlier that was published in the 1992 edition of the City Lights Review, entitled, “Occupied Territory: Congress, the Israel Lobby and Jewish Responsibility.” In the essay I had sharply criticized the Left and particularly the Jewish supporters of the Palestinian movement for their failure to deal with the issue of the Israel lobby.

I am not one to interrupt speakers with whom I don’t agree but since her outburst was clearly intended for me, I responded with an immediate “Yes, it is!”. “No it isn’t!” she shouted back, rather displeased, and went on to describe an effort that some members of the Congressional Black Caucus were making regarding the illegal use of US arms by the Israelis against Palestinian civilians (an effort that, of course, went nowhere).

During the question period she seemed anxious to keep me from getting the floor. In an unusually long-winded and virtually content-free response as to what people could do to help the Palestinian cause, she appeared to be hoping time would run out for the session.

What would she have activists do? Believe it or not: write letters to the editor once a week. That’s what she said. As far as calling their members of Congress objecting to their support for Israel, Bennis said nary a word.

Despite an obvious effort on her part to get the moderator who had promised me the next question, to choose someone else–I seized the moment and proceeded to describe four situations in which the Israel lobby had demonstrated its power over Congress.  I explained how it had run members of the Black Caucus who criticized Israel out of office and was trying to do the same (and would later succeed) with CBC’s remaining critic of Israel at that time, Atlanta’s Cynthia McKinney.

As I wrote shortly afterward, (Palestine Chronicle 3/26/07) neither Bennis nor her co-panelist, a Jewish professor, said a word when I finished, (although the latter later falsely circulated an email that he had). Since I had known Bennis for 20 years, had previously worked with her in the San Francisco Bay Area on Palestinian issues and, a year earlier had her as a guest on my first radio program on my current station, I went over to say hello and jokingly mentioned that she still had not yet understood the role of the Israel Lobby.

She was neither friendly nor amused. “The issue is dead and has been dead,” she replied. End of conversation and though our paths have crossed over the years we haven’t spoken since.

Though the issue isn’t dead for Jewish Voice for Peace or the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation, by any measurable standards, it might as well be.

Informing their members or member organizations, in the case of USCEIO, of the extent and methodology of AIPAC’s control over Congress is noticeably missing from their agendas and websites.

There was an exception. In September, 2012, I participated in a workshop on AIPAC and the Israel Lobby at USCEIO’s annual organizing conference in St. Louis. It was the only workshop even remotely related to the subject and had been organized by the now purged Alison Weir, whose If Americans Knew was, at the time, one of USCEIO’s member organizations.  With Weir and her organization now gone from the USCEIO, AIPAC has less to worry about.

This guarantees to a certainty that whatever approach it takes to members of Congress with the ostensible goal of changing US policy will continue to end in failure.

This is exemplified in a section on its website– “Building relationships with congressional staff and Members of Congress is critical to enacting policy change”—which links to a step by step process that should ordinarily be followed by anyone seeking an audience with a member of Congress, or her or his chief of staff or legislative aide on most issues.  But the Israel-Palestine issue is not like any other.

The notion that politely presenting US legislators or their aides with evidence of Israel’s latest atrocities or the damage that US support for Israel has done to the US image globally will move any of them to change their positions, as if ignorance of the facts is the only obstacle, is naïve at best. Nevertheless, that’s what those attending the USA CEIO’s upcoming conference will do on their day of lobbying on Capitol Hill.

By Einstein’s definition of insanity–doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result–the approach advocated by USCEIO and practiced by JVP, qualifies as insane since nothing has changed with regard to US support for Israel.

A more productive tactic would be to impolitely challenge members of Congress in their home districts, ideally but not necessarily at public events, exposing to the utmost degree possible the amounts of money they have received from pro-Israel sources and circulating statements that they most likely have made expressing their affection for Israel which can usually be found on the internet.

Why hasn’t either the USCEIO, JVP, or for that matter, Phyllis Bennis encouraged such an activity? Well, we already know Bennis’s bold plan; write letters to the editor.

There was nary a word about Congress’s role from Bennis in her latest interview despite telling TRNN’s Paul Jay in December, 2013, that “We have massively changed the discourse in this country,” an exaggeration then as now. She did then acknowledge, “What has not changed is the policy, and that has far more to do“ at which point Jay interrupted, saying, “The policy and the politics, like, congressional politics,” and Bennis replying, “Yes, but that’s where the policy gets made. That hasn’t changed. And that’s the huge challenge that we face. (Emphasis added)

In that same interview, she offered a rare view of AIPAC and the Lobby:

It used to be that AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the other pro-Israel lobbies in the Jewish community, could meet with members of Congress and say, look, we’ve got money. We may give you some. Mostly we’re going to hold you hostage, that if you don’t toe the line, we’re going to fund an opponent that you don’t even expect yet.

But we’ll also bring you votes, because we have influence in the Jewish community and people will vote the way we tell them.

They can’t say that anymore. And that’s huge. They still have the money, but they don’t have the votes, because the Jewish community has changed.

Her comment is only partly true and overly simplified, revealing an ignorance that should be embarrassing for someone who has spent so many years in Washington analyzing US Middle East politics.

AIPAC would never promise a politician that it would deliver Jewish votes. It has been mostly about getting them money, expert technical assistance and assigning key, experienced AIPAC members from the legislator’s district to work in his or her campaigns and use their clout with the local media to gain its support.

Bennis then goes on to regurgitate an argument that Noam Chomsky has frequently made but with a twist that fails to make it any more valid. Whereas the professor compares the Lobby’s successful efforts to pushing through an open door, when what it advocates is already White House policy, she compares it to pushing a moving car:

The reason that the lobby often seems so powerful is that, yes, it does have a lot of influence. I don’t–I’m not denying that. But it has been historically pushing in the same direction as the majority of U.S. policymakers want to go.

So imagine if you’re running behind a car, and you start to push the car as it goes forward, and the car starts to go fast. You can claim, wow, I was really strong–I pushed that car 30 miles an hour. You know, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you were pushing it in the direction it wanted to go anyway.

Neither Chomsky nor Bennis have ever shown a willingness to debate their critics but this argument is more an example of “damage control” than fact on their part and can easily be refuted by examining what is nearest to hand, the origins of the Iraq war.

It is well documented that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was on the Israel Lobby’s agenda well before it became US policy. In fact, the first president George HW Bush was reamed by his Jewish critics in the mainstream media; Mortimer Zuckerman, owner of the US News & World Report and the NY Daily News, Abe Rosenthal and William Safire in the New York Times, and Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post, to cite four who come to mind, for not going all the way to Baghdad and taking out Saddam in 1991.

The reason Poppy Bush gave for not overthrowing Saddam was that it would destabilize the entire region, one whose stability was essential to America’s national security and would involve the US military in an endless quagmire That opinion was shared by his Secretary of State, James Baker, his National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led the ouster of the Iraqi army from Kuwait But what did they know?

The election of his son, George W, did not change the senior Bush’s mind, nor that of his former aides, Baker, Scowcroft and Schwarzkopf. All of them opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a fact ignored by those who claimed it was “a war for oil,” and one that becomes more important when we consider that the war has left hundreds of thousands dead and wounded and millions displaced as refugees across the entire region.

When asked by the late Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press about his father’s opposition to the war, Dubya responded that “I answer to a higher father.” Who or what, in fact, he was answering to was PNAC, the Project for a New American Century, three signatories of which, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser, had contributed to a paper for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, entitled, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” which called for the overthrow of Saddam as did the PNAC screed that appeared the following year.

Subsequent to the election of George W Bush in 2000, the three of them were brought into the highest levels of the national security apparatus along with Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, fellow signatories to the PNAC declaration. They began immediately to plan the invasion of Iraq and create the false intelligence to justify it within days of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, ‘the Pearl Harbor event’ that the PNAC document said was necessary to put its plans of global conquest into action. This scenario is fairly well known and not contested.

It, like subsequent events in the Middle East, seemed consistent with a plan laid out by Oded Yinon, a former member of the Israeli government who, in 1982, wrote a proposal, ‘A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s,” which was published by the World Zionist Council. Yinon’s plan called for dissolution of Iraq and Syria into areas controlled by its respective religious communities. Sound familiar?

Clearly, the war on Iraq was not a case of the Israel Lobby, of which the neocons were and remain a major part, getting behind an already moving car or pushing through an open door but one in which they took over the entire premises.

I have given up expecting Phyllis Bennis to understand this but I assume there are those who read this who will appreciate and nod their heads when reading what Lenni Brenner, the foremost authority on Nazi-Zionist collaboration, told me in the late 90s when I interviewed him on San Francisco’s KPOO radio:

The left is the rear guard of the Israel Lobby.

Speakers Examine the Power of the Israeli Lobby in America

Last Friday a conference focusing on the power of the pro-Israel lobby in America was held in Washington. Organized by IRmep and the Washington Report on Mideast Affairs, the conference was entitled “The Israel Lobby: Is It Good for the US? Is It Good for Israel?” Speakers included Grant Smith, founder and director of IRmep; Richard Falk, professor emeritus at Princeton University and former UN special rapporteur for Palestine; former Congressman Paul Findley; Huwaida Arrraf, a Palestinian-American lawyer and human rights advocate; radio host Jeffrey Blankfort, and quite a number of others–some twenty speakers in all.

The above video is one of six that have been uploaded. You can go here to see a YouTube playlist, with links to all six videos, and here to see profiles of all the speakers. Panel topics included:

  • What is the Israel Lobby and How Does It Work?
  • Is Freedom of Speech Encouraged on American Campuses?
  • Is the Lobby Good for Israel?
  • How Does the Lobby Influence Congress?
  • Is There an Iraq-Iran Continuum?

I realize that a good many of the readers of this blog would most likely not be terribly excited over topic number three–my own personal view is that a peaceful dismantling of the Jewish state is the only hope for humanity–but I think the goal of the conference organizers, of course, was to reach out to as wide an audience as possible.

Suffice to say, however, that not everything you will hear expressed in all six videos are views you will agree with. But that is the way that these things go. Still, I think overall, an important conference–and of course it got no attention in the mainstream media.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

In case you missed it: Noam Chomsky exposes himself as a Zionist in an interview by Alison Weir


River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

JEFFREY BLANKFORT – ARE THERE ISRAEL LOBBY GATEKEEPERS AND DAMAGE CONTROL SQUADS ON THE LEFT?

National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel “Special Relationship” on March 7, 2014 at the National Press Club.

Jeffrey Blankfort is a journalist and radio programmer. His articles have appeared in CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Mondoweiss, Pulse Media, Left Curve, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and the Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. He currently hosts a twice monthly program on international affairs for KZYX, the public radio station for Mendocino County in Northern California where he now lives.

Blankfort was a founding member of the November 29th Committee on Palestine, a co-founder of the Labor Committee on the Middle East and editor of its publication, The Middle East Labor Bulletin (1988-1995).

OAKLAND, FEB. 20: BLANKFORT INTERVIEWS ATZMON DON’T MISS IT!

and you can, too!

http://wanderingwho.com/Israeli exile Gilad Atzmon is a staunch defender of Palestinian rights and opposes the existence of a Jewish state.  He is also a philosopher and iconoclast who examines the origins of Zionism and other types of exclusivist philosophy.  For this, many call him racist and anti-Semitic.  However, he claims that his search has brought him to a deeper anti-racism and shown him racist elements that extend beyond Zionism.  He offends many, but for those with an open mind, he also makes them think, and he welcomes all questions and criticism.

Investigative journalist and writer Jeffrey Blankfort is a Bay Area treasure with a wealth of knowledge and experience on the Israel Lobby and the formation of US government policy toward Israel.  He won a legal judgement against the ADL for spying and produces a weekly program on KZYX in Mendocino.

When:  8:00 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 20
Where: 6839 Saroni Drive, Oakland, CA
RSVP:   510-236-5338 genesto@aol.com

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