Israel Is Bad for America

By Philip Giraldi
Source

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American journalism has become in its mainstream exponents a compendium of half-truths and out-and-out lies. The public, though poorly informed on most issues as a result, has generally figured out that it is being hoodwinked and trust in the Fourth Estate has plummeted over the past twenty years. The skepticism about what is being reported has enabled President Donald Trump and other politicians to evade serious questions about policy by claiming that what is being reported is little more than “fake news.”

No news is more fake than the reporting in the U.S. media that relates to the state of Israel. Former Illinois congressman Paul Findley in his seminal book They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby observed that nearly all the foreign press correspondents working out of Israel are Jewish while most of the editors that they report to at news desks are also Jews, guaranteeing that the articles that eventually surface in the newspapers will be carefully constructed to minimize any criticism of the Jewish state. The same goes for television news, particularly on cable news stations like CNN.

A particularly galling aspect of the sanitization of news reports regarding Israel is the underlying assumption that Israelis share American values and interests, to include freedom and democracy. This leads to the perception that Israelis are just like Americans with Israel’s enemies being America’s enemies. Given that, it is natural to believe that the United States and Israel are permanent allies and friends and that it is in the U.S. interest to do whatever is necessary to support Israel, including providing billions of dollars in aid to a country that is already wealthy as well as unlimited political cover in international bodies like the United Nations.

That bogus but nevertheless seemingly eternal bond is essentially the point from which a December 26th op-ed in The New York Times departs. The piece is by one of the Times’ resident opinion writers Bret Stephens and is entitled Donald Trump is Bad for Israel.

Stephens gets to the point rather quickly, claiming that “The president has abruptly undermined Israel’s security following a phone call with an Islamist strongman in Turkey. So much for the idea, common on the right, that this is the most pro-Israel administration ever. I write this as someone who supported Trump moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and who praised his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal as courageous and correct. I also would have opposed the president’s decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria under nearly any circumstances. Contrary to the invidious myth that neoconservatives always put Israel first, the reasons for staying in Syria have everything to do with core U.S. interests. Among them: Keeping ISIS beaten, keeping faith with the Kurds, maintaining leverage in Syria and preventing Russia and Iran from consolidating their grip on the Levant.”

The beauty of Stephens overwrought prose is that the careful reader might realize from the git-go that the argument being promoted makes no sense. Bret has a big heart for the Kurds but the Palestinians are invisible in his piece while his knowledge of other developments in the Middle East is superficial. First of all, the phone call with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had nothing to do with “undermining Israel’s security.” It concerned the northern border of Syria, which Turkey shares, and arrangements for working with the Kurds, which is a vital interest for both Ankara and Washington. And it might be added that from a U.S. national security point of view Turkey is an essential partner for the United States in the region while Israel is not, no matter what it pretends to be.

Stephens then goes on to demonstrate what he claims to be a libel, that for him and other neocons Israel always comes first, an odd assertion given the fact that he spends 80% of his article discussing what is or isn’t good for Israel. He supports the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem, the end of the nuclear agreement with Iran, both of which were applauded in Israel but which are extremely damaging to American interests. He attacks the planned withdrawal from Syria because it is a “core interest” for the U.S., which is complete nonsense.

Contrary to Stephens’ no evidence assertion, Russia and Iran have neither the resources nor the desire to “consolidate[e] their grip on the Levant” while it is the United States has no right and no real interest to “maintain leverage” on Syria by invading and occupying the country. But, of course, invading and occupying are practices that Israel is good at, so Stephens’ brain fart on the issue can perhaps be attributed to confusion over whose bad policies he was defending. Stephens also demonstrate confusion over his insistence that the U.S. must “resist foreign aggressors…the Russians and Iranians in Syria in this decade,” suggesting that he is unaware that both nations are providing assistance at the request of the legitimate government in Damascus. It is the U.S. and Israel that are the aggressors in Syria.

Stephens then looks at the situation from the “Israeli standpoint,” which is presumably is easy for him to do as that is how he looks at everything given the fact that he is far more concerned about Israel’s interests than those of the United States. Indeed, all of his opinions are based on the assumption that U.S. policy should be supportive of a rightwing Israeli government, that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has recently been indicted for corruption and has called for an early election to subvert the process.

Bret finally comes to the point, writing that “What Israel most needs from the U.S. today is what it needed at its birth in 1948: an America committed to defending the liberal-international order against totalitarian enemies, as opposed to one that conducts a purely transactional foreign policy based on the needs of the moment or the whims of a president.”

Stephens then expands on what it means to be liberal-international: “It means we should oppose militant religious fundamentalism, whether it is Wahhabis in Riyadh or Khomeinists in Tehran or Muslim Brothers in Cairo and Ankara. It means we should advocate human rights, civil liberties, and democratic institutions, in that order.”

Bret also throws America’s two most recent presidents under the bus in his jeremiad, saying “During the eight years of the Obama presidency, I thought U.S. policy toward Israel — the hectoringthe incompetent diplomatic interventionsthe moral equivocationsthe Iran dealthe backstabbing at the U.N. — couldn’t get worse. As with so much else, Donald Trump succeeds in making his predecessors look good.” He then asks “Is any of this good for Israel?” and he answers “no.”

Bret Stephens in his complaining reveals himself to be undeniably all about Israel, but consider what he is actually saying. He claims to be against “militant religious fundamentalism,” but isn’t that what Israeli Zionism is all about, with more than a dash of racism and fanaticism thrown in for good measure? One Israeli Chief Rabbi has called black people “monkeys” while another has declared that gentiles cannot live in Israel. Right-wing religious fundamentalist parties currently are in power with Netanyahu and are policy making for the Israeli Government: Shas, Jewish Home, and United Torah Judaism. None of them could be regarded as a moderating influence on their thuggish serial financial lawbreaker Prime Minister.

And isn’t Israel’s record on human rights and civil liberties among the worst in the world? Here is the Human Rights Watch’s assessment of Israel:

“Israel maintains entrenched discriminatory systems that treat Palestinians unequally. Its 50-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza involves systematic rights abuses, including collective punishment, routine use of excessive lethal force, and prolonged administrative detention without charge or trial for hundreds. It builds and supports illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, expropriating Palestinian land and imposing burdens on Palestinians but not on settlers, restricting their access to basic services and making it nearly impossible for them to build in much of the West Bank without risking demolition. Israel’s decade-long closure of Gaza, supported by Egypt, severely restricts the movement of people and goods, with devastating humanitarian impact.”

Israel, if one is considering the entire population under its rule, is among the most undemocratic states that chooses to call itself democratic. Much of the population living in lands that Israel claims cannot vote, they have no freedom of movement in their homeland, and they have no right of return to homes that they were forced to abandon. Israeli army snipers blithely shoot unarmed demonstrators while Netanyahu’s government kills, beats and imprisons children. And the Jewish state does not even operate very democratically even inside Israel itself, with special rights for Jewish citizens and areas and whole towns where Muslims or Christians are not allowed to buy property or reside.

It is time for American Jews like Bret Stephens to come to the realization that not everything that is good for Israel is good for the U.S. The strategic interests of the two countries, if they were openly discussed in either the media or in congress, would be seen to be often in direct conflict. Somehow in Stephens’ twisted mind the 1948 theft of Palestinian lands and the imposition of an apartheid system to control the people is in some way representative of a liberal world order.

If one were to suggest that Stephens should move to Israel since his primary loyalty clearly lies there, there would be accusations of anti-Semitism, but in a sense, it is far better to have him stick around blathering from the pulpit of The New York Times. When he writes so ineptly about how Donald Trump Is Bad for Israel the real message that comes through loud and clear is how bad Israel is for America.

 

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Khashoggi: How US Media Is Losing Its Moral Compass by Feeding Off Conspiracy Theories

By Martin Jay
Source

Trump’s relationship with Erdogan raises new questions about the credibility of US mainstream journalism. Was Khashoggi a victim of a Turkish ‘honey trap’?

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The Washington Post continues its banal attack on the regime of Saudi Arabia, following the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate on October 2. In Turkey too there is much which the western media cannot understand or refuses to probe, as Ankara plays a game of blackmail with Riyadh in a bid to extract a deal from Mohammad bin Salman who is at the centre of its character assassination.

But what are we missing? What is at the heart of this story which isn’t getting picked up by journalists or even TV commentators in the region?

Much has been written about the ‘free license’ that Trump and his son in law, Jared Kushner gave the Saudi prince and that this murder is an inevitable consequence of such blinded dogma towards ones allies. There is some truth in this, but if you are to look at the coverage of, in particular, the US media over Khashoggi, you might be curious to understand why it is so extensive and prolonged. After all, Saudi Arabia has been kidnapping its own dissidents for years and there are many western journalists who are killed or go missing around the world which get minimal coverage. Why such an entrenched campaign for Khashoggi?

Guilty

Partly this is a guilt complex of the Wapo editors, who I have accused in earlier articles for more or less sending Khashoggi on a suicide mission when they chose to publish his articles in Arabic. This was recently confirmed when Khashoggi’s editor at the Post – Karen Attiah – admitted to The Independent that the traffic which the Arabic articles generated shocked bosses there. I have always argued that this was a final blow for MbS, humiliated now by his adversaries in Riyadh who can read about his failings on a regular basis.

And it’s also about the fact that the Post considered him part of the DC elite. One of their own, which explains why he has become so canonised and his personality enshrined in virtue.

Their trade is treachery

In truth, Khashoggi was no saint. He took the King’s shilling from the Saudi elite all his life and made a good lifestyle for himself. At the end of a thirty year relationship of working for them and learning all of their secrets, he used that privilege as a weapon to destroy MbS. In most cultures around the world, this is called treachery. We should remember that even in London in 1963, when British spy Kim Philby defected to Moscow, many wanted him to hang for selling out to the Russians and being a double agent for all his career. Khashoggi may well have been an amiable character. But he was also a traitor.

We are led to believe that he left Riyadh in 2017 because he feared being detained. But could it be that he was frustrated at not being promoted within the hierarchy?

A select number of journalists and academics, like Dr Nafeez Ahmed, support this theory, in part at least and go further to say that Khashoggi was murdered because he was about to distribute solid evidence of the Saudis using chemical weapons in Yemen. The British academic also underlines Khashoggi’s role for Saudi intelligence and, moreover, how he helped the Saudi royal family support Bin Laden, right up until 9-11.

Yet my own sources close to the Saudi elite tell me that MbS wanted to call him back to Riyadh because Khashoggi was at the centre of a coup in the making, which would have benefitted the former Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayef, and still operated very much as though he was a Saudi intelligence asset. Not so much a treacherous journalist who didn’t know which side his bread was buttered, but more a double agent who was the gatekeeper of incendiary information. Something had to be done about Khashoggi.

Frustrated journalists are dangerous people. They lose sight of their loyalties and promises they made. And Khashoggi was an odd character struggling with an identity crisis. Is it the same case with Karen Attieh on the Oped desk of the Post which managed him? Did she connect with him as she too feels not taken seriously by her bosses at the Washington Post?

Conspiracy theory extended? Unfortunately we are led to feral speculation when we are denied the facts, especially deliberately.

Western media has a lot to be ashamed of on both covering up the Khashoggi murder – by going along with the demonization of the kingdom – and in being part of it happening in the first place. How does all of the gory details about Khashoggi’s murder get reported as fact by the Post, when it has no proof from the Turkish police sources who supply them? There is gargantuan hypocrisy at play here as the Post is part of a conspiracy now. It played a role in Khashoggi getting murdered and it is now playing a role in diverting blame away from itself and blithely accusing Saudi Arabia’s leader of the murder with little or no solid evidence. This is sloppy journalism on a whole new scale and shows a dire lack of journalistic credibility and judgment (unless of course the Post is part of a murky campaign of disinformation which has been agreed between Ankara and Washington whose firebrand leaders are now on good terms once again). Is the Post part of a dirty deal which has been struck by Trump and Erdogan to rewrite this story?

Far fetched? Ludicrous? Maybe, but let’s look at the facts. Trump is standing back and letting Erdogan continue with his drip feeding of sensational detailed evidence, in a blackmail game with MbS – but what’s the price Americans pay for that? To place himself at the centre of that charade, Trump has indicated to the Saudis that they need to release women activists from jail (likely to happen soon) and to cancel the Qatar blockade (on the cards, but will take longer). But before that happens, what we are witnessing is Trump looking for a media distraction (sanctions against the Saudi ‘killers’) while he mulls the idea of letting Erdogan have the exiled cleric, Gulen, who the Turkish President accuses of being the architect of the July 2017 attempted coup.

But he has also allowed Erdogan to use the US media as a platform for his own moral tutelage. Yes, astonishingly, the Washington Post – which presents itself as an arbiter of free speech and a protector of journalists and their sanctity, following Khashoggi’s murder – chose to publish Erdogan’s Oped about the affair, giving the Turkish leader the edge in the power game by selling out the lives of all 170 journalists in Turkish prisons, which, presumably, Wapo editors just forgot about on that given day. One can only assume that Karen Attiah managed to hold back the tears for those who are rotting in Turkish prisons for merely writing an Oped which vexed the Turkish leader.

Presumably Erdogan paid the Post to publish the piece – otherwise, if it were gratis, then that would be like wapo supporting him and his political leadership. But was this the same money that Saudi Arabia is reported to pay to regional media outlets to buy their loyalty? How can a Middle Eastern leader who has imprisoned a record number of journalists and who is now blackmailing the Saudis, get the support from the Washington Post? Can this really be happening?

Erdogan must be laughing his head off in Turkey as he sees day after day that western media just report as facts, what his officials say about the details of the murder. And laughing even hysterically when all he needs to do is write an article taking the moral high ground – don’t laugh – on the rights of journalists in the region and give it to the Post to publish.

The dark side of Khashoggi murder

Good investigative journalists are cynical about everything which is presented to them. Is, for example, the relationship between Khashoggi and his fiancé entirely what it seemed, or was she directed by Erdogan to ‘honey trap’ the Saudi journalist as part of an elaborate plot to ensnare the Saudi crown prince? Sources from the intelligence community of one middle eastern country (I prefer not to name which one) are at least beginning to wonder about this. And almost certainly so are the Saudis. Yet western journalists who refuse to at least consider that the Khashoggi abduction was bungled (and ended up being a murder) are likely to call this a conspiracy theory. Even if it is, they should at least report on it and mull it. What about all the tools which the hit team brought, they might ask. Could they have been brought to be used to scare Khashoggi into handing over the information that MbS was seeking?

Khashoggi’s fiancé doesn’t seem distraught and the sheer speed in which the couple headed towards the marriage courts is questionable, as is, indeed her own personal relationship with Erdogan, which she even admitted to the BBC. Other questions should be the ‘evidence’ presented by Erdogan, which is looking ropy to say the least, which some journalists are identifying as such.

For the moment, the only certain thing about the Khashoggi affair is how standards of western media have plummeted to an all time low with the Post leading the pack with partisan judgment, check book journalism and an internal guilt trip fuelling their unremarkable reporting, not to mention their abysmal editorial judgment. American media has lost the moral compass and Khashoggi will be remembered for this above all – with many arguing that this, in itself, plays a role in the impunity of those carrying out the rendition and murder. When the Saudis fell into the Turkish trap, they probably believed that Turkey would be the last place in the world to care about one kidnapped journalist. But they could never have imagined how partisan, sloppy and hypocritical western media would be in covering the story. What Khashoggi has taught us is that the day that Americans read newspapers based on the editors’ judgment are well behind us. So why should we read them at all?

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