Israeli Arms Trade, The Lobby and the Meaning of Chosenness

 BY GILAD ATZMON

tehran Times .jpg

Source: https://www.tehrantimes.com/

 “America is willing to sacrifice its young soldiers and national interests and even its economy for Israel,” Gilad Atzmon, who was born in a Jewish family in Israel and grew up in Jerusalem al-Quds, tells the Tehran Times. *
Atzmon, who now lives in Britain, also says, “Israeli pressure groups seem to believe that they are actually more powerful and certainly more important than the American constitution.” 
The following is the text of the interview:

Tehran Times:       Numerous rights bodies have slammed Western countries’ arms trade with Israel. What is your comment?

Gilad Atzmon: For decades, Israel has been selling killing machines to the most oppressive regimes around the world and this shouldn’t be surprising, as Israel itself is at the forefront of the list of oppressive regimes.

 Embarrassed by the Israeli government’s current arming of Azerbaijan in its war with Armenia,  Holocaust scholar Israel W. Charny penned an article for The Times of Israel titled:  Would Israel sell a used drone to a Hitler? Charny admits in his piece that Israel’s conduct is fundamentally unethical. He ends his commentary writing, “to my Armenian colleagues and friends, I can only say that as a Jew and as an Israeli, I am mortified – and angry.”

 I would think that if Israel’s leading genocide historian allows himself to admit in an Israeli nationalist outlet that the Jewish State is profiting from non-ethical arms trade, the rest of us should be entitled to engage with this topic freely and to use every possible platform to denounce Israel or anyone else from profiting from non- ethical practices.

 The issues go well beyond Israel’s arms trade. A few days ago we learned from the Jewish Press about a Bipartisan bill in America that would give Israel a say on Middle East arms sales. The bill “would require the President to consult with the Israeli government to ensure concerns are settled.” If the bill passes, the USA military industrial complex trade would be dependent on Israeli consent.  

Tehran Times:   How great is the influence of the Zionist and Jewish lobbies in the United States and how can this status quo change?

GA: The facts regarding the immense influence of Israel and the Jewish Lobby in the USA and other Western countries have been established for a while. One can refer to The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a detailed study by two of the most influential American social scientists  (Prof. John Mersheimer & Prof. Stephen Walt). Another leading American political scientist admired by a generation of academics who also covered the topic is, of course, Prof James Petras in his book The Power of Israel in the United States.

What can be done about the well documented domination of AIPAC? I would like to believe that the most effective method to approach this topic would be to point squarely at The Lobby and its corrosive impact: this entails pointing the finger at the wars the USA fights on behalf of Israel, the sanctions that the USA mounts for Israel, the fact that America is willing to sacrifice its young soldiers and national interests and even its economy for Israel. Theoretically speaking, American citizens are entitled to voice such criticisms as freedom of speech is enshrined in the first amendment of their constitution. Israeli pressure groups seem to believe that they are actually more powerful and certainly more important than the American constitution. A few months ago we learned that Right wing activists attempted to spread new laws across Republican controlled states that would suppress criticism on public university campuses of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territory.

By now, the USA is practically functioning as a remote and subservient Israeli satellite. I am unable to identify  any genuine political force in the USA that can change this anytime soon. I do not see anyone within American politics who is willing to tackle the matter. But the American people, like the Brits and the French are no fools, they see it all.

Tehran Times:    Though Israel is violating and defying international law on a daily basis, its Western supporters and allies continue to support these actions or at least turn a blind eye to what is taking place. How do you assess this double standard?

GA: In general, it’s a good practice not to overestimate people’s intelligence. But Israel and its Lobby make the opposite mistake; they tend to believe that people are far stupider than they are.

People do see what is going on and the general discomfort with Israel and its lobby is growing rapidly. People do notice Israeli criminality, they also notice their politicians on all levels operating as foreign agents for a criminal state.  Israel and The Lobby interpret this rise of awareness as ‘growing anti-Semitism,’ but this is hyperbole. A general mass awareness has surfaced. The Israelis and The Lobby know that once you see the full picture, you can’t just un-see it. In that respect, Israel is facing a wall of silent resistance and the consequences of this reality are unpredictable.

It is fascinating to observe the tsunami of mass protests that we see within Israel against Netanyahu and institutional corruption. The Israelis, or at least many of them, are also tired of themselves being themselves. It is very possible that in line with Jewish history, it will actually  be the Jews who bring their current empire down. As far as I can tell they are better at that battle than anyone else. 

Tehran Times:       How do the Western countries exploit Human Rights as a tool to apply their policies and how do they politicize Human Rights?

GA: Human rights issues are close to our hearts. We don’t like to see abuse of others, we hate discrimination, we are appalled by racism of any kind. Seemingly, some were clever enough to attach barcodes to these genuine universal and ethical  feelings. As things stand, human rights matters have morphed into a profitable industry. Many human rights campaigns are funded by elements who are themselves dedicated human rights abusers. 

Since the Palestinian struggle is close to my heart it took me little time to find out that while the BDS movement was receiving money from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, BDS changed its goal statement and practically gave up on the Palestinian Right of Return.

In 2012 the BDS National Committee in Ramallah made a crucial change to its goal statement. It changed the wording of its original (June 2005) mission statement from “demanding that Israel end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” to demanding that Israel end “its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967*” My attempt to find out who introduced this change revealed that this new wording first appeared in Omar Barghouti’s 2011 book, ‘BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: the Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights’ (page 6).

It seems that since 2011, The BDS National Committee basically abandoned the most precious Palestinian right—it drifted away from the commitment to land occupied since 1948 and limited its struggle to the liberation of lands occupied in 1967.  Further attempts to clarify who made the change and by what process revealed that this significant change was made in a clandestine manner—it appeared only in English. It has never appeared in Arabic or any other language. It is evident that the change took place behind the backs of the Palestinian people. Despite BDS’ claim to be a ‘civil society’ representing more than 170 Palestinian organizations, Palestinians were totally unaware of the BDS National Committee’s compromise of their mission.  

Further investigation revealed that BDS—like most Palestinian NGOs—was funded by George Soros’ Open Society Institute. In 2013 I was asked to review a book titled Israel/Palestine and the Queer International,by Sarah Schulman. It was Schulman who resolved the mysterious change in the  BDS goal statement. In her search for funding for a young Palestinian Queer USA tour in support of BDS, Schulman wrote  that she was advised to approach George Soros’ Open Society institute. The following account may leave you flabbergasted, as it did me:

“A former ACT UP staffer who worked for the Open Society Institute, George Soros’ foundation, suggested that I file an application there for funding for the tour. When I did so it turned out that the person on the other end had known me from when we both attended Hunter [College] High School in New York in the 1970s. He forwarded the application to the institutes’s office in Amman, Jordan, and I had an amazing one-hour conversation with Hanan Rabani, its director of the Women’s and Gender program for the Middle East region. Hanan told me that this tour would give great visibility to autonomous queer organizations in the region. That it would inspire queer Arabs—especially in Egypt and Iran…for that reason, she said, funding for the tour should come from the Amman office” (Israel/Palestine and the Queer Internationalby Sarah Schulman p. 108).

Here is clear and embarrassing evidence of a crude intervention made by George Soros’ institute in an attempt to shape Arab and Islamic culture and political life. We also learn about the manner in which Soros’ Open Society Institute introduces gay and queer politics to the region. Apparently money for a tour promoting Palestine and BDS is traveling from Soros’ Open Society to Jordan and then back to the USA with the hope that such a manoeuvre would “inspire” gays in Iran.

This makes it clear why  BDS had “good reason” to remain silent regarding its funding sources. After all, being funded directly or indirectly by a liberal Zionist philanthropist, a man who also funds the openly Zionist JStreet and was invested in Israeli companies in the West Bank, is indeed embarrassing. But the meaning of it is rather devastating. The discourse of the solidarity of the oppressed is shaped by the sensitivities of the oppressor who funds the movement of the oppressed. We see this in the Palestine solidarity movement, we saw the same thing in Occupy Wall Street and currently in some segments of BLM activity. Instead of genuinely caring for the oppressed, Human rights and solidarity movements often morph into policing forces that dedicate themselves to controlling the so-called opposition.

The case of the language of BDS has a good ending. Though Omar Barghouti didn’t change the words printed in his book where he bluntly compromised on occupied land demands on behalf of the Palestinian people. The BDS movement eventually changed its goal statement once again. It now resembles the original 2005 statement opposing occupation of ALL Arab Land.  

Tehran Times:      Why doesn’t Israel accept the idea of a nuclear-free zone in the region?

GA: The real meaning of thinking yourself chosen is in attributing a unique sense of impunity to yourself and to no one else. In real politics this means that your Jewish State is the only nuclear power in the region, your Air Force is the only one to fly F-35s, your army is not committed to any recognized ethical standards, your military industry trades with the darkest regimes around. Try to imagine a world where everyone believes themselves to be chosen.

  • In the Interview the Iranian outlet refers to me as “a Jewish political activist.” I wrote to the Tehran Times and pointed out that I am neither an activist nor I am a Jew. However, by the time I posted this article, my request is yet to make any impact.

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Jews’ Ten Pledges vs Palestinians’ Eleven Red Lines

By Stuart Littlewood

Source

Ten Pledges Labour Party e8e51

The UK Labour Party is saying goodbye to Jeremy Corbyn as leader after its disastrous general election performance and has begun choosing someone else.

Wasting no time, the Board of Deputies of British Jews last week published Ten Pledges they wanted Labour leadership hopefuls to sign up to if the Party’s relationship with the Jewish community was to be healed.

The BoD claim anti-Semitism in the party became a matter of great anxiety for the UK’s Jews during Corbyn’s four years in office and it will take at least 10 years to repair the damage. Their president Marie van der Zyl says: “We expect that those seeking to move the party forward will openly and unequivocally endorse these Ten Pledges in full, making it clear that if elected as leader, or deputy leader, they will commit themselves to ensuring the adoption of all these points.

“Tackling antisemitism must be a central priority of Labour’s next leader,” she insists. “We will certainly be holding to account whoever ultimately wins the contest.”

But is there really an anti-Semitism crisis other than the one caused by the Jewish State itself and mischievously drummed up within Labour? As former Israeli Director of Military Intelligence, Yehoshafat Harkabi wrote: “It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.”  It has been suggested before that so-called anti-Semitism is a matter best resolved by the Jewish ‘family’ itself.

Obedience required

The BoD claim that all the leadership contenders – Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry – have signed the Ten Pledges, and three of the five deputy-leader candidates have done so. What are these crisis-busting Ten Pledges they’ve committed the Party to?

(1) Resolve outstanding cases – All outstanding and future cases should be brought to a swift conclusion under a fixed timescale.

  • Absolutely.

(2) Make the Party’s disciplinary process independent – An independent provider should be used to process all complaints, to eradicate any risk of partisanship and factionalism.

  • Of course.

(3) Ensure transparency – Key affected parties to complaints, including Jewish representative bodies, should be given the right to regular, detailed case updates, on the understanding of confidentiality.

  • Except that complainers, including the BoD, have a poor record of keeping even their wildest allegations confidential.

(4) Prevent readmittance of prominent offenders – It should be made clear that prominent offenders who have left or been expelled from the party, such as Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker, will never be readmitted to membership.

  • It is not clear from the evidence that Livingstone or Jackie Walker committed an offence. They were hounded out and not, I think, by any independent arbitrator.

(5) Communicate with resolve – Bland, generic statements should give way to condemnation of specific harmful behaviours – and, where appropriate, condemnation of specific individuals.

  • This should apply also to false accusers and to the BoD themselves if failing to condemn the “harmful behaviours” of their brethren in the Israeli regime towards our sisters and brothers in Palestine.

(6) Provide no platform for bigotry –  Any MPs, Peers, councillors, members or CLPs [local parties] who support, campaign or provide a platform for people who have been suspended or expelled in the wake of antisemitic incidents should themselves be suspended from membership.

  • Unacceptable. Many have been suspended for no good reason. And suspension does not mean guilt.

(7) Adopt the international definition of antisemitism without qualification – The IHRA definition of antisemitism, with all its examples and clauses, and without any caveats, will be fully adopted by the party and used as the basis for considering antisemitism disciplinary cases.

  • How many times must you be told that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is a minefield? Top legal opinion (for example Hugh Tomlinson QC, Sir Stephen Sedley and Geoffrey Robertson QC) warn that it is “most unsatisfactory”, has no legal force, and using it to punish could be unlawful. Furthermore it cuts across the right of free expression enshrined in UK domestic law and underpinned by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which bestows on everyone “the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. This applies not only to information or ideas that are regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population”. Labour Party members should know all this. The prohibitive IHRA definition is not something a sane organisation would incorporate into its Code of Conduct.

(8) Deliver an anti-racism education programme that has the buy-in of the Jewish community – The Jewish Labour Movement should be reengaged by the Party to lead on training about antisemitism.

  • The BoD and JLM would do better teaching anti-racism to the Israeli regime and its supporters. Besides, MPs and councillors don’t ‘belong’ to the Labour Party or any other party; they belong to the public who elected them as their representative. No outside body should expect to influence their freedom of thought, expression or action (see the Seven Principles of Public Life).

(9) Engagement with the Jewish community to be made via its main representative groups – Labour must engage with the Jewish community via its main representative groups, and not through fringe organisations and individuals.

  • Labour should engage with the Jewish community though any representative organisation or individual it pleases.

(10) Show leadership and take responsibility – The leader must personally take on the responsibility of ending Labour’s antisemitism crisis.

  • There’s no agreement that anything approaching a crisis exists within the Party.

Leadership front-runner Starmer is a former human rights lawyer and ought to know better. Long-Bailey is another lawyer who should hang her head in shame. Thornberry is a former barrister specialising in human rights law – words fail.  Jess Phillips, a member of Labour Friends of Israel, wrote Truth to Power: 7 Ways to Call Time on B.S., described as “the little book we all need to help us call time on the seemingly unstoppable tide of bullshit in our lives”. The irony of it seems lost on her. Lisa Nandy is a puzzle as she’s chair of Labour Friends of Palestine.

If this bunch won’t robustly uphold freedom of expression guaranteed by law and international convention what have they let their hapless party in for? Those standing for deputy-leader also have little excuse. Angela Rayner was shadow education secretary, Ian Murray read Social Policy and Law, and Rosena Allin-Khan is a Muslim and former humanitarian aid doctor. They obediently signed the Ten Pledges. Dawn Butler and Richard Burgon declined.

When, a year ago, the French Republic presented its Human Rights Award to B’Tselem (the Israeli human rights group) its Executive Director Hagai El-Ad, thanking the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, said of Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinians: “The occupation…. is organized, prolonged state violence which brings about dispossession, killings, and oppression. All branches of the state are part of it: ministers and judges, officers and planners, parliamentarians and bureaucrats.”

On another occasion B’Tselem said: “If the international community does not come to its senses and force Israel to abide by the rules that are binding to every state in the world, it will pull the rug out from under the global effort to protect human rights in the post-WWII era.”

When a respected Israeli organisation speaks truth in such stark terms it cannot be ignored.  And recent UN reports confirm that the Israelis abuse and torture child prisoners. So why would anyone – especially those competing to be Labour Party leader and one day prime minister – agree to dance to the tune of those who pimp and lobby on Israel’s behalf?

Who will punish the false accusers?

The BoD nevertheless make some valid points. The Labour Party takes a ridiculously long time to deal with allegations of anti-Semitism, many of which are false or vexatious and could be dismissed in five minutes. Let me tell you about two Scottish Labour politicians wrongly accused of anti-Semitic remarks and suspended. Let’s call them ‘A’ and ‘B’. Both are regional councillors.

Constituency party officials declared ‘A’ guilty immediately and issued a press statement to that effect without waiting for him to be heard, hugely prejudicing any investigation. This stupidity was compounded by his Council leader publicly calling on him to resign as a councillor and saying his thinking belonged to the Dark Ages: “To smear an entire community both past and present, to say he has lost ‘all empathy’ for them is utterly deplorable,” he was quoted in the press.

What was ‘A’s crime? He had tweeted: “For almost all my adult life I have had the utmost respect and empathy for the Jewish community and their historic suffering. No longer, due to what they and their Blairite plotters are doing to my party and the long suffering people of Britain…” Was nobody in the local party aware that the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies were then leading an obnoxious campaign to discredit Labour and Jeremy Corbyn?

‘B’, a respected lady councillor, was accused of anti-Semitism by a former Labour MP who was already on record as wanting to impose limits on freedom of expression. A Tory MP immediately put the boot in, telling the media it was clear to the vast majority of people that ‘B’ was no longer fit to hold office and suspension didn’t go far enough.

And what was ‘B’s crime? She had voiced suspicion on social media that Israeli spies might be plotting to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader after three Jewish newspapers ganged up to publish a joint front page warning that a Corbyn-led government would pose an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country”.

She added that if it was a Mossad assisted campaign to prevent the election of a Labour Government (which pledged to recognise Palestinian statehood) it amounted to an unwarranted interference in our democracy. For good measure she said Israel was a racist State and, since the Palestinians are also Semites, an anti-Semitic one.

‘B’ was eventually interviewed by party investigators. They surely knew that in January 2017 a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, Shai Masot, had plotted with stooges among British MPs and other activists to “take down” senior government figures including Boris Johnson’s deputy at the Foreign Office, Sir Alan Duncan. And that Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s former chief spokesman and mastermind behind Israel’s propaganda programme of disinformation, had recently arrived in London as the new ambassador.

Masot was almost certainly a Mossad tool. His hostile scheming was revealed not by Britain’s own security services and media, as one would have hoped, but by an Al Jazeera undercover team. Our Government dismissed the matter saying: “The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.” But at a Labour Party conference fringe meeting Israel insider Miko Peled warned that “they are going to pull all the stops, they are going to smear, they are going to try anything they can to stop Corbyn…. the reason anti-Semitism is used is because they [the Israelis] have no argument….”

Given such a blatant attempt by an Israeli asset to undermine British democracy, with Regev in the background and (quite probably) Mossad pulling the strings, ‘B’s suspicions were reasonable enough and she had a right to voice them.

As for Israel being a racist State, its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and other brutal policies over 70 years make it obvious. And the discriminatory Nation State laws recently adopted by Israel put the question beyond doubt. Her point about anti-Semitism was also well made. DNA research (see for example the Johns Hopkins University study published by Oxford University Press) shows that while very few Jews are Semitic most indigenous Arabs in the Holy Land, especially Palestinians, are Semites. The term ‘anti-Semitism’, long used to describe hatred of Jews, is a misnomer that hides an inconvenient truth.

And it couldn’t have been difficult to establish that the opportunistic Tory MP calling her unfit to hold office was the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews, which is funded, supported and administered by The Board of Deputies. The case against ‘B’ should have been dropped instantly and action taken against the troublemakers.  Instead, weeks later, ‘B’ was posting on her Facebook page that she was still suspended: “I can’t make any decisions about my personal, political, or professional future whilst this hangs over me. I am constantly tired and anxious, and feel I am making mistakes. I have lost paid work because of what has happened.”

Her suspension was finally lifted but she was “advised” not to post about it or she’d risk losing professional work on which her livelihood depended. That’s how nasty the Labour Party disciplinary machine is. Surely, if the Party lifts a suspension it should issue a public statement saying so.  Must the wrongly accused, after being needlessly humiliated, be left to pick up the pieces and struggle to re-establish their good name? In total ‘B’ had to wait 16 weeks under sentence. And all because of a trumped-up allegation that ought to have been immediately squashed.

As for ‘A’, he stopped answering emails and there has been nothing in the press. Was his suspension lifted? Was he similarly threatened if he said anything? I simply don’t know although I phoned and wrote to the Leader and the General Secretary for an explanation. The latter eventually replied that “the Labour Party cannot, and does not, share personal details about individual party members” and placing a member in administrative suspension “allows a process of investigation to be carried out whilst protecting the reputation of the Labour Party”. Bollox. How did the media get news of these suspensions in the first place? And never mind the damage done to the cowardly Party, what about the reputations of the two councillors and their months of anguish while working for their constituents? I wasn’t asking for case details. All I wanted was the answer to three simple questions:

# Had the suspensions been lifted?
# If so, had the Party issued a public statement to that effect?
# And had the false accusers been disciplined?

Silence… spineless, don’t-give-a-damn silence.

Are these two cases typical of the so-called anti-Semitism crisis? I have no way of knowing. But they show how the Party is run by enough crackpots on the inside without inviting impertinent interference from the outside.

Jews’ Ten Pledges vs Palestinians’ Eleven Red Lines

Anyone signing up to the BoD’s Ten Pledges should consider at the same time subscribing to the ‘Eleven Red Lines’ of anti-Palestinianism. Examples in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

(1) Denying the Palestinian people their right to self-determination and nationhood, or actively conspiring to prevent the exercise of this right.

(2) Denial that Israel is in breach of international law in its continued occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

(3) Denial that Israel is an apartheid state according to the definition of the International Convention on Apartheid.

(4) Denial of the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba and of their right, and the right of their descendants, to return to their homeland.

(5) Denial that Palestinians have lived for hundreds of years in land now occupied by Israelis and have their own distinctive national identity and culture.

(6) Denial that the laws and policies which discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel (such as the recently passed Nation State Law) are inherently racist.

(7) Denial that there is widespread discrimination against Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories in matters of employment, housing, justice, education, water supply, etc, etc.

(8) Tolerating the killing or harming of Palestinians by violent settlers in the name of an extremist view of religion.

(9) Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Palestinians — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth of a Palestinian conspiracy to wipe Israel off the map.

(10) Justifying the collective punishment of Palestinians (prohibited under the Geneva Convention) in response to the acts of individuals or groups.

(11) Accusing the Palestinians as a people, of encouraging the Holocaust.

This working definition of anti-Palestinian racism, described as “hatred towards or prejudice against Palestinians as Palestinians”, holds up a mirror to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and was drafted by Jewish Voice For Labour, one of those fringe representative organisations the BoD insist Labour mustn’t engage with.

So here’s a simple test for the BoD: if they demand the Labour Party signs up to their Ten Pledges will they themselves embrace the Eleven Red Lines on anti-Palestinianism?

Protesting Israel Is a “Hate Crime” in U.S. Universities

By Philip Giraldi

Source

US Universities Bow to Pressure bf0cb

The Israel lobby in the United States and its counterparts in Europe have been paying particular attention to curtailing the activities of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). This is because BDS, which is non-violent and based on established human rights principles, is extremely appealing to college students, who will be tomorrow’s leaders. Israel, which promotes its own largely fictional narrative about itself, is reluctant to allow any competing stories about its foundation and current activities, so it has worked hard to exclude any and all criticism of its practices on college campuses and even among students in public high schools.

Unfortunately, many colleges and universities are all too ready to compromise their principles, such as they are, whenever a representative of Israel or of Jewish groups comes calling. A popular line that has proven to be particularly effective is that Jews on campus feel threatened whenever anyone advocates for the Palestinians or Iranians, intended to convey that their civil rights are being violated.

Even if that type of allegation is actually relevant to whether or not one allows free speech and association, one wonders how violated the Palestinians and Iranians must feel when confronted by the endless stream of hostility emanating from the U.S. media and Hollywood as well as from select politicians representing both parties and the White House.

In the most recent manifestation of suppression of views critical of Israel, the federal government’s Department of Education has ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to reorganize the Consortium for Middle East Studies program run jointly by the two colleges based on their failure to include enough “positive” content relating to Christianity and Judaism. The demand came with a threat to suspend federal funding of Title VI Higher Education Act international studies and foreign language grants to the two schools if the curriculum is not changed.

Of course, the demands have nothing to do with Christian groups demanding inclusion and everything to do with organized Jewish pressure to present Israel in a positive light while also casting aspersions on the Jewish state’s perceived enemies in the region and also on university campuses. Anyone who has even cursory knowledge about the Middle East knows that Christians and Jews constitute only a tiny minority in the region, so the emphasis on teaching about Islam, the Arabs, and the Persians makes sense if the instruction is to have any actual relevance.

One particular event that apparently led to an earlier investigation in June launched by the Education Department consisted of a conference in March called “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities.” A Republican congressman was outraged by the development and asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to investigate because the gathering was full of “radical anti-Israel bias.”

Even The New York Times acknowledged in their coverage of the story that “Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, has become increasingly aggressive in going after perceived anti-Israel bias in higher education.” Her deputy—who has served as a focal point for the effort to root out anti-Israel sentiment—is Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus, who might reasonably be described as “a career pro-Israel advocate.”

Marcus is the founder and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a foundation that he has used to exclusively defend the rights of Jewish groups and individuals against BDS and other manifestations of Palestinian pushback against the Israeli occupation of their country. He has not hesitated to call opponents anti- Semites and has worked with Jewish students to file civil rights complaints against college administrations, including schools in Wisconsin and California. In an op-ed that appeared, not surprisingly, in The Jerusalem Post, he observed that even when student complaints were rejected, they created major problems for the institutions involved. “If a university shows a failure to treat initial complaints seriously, it hurts them with donors, faculty, political leaders, and prospective students.”

Last year Marcus reopened an investigation into alleged anti-Jewish bias at Rutgers University that the Obama administration had closed after finding that the charges were baseless. Marcus indicated that the re-examination was called for, as his office in the Education Department would henceforth be using the State Department definition of anti-Semitism that includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” making much criticism of Israel a hate crime.

In the current North Carolina-Duke case, DeVos and Marcus expressed concern over course content that had “a considerable emphasis placed on understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East.” The complaint called for balancing content relating to “the historic discrimination faced by, and current circumstances of, religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Yazidis, Kurds, Druze, and others.”

Zoha Khalili, a staff lawyer at Palestine Legal, explained how the message coming from Washington is actually quite simple and has nothing to do with balance: “They really want to send the message that if you want to criticize Israel, then the federal government is going to look very closely at your entire program and micromanage it to death. . . . [It] sends a message to Middle Eastern studies programs that their continued existence depends on their willingness to toe the government line on Israel.”

The possible consequences are very clear. If you are an educational institution that criticizes Israel in any way, shape or form, you will lose any funding you receive from the federal government. The move has nothing to do with budgetary demands or the national security of the United States or even with the efficacy of the programs that are being funded. It has everything to do with promoting Israeli interests. That a demonstrated and outspoken Israeli advocate like Marcus should be placed in a key position to decide who gets what based on his own biases is a travesty, but it is something that we should all be accustomed to by now, as there is apparently no limit to what the Trump administration is willing to do for Israel and for that monstrous country’s powerful, wealthy, and incessantly vocal supporters in the United States.

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