Chomsky and Palestine: Asset or Liability?

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Asset or Liability?

Watch this video! Chomsky does not hide his emotional attachment to ARAB Palestine that he refers to as ‘Israel’ nor can he help it.

My comment: Two Jews, one extremely honest and the other a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A Palestinian activist was once asked what she thought of ‘anti-Zionist Jews’. She replied by saying that they were all wonderful and then she added: all fifteen of them! Bingo! Jews with total integrity and credibility on the question of Palestine such as Jeff Blankfort are extremely rare! Watch out for the green snakes in the green grass such as Noam Chomsky and his disciple Norman Finkelstein.

This article – like the rest of Jeff Blankfort’s articles – is the kind of article that should be ready with a lot of concentration and attention and read more than once. It is that important!

The meaning of ‘the green snake in the green grass’: It is an African saying, and particularly that of the Eastern part of Africa. The message is quire clear: the green snake sits in the green grass, very nicely blended with the grass and unnoticed and until the damage it done and it too late! By the same token, these Jewish green snakes have joined Palestinian solidarity movements for one and only one purpose: to make sure that their ‘state’ that was stolen from the Arabs remain stolen. That is it!

Written by pulsemedia.org

July 20, 2010

In a recent interview renowned linguist Noam Chomsky called the BDS campaign ‘hypocritical’. Jeffrey Blankfort, who is the author of an earlier important critique of Chomsky’s position on Palestine, responds:
When Noam Chomsky was stopped at Jordan’s Allenby Bridge and prevented from entering the Palestinian West Bank by Israeli occupation forces in May, the widespread condemnation of that action extended even into the mainstream media which in the past has paid little attention to his comings and goings and even less to what he has had to say.

Chomsky, who has visited Israel on a number of occasions and lived on a kibbutz in the 50s, had been invited to give a lecture at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah and had also arranged to meet with Salam Fayyad, the unelected prime minister of the Palestine Authority and a favorite of both Washington and Israel and, it would appear, of Chomsky.

The negative publicity arising from the incident caused the Israeli government to reverse its position, blaming its refusal to admit Chomsky on an administrative error.  Chomsky was not mollified and decided to forego the trip to the West Bank and present his talk to the Bir Zeit students by video from Amman.

When interviewed by phone the following day from New York by Democracy Now! on which he is a familiar presence, Chomsky noted that “I was going to meet with the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. But his office called me here in Amman this morning, and we had a long discussion. He is pursuing policies, which, in my view, are quite sensible, policies of essentially developing facts on the ground. It’s almost – I think it’s probably a conscious imitation of the early Zionist policies, establishing facts on the ground and hoping that the political forms that follow will be determined by them. And the policies sound to me like sensible and sound ones.”

Unfortunately, Chomsky was not questioned about his support for the nation building priorities of the earlier Zionists nor if he considered the Palestine Authority’s endorsement of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, of its attempts to suppress a UN investigation of the Goldstone Report, and of the role played by its US-trained militia in protecting Israel, to be also “sensible and sound.”

Missing from the discussion about what was made to appear a blunder on Israel’s part was a much more important issue: Why had Chomsky been invited to speak at Bir Zeit in the first place? For those puzzled by that question, be assured that it is meant to be taken quite seriously.

Once upon a time Prof. Chomsky was considered by many to be the most important spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. It was a position he attained largely on the basis of his writings and activism in opposing the Vietnam War and US intervention in Central America in which, unlike the case with Israel, he had no personal vested interest. That Chomsky has maintained that position despite the presence in the US of a number of distinguished Palestinian professors, among them the late Edward Said, who were and are more knowledgeable about the subject and could speak from personal experience that does not include prior service as “a Zionist youth leader”—Chomsky’s background– is a reflection of the political culture of the American Left which was and remains substantially if not predominantly Jewish, particularly in its leadership positions.

Support for Israel had become so ingrained and fear of anti-Semitism so deeply embedded in the psyche of American Jewish Leftists in the aftermath of World War 2,  that if the Jewish state was to be criticized it had to be by someone from within the tribe who unequivocally supported its existence.  Unfortunately, to the detriment of the Palestinians and the building of a viable Palestinian solidarity movement within the United States, that mindset persists to this day and largely explains why Chomsky maintains his reputation despite public utterances over the past half dozen years that have done more to undermine the Palestinian cause than to help it.

I examined Chomsky’s history in some detail in an article that I wrote for Left Curve in 2005 that called attention to the destructive role he has played regarding the Palestinian-based boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel and the equally destructive impact of his dismissal of the pro-Israel lobby as an influential force in shaping US Middle East policy.

That he is still at it, and that his influence among what are considered “progressives” has lessened only imperceptibly, requires  another look at the professor’s fierce and unyielding opposition to the BDS campaign launched by the leading organizations of Palestinian civil society.  This movement has been gaining support in the world that exists outside of the United States, particularly among trade unions, a fact that is causing considerable concern within Israel and among its lobbyists/agents around the world who claim it is a campaign to “delegitimize” the Jewish state.

Within the United States, however, this campaign challenging Israel has frequently and in certain instances, intentionally, been confused with a vastly different, US-centered, campaign that avoids penalizing Israel while targeting US companies that provide goods and services that assist Israel in maintaining the occupation.
This latter campaign Chomsky does support as does the leading Jewish peace group, Jewish Voice for Peace which has recently been conducting a drive to get 10,000 signatures for its campaign to pressure Caterpillar to stop selling bulldozers to the Israel military which it has used to destroy Palestinian homes. While this is a worthy endeavor, does anyone seriously think that a refusal by Caterpillar to halt its sales to Israel would change the current situation for the Palestinians in any significant way? Or are we seeing something else here on the part of both Prof. Chomsky and JVP with their competing campaign, namely, damage control on Israel’s behalf?

One might certainly draw that conclusion from comments Chomsky has made over the past several years and most recently in interviews with Israeli television (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCtYecGbQz8) and with Alison Weir of If Americans Knew, the newly appointed president of the Council for National Interest (CNI), on Jerusalem Calling, the CNI’s online radio program. (http://www.wsradio.com/internet-talk-radio.cfm/shows/CNI:-Jerusalem-Calling.html)

In the interview with Alison Weir, Chomsky not only repeatedly attacks advocates of an Israeli boycott as being hypocritical, he accuses them of doing damage to the Palestinian cause.

“What I have opposed,” says Chomsky, “is BDS proposals that harm Palestinians. If we are serious about BDS or any other tactic, we want to ask what the consequences are for the victims. We have to distinguish always in tactical judgments between what you might call ‘feel good’ tactics and ‘do good’ tactics. There are tactics that may make people feel good in doing something, but maybe they harm the victims.”

Pushed on the subject by Weir, he repeats that a boycott of Israel is “harmful to Palestinians and the reason is harmful is very obvious.”  And what is obvious about it, Chomsky tells us in the very next sentence. “It is so hypocritical that it discredits the whole effort. I mean,” he says, “why boycott Israel and not boycott the United States? The US has a much worse record.”

When reminded by Weir that “Palestinian civil society issued a call, signed by dozens of diverse organizations calling for a boycott of Israel,” Chomsky was dismissive and condescending.

“There are groups who call themselves Palestinian civil society who are calling for a boycott,” he responds, “and I think they are making a mistake and I’ve explained why. I’m not going to take, adopt positions which have already been and will continue to be quite harmful to Palestinians.”

“If you want to, then do it,” Chomsky adds, upbraiding Weir and by implication, the Palestinian people themselves, “but it’s clear why the call for a boycott [of Israel] has been harmful for Palestinians and will continue to be.”

“The reason,” he repeated, “is very simple. It’s so utterly hypocritical that it’s basically a gift to the hardliners. They can say, ‘Look, you’re calling for a boycott of Israel, but you’re not calling for a boycott of the United States which has a much worse record, in fact, it’s even responsible for most of Israel’s crimes. (My emphasis)

“So therefore, if your position,” and from his tone of voice he is clearly jabbing a verbal finger at Weir, “is that hypocritical, how can we even take you seriously? That’s like giving a gift to the hard-line elements.
One might be forgiven for thinking that when Chomsky says “we” and refers to “hard-line elements” he is speaking of himself. He seems to confirm that later when, continuing his attack, he tells Weir:

“I find your commitment to harming Palestinians surprising. It is quite obvious why a call for a boycott of Israel is a gift to AIPAC. It’s a gift because they can point out that it is utterly hypocritical” and again, like a well rehearsed mantra he repeats, “We are not boycotting the United States, for example, which has a much worse record and is responsible for a lot of Israel’s criminal behavior.”

“I can give you cases if you want [but he doesn’t offer any] where the calls like the one you’re advocating have, in fact, for good reasons, harmed Palestinians, and he repeats once again that Weir’s  “support  for the efforts which are basically gifts to the hardliners…”

Let’s stop a moment before going on and ask ourselves some questions about what Chomsky has been saying.

One, shifting blame for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians to the US (the Nakba?, the 1967 capture of the West Bank and Gaza?) he argues that rather than calling for a boycott of Israel, Palestinians should be calling for a boycott of the United States. Apart from the failure patently inherent in such a campaign, what does Prof. Chomsky believe would be the response of the majority of Americans to a call by Palestinians for such a boycott?  Or, for that matter, a call by supporters of the Palestinians in the United States for a boycott of their own country?  Beneficial for the Palestinians, Professor Chomsky, or harmful?  Or just plain stupid?
Since the answer to that question is obvious, genuine supporters of the Palestinian struggle who still see Chomsky as an ally need to ask themselves why he would call for a campaign that would bring further disaster down upon the heads of the Palestinians.

Now think about his main argument that boycotting Israel as opposed to the United States is hypocritical; that the “hardliners,” in which he specifically includes AIPAC—which otherwise he dismisses– will use this against the Palestinians by pointing out that the US has committed far greater crimes than Israel.  While there are some Jewish American settlers who have taken this position, referring to the Vietnam and Iraq wars, does  Chomsky seriously believe that AIPAC or any major American Jewish organization would make this argument and compare America’s crimes to Israel’s? Again, the answer is obvious. But why does Chomsky insult our intelligence by asking us to believe such a fatuous claim?  Why do those who know better let him get away with it?

The answer to the first question was given by Prof. Chomsky to the interviewer from Israel’ Channel Two television station who paid him a visit in Amman on May 19, two days after he was turned back at the Allenby Bridge.

When challenged about statements he had made strongly criticizing Israel, Chomsky responded, “I don’t regard myself as a critic of Israel. I regard myself as a supporter of Israel.”

Chomsky, who, in certain circles likes to boast of his early Zionist activities did so for both his Israeli interviewer and for Alison Weir.  Noting that he had opposed the notion of a Jewish state in favor of a bi-national state, “once Israel was formed in 1948, my position has consistently been that Israel should have all the rights of every state in the international system, no more and no less. “ He would repeat exactly the same words when speaking with Weir six weeks later.

Chomsky volunteered to his Israeli interviewer that up to five or six years ago, he had considered living there as an alternative to the United States and in the 50s, “we had considered staying there, in fact.” In other words, he seems to have no problem with the Jewish “right of return” to what, until 1948, was Palestine, but considers a similar demand by the Palestinians who were actually born there to be not only unrealistic but potentially dangerous.

Although presented with an opportunity in both interviews to do so, Chomsky made no mention of the plight of the 750,000 Palestinians made refugees in the period of Israel’s founding nor of the more than 400 Palestinian villages that Israel purposely destroyed to wipe out their traces. In fact, that history and the situation of the now millions of Palestinian refugees today, is something he rarely, if ever mentions, unless asked about it.

On one such occasion, when he was asked if the refugees would be obligated to give up their “right of return” under a “two-state solution,” Chomsky’s preferred outcome, he replied: “Palestinian refugees should certainly not be willing to renounce the right of return, but in this world — not some imaginary world we can discuss in seminars — that right will not be exercised, in more than a limited way, within Israel. Again, there is no detectable international support for it, and under the (virtually unimaginable) circumstances that such support would develop, Israel would very likely resort to its ultimate weapon, defying even the boss-man, to prevent it. In that case there would be nothing to discuss. The facts are ugly, but facts do not go out of existence for that reason. In my opinion, it is improper to dangle hopes that will not be realized before the eyes of people suffering in misery and oppression. (Emphasis added) Rather, constructive efforts should be pursued to mitigate their suffering and deal with their problems in the real world.” (Znet,3/30.2004)

What Chomsky is saying to the refugees is that if they persist with their demand to return to Palestine, and should that demand, support for which is  currently undetectable in Chomsky’s eyes, actually grow to the point where Israel feels threatened with an avalanche of returnees, it is likely to use its nuclear weapons and blow up the planet. So, for the sake of the “real world” that has ignored them and to keep Israel, a country that he unhesitatingly supports, from exercising the “Sampson Option,” the refugees should forget about going home and await some nebulous “constructive efforts….to mitigate their suffering.”

I can imagine what most Palestinians would say to that but it is unprintable.

When Weir asked if he had been aware of the Nakba in the days when he had been a Zionist youth leader, Chomsky acknowledged that he had been “well aware of that,” but rather than offer any opinion on it, he referred to his membership in Hashomir Hatzair which had supported a bi-national state and that he lived on a kibbutz which, prior to 1948, called for “Arab-Jewish cooperation in a socialist state.” He did not come to live on that kibbutz,  however, until 1953, five years after the Nakba.

In speaking with Weir, Chomsky did not hesitate to defend Israel’s legitimacy.. “Within Israel,” he said, “within the so-called Green Line, the internationally recognized borders, it’s a democratic state in the sense of Western democracies. There are laws and more than laws, practices that assign second class citizenship to Palestinians. In that respect it is not different from the US and other Western democracies.”

While there are few who will deny that racism exists in every Western (and non-Western) society and that it has often taken violent forms, Chomsky’s attempt to rationalize Israel’s ongoing discrimination of those Palestinians who remained after the Nakba, by lumping it together with the forms of racism practiced in the US and elsewhere, is too riddled with holes to analyze here but raises additional questions about on which side of the barricades he stands. The fact that he says “the occupation is simply criminal” as if Israel is not should not deceive us.

It should also be pointed out that Chomsky’s accusing Weir of harming the Palestinian cause is in keeping with the modus operandi he has employed when challenged from the Left regarding his stands on the Israel-Palestinian issue. With Alison Weir, it was the boycott of Israel, with Noah Cohen, in 2004, it was the latter’s advocacy of a single state and the Palestinian right of return. Chomsky accused Cohen of “”serving the cause of the extreme hawks in Israel and the US, and bringing even more harm to the suffering Palestinians.”( Znet, 7/26/04))

I have also been not immune from such an attack. On  November 12, 2004, before writing my article for Left Curve and after I had written the professor, asking him a number of questions that I hoped would clarify his positions he responded in a letter thusly:

“I have never really understood why you consistently take positions that so severely undermine any hope of justice for the Palestinians, find truth so offensive, and work so hard to evade our own responsibilities in favor of the much more convenient stance of blaming others [Israel]. But that’s your business. I don’t write or speak about it.”

What we are dealing with in the case of Prof. Chomsky is nothing less than intellectual dishonesty parading as its opposite and the boycott issue has brought it to the fore.

A glaring but little known example of that came in a speech that Chomsky made to the Harvard Anthropology Dept. in 2003 shortly after the MIT and Harvard faculties issued a joint statement on divestment. It was gleefully reported in the Harvard Crimson by pro-Israel activist, David Weinfeld, under the headline “Chomsky’s Gift”:

MIT Institute Professor of Linguistics Noam Chomsky recently gave the greatest Hanukkah gift of all to opponents of the divestment campaign against Israel. By signing the Harvard-MIT divestment petition several months ago—and then denouncing divestment on Nov. 25 at Harvard—Chomsky has completely undercut the petition.
At his recent talk for the Harvard anthropology department, Chomsky stated: “I am opposed and have been opposed for many years, in fact, I’ve probably been the leading opponent for years of the campaign for divestment from Israel and of the campaign about academic boycotts.”
He argued that a call for divestment is “a very welcome gift to the most extreme supporters of US-Israeli violence… It removes from the agenda the primary issues and it allows them to turn the discussion to irrelevant issues, which are here irrelevant, anti-Semitism and academic freedom and so on and so forth.” [Harvard Crimson, 12/2/2003] (Emphasis added.)

The following year, Chomsky clearly stunned Safundi, an interviewer for the  Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies [5/10 2004] when in an exchange comparing Israel with the former apartheid regime, he again came to Israel’s defense and cast opposition to sanctions on Israel as a moral issue.

“One of the important tactics against the apartheid government was the eventual use of sanctions. Do you see that as a possibility?” asked Safundi.

“No,” Chomsky replied. “In fact I’ve been strongly against it in the case of Israel. For a number of reasons. For one thing, even in the case of South Africa, I think sanctions are a very questionable tactic. In the case of South Africa, I think they were [ultimately] legitimate because it was clear that the large majority of the population of South Africa was in favor of it.

“Sanctions hurt the population. You don’t impose them unless the population is asking for them. That’s the moral issue. So, the first point in the case of Israelis that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.
“So calling for sanctions here, when the majority of the population doesn’t understand what you are doing, is tactically absurd-even if it were morally correct, which I don’t think it is. The country against which the sanctions are being imposed is not calling for it.”

To which the bewildered Safundi understandably asked, “Palestinians aren’t calling for sanctions?”
“Well,” Chomsky responded, as if he had been asked a stupid question, “the sanctions wouldn’t be imposed against the Palestinians, they would be imposed against Israel.”

“Furthermore,” added, “there is no need for it. We ought to call for sanctions against the United States! If the U.S. were to stop its massive support for this, it’s over. So, you don’t have to have sanctions on Israel.”
It would seem from that exchange that Chomsky has more respect for the opinions of Israel’s Jews than those of his fellow Americans.

In applying double standards to Israel and the United States, Chomsky has been consistent.
After telling the Israeli interviewer that, speaking as an American citizen, “we are responsible for our own actions and their consequences,” in the very next breath he declares that “every crime that Israel commits is with US  participation and authorization,” which, even if true, which it is not, presumably would make Israel culpable, but not apparently enough, in Chomsky’s eyes, to warrant a boycott.

At the end of the day, it is evident that Chomsky’s affection for Israel, his sojourn on a kibbutz, his Jewish identity, and his early experiences with anti-Semitism to which he occasionally refers have colored his approach to every aspect of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and explain his defense of Israel. That is his right, of course, but not to pretend at the same that he is an advocate for justice in Palestine.

That same background may also explain his resistance to acknowledging the very obvious power of the pro-Israel lobby over US Middle East policy  which he, like many others who share a similar history,  interpret as “blaming the Jews,” a most taboo subject.  It is, without a doubt, far more comfortable for him and his followers to continue insisting that US support for Israel is based on it being a “strategic asset” for the United States even when an increasing number of mainstream observers who are not linked to AIPAC or the Zionist establishment have judged it to be a liability. Should not Chomsky himself, on the basis of his own statements, be judged as to whether he is an asset or a liability for the Palestinian cause? If they have not already done so, serious supporters of that cause, including Palestinians, need to ask themselves that question.

http://pulsemedia.org/2010/07/20/chomsky-and-palestine-asset-or-liability/#more-25884

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Yes, Blame the Lobby – A Response to Prof. Joseph Massad

Yes, Blame the Lobby
A Response to Prof. Joseph Massad

by Jeff Blankfort
http://www.dissidentvoice.org
April 11, 2006

The appearance last month of a critical article on the “Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” in the London Review of Books by Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Steven Walt, Academic Dean of the Kennedy Center at Harvard University, two nationally known academic figures with impeccable credentials, propelled into the mainstream an issue that had long been confined to the margins, not only by the efforts of the lobby, itself, but by those on the Left who prefer to view US foreign policy as being determined by corporate elites who are largely unaffected by the agenda of what Noam Chomsky, the foremost proponent of this theory, has described as another “ethnic lobby.”
That the authors squarely placed the blame for US policy in the Middle East and for the war in Iraq on the influence of the Israel Lobby elicited the predictable reactions from both camps. The attack dogs of the lobby, led by Alan Dershowitz and CAMERA, smeared the article — an abbreviated version of a longer Harvard monograph — as an updated version of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” based on sources from “Neo-Nazi” web sites and, of course, “anti-Semitic.”
From the left, Prof. Chomsky was not long in providing a subtle dismissal of the paper on ZNet and on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! After a perfunctory sentence praising the two professors for having raised the issue, he writes, “we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion.” His comments, predictably, were picked up and quoted approvingly in the Jewish and mainstream press. What was surprising to this writer, however, was that the very first attack from the Left came from someone who had himself been victimized by the lobby, Prof. Joseph Massad, of Columbia University.
Three years ago, Massad was the target of The David Project, a relatively new entrant to the lobby’s ranks, which conducted a witch hunt against him based on statements he allegedly made to Jewish students and for allegedly creating an uncomfortable atmosphere in his classroom for Jewish students, none of which could be substantiated.
Massad’s article, “Blaming the Lobby,” first appeared in the March 23-29 issue of Al-Ahram, the English-language Egyptian weekly, and was subsequently posted on CounterPunch. What was disturbing was not only Massad’s rush to the lobby’s defense, but that he failed to respond to the points raised by Mearsheimer and Walt and provided, instead, what could best be described as a legal brief for the Chomsky position. For those unfamiliar with the subject and details of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, it was, no doubt, very convincing.
It was for this reason that, rather than write a general response, I decided to examine and refute his article, point by point. (Excerpts from Massad’s article are in block quotes, followed by my responses)
Joseph Massad: In the last 25 years, many Palestinians and other Arabs, in the United States and in the Arab world, have been so awed by the power of the US pro-Israel lobby that any study, book, or journalistic article that exposes the inner workings, the substantial influence, and the financial and political power of this lobby have been greeted with ecstatic sighs of relief that Americans finally can see the “truth” and the “error” of their ways.


Jeff Blankfort: There have, in fact, been very few books or articles in either the mainstream or alternative media that have attempted to expose the inner workings of the Israel lobby and when they have appeared they have largely been ignored by the US Left. When they have been mentioned, it has been largely to refute them. Moreover, the issue is never on the agenda in pro-Palestinian conferences or mentioned at any of the anti-war rallies that call for an end to Israeli occupation.
The underlying argument has been simple and has been told time and again by Washington’s regime allies in the Arab world, pro-US liberal and Arab intellectuals, conservative and liberal US intellectuals and former politicians, and even leftist Arab and American activists who support Palestinian rights, namely, that absent the pro- Israel lobby, America would at worst no longer contribute to the oppression of Arabs and Palestinians and at best it would be the Arabs’ and the Palestinians’ best ally and friend.


Here Massad disingenuously conflates Washington’s corrupt allies in the Arab world with those of who have made serious, factual criticisms of the role that the Israel Lobby has played in influencing America’s Middle East policies. None of the latter have advanced the notion that without the lobby, America might, at best, be the “the Arabs’ and the Palestinians’ best ally and friend.” While this might be the position held by a few former members of the Foreign Service, it has never been advanced by the lobby’s Left critics. They have no illusions about the evils of US imperialism that have and will continue to exist, irrespective of the lobby, although the lobby has been useful in pushing the US political agenda elsewhere.
What makes this argument persuasive and effective to Arabs? Indeed, why are its claims constantly brandished by Washington’s Arab friends to Arab and American audiences as a persuasive argument? I contend that the attraction of this argument is that it exonerates the United States’ government from all the responsibility and guilt that it deserves for its policies in the Arab world and gives false hope to many Arabs and Palestinians who wish America would be on their side instead of on the side of their enemies.
Again, Massad creates a straw man by falling back on Washington’s Arab friends to set the basis for discrediting Mearsheimer and Walt. There are those, including this writer, who are both long time opponents of US imperial policies, in general, and serious critics of the Israel Lobby and who in no manner exonerate the US from the responsibility for its actions. The latter seem non-existent in Massad’s viewpoint.
Let me start with the premise of the argument, namely its effect of shifting the blame for US policies from the United States onto Israel and its US lobby. According to this logic, it is not the United States that should be held directly responsible for all its imperial policies in the Arab world and the Middle East at large since World War II, rather it is Israel and its lobby who have pushed it to launch policies that are detrimental to its own national interest and are only beneficial to Israel.


The authors are not absolving the US of its own responsibilities but trying to explain how US Middle East policies came to be formed. They are not saying that without the interference of Israel and the Israel Lobby that the US would not pursue its imperial interest in the Arab world, but that it would do so without generating the problems that US support for Israel has engendered and which have been so costly in lives and money.
Establishing and supporting Arab and other Middle East dictatorships, arming and training their militaries, setting up their secret police apparatuses and training them in effective torture methods and counter-insurgency to be used against their own citizens should be blamed, according to the logic of these studies, on Israel and its US lobby.


Again, Massad is creating a straw man. The authors are not blaming the entirety of US policies on either Israel or its lobby, but dealing with specific issues in which US support for Israel has had negative effects on the region and US relations in the region.
Blocking all international and UN support for Palestinian rights, arming and financing Israel in its war against a civilian population, protecting Israel from the wrath of the international community should also be blamed not on the United States, the studies insist, but on Israel and its lobby.


The authors are essentially correct. Every US president since Richard Nixon, with the Rogers Plan in 1969, has made an effort to get Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967, not out of any love for the Palestinians, but because Israel’s continuing occupation of those lands, from the Sinai to the Golan Heights, was creating unnecessary problems in a region where maintaining stability of the regions’ oil resources was and remains a necessity. Every one of those plans was undermined by the lobby.
In 1975, Gerald Ford, upset because Israel was refusing to disengage from areas it had taken in the Sinai during the 1973 war, halted aid to Israel and publicly let it be known that he was going to make a major speech that would call for a downsizing of US-Israel relations and demanding that Israel to return to its 1967 borders. Within three weeks, AIPAC presented Ford with a letter signed by 76 senators, from liberal Democrats to extreme right wing Republicans, warning him not to take any steps that would jeopardize Israel’s security. Ford did not make the speech.
His successor, Jimmy Carter, was repeatedly in conflict with both Israel and the lobby. Neither wanted the Camp David treaty but Carter doggedly pushed it through, although it required a multi-billion dollar bribe to get Begin’s signature. In 1978, before the treaty went into effect, Begin invaded Lebanon, hoping, some speculated, that Egypt would react and the treaty would be nullified since Israel did not want to give up the Sinai. Carter further angered Israel and the lobby by demanding that Begin withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon three months later.
When he told Begin, publicly, to halt settlement building, the Israeli prime minister responded by announcing the start of 10 new settlements while the lobby criticized Carter for bringing up the subject. When UN Ambassador Andrew Young violated an Israeli demand and a lobby-enforced rule that prohibited US officials from meeting with the PLO, (much like the lobby imposed rule about US officials meeting with Hamas officials today), he was forced to resign. When Carter, like Ford, was considering giving a televised speech in 1979 in which he planned to outline the divergence of interests between the US and Israel and denounce Israeli intransigence on the Palestinian issue, he was warned by the lobby, as one Jewish leader put it, that he would be the first president to “risk opening the gates of anti-Semitism in America.” Carter decided not to give the speech.
Massad raises the issue of UN votes. There was an exception to all those US vetoes and it came during the Carter administration. In March 1980, Young’s successor, Donald McHenry, also an African-American, voted to censure Israel for its settlement policy, including Jerusalem. The lobby was outraged and Carter was forced to apologize. The last straw for the lobby was when Carter called for an international conference in Geneva to settle the Israel-Palestine question that would include the Soviet Union. It didn’t matter that he was forced to apologize for that, too. In 1980, he received 48% of the Jewish vote, the poorest showing of any Democrat since they began counting such things.
When Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982, both houses of Congress roared their approval, it being, after all, an election year. When the reports of the siege of Beirut were becoming too much to ignore, Reagan asked Sharon to call a halt. Sharon’s response was to bomb the city at 2:42 and 3:38 the next afternoon, those hours, coincidentally, being the numbers of the two UN resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. When Reagan, like Carter, also publicly called on Begin to halt settlement building, the Israeli prime minister announced the building of new settlements and sent the president a “Dear Ronnie,” letter letting him know who was making those decisions.
In Reagan’s second term, he, too, tried to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict with what came to be known as the Shultz Plan, named after his Secretary of State, George Shultz. It called for an international conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who had replaced Begin, was having none of it. One cartoon of the day depicted Shamir sitting in a chair, cutting up pieces of paper while Reagan and Shultz looked on. “How cute,” said Reagan, “he’s cutting up paper dolls.” “Those aren’t paper dolls,” responded Shultz. “That’s our peace plan.” Another showed Reagan and Shamir sitting in armchairs across from one another with Shamir holding a smoking gun in his hand while a dove falls from the sky. Reagan says, “You didn’t have to do that.” Shamir’s intransigence finally provoked 30 senators, including some of Israel’s biggest supporters, into sending him a letter asking him to be more cooperative. They were hardly prepared for the firestorm from the lobby that followed that sent each of them stumbling to apologize. The Shultz Plan was effectively dead.
When George H. W. Bush succeeded Reagan, he made it clear that he wanted a halt to the settlements and for Israel to get out of the OT, as well. He arranged for the Madrid Peace Conference over the objections of the obstinate Shamir, making concessions as to the composition of the Palestinian delegation to appease both Israel and the lobby. Was this conference, like the one called for by Carter, like the one planned by Reagan just a charade? Before the conference took place, Shamir asked the US for $10 billion in loan guarantees. Bush made compliance with that request contingent on Israel agreeing to halt all settlement building, its agreement not to settle any Russian immigrants in the West Bank, and to wait 120 days, to see if the first two requests had been complied with. An enraged Shamir decided to go over his head to the lobby-controlled Congress.
After receiving a letter signed by 242 members of Congress urging the swift passage of the loan guarantees, Bush realized that the Lobby had enough votes to override his threatened veto of the request. This led him to take the unprecedented step of calling a national press conference on the day when an estimated thousand Jewish lobbyists were on Capitol Hill pushing for a swift passage of Israel’s request. In the press conference, Bush denounced the arrogance of the lobby and told the American people how much aid each Israeli man, woman and child was getting from the US Treasury. The polls the next day showed that 85% of the American public was with him and a month and a half later only 44% of the public supported giving any aid to Israel at all while over 70% supported giving aid to the former Soviet Union.
AIPAC, in the face of Bush’s attack, pulled back, but then launched a steady attack against him which began to be reflected in the US media where even old friends like the NY Times columnist William Safire would eventually desert him for Bill Clinton. Under tremendous pressure and with the election approaching, Bush finally consented to the loan guarantees, but it was too late. The Lobby blamed him for Shamir having been defeated by Rabin and his goose was cooked.
Additionally, and in line with this logic, controlling Arab economies and finances, dominating key investments in the Middle East, and imposing structural adjustment policies by the IMF and the World Bank which impoverish the Arab peoples should also be blamed on Israel, and not the United States.
It would be curious to know what Arab economies the US actually controls. Massad doesn’t say. He is again being disingenuous, however, refusing to refute what Mearsheimer and Walt actually wrote, but accusing them of making allegations that have little or nothing to do with the Israel-Palestine issue or the Iraq war. It is no secret, however, that pro-Israel Jewish neocons have been heavily involved in creating the structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and the IMF. Indeed, Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Gulf War, is now the head of the World Bank.
Finally, starving and then invading Iraq, threatening to invade Syria, raiding and then sanctioning Libya and Iran, besieging the Palestinians and their leaders must also be blamed on the Israeli lobby and not the US government.


One must ask, where has Prof. Massad been? While it was not well known, but no secret, that the Lobby played a key role in getting the votes for the first Gulf War, the reporting of which resulted in the firing of the Washington Jewish Week’s Larry Cohler at the behest of AIPAC inductee Steve Rosen, the orchestration of the current war by a handful of Jewish Likud-connected neocons with the support of the Israel Lobby was widely reported in the mainstream press. If there was a question as to who was the chief architect, it was a choice between Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Scooter Libby.
Massad must certainly be familiar with the “Clean Break” paper that Perle, Feith, and Meyrav Wurmser, wrote for Netanyahu in 1996, calling for the overthrow of Iraq, Syria and Iran, which Mearsheimer and Walt mention. Is he not also familiar with the “Project for a New American Century,” another document drawn up by pro-Israel Jewish neocons? Not familiar with the Office of Special Plans, set up by Feith and run by another Jewish neocon, Abe Shulsky, which was directed to provide the phony intelligence that would justify the invasion when the CIA staff was not prepared to do it. Is he not familiar with the admission by Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9-11 commission, who admitted that the war in Iraq was for “the security of Israel”: but that would have been a “hard sell” to the American people? And, as for implementing and maintaining the sanctions, the advocacy of the lobby was equally evident.
Indeed, over the years, many pro-US Arab dictators let it leak officially and unofficially that their US diplomat friends have told them time and again how much they and “America” support the Arab world and the Palestinians were it not for the influence of the pro-Israel lobby (sometimes identified by the American diplomats in more explicit “ethnic” terms).


Those diplomats probably telling the truth as they saw it as statements many have made, after leaving the Foreign Service, attest. As far as using ethnic terms, in Israel they refer to it as “the Jewish Lobby.” Is that what he means? Does that imply if a non-Jew uses the term it is “anti-Semitic?”
While many of the studies of the pro-Israel lobby are sound and full of awe-inspiring well-documented details about the formidable power commanded by groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its allies, the problem with most of them is what remains unarticulated. For example, when and in what context has the United States government ever supported national liberation in the Third World? The record of the United States is one of being the implacable enemy of all Third World national liberation groups, including European ones, from Greece to Latin America to Africa and Asia, except in the celebrated cases of the Afghan fundamentalists’ war against the USSR and supporting apartheid South Africa’s main terrorist allies in Angola and Mozambique (UNITA and RENAMO) against their respective anti-colonial national governments. Why then would the US support national liberation in the Arab world absent the pro-Israel lobby is something these studies never explain.


Yet another straw man. It is not a question of supporting a national liberation struggle but determining overall policy for the region, in general. It should have been clear that a Palestinian mini-state run by Yasser Arafat or any of his cronies would have been no threat to the US at all, in fact, it would have been useful since its reactionary policies would have had a crushing effect not only on the Palestinians themselves, but on those peoples in the Middle East and around the world that have supported the Palestinian struggle for so many years. Moreover, it would have been economically dependent on both Israel and the surrounding reactionary Arab states.
It was clear that the US intended to use the mini-state for its own reasons when it built a four-story PA security office in Ramallah, that Sharon had destroyed during the Al-Aksa Intifada, and brought PA security forces to CIA headquarters in Langely, Virginia for training — many of whom were also assassinated by Israeli forces in the early days of that Intifada. Sharon clearly didn’t want a sibling rival that might prove useful to the US.
The United States has had a consistent policy since World War II of fighting all regimes across the Third World that insist on controlling their national resources, whether it be land, oil, or other valuable minerals. This extends from Iran in 1953 to Guatemala in 1954 to the rest of Latin America all the way to present-day Venezuela.
The US has made a modus vivendi with the major sources of oil globally without requiring an armed takeover until the present war. The Palestinians, having none such resources would, at best, regain their water aquifers that are presently controlled by Israel but in which the US has no direct interest, so this argument of Massad’s is irrelevant. Moreover, the Palestinian situation is unique among liberation struggles in that its “leadership” under Arafat and until Hamas’s victory, rather than fighting the US, has eagerly sought its embrace.

Africa has fared much worse in the last four decades, as have many countries in Asia. Why would the United States support nationalist regimes in the Arab world who would nationalize natural resources and stop their pillage by American capital absent the pro-Israel lobby also remains a mystery unexplained by these studies. Finally, the United States government has opposed and overthrown or tried to overthrow any regime that seeks real and tangible independence in the Third World and is especially galled by those regimes that pursue such policies through democratic elections.

The overthrow of regimes from Arbenz to Goulart to Mossadegh and Allende and the ongoing attempts to overthrow Chavez are prominent examples, as is the overthrow of nationalist regimes like Sukarno’s and Nkrumah’s. The terror unleashed on populations who challenged the US-installed friendly regimes from El Salvador and Nicaragua to Zaire to Chile and Indonesia resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands, if not millions by repressive police and militaries trained for these important tasks by the US. This is aside from direct US invasions of South East Asian and Central American countries that killed untold millions for decades.
Why would the US and its repressive agencies stop invading Arab countries, or stop supporting the repressive police forces of dictatorial Arab regimes and why would the US stop setting up shadow governments inside its embassies in Arab capitals to run these countries’ affairs (in some cases the US shadow government runs the Arab country in question down to the smallest detail with the Arab government in question reduced to executing orders) if the pro-Israel lobby did not exist is never broached by these studies let alone explained.


Massad presents a long history of US depredations of the Third World countries that has no relevance to this issue. Mearsheimer and Walt do not state or imply that, absent the Israel Lobby, the US would support nationalist regimes in the region. In 1958, Pres. Eisenhower sent the Marines to Lebanon to prevent what was thought to be a radical nationalist move against the status quo, but the US has only invaded Arab countries twice, Kuwait in 1991, to oust the Iraqis and in 2003. As pointed out earlier, the first required the assistance of the Israel lobby capped by the phony incubator story that was orchestrated by Rep. Tom Lantos, an author or co-sponsor of numerous Iraqi and Syria sanction bills and anti-Palestinian legislation. (According to the Jerusalem Post, Lantos represents Israel in countries where it has no diplomatic recognition.)
Israel and the lobby had anticipated that the Senior Bush would remove Saddam as called for in the Clean Break and when he didn’t they started criticizing him and planning for a future administration that would do the job and the record on that is very clear. AIPAC took credit for writing the anti-Syrian legislation that led to the withdrawal from Lebanon of the relatively small number of Syrian forces that were in the country and more recently the Lobby has been the only sector of US society actively calling for what is unmistakably an armed confrontation with Iran.
The arguments put forth by these studies would have been more convincing if the Israel lobby was forcing the United States government to pursue policies in the Middle East that are inconsistent with its global policies elsewhere. This, however, is far from what happens. While US policies in the Middle East may often be an exaggerated form of its repressive and anti- democratic policies elsewhere in the world, they are not inconsistent with them. One could easily make the case that the strength of the pro-Israel lobby is what accounts for this exaggeration, but even this contention is not entirely persuasive.


From the end of the Vietnam War to the beginning of the first Gulf War, the profits of the weapons industry continued to soar, proving that an actual shooting war was not necessary for the arms manufacturers to make windfall profits or the capitalist system to survive. Given that both US political parties are committed to what is euphemistically called “national defense,” there is no debate in Congress over the size of the military budget. Consequently, except for the Middle East, what the US has sought politically has been stability, the kind of stability that provides a ready source of raw materials and an outlet for US products. Those products include, of course, US weaponry, some of which may be used to quiet domestic rebellions, and some, like fighter jets, for national pride and kickbacks on both sides. It is only in the Middle East where a stable environment is required to maintain the oil that fuels much of the world’s economy, including our own, where there is continued instability, and that is what both Mearsheimer and Walt correctly contend is the fault of Israel and the Israel Lobby.
One could argue (and I have argued elsewhere) that it is in fact the very centrality of Israel to US strategy in the Middle East that accounts, in part, for the strength of the pro-Israel lobby and not the other way around. Indeed, many of the recent studies highlight the role of pro-Likud members of the Bush administration (or even of the Clinton administration) as evidence of the lobby’s awesome power, when, it could be easily argued that it is these American politicians who had pushed Likud and Labour into more intransigence in the 1990s and are pushing them towards more conquest now that they are at the helm of the US government. This is not to say, however, that the leaders of the pro-Israel lobby do not regularly brag about their crucial influence on US policy in Congress and in the White House. That they have done regularly since the late 1970s. But the lobby is powerful in the United States because its major claims are about advancing US interests and its support for Israel is contextualized in its support for the overall US strategy in the Middle East.
Here, Massad seems to be placing the blame for Israel’s intransigence on the Lobby while denying its effect on US policy, a curious turn of thinking. Massad refers to what he has written elsewhere about the “centrality” of Israel to US Middle East strategy but it is sorely missed in this article when such an explanation is required to refute Mearsheimer and Walt. It would be more useful than reciting the well known history of US imperialism elsewhere that has little bearing on this dispute. He owes it to Mearsheimer and Walt as well as the reader to describe what he believes to be “overall US strategy in the Middle East” and how Israel serves it, to the extent that justifies the billions of aid and political cover in the international arena.
The pro-Israel lobby plays the same role that the China lobby played in the 1950s and the Cuba lobby still plays to this day. The fact that it is more powerful than any other foreign lobby on Capitol Hill testifies to the importance of Israel in US strategy and not to some fantastical power that the lobby commands independent of and extraneous to the US “national interest.” The pro-Israel lobby could not sell its message and would not have any influence if Israel was a communist or anti-imperialist country or if Israel opposed US policy elsewhere in the world.
Comparing the Israel Lobby to the old China Lobby is like comparing the NY Yankees, when they are winning, to a semi-pro team. The China lobby did not have several dozen Chinese members of Congress, hundreds of organizations and thousands of religious institutions and billions of dollars in political contributions behind it. It did not own or control any section of the US media or was there, outside of the handful of the nations’ Chinatowns and the John Birch Society, an army of grassroots activists. The Cuba lobby which is, in fact, more properly called the anti-Cuba lobby, not coincidentally, has a strong working relationship with AIPAC for their mutual benefit, but it doesn’t begin to compare with the Israel Lobby’s power although it has seen to it that Florida will stay in the Republican column. Of course, if Israel was a communist or anti-imperialist country, the Jews in the US would no doubt be like the anti-Castro Cubans, calling on the US to liberate it.
Some would argue that even though Israel attempts to overlap its interests with those of the US, that its lobby is misleading American policy- makers and shifting their position from one of objective assessment of what is truly in America’s best interest and that of Israel’s. The argument runs as follows: US support for Israel causes groups who oppose Israel to hate the US and target it for attacks. It also costs the US friendly media coverage in the Arab world, affects its investment potential in Arab countries, and loses its important allies in the region, or at least weakens these allies. But none of this is true. The United States has been able to be Israel’s biggest backer and financier, its staunchest defender and weapon-supplier while maintaining strategic alliances with most if not all Arab dictatorships, including the Palestinian Authority under both Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Moreover, US companies and American investments have the largest presence across the Arab world, most prominently but not exclusively in the oil sector.
US support for Israel does not target it for attacks? That would be news to the families of the marines, soldiers and sailors killed in the bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, as well as American diplomats who have been targeted in the region over the years. Had Israel not invaded Lebanon, these American servicemen killed in their barracks might still be alive, as well the members of the CIA who were wiped out in an earlier bombing of the US embassy in Beirut. Furthermore, without getting into the serious questions that remain unanswered about the 9-11 attack, it has been accepted by those who believe the official narrative that US support for Israel was one of the reasons behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. If the authors and others, including this writer have argued are correct, a significant portion of the responsibility for the dead and wounded on both sides in Iraq can be laid at the feet of Israel and the Israel Lobby, but the latter, in particular.
It is difficult to measure the effect on investment potential and sales of American products in Middle Eastern markets, but to say that it isn’t “true” that it would increase if the US was not supporting Israel is hardly realistic.
Also, even without the pathetic and ineffective efforts at US propaganda in the guise of the television station Al-Hurra, or Radio Sawa and the now-defunct Hi magazine, not to mention US-paid journalists and newspapers in Iraq and elsewhere, a whole army of Arabic newspapers and state-television stations, not to mention myriad satellite television stations celebrate the US and its culture, broadcast American programs, and attempt to sell the US point of view as effectively as possible encumbered only by the limitations that actual US policies in the region place on common sense. Even the offending Al-Jazeera has bent over backwards to accommodate the US point of view but is constantly undercut by actual US policies in the region. Al-Jazeera, under tremendous pressure and threats of bombing from the United States, has for example stopped referring to the US occupation forces in Iraq as “occupation forces” and now refers to them as “coalition forces.” Moreover, since when has the US sought to win a popularity contest among the peoples of the world? Arabs no more hate or love the United States than do Latin Americans, Africans, Asians, or even and especially Europeans.
The US, as a country, is not loved or well liked anywhere except, perhaps, Israel. Much depends, of course, on an individual’s political consciousness, but most of the peoples of the world have had a love-hate relationship with the US, despising its policies but colonized by its materialism. The war on Iraq and the US voters’ re-election of Bush have put more weight in the “hate” column, and in Latin America, Bush has proved to be the most unpopular US president since they started taking polls. It is not unlikely that as the war continues and the US continues to make threats against Iran, again pressured by the Lobby, the degree of antagonism towards the US and US products is certain to increase.
Finally we come to the financial argument, namely that the US gives an inordinate amount of money to Israel — too exorbitant a cost that is out of proportion to what the US gets in return. In fact, the United States spends much more on its military bases in the Arab world, not to mention on those in Europe or Asia, than it does on Israel. Israel has indeed been very effective in rendering services to its US master for a good price, whether in channeling illegal arms to central American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s, helping pariah regimes like Taiwan and apartheid South Africa in the same period, supporting pro-US, including Fascist, groups inside the Arab world to undermine nationalist Arab regimes, from Lebanon to Iraq to Sudan, coming to the aid of conservative pro-US Arab regimes when threatened as it did in Jordan in 1970, and attacking Arab nationalist regimes outright as it did in 1967 with Egypt and Syria and in 1981 with Iraq when it destroyed that country’s nuclear reactor. While the US had been able to overthrow Sukarno and Nkrumah in bloody coups, Nasser remained entrenched until Israel effectively neutralized him in the 1967 War. It is thanks to this major service that the United States increased its support to Israel exponentially.
Here, Massad seems to be channeling Noam Chomsky. Israel has never seen the US as its master. Not a single Israeli soldier has shed a drop of blood for US interests and as Ariel Sharon said on Israeli army radio several years ago, the US knows that no Israeli soldier ever will. At the time of Israel’s attack on Egypt in 1967, France was the major arms supplier and the certain sectors of the US government were engaged with members of Egypt’s military. To describe the defeat of Nasser as a service done by Israel for the benefit of the US, which the term, “service,” clearly implies, may be convenient for Chomsky and Massad but it is a both an oversimplification as well as a distortion of history. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1973 war, when Israel, under attack by Egypt and Syria, threatened to use its nuclear weapons unless the US came through with a massive conventional arms airlift, that US support for Israel really took off. So did the oil prices as an Arab oil boycott was implemented in response. Was the very real threat of a nuclear war, which would have brought in the Soviet Union, in the US interest? Was the Arab oil embargo?
Israel’s arms sales in Latin America and South Africa were done to benefit Israel’s arms industry and that they were useful to the US was a secondary factor. What the Lobby was able to do was keep members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including the notable Ron Dellums, from publicly condemning Israel’s arms sales to South Africa in violation of international sanctions, and to silence those members of Congress who were quick to condemn US actions in Central America but afraid to do so when Israel was the malefactor. That fear is no less prevalent in Congress today where any member can get up to criticize George Bush but none dare say a negative word about the Israeli prime minister, irrespective of who holds that office.
Israel’s role in the Jordanian-Palestinian conflict in 1970 is always raised by those who argue for Israel’s usefulness. We are told that Israel was acting at the behest of the US when it threatened to intervene if Syrian tanks moved south to defend the Palestinians under attack by Jordan’s King Hussein and that this prevented the possible overthrow of the US-friendly Hashemite regime. This fits neatly fits into the client state scenario, except it is missing a key element. What was crucial in that situation was the refusal of Hafez Al-Assad, then head of the Syrian air force, and not a supporter of the PLO, to back up the Syrian tank force that had entered Northern Jordan. Shortly thereafter, Al-Assad staged a coup against the pro-Palestinian president Atassi and proceeded to throw hundreds of Palestinians and pro-Palestinian Syrians in prison and break up the radical Syrian-supported militia group, Al-Saika This bit of history has apparently now been written out of history.
Moreover, Israel neutralized the PLO in 1982, no small service to many Arab regimes and their US patron who could not fully control the organization until then.
It was appreciated in the beginning by many Lebanese, particularly in the south who found some elements of the PLO heavy-handed and were tired of having a liberation war fought on their soil, until they began to experience Israeli occupation for themselves and began to resist. The Israeli attack violated an 11-month cease-fire that had been negotiated by Ambassador Philip Habib and to which the PLO had strictly adhered. The Senior Bush, then vice-president, opposed the Israeli invasion and wanted Israel to be censured and was overruled by Reagan and Alexander Haig. A year before Bush Sr. was angered by Israel’s attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor and wanted Israel censured at that time, but was again overruled.
None of the American military bases on which many more billions are spent can claim such a stellar record.
A stellar record? What Massad has done here is only distinguishable from an AIPAC press release justifying increasing US aid by its criticism of US imperialism but hardly by its tone. He has avoided dealing with most of the specifics that Mearsheimer and Walt raise by simply repeating what Chomsky has written in a dozen or so books and hundreds of speeches and articles with little evidence to back it up.
Critics argue that when the US had to intervene in the Gulf, it could not rely on Israel to do the job because of the sensitivity of including it in such a coalition which would embarrass Arab allies, hence the need for direct US intervention and the uselessness of Israel as a strategic ally. While this may be true, the US also could not rely on any of its military bases to launch the invasions on their own and had to ship in its army. American bases in the Gulf did provide important and needed support but so did Israel.
Israel did provide training to US troops on the techniques used to occupy and repress a hostile Arab population, only too pleased to have the US join it as the only foreign occupier of Arab soil which I believe was one of the reasons the Israeli government (as well as the lobby) wanted the US to invade Iraq. With the US taking the same kind of harsh measures to repress the Iraqis, it would be less likely to complain about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and this has proved to be the case. Israel has been called by Chomsky America’s “cop on the beat” in the Middle East, but when military intervention has been thought necessary it has always been American soldiers that have done the fighting. In fact, US soldiers were sent to Israel during the first Gulf War to operate the Patriot missile batteries to defend the Israelis.
AIPAC is indeed powerful insofar as it pushes for policies that accord with US interests and that are resonant with the reigning US imperial ideology. The power of the pro-Israel lobby, whether in Congress or on campuses among university administrators, or policy-makers is not based solely on their organizational skills or ideological uniformity. In no small measure, anti- Semitic attitudes in Congress (and among university administrators) play a role in believing the lobby’s (and its enemies’) exaggerated claims about its actual power, resulting in their towing the line. But even if this were true, one could argue, it would not matter whether the lobby has real or imagined power. For as long as Congress and policy-makers (and university administrators) believe it does, it will remain effective and powerful. I of course concede this point.
So it is “anti-Semitic” to believe the lobby’s claims about its power? What an extraordinary statement. What would he call those who say the lobby is lying? It is quite clear that the professor is treading on very shaky grounds here. He has obviously not studied his history and what has befallen those politicians who have challenged the lobby and were subsequently targeted and defeated beginning with Sen. J William Fulbright who in the early 60s sought to restrict the lobby’s growing power. There are several books written by both supporters of the lobby and its critics that clearly demonstrate its influence as well as the tales of former members of Congress who were its victims. What is distressing, as this statement indicates, is that Massad has obviously not read the available literature on the subject and yet he believes he is qualified to criticize Mearsheimer and Walt’s paper without having done so.
What then would have been different in US policy in the Middle East absent Israel and its powerful lobby? The answer in short is: the details and intensity but not the direction, content, or impact of such policies.
Absent Israel and hence the lobby one can’t begin to speculate. To raise the question is just a distraction.
Is the pro-Israel lobby extremely powerful in the United States? As someone who has been facing the full brunt of their power for the last three years through their formidable influence on my own university and their attempts to get me fired, I answer with a resounding yes. Are they primarily responsible for policies towards the Palestinians and the Arab world? Absolutely not.
The full brunt of their power? A great deal, admittedly, but hardly the full brunt, which he would realize if he had made an effort to familiarize himself with the lobby’s history. But again, Prof. Massad offers no reason why the US could not support a truncated Palestinian state and why the US supports Israel’s maintaining the occupied territories despite the efforts of every president from Nixon to Clinton to get Israel to give them up.
The United States is opposed in the Arab world as elsewhere because it has pursued and continues to pursue policies that are inimical to the interests of most people in these countries and are only beneficial to its own interests and to the minority regimes in the region that serve those interests, including Israel. Absent these policies, and not the pro-Israel lobby which supports them, the United States should expect a change in its standing among Arabs. Short of that, the United States will have to continue its policies in the region that have wreaked, and continue to wreak, havoc on the majority of Arabs and not expect that the Arab people will like it in return.
Every two years, one hears or reads, regarding some issue that deals with Israel, that “the president” or “Congress” “is not likely to act [against Israel] due to domestic political considerations in an election year.” What Mearsheimer and Walt recognize and that Massad fails to acknowledge, is the extent that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a domestic US issue. That the Palestine solidarity movement, of which Prof. Massad is a part, has ignored that fact is a primary reason that to this point in time it has been an utter failure. This should be a source of embarrassment and reflection, but it so far there is no sign of it.
There was another Columbia professor who had a more profound understanding of the situation who is sorely missed and, perhaps, never more so than at this moment. I refer to the late Edward Said. In his contribution to The New Intifada, entitled, appropriately, “America’s Last Taboo,” he did not mince words:
What explains this [present] state of affairs? The answer lies in the power of Zionist organizations in American politics, whose role throughout the “peace process” has never been sufficiently addressed — a neglect that is absolutely astonishing, given the policy of the PLO has been in essence to throw our fate as a people into the lap of the United States, without any strategic awareness of how American policy is dominated by a small minority whose views about the Middle East are in some ways more extreme than those of Likud itself. (Emphasis added)
And on the subject of AIPAC, Said wrote:
[T]he American Israel Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC — has for years been the most powerful single lobby in Washington. Drawing on a well-organized, well-connected, highly visible and wealthy Jewish population, AIPAC inspires an awed fear and respect across the political spectrum. Who is going to stand up to this Moloch in behalf of the Palestinians, when they can offer nothing, and AIPAC can destroy a professional career at the drop of a checkbook? In the past, one or two members of Congress did resist AIPAC openly, but the many political action committees controlled by AIPAC made sure they were never re-elected… If such is the material of the legislature, what can be expected of the executive?
Although it is trying, the Israel Lobby does not yet control our academics. On the critical issue of the lobby’s power, it is time they stop acting like it does.
Jeffrey Blankfort is former editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin, long-time photographer, and has written extensively on the Israel-Palestine conflict. He can be reached at: jblankfort@earthlink.net.

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

BLANKFORT: On Rationalizing Israel’s Dispossession of the Palestinians

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September 15, 2009

by Jeff Blankfort – Dissident Voice – 5 September 2009

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Hello Uri,

I have just read your response to critics of your opposition to boycotting Israel and, having long ago realized the limits of your activism and worldview, it held no surprises. You have quite clearly invested too much time and energy over the years in rationalizing Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians from their homeland to acknowledge the injustice that was not only inherent but required for Israel’s creation. The passage of time does not erase that injustice no matter how many times you or others invoke the Nazi holocaust. The die for establishing a Jewish state displacing the Palestinians from their homes and villages was cast well before Hitler came to power so that issue should have no place in this argument.

The arguments against establishing a Jewish state in Palestine raised by anti-Zionist and non-Zionist Jews going back to the early years of the last century were well known and all have been proved correct. So it should not be a matter of surprise that Israel’s legitimacy has not been accepted by the Palestinians and the other peoples of the region. It was advertised by Zionists worldwide as a colonial settler enterprise with pride, in fact, until such terminology fell out of favor. That it was established at a time when the rest of the world was engaged in a period of decolonization was even a further guarantee of its rejection and had it not been for the influence of its supporters in the US and Europe and the arms that flowed from that support, Israel, like French Algeria, would have become another episode in history. (And it is noteworthy that it was Israel’s support for the French against the Algerian resistance that led to France being Israel’s chief supplier of weaponry until 1967).

You are also well aware that to maintain Israel as the Sparta of the Middle East, the “Pro-Israel Lobby” has long held the US Congress in thrall, strangling what little is left of American democracy. Do you not recall writing how one president after another tried to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict and how each one was forced by The Lobby to retire from the field defeated? And with each defeat, the theft of Palestinian land and the growth of the settlements continued. Who has paid the price for that?

As you have already assumed, I am against the existence of the state of Israel or a Jewish state by any other name which is based on the notion that a Jew from anywhere in the world has more of a right to live in what most of the world knew and accepted as Palestine than a Palestinian Arab who was born there or her or his family members. If that is not both immoral and racist, we need new definitions for those words. And yet you, apparently, do not find it so and reject the opinions of those who do. (The notion that Israel or any country can be a homeland for a person not born there and who cannot trace a single relative that was born there is but another example of how Zionists have twisted the language to justify the unjust.)

You desperation for an argument against the idea of a single state becomes apparent when you write that the French and the Germans did not agree to live together. Do you really believe there is any comparison to be made between the two situations. Are the French sitting on German land or vice versa?

I continue to be mystified at your continuing efforts to separate the settlers from those Jews living within the Green Line as if the majority of those in Israel proper are not as responsible for electing a series of professional killers as their prime ministers year after year, all of whom have expanded the settlements. There hasn’t been a single poll of Israeli Jews that I have seen going back to 1988, in the early days of the first intifada, where half of those polled did not call for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. How many settlers were there in 1988?

In your wonderful democracy, every able bodied Jewish man or woman, with the exception of the chassdim, has served as an occupier in the West Bank or Gaza for the past 42 years. Are they not culpable? Yesterday, I watched on Al-Jazeera as Israeli soldiers fired waves of tear gas and some smelly green liquid on non-violent Palestinians who were marching to demonstrate against the steel fence that cuts through their land at Ni’ilin and who then began targeting the Al-Jazeera reporter. Are we expected to embrace these young thugs wearing an Israeli uniform? Are those who hate them to be condemned and not the thugs and those who sent them there?

You repeatedly use the word “peace” but not once do you use the word “justice.” And that is what separates you and your fellow Zionists from the Palestinians and those who genuinely support them. The occupation bothers your conscience, your sense of identity as an Israeli, but how much does it affect your life? Ending the occupation no matter how it is arranged will bring you peace of mind and time to finish your memoirs. Now, try if you can,and imagine yourself as a Palestinian who has been under an Israeli jackboot all of his or her life. Would you be simply looking for peace, an absence of that Israeli jackboot, or would you be seeking and demanding justice?

Your conclusion expresses your confusion. You write that you want “Israel to be a state belonging to all its citizens, without distinction of ethnic origin, gender,religion or language; with completely equal rights for all,” yet you assume there will be a “Hebrew-speaking majority” that will allow its “Arab-speaking citizens… to cherish their close ties with their Palestinian brothers and sisters…” If there is no distinction between one citizen and another, Jewish or Arab, how can you assume that the majority will continue to be Hebrew-speaking (or are you allowing for the possibility that Israel’s Palestinian Arab population which already is largely bi-lingual will become the majority at which point Israel will no longer be a Jewish state?). If that is so, perhaps there is hope for you yet.

Jeff Blankfort

LINK: http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/09/on-rationalizing-israels-dispossession-of-the-palestinians/

Related articles:
AVNERY, Uri: “The boycott revisited”, Dissident Voice, 5 September 2009

Previous exchange between Uri Avnery and Jeff Blankfort
BLANKFORT, Jeff: Response to Avnery on boycott issue, Dissident Voice, 30 August 2009
AVNERY, Uri: Tutu’s prayer , Dissident Voice, 29 August 2009

Jeff Blankfort – Uri Avnery’s rationalising Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians

Link

By Guest Post • Sep 5th, 2009 at 20:30 • Category: Analysis, Biography, Hasbara Deconstruction Site, Israel, Newswire, Opinions and Letters, Palestine, Resistance, Zionism


Recently, Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom leader and “darling” of the left-Zionists, has been writing quite a bit more frequently some pieces that ask folks to not renounce the Zionist “dream” and has decided to add his two bits to the Palestinian call to Boycott Israel, standing firmly against said Boycott. Jeff Blankfort, writer, journalist and radio host has addressed him again.

Hello Uri,

I have just read your response to critics of your opposition to boycotting Israel and, having long ago realized the limits of your activism and worldview, it held no surprises. You have quite clearly invested too much time and energy over the years in rationalizing Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians from their homeland to acknowledge the injustice that was not only inherent but required for Israel’s creation. The passage of time does not erase that injustice no matter how many times you or others invoke the Nazi holocaust. The die for establishing a Jewish state displacing the Palestinians from their homes and villages was cast well before Hitler came to power so that issue should have no place in this argument.

The arguments against establishing a Jewish state in Palestine raised by anti-Zionist and non-Zionist Jews going back to the early years of the last century were well known and all have been proved correct. So it should not be a matter of surprise that Israel’s legitimacy has not been accepted by the Palestinians and the other peoples of the region. It was advertised by Zionists worldwide as a colonial settler enterprise with pride, in fact, until such terminology fell out of favor. That it was established at a time when the rest of the world was engaged in a period of decolonization was even a further guarantee of its rejection and had it not been for the influence of its supporters in the US and Europe and the arms that flowed from that support, Israel, like French Algeria, would have become another episode in history. (And it is noteworthy that it was Israel’s support for the French against the Algerian resistance that led to France being Israel’s chief supplier of weaponry until 1967).

You are also well aware that to maintain Israel as the Sparta of the Middle East, the “Pro-Israel Lobby,” has long held the US Congress in thrall, strangling what little is left of American democracy. Do you not recall writing how one president after another tried to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict and how each one was forced by The Lobby to retire from the field defeated? And with each defeat, the theft of Palestinian land and the growth of the settlements continued. Who has paid the price for that?

As you have already assumed, I am against the existence of the state of Israel or a Jewish state by any other name which is based on the notion that a Jew from anywhere in the world has more of a right to live in what most of the world knew and accepted as Palestine than a Palestinian Arab who was born there or her or his family members. If that is not both immoral and racist, we need new definitions for those words. And yet you, apparently, do not find it so, and reject the opinions of those who do. (The notion that Israel or any country can be a homeland for a person not born there and who cannot trace a single relative that was born there is but another example of how Zionists have twisted the language to justify the unjust.)

Your desperation for an argument against the idea of a single state becomes apparent when you write that the French and the Germans did not agree to live together. Do you really believe there is any comparison to be made between the two situations. Are the French sitting on German land or vice versa?

I continue to be mystified at your continuing efforts to separate the settlers from those Jews living within the Green Line as if the majority of those in Israel proper are not as responsible for electing a series of professional killers as their prime ministers year after year, all of whom have expanded the settlements. There hasn’t been a single poll of Israeli Jews that I have seen going back to 1988, in the early days of the first intifada, where half of those polled did not call for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. How many settlers were there in 1988?

In your wonderful democracy, every able-bodied Jewish man or woman, with the exception of the chassdim, has served as an occupier in the West Bank or Gaza for the past 42 years. Are they not culpable?

Yesterday, I watched on Al-Jazeera as Israeli soldiers fired waves of tear gas and some smelly green liquid on non-violent Palestinians who were marching to demonstrate the steel fence that cuts through their land at Ni’ilin and who then began targeting the Al-Jazeera reporter. Are we expected to embrace these young thugs wearing an Israeli uniform? Are those who hate them to be condemned and not the thugs and those who sent them there?

You repeatedly use the word peace but not once do you use the word justice. And that is what separates you and your fellow Zionists from the Palestinians and those who genuinely support them. The occupation bothers your conscience, your sense of idenity as an Israeli but how much does it affect your life? Ending the occupation no matter how it is arranged will bring you peace of mind and time to finish your memoirs. Now, try if you can, and imagine yourself as a Palestinian who has been under an Israeli jackboot all of his or her life. Would you be simply looking for peace, an absence of that Israeli jackboot, or would you be seeking and demanding justice?

Your conclusion expresses your confusion. You write that you want “Israel to be a state belonging to all its citizens, without distinction of ethnic origin, gender, religion or language; with completely equal rights for all,” yet you assume there will be a “Hebrew-speaking majority” that will allow its “Arab-speaking citizens…to cherish their close ties with their Palestinian brothers and sisters…” If there is no distinction between one citizen and another, Jewish or Arab, how can you assume that the majority will continue to be Hebrew-speaking (or are you allowing for the possibility that Israel’s Palestinian Arab population which already is largely bi-lingual will become the majority at which point Israel will no longer be a Jewish state?) If that is so, perhaps there is hope for you yet.

Jeff Blankfort

—– Original Message —– From: “Uri Avnery” <xxxx>

To: <xxxx>

Sent: Saturday, September 05, 2009 8:51 AM

Subject: Avnery // again on boycott

Hi,

Hope this may interest you. Many readers have sent my thoughtful comments on my last article. I am unable to answer them in detail. I am writing my memoirs on top of my regular political and journalistic work, and therefore can only answer laconically. Please excuse.

Shalom, Salamaat,

uri

The Boycott Revisited

THE PEOPLE of Sodom, the Bible tells us, were very wicked indeed.

They had a nasty habit of putting every passing stranger into one particular bed. If the stranger was too tall, his legs were shortened. If he was too short, his body was stretched to the required length.

In a way, each of us has such a bed, into which we put everything new. Confronted with a novel situation, we tend to equate it with a situation we have known in the past.

In politics, this method is especially pervasive. It relieves us of the irksome necessity of studying an unfamiliar situation and drawing new conclusions.

Once, the pattern of Vietnam was applied to every struggle around the world – from Argentina to North Korea. Nowadays, the fashion points to South Africa. Everything resembles the struggle against apartheid, unless proven otherwise.

SINCE SENDING out last week’s article, “Tutu’s Prayer”, I have been flooded with responses, some laudatory, some abusive, some thoughtful, some merely angry.

Generally, I don’t argue with my esteemed readers. I don’t want to impose my views, I just want to provide food for thought and leave it to the reader to form his or her own opinion.

This time I feel that I owe it to my readers to clear up some of the points I was trying to make and answer some of the objections. So here we go.

I HAVE no argument with people who hate Israel. That’s entirely their right. I just don’t think that we have any common ground for discussion.

I would only like to point out that hatred is a very bad advisor. Hatred leads nowhere, but to more hatred. That, by the way, is a positive lesson we can draw from the South African experience. There they overcame hatred to a remarkable extent, largely thanks to the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” headed by Archbishop Tutu, where people admitted their past offenses.

One thing is certain: hatred does not lead towards peace. Let me be quite explicit about this, because I sense that some people, in their righteous indignation over Israel’s occupation, have lost sight of this.

Peace is made between enemies, after war, in which awful things invariably happen. Peace can be made and maintained between peoples who are prepared to live with each other, respect each other, recognize the humanity of each other. They don’t have to love each other.

Describing the other side as monsters may be useful in waging war, but singularly unhelpful in waging peace.

When I receive a missive that is dripping with hatred of Israel, that portrays all Israelis (including myself, of course) as monsters, I fail to envision how the writer imagines peace. Peace with monsters? Angels and monsters living side by side in peace and harmony in one state, hating each other’s guts?

The view of Israel as a monolithic entity composed of racists and brutal oppressors is a caricature. Israel is a complex society, struggling with itself. The forces of good and evil, and many in between, are locked in a daily battle on many different fronts. The settlers and their supporters are strong, perhaps getting stronger (though I doubt it), but are far – even in their own view – from a decisive victory. Neve Gordon, for example, has been left unmolested in his post at Ben-Gurion University, because any attempt to remove him would have caused a public outcry.

I ALSO have no argument with those who want to abolish the State of Israel. It is as much their right to aspire to that as it is my right to want to dismantle, let’s say, the USA or France, neither of which has an unblemished past.

Reading some of the messages sent to me and trying to analyze their contents, I get the feeling they are not so much about a boycott on Israel as about the very existence of Israel. Some of the writers obviously believe that the creation of the State of Israel was a terrible mistake to start with, and therefore should be reversed. Turn the wheel of history back some 62 years and start anew.

What really disturbs me about this is that almost nobody in the West comes out and says clearly: Israel must be abolished. Some of the proposals, like those for a “One State” solution, sound like euphemisms. If one believes that the State of Israel should be abolished and replaced by a State of Palestine or a State of Happiness – why not say so openly?

Of course, that does not mean peace. Peace between Israel and Palestine presupposes that Israel is there. Peace between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people presupposes that both peoples have a right to self-determination and agree to the peace. Does anyone really believe that racist monsters like us would agree to give up our state because of a boycott?

The French and the Germans did not agree to live in one joint state, though the differences between them are incomparably smaller than those between Jewish Israelis and Arab Palestinians. Instead, they set up a European Union, composed of nation-states. Some 50 years ago I called for a similar Semitic Union, including Israel and Palestine. I still do.

Anyway, there is no sense in arguing with those who pray for the disappearance of the sovereign State of Israel, rather than for the appearance of the sovereign State of Palestine at its side.

THE REAL argument is among those who want to see peace between the two states, Israel and Palestine. The question is: how can it be achieved? This is an honest debate and is generally conducted in a civil manner. My debate with Neve Gordon is in this framework.

The advocates of boycott believe that the main, indeed the only way to induce Israel to give up the occupied territories and agree to peace is to exert pressure from the outside.

I have no quarrel with the idea of outside pressure. The question is: pressure on whom? On the government, the settlers and their supporters? Or on the entire Israeli people?

The first answer is, I believe, the right one. That’s why I hope that President Barack Obama will publish a detailed peace plan with a fixed timetable and apply the immense powers of persuasion of the USA to get both sides to agree. I don’t think that this is politically possible without the support of a large part of Israeli society (and, by the way, of the US Jewish community).

Some readers have lost all hope in Obama. That is, without doubt, premature. Obama has not surrendered to Binyamin Netanyahu – indeed, it is quite conceivable that the opposite is happening. The struggle is on, it is a hard struggle against determined opposition, and we should do all we can to help Obama’s peace policy to prevail. We must do this as Israelis, from inside Israel, and thereby show that this is not a struggle of the US against Israel, but a joint struggle against the Israeli government and the settlers.

It follows that any boycott must serve this purpose: to isolate the settlers and the individuals and institutions which openly support them, but not declare war on Israel and the Israeli people as such. In the 11 years since Gush Shalom declared a boycott of the products of the settlements, this process has been gaining momentum. We must laud the Norwegian decision, this week, to divest from the Israeli Elbit company because of their involvement with the “Separation Fence” that is being built on Palestinian land and whose main purposeis to annex occupied territories to Israel. This is a splendid example: a focused action against a specific target, based on a ruling of the International Court.

I think that far more can be done by a concentrated national and international campaign. A central office should be set up to direct this effort throughout the world against clear and specific targets. Such an effort could be helped by world public opinion, which recoils from the idea of boycotting the State of Israel, and not only because of the memory of the Holocaust, but will identify itself with action against the occupation and the oppression.

I have been asked about the Palestinian reaction to the boycott idea. At present, Palestinians do not boycott even the settlements, indeed it is Palestinian workers who are building almost all the houses there, out of economic necessity. Their feelings can only be guessed. All self-respecting Palestinians would, of course, support any effective measure directed against the occupation. But it would not be honest to dangle before their eyes the false hope that a world-wide boycott would bring Israel to its knees. The truth is that only the close cooperation of Palestinian, Israeli and international peace forces could generate the necessary momentum to end the occupation and achieve peace.

This is especially important because our task in Israel today is not so much to convince the majority of Israelis that peace is good and the price acceptable, but first that peace is possible at all. Most Israelis have lost that hope, and its revival is absolutely vital on the way to peace.

TO REMOVE any misconceptions about myself, let me state as clearly as possible where I stand:

I am an Israeli.

I am an Israeli patriot.

I want my state to be democratic, secular, and liberal, ending the occupation and living at peace both with the free and sovereign State of Palestine that will come into being next to it, and with the entire Arab world.

I want Israel to be a state belonging to all its citizens, without distinction of ethnic origin, gender, religion or language; with completely equal rights for all; a state in which the Hebrew-speaking majority will retain its close ties with the Jewish communities around the world, and the Arab-speaking citizens will be free to cherish their close ties with their Palestinian brothers and sisters and the Arab world at large.

If this is racism, Zionism or worse – so be it.

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