I Must Write As Long As Israeli Settlers Burn Palestinian Schools

by James M. Wall

A regular reader wrote recently and asked why I write so often about Palestine and Israel.

It was a good question and after some time for reflection I have an answer for him, inspired by a 1971 Johnny Cash song, “The Man in Black”.

Cash had been asked why he always wore black. He explains that he did so because he identifies with the poor and the hungry, the prisoners, the lonely and the old, and those who are dying in a war in a distant land, at that time, the Vietnam War.

A few years later, after “The Man In Black” became a best-selling album, Cash said:

“With the Vietnam War as painful in my mind as it was in most other Americans’, I wore it ‘in mournin’ for the lives that could have been.’ … Apart from the Vietnam War being over, I don’t see much reason to change my position … The old are still neglected, the poor are still poor, the young are still dying before their time, and we’re not making many moves to make things right. There’s still plenty of darkness to carry off.”

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and our American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, are today providing “plenty of darkness”. Together, these wars are today’s Vietnam.

I am aware that I cannot sing, or write simple, powerful poetry as Cash has done. But I must write about the darkness that covers our nation as it continues its pursuit of empirical conquest at a tremendous cost at home, under the guise of “fighting terror”. Indeed, “terrorism” is today’s version of the Communism that Nixon and Kissinger used as their excuse for “defending” South Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

Johnny Cash originally recorded “The Man in Black”  before a college audience in May, 1971, one year after the Kent State Massacre when, during a student protest against the invasion of Cambodia, Ohio national guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

In May, 1971, Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, were still conducting a secret war, the details of which were only fully revealed on June 30, 1971, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not prevent the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times.

The story of how those Papers were finally published in the Times is vividly presented in the 2010 documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America. The title refers to Daniel Ellsberg, the Harvard professor who courageously risked his freedom to deliver the Pentagon Papers to the Times.

Henry Kissinger, who once taught with Ellsburg at Harvard, bitterly described his former academic colleague as “the most dangerous man in America.”

Ellsberg writes of his experiences in his 2002 book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

Along with the vast majority of the American public, Johnny Cash was unaware of the Vietnam war narrative which Nixon and Kissinger tried to keep secret, when he wrote the lyrics for  “The Man in Black”. What he did know was that young Americans and many Vietnamese were dying needlessly.

The lyrics are at the end of this post.

Today, with wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the West Bank Bank and Gaza our military forces, and our surrogate Israeli military forces, are involved in an overall war against what a previous American president misnamed as “the global war on terror”.

This 2010 midterm election have essentially ignored the thousands and hundreds of thousands who are dying in distant lands because of our wars. Instead,  public attention is riveted on the craziness of the Tea Party candidates, some of whom may very well end up in the Congress.

The American public does not know about the Israeli settlers who set fire to a Palestinian girls’ school building near Nablus this past week. Juan Cole, whose Informed Comment blog is a flashing light of warning to the American public, tells the story of the attack on the school:

The phrase “ethnic cleansing” conjures up a swift, comprehensive act of expulsion. But in reality, moving a large population off its land is the death of a thousand cuts, a slow, inexorable process of stealing property, harassment, forcing people into a condition of malnutrition.

The Native Americans in the Americas, the Aborigines in Australia, and the Palestinians in Israel/Palestine were only sometimes forced off their land suddenly and en masse. The gradual processes told, in the long run.

The amazing thing about what is being done to the Palestinians in the Palestinian West Bank by Israeli illegal aliens is that it is happening in full view of the world, reported on by wire services, and yet remains invisible to Western publics.

The world reacts in horror when the Taliban in Afghanistan torch girls’ schools. But Israeli squatters just set fire to the store room of a Palestinian girls’ school, and the whole school would have gone up in flames if that warehouse had not been near a water main. The Israeli illegals left behind graffiti saying ‘regards from the hills.’

Cole also reports that earlier in October,

Israeli squatters set fire to a Palestinian mosque in Bethlehem.

[Also this autumn] there is the seasonal vandalism against olive trees in Palestinian orchards, which reached a fever pitch this year. The Israeli authorities prosecute few of these offenses and almost never hand down a punishment to an Israeli squatter.

The 10 million olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza, occupying some 45 percent of the farmland, are the matrix of Palestinian existence. An attack on olive trees is a form of economic warfare of the first water.

The American public knows far more about the fumbling responses of the Republican candidate for Joe Biden’s old Delaware senate seat, than it does about the needless death of a 2-year-old Gaza child who was prevented by the Israeli army from traveling the short distance outside Gaza for specialized treatment. The Palestinian organization, Physicians for Human Rights, has that story on its website:

Nasma Abu Lasheen died on Saturday, October 16, 2010 in Gaza. Israel failed to issue her an urgent entry permit for life-saving medical treatment at Ha-Emek Medical Center in Afula, Israel. She was two years old.

Abu Lasheen, a young resident of Gaza diagnosed with Leukemia, was referred for emergency treatment in Israel on October 6, 2010. When requests to the Israeli Army for an entry permit went unanswered for several days, by way of B’tselem, the family contacted Physicians for Human Rights- Israel (PHR-Israel) for additional help.

That very same day, on October 13, 2010, PHR-Israel contacted the Gaza District Coordination Office (DCO) demanding a permit be issued immediately to the baby and her father to enable their entry into Israel. A military approval was finally granted the next afternoon, October 14, 2010.

Abu Lasheen’s medical condition had been deteriorating rapidly and by the time the permit was received, the treating doctor in Gaza, Dr. Mohammad Abu Sha’aban, said she was too sick to travel. Nasma died in the early morning hours of October 16, 2010.

Ziad Abbas works for the Middle East Children’s Alliance on a project to bring clean water to the children of Palestine. He grew up in Palestine. He writes in Counter Punch, that his work is especially personal to him because of  his own childhood experiences of growing up deprived of water.

Israel controls and uses 89% of the water resources in the West Bank, leaving 11% for the 2.5 million Palestinians. The Israeli Occupation continues to limit Palestinian access to clean water as form of collective punishment by controlling the water resources and distribution and by destroying the water that we are able to get.

During Israeli military incursions, and especially during curfews, when we could not leave our homes, Israeli soldiers would shoot the water storage tanks on our roofs. Our water would pour down the sides of our buildings unused.

During the recent attack on Gaza, Israel targeted the entire water infrastructure including the largest water purification system in Gaza. They also targeted electrical generators that supported water purification and sewage treatment.

I write about these things because American churches are still hung up on not offending their Jewish neighbors, thus choosing interfaith harmony over justice.

I write about these things because major denominational meetings, like this past summer’s General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA, dickered and delayed and finally decided to study further how they might best deal with the “problems” in the Middle East.

Since that Presbyterian GA meeting, two-year-old Abu Lasheen died waiting for permission to travel to an Israeli hospital. Since that meeting, Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian girls school, leaving behind graffiti on the wall that said, “regards from the hills”. Something about the insensitive arrogance of that graffiti implies there was not enough room on the wall to add, in Clint Eastwoodian fashion, “we’ll be back.”

I write about the American media’s blindness to the narrative of the suffering in Palestine because Tom Friedman continues to fool his liberal readers by pretending to criticize Israel when his criticism always includes the AIPAC approved list of what he insists are “facts”, but which are either outright lies or distortions of reality.

The most recent example was Friedman’s October 20 column which calls on Israel to help President Obama line up world opposition to Iran by reaching a friendly agreement with Palestinian negotiators.

Friedman opens his column with a set of “stubborn facts” which are really just a repeat of the acceptable Israeli narrative which, of course, he assures his readers are “stubborn facts”.  Only, they are not.

Here is the start of Thomas Friedman’s latest  column, followed by corrections:

Say what you want about Israel’s obstinacy at times, it remains the only country in the United Nations that another U.N. member, Iran, has openly expressed the hope that it be wiped off the map. And that same country, Iran, is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Israel is the only country I know of in the Middle East that has unilaterally withdrawn from territory conquered in war — in Lebanon and Gaza — only to be greeted with unprovoked rocket attacks in return.

Indeed, if you want to talk about spoiled children, there is no group more spoiled by Iran and Syria than Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.

Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese — and Hezbollah’s punishment was to be rewarded with thousands more missiles and millions more dollars to do it again. These are stubborn facts.

Friedman’s “stubborn facts” are stubborn, alright. They are falsehoods or distortions he clings to “stubbornly”.

Iran’s President Ahmedinejad never used the phrase, “wipe Israel off the map”. That was an initial mistranslation into English which the media loved and never let go. The media has refused, as Friedman does here, to go back and obtain the original statement by Ahmedinejad in a speech he gave to a Persian audience.

The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran’s first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, when he said that “this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” just as the Shah’s regime in Iran had vanished.

He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The “page of time” phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon. There was no implication that either Khomeini, when he first made the statement, or Ahmadinejad, in repeating it, felt it was imminent, or that Iran would be involved in bringing it about.

Another error: It is true that Israel took its military forces out of Lebanon and Gaza, but it did so because the cost in Israeli lives had become too expensive to maintain the garrisons in those two areas.

The invasions had proved to be a major loss for the vastly superior Israeli forces, a fact Friedman ignores as he praises Israel for its “unilateral withdrawal” from the two countries it had invaded and failed to control.

Friedman writes that “Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese.”

Israel did launch a massive invasion of Lebanon in 2006, but who fired the first shot has been debated. Israeli sources have confirmed that Israel’s invasion plans were already on the drawing board when a border skirmish erupted, giving Israel the excuse it wanted to launch a war that, indeed, “brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese.”

Who brought those deaths, injuries and destruction to the Lebanese? Israel, of course.

Careful research would quickly demonstrate to Friedman and every other pro-Israel pundit and politician that Friedman’s “stubborn facts” are either false or distorted.

I will continue to write on Israel and Palestine as long as pundits like Thomas Friedman have access to the pages of the New York Times, and the American public remains ignorant of the actual facts on the ground in Israel and Palestine.

The Man in Black, lyrics by Johnny Cash

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black, Why you never see bright colors on my back,  And why does my appearance always have a somber tone. Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town, And I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, But still is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read, Or listened to the words that Jesus said, About the road to happiness through love and charity, Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose, In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes, But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back, Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old, For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold, I wear the black in mornin’ for the lives that could have been, Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died, Believen’ that the Lord was on their side, And I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died, Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know, And things need changin’ everywhere you go, But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right, You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day, To tell the world that everything’s OK, But mabe I can carry off a little darkness on my back,

‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.

The photo at the top of the page is of two Bedouin girls, in school uniform, returning to their houses after a school day in Abu Farda near the West Bank city of Qalqilia on October 6, 2010. MaanImages/Khaleel Reash.

The Youtube above, and the lyrics by Johnny Cash may be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLkmC2VuXA8.

Posted in Media, Middle East Politics | 16 Comments

Bibi Wins with Racism and Revoked Promise

by James M. WallPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims victory in Israel election

Reality crashed down on those who had hoped the March 17 Knesset elections might lead to a more moderate future Israeli leadership.

The election returns brought the news, Benjamin Netanyahu had won again.

He won in large part by revoking his earlier pledge to support a Palestinian state, and by using last-hour racist warnings to bring out hard right voters.

Because Netanyahu’s Likud party won the largest number of seats (30) in the new Israeli parliament (120 total), he will play the major role in organizing the next government.

Even liberal Zionist Thomas Friedman had to acknowledge that Netanyahu won with “dirty” politics and the use of “dog-whistle” language. Friedman wrote in his New York Times column that “You cannot win that dirty and just walk away like nothing has happened”.

“The biggest losers in all of this, besides all the Israelis who did not vote for Netanyahu, are American Jews and non-Jews who support Israel. What Bibi did to win this election was move the Likud Party from a center-right party to a far-right one. The additional votes he got were all grabbed from the other far-right parties — not from the center.

When the official government of Israel is a far-right party that rejects a two-state solution and employs anti-Arab dog whistles to get elected, it will split the basic unity of the American Jewish community on Israel.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner showed little sympathy for American Jews like Friedman who lament the loss of what Friedman calls “the basic unity of the American Jewish community on Israel.”

As soon as Netanyahu’s victory was secured, Boehner announced his trip to Tel Aviv to embrace the foreign leader he had invited to deliver an historically unprecedented campaign address which attacked President Obama’s efforts to secure a nuclear agreement with Iran.

President Obama, who is known to congratulate the coach of a Super Bowl champion within minutes of the final whistle, waited two full days before calling Netanyahu to congratulate him and, on the same call, issue a stern reminder that Netanyahu’s campaign tactics damaged hopes for peace in he region.

Obama’s delayed call was a carefully calabrated slight, which Jon Stewart (see video below) mocked, as only he could get away with, employing his best faux Jewish mother voice to lament, “You didn’t call, you didn’t write”.

The “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel, which politicians continually say is built on “shared values”, has been exposed as nothing less than an arranged marriage forced on the American public by Zionist apologists, Zionist enforcers (AIPAC) military contractors, lobbyists, well-funded politicians, hard right fundamentalist Christians, and anti-BDS Christian church leaders.

That manufactured “shared values” relationship, where one partner has militarily and illegally occupied a neighboring population for almost 50 years, is coming unraveled.

Unraveled, that is, as long as Barack Obama is in the White House. The President, unfazed, and no doubt still seething over Netanyahu’s insulting speech to Congress, keeps John Kerry on duty, where the Secretary of State continues to work for a nuclear agreement with Iran and the 5+ negotiating nations.

Two years remain before a new president takes office, two years during which Obama has the opportunity to exert his executive power to follow his own higher moral level of international conduct.

When Obama leaves office after eight years as U.S. president, signs point to either an oligarch-approved Republican, or a cautious, hawkish Clinton, assuming office after promising to restore our military commitment to make the world safe for democracy.

These two years will be a time for Obama to act in his executive capacity. It will also be a time for the American public to reflect on the thinking of such Israeli Jewish scholars as David Shulman, the Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In an essay on the website of the New York Review of Books , Schulman considered the campaign just waged by Netanyahu:

“Imagine a white American president calling on whites to vote because “blacks are voting in large numbers.” If there’s a choice to be made between democratic values and fierce Jewish tribalism, there’s no doubt what the present and future prime minister of Israel would choose.”

Schulman, who in addition to his academic post is an activist with the Ta’ayush Arab-Jewish Partnership, has a bleak view of the current Israeli mood. He writes:

“. . . the Israeli electorate is still dominated by hypernationalist, in some cases proto-fascist, figures. It is in no way inclined to make peace. It has given a clear mandate for policies that preclude any possibility of moving toward a settlement with the Palestinians and that will further deepen Israel’s colonial venture in the Palestinian territories, probably irreversibly.

Netanyahu’s shrill public statements during the last two or three days before the vote may account in part for Likud’s startling margin of victory. For the first time since his Bar Ilan speech in 2009, he explicitly renounced a two-state solution and swore that no Palestinian state would come into existence on his watch.

He promised vast new [Israeli] building projects in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. He made it clear that Israel would make no further territorial concessions, anywhere, since any land that would be relinquished would, in his view, immediately be taken over by Muslim terrorists.

And then there was his truly astonishing, by now notorious statement on election day itself, in which he urged Jewish voters to rush to the polls because ‘the Arabs are voting in droves.’” 

Thomas Friedman provides the necessary data to refute Netanyahu’s deceitful effort to say he did not really mean what he said about a future Palestinian state. Friedman writes:

“In the days before Israelis went to the polls, Netanyahu was asked by the Israeli news site, NRG, if it was true that a Palestinian state would never be formed on his watch as prime minister, Netanyahu replied, ‘Indeed,’ adding: ‘Anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state, anyone who is going to evacuate territories today, is simply giving a base for attacks to the radical Islam against Israel’.”

Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian, (right) wrote a post-election guest column in the New York Times which must have startled a few Times readers with this headline: “Netanyahu’s Win is Good for Palestine”. His column begins:images

“As a Palestinian, I breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that [Netanyahu’s] Likud Party had won the largest number of seats in the Knesset.

This might seem counterintuitive, but the political dynamics in Israel and internationally mean that another term with Mr. Netanyahu at the helm could actually hasten the end of Israel’s apartheid policies. The biggest losers in this election were those who made the argument that change could come from within Israel. It can’t and it won’t.

Israelis have grown very comfortable with the status quo. In a country that oversees a military occupation that affects millions of people, the biggest scandals aren’t about settlements, civilian deaths or hate crimes but rather mundane things like the price of cottage cheese and whether the prime minister’s wife embezzled bottle refunds.

For Israelis, there’s currently little cost to maintaining the occupation and re-electing leaders like Mr. Netanyahu. Raising the price of occupation is therefore the only hope of changing Israeli decision making. Economic sanctions against South Africa in the 1980s increased its international isolation and put pressure on the apartheid regime to negotiate.”

Munayyer, born in Lod, Israel, is a citizen of both the U.S. and Israel. He is a Palestinian American writer and political analyst who is the new Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, based in Washington, D.C. He was previously Executive Director of the The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development and its educational program, the Palestine Center.

Raising the “price of occupation”, as Munayyer counsels, will, indeed, hit Israelis where it hurts, their pride and their economic well-being, though, based on past decisions, not their consciences.

Looking ahead at the American political landscape, it appears that after President Obama leaves office, it will not be the politicians who pick up the assignment to make Israel pay a higher price for its occupation.

That task must fall on those activists and dedicated individuals outside government who will need to keep the pressure on our politicians, and perhaps more importantly, launch an intensive educational campaign to raise “the price of occupation”.

This must be done in all those institutions and with their constituents who have been duped by the Israel Lobby into sanctioning an occupation which will soon be half a century old, assuming it does not go out of business before that date.

In that task, it will be essential to make full use of the zeal and talent of American Jewish performers like Jon Stewart, who greeted Netanyahu’s campaign tactics with this cutting edge analysis:

We also have the Judeo-Christian scriptures, along with the Our’an, to wield as inspirational and educational documents.

This week, I was alerted to the power of metaphor by Tom Friedman’s use of metaphorical language. Friedman referred to Netanyahu’s use of “dog-whistle” to describe Netanyahu’s  use of racist language to alert his hard right and racist followers with a whistle ordinary humans could not hear.

The only problem with using “the Arabs are going to the polls in droves” as a metaphor is that it was a “dog whistle” heard not just by hard right voters in Israel, but also heard by ordinary humans around the world, further turning world opinion against Israel and Netanyahu.

In the Book of Acts, Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus is described through a more honest and positive metaphor:

“And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized”. (Acts 9:18, English Standard Version.)

It was “something like scales”, not actual scales, which fell from Paul’s eyes and turned him from a dark destructive vision toward a positive vision of light.

“Something like scales” must be made to fall from the eyes of the American public which has been endorsing, funding and supporting a brutal military occupation for almost five decades.  How will that be accomplished?

God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes She causes scales to fall and opens the eyes of those who do not yet see.

The Netanyahu picture was taken one day after his election victory by Dan Bar Dov for Demotix/Corbis. Munayyer’s picture is from Mondoweiss.

Posted in Human Rights, Middle East Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Bibi and 47 Senators Strike Dark Discordant Note

by James M. WallScreen-Shot-2015-03-11-at-5.01.01-PM

A week before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s March 3 campaign speech to the U.S. Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry warned the Congress that the Israeli leader was up to his old tricks.

Not only did the Israeli leader shamefully interfere in delicate U.S. foreign negotiations, he also inspired an embarrassing ill-informed letter from 47 senators to “Iranian leaders”, designed to undermine President Obama’s negotiations with Iran.

With the encouragement of AIPAC, the letter was circulated by newly-elected Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, shown above on the left standing with Bill Kristol, an important figure in the neocon drive to support President Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, now considered one of the nation’s major foreign policy disasters.

Unfazed by the Iraqi debacle, Kristol remains a zealot for U.S. militarism. He now has a new protege with whom he can swing his weight around the halls of Congress. With a massive financial push from Kristol late in the 2014 campaign, Cotton won an upset victory over Arkansas’ Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Pryor.

Over the previous decade, Cotton and Kristol developed a bond derived from a common brand of  conservatism and a desire to remake Washington in the neocon image. Kristol raised close to one million dollars to help then-representative Cotton defeat Pryor.

Kristol’s successful funding effort also guaranteed that Cotton would have the support of the four biggest funders of major anti-Iran organizations.

Huffington Post reports on those funders:

“In the past four years, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have emerged as the preeminent funders of the Republican Party through a network of super PACs and nonprofit groups. At the same time, they have been among the biggest funders of groups that oppose any deal with Iran over that country’s nuclear program.

Along with Adelson, there are three other donors who fund both anti-Iran groups and the Republican Party’s super PAC infrastructure: hedge fund directors Paul Singer and Seth Klarman, and Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus.

These four right-wing, pro-Israel donors gave a combined $11.5 million to some of the biggest opponents of the Iran negotiations from 2011 through 2013, and pumped $115 million into Republican Party super PACs in the 2012 and 2014 elections.of major anti-Iran organizations.”

Newly-elected Senator Cotton and neocon leader Bill Kristol are now doing the work of AIPAC, and their pro-Israel, anti-Iran funders, standing with a foreign leader on a foreign policy issue against their own president. 

In the process they have pulled 47 Republican senators into their scheme. Some of those senators are expressing doubt over their decision to sign a letter they had quickly read and endorsed.

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, once a highly respected foreign policy-oriented senator, actually pointed to the approaching snow storm as an excuse to move so quickly on a matter of such importance. 

In his testimony before that U.S. House Oversight Committee in 2002, Bibi Netanyahu told  members of the Committee:

“If you take out Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.  .  .   The task and the great opportunity and challenge is not merely to effect the ouster of the regime, but also to transform the region.”

John Kerry’s response to that disastrously wrong assertion, “we all know what happened with that decision.”

Mondoweiss’ Philip Weiss has written: 

“Kerry’s criticism links Netanyahu implicitly with the neoconservatives who pushed the war to transform the Middle East, and makes all but explicit the idea that the neocons pushed the war out of concern for Israel’s security.”

In the video clip below, Netanyahu’s 2002 testimony before the House Committee  sounds ominously like the speech he delivered to Congress earlier this month.

In this video, the man sitting behind Netanyahu, visible over the Prime Minister’s left shoulder, appears to be a younger Ron Dermer, a former Republican operative from Florida.

Dermer, currently Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., gave up his U.S. citizenship in order to enter government service in Israel. His latest political coup was to arrange Netanyahu’s speech to Congress through Republican Speaker John Boehner.

Gareth Porter, whose most recent book is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, writes in Anti-War:

“The views that Cotton and the other Republicans have espoused on Iran were the product of assiduous lobbying by Israeli agents of influence using the inducement of promises of election funding and the threat of support for the members’ opponents in future elections.

Those members of Congress don’t arrive at their positions on issues related to Iran through discussion and debate among themselves. They are given their marching orders by AIPAC lobbyists, and time after time, they sign the letters and vote for legislation or resolution that they are given.”

Former AIPAC lobbyist M.J. Rosenberg has concluded “Nothing happens on Capitol Hill related to Israel, unless and until Howard Kohr (AIPAC chief) wants it to happen. Nothing.” 

Tuesday, March 17, Israeli voters will render their verdict on the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu.  Under Israel’s election system, the jury will remain out until the competing parties agree on the next Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud Party continues to run second in the polls against the Zionist Union, the center-left joint slate led by the Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni,  

Likud and Zionist Union will then bargain with smaller parties to determine which political coalition will select the next prime minister. 

It could be Netanyahu again, even if he runs second in the final results. If the Herzog-Livni coalition is successful, they have already announced that they will rotate the office of Prime Minister.

Whatever the final outcome, AIPAC will be standing by, awaiting its marching orders.

Posted in Iran, Iran, Israel, John Kerry, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Obama Names Malley New Middle East Chief

By James M. Wall Robert-Malley-YouTube-620x372

Three days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, President Barack Obama delivered a stinging response to the latest in a series of Netanyahu diplomatic insults.

The President chose Robert Malley (right) as Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region.

Special Assistant Malley will begin his new assignment April 6. 

The news of the Malley promotion raised hardly a ripple in U.S. mainstream and cable news media, currently obsessing over Hillary Clinton’s email servers.

Pro-Israel media outlets, however, rushed to sound the alarm. The word went out to Israel’s staunch U.S. backers, “Obama has struck back with the dangerous Malley”.

National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice, made the announcement on March 6:

“Philip Gordon, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region will be stepping down, and will be succeeded by Rob Malley, currently NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf States. Dr. Malley will assume his new position on April 6, 2015.”

And no, newly-minted Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who feels qualified to lecture the world on U.S. governmental procedures, Malley is not subject to Senate approval. 

Rice was lavish in her praise of Malley:

“There could be no better successor to Phil than Rob Malley, who is already one of my most trusted advisers and ideally placed to provide a seamless transition.

One of our country’s most respected experts on the Middle East, since February 2014 Rob has played a critical role in forming our policy on Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf. I look forward to working with him in his new role.”

She might have added that Rob Malley has long been a “bete noir” to defenders of Israel’s tightly controlled view of reality.

From 1996 to 1998, Malley served as Executive Assistant to National Security Advisor Sandy Berger. In October 1998, he was appointed Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, a post he held until the end of the administration in 2001.

After directing the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group from 2001 and 2014, Malley joined the Obama staff in 2014.

His promotion played big in Israel, of course, where The Times of Israel reminded its readers of Malley’s background in ominous headline language:

“White House names Israel critic to top Mideast post”; “Robert Malley, to become NSC point person on Middle East, has drawn fire for saying the Palestinians weren’t at fault for the failed peace talks in 2000.”

“Has drawn fire” is Zionist-speak for not being on Israel’s side. 

The Jerusalem Post pointed to Malley’s assertion that the Palestinians had been falsely accused of causing the Camp David talks to “collapse”:

“Malley [US negotiator at Camp David] drew some pro-Israel criticism for his published assessment in 2001 of the 2000 Camp David talks, in which he said that the prevailing narrative, that the Palestinians were at fault for their collapse, was a misapprehension and ignored Palestinian concessions and Israeli failures at the talks.”

The Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) added specifics, pointing to Malley’s breakthrough 2001 article, co-authored with Hussein Agha, for the New York Review of Books, starting with another Zionist-speak term, “some pro-Israel groups”:

“Some pro-Israel groups criticized Malley for his 2001 published assessment of the talks [that] was a misapprehension and ignored Palestinian concessions and Israeli failures.

As the director of the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group, a think tank, he also met multiple times with Hamas officials and said parties to the peace process must at some stage engage with the terrorist group, which controls the Gaza Strip.”

“Some pro-Israel groups” is Zionist-speak that points to two cardinal sins in Lobby  ideology; one, not sticking to the pro-Israel narrative on the 2001 Oslo talks, and two,  advocating talks with Hamas.

The Tablet received Malley’s 2014 arrival at the Obama White House with the “reassuring” word that Malley would not be dealing with Israel-Palestine issues. Sorry, Tablet, that was then, this is now.

The Israel Lobby, which works diligently to promote the policies of every government Israeli voters put in place, has what my Urban Dictionary calls a “tude”, short for “attitude”, as in, “a bad attitude”.

“Tude” is illustrated further in the saying, “Hey, you really got a tude, dude”  The Israel Lobby embeds and enforces that “tude” (attitude) by infiltrating the thought processes, and/or buying off U.S. institutions with “hasbara”, the Hebrew word for “propaganda”.

It was this pro-Israel “hasbara”, that paved the way for the ugly display of anti-Americanism on March 3 when Benjamin Netanyahu brought the U.S. Congress, and visitors to their collective feet, on cue, with a campaign speech that delighted most of the crowd, and pleased one particular visitor.

(Photo By Bill Clark:CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)Bill Moyers and Michael Winship described that visitor:

“Everything you need to know about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress Tuesday was the presence in the visitor’s gallery of one man – Sheldon Adelson (left). The gambling tycoon is the Godfather of the Republican Right.

The party’s presidential hopefuls line up to kiss his assets, scraping and bowing for his blessing, which when granted is bestowed with his signed checks. Data from both the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics  and the Center for Public Integrity show that in the 2012 election cycle, Adelson and his wife Miriam . . ..contributed $150 million to the GOP and its friends . . . .

But Sheldon Adelson was not only sitting in the House gallery on Tuesday because of the strings he pulls here in the United States. He is also the Daddy Warbucks of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu is yet another of his beneficiaries – not to mention an ideological soulmate.

Although campaign finance reform laws are much more strict in Israel than here in the United States, Adelson’s wealth has bought him what the historian and journalist Gershom Gorenberg calls ‘uniquely pernicious influence. 

Adelson owns the daily Israel Hayom, a leading newspaper, as well as Makor Roshon, the daily newspaper of Israel’s Zionist religious right and NRG, a news website. He gives Israel Hayom away for free in order to promote his hardline views – the headline in the paper the day after Obama’s re-election was “The US Voted [for] Socialism.”

More important, he uses the paper to bang the drum incessantly for Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party, under the reign of which Israel has edged closer and closer to theocracy.”

It is money of this sort that on October 3, 2014, paid for an ad for Candidate Tom Cotton through a $700,000 contribution to his successful race for the Arkansas U.S. senate seat.

The Washington Free Beacon reported at the time:Ukrainian_presser008_020515

“William Kristol and his Emergency Committee for Israel is boosting Rep. Tom Cotton’s (R., Ark.) bid for U.S. Senate with a $700,000 ad buy in Arkansas. Kristol purchased the ad spots for television, radio, and digital markets in efforts to push support for Cotton (right), who is running against incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor (D., Ark.).

Politico’s Maggie Haberman reported: ‘We’re for a strong Israel and a strong America,’ said Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and head of the group. ‘So is Tom Cotton. He’ll be a great senator.’”

Barely two months into his Senate career, Cotton was the author of the letter to Iranian leaders, signed by 47 Republican senators.

In the letter, the senators told Iran that any deal with President Obama is subject to change by a new president and the U.S. Senate.

Responding to that ill-conceived letter from the 47 Republican senators, Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, said, “in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.”

An additional statement from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs took Senator Cotton and his Republican colleagues to school for further study in Government 101:

“Foreign Minister Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration.

He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.”

Posted in Advertising, Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Palestinians, Politics and Elections | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Bibi “Skip It” List Included Senator Warren

by James M. WallDoug Mills NYT

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D:Mass) did not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday morning speech to Congress.

A possible 2016 presidential candidate, Warren was the highest profile senator to join the list of senators and representatives who were no-shows.

In a statement before the speech, Warren said she is “deeply concerned” about the prospect of a nuclear Iran but said Speaker Boehner’s actions “have made Tuesday’s event more political.

Warren was among 8 senators and 48 representatives who announced in advance that they would not attend, according to a count by The Hill

“Skip the speech” numbers were slow to grow, thanks to the robotic fear that continues to grip members of Congress any time an Israeli leader pushes their Pavlovian buttons.

Ironically, this time it was not AIPAC pushing the buttons.  It was Netanyahu, with his U.S. media, economic and political Fifth Column soldiers, doing the button pushing. That team got what it wanted. Netanyahu delivered what is essentially a “campaign speech” to the U.S. Congress.

“Campaign speech” in this instance is both for Netanyahu’s reelection as Prime Minister of Israel March 17, and his campaign to build a veto-proof U.S. Senate that will undermine President Obama’s peace negotiations with Iran.

Many of Israel’s ruling political elite, its military leaders, and its security leaders sent word to sympathetic U.S. journalists that the speech was a bad idea. Al Monitor’s Israel Pulse writer Ben Caspit explains why even that opposition is not enough to evoke AIPAC’s open opposition to the speech.

“AIPAC”, Caspit writes, “is Netanyahu’s lobby and not the reverse”.

This has always been the case.  Whichever party or political force runs Israel, it is AIPAC’s assignment to serve that power.

Netanyahu pinned his political future on Tuesday’s speech. This is his career “crunch time”. Caspit again:

The invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before both houses of Congress March 3 was secretly cooked up by House Speaker John Boehner (Republican) and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer (who some consider ambassador to Las Vegas because of his relationship with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson). The news struck AIPAC heads like a thunderbolt.

They had not been briefed about it. They didn’t know about it, and “they didn’t believe such a thing could happen to them.”

One AIPAC leader told Caspit “in a private conversation after the invitation was publicized. “This is the lowest point we have ever reached.”

In shock over the secret invitation that sent AIPAC to its nadir point, the Lobby leaders have been forced into actions rare for them They are forced into a desperate effort “to minimize the damage”.

To smart and sensitive politicians, those, for example, who do not want to be left at the station when the next train departs, this is the moment to think creatively. Members of Congress had to decide whether or not to attend.

To skip the speech, and then see Netanyahu win on March 17, is scary for a politician. If he loses, the next government might commend those who stayed away. Or not. A new prime minister may wonder if he or she can depend on the U.S. Congress to be as loyal as it has been trained to do.

Some members may decide to put principal over politics and hope the future treats them well. Representative Jan Schakowsky surprised political watchers when she joined the no show list.chi-schakowski-netanyahu-022615-ct0020224475-20131126

She did not attend the speech even though her love for  the state of Israel is “in her DNA”.

Virginia Senator Kaine’s decision to skip the speech was another surprise. It was a risky move for a senator believed to be a strong contender to run for vice president on a 2016 ticket headed by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

Kaine was one of the 8 senators on the no-show list, joining Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic Senators, Pat Leahy, of Vermont, Brian Schatz, Hawaii, Warren, of Massachusetts, Al Franken, Minnesota, Martin Heinrich, New Mexico, and  Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island.  

Warren’s decision not to attend was a huge relief to progressive Democrats who are not PEPs (“Progressive Except on Palestine”) and who have been urging her to contest former Senator Hilary Clinton for the 2016 nomination. 

No Republican skipped the speech, of course, because it has become a Republican rule that the party opposes anything that favors President Obama.

Two other Democratic senators, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Chuck Schumer, of New York, had a good reason to stay away from the House chamber Tuesday.

Durbin and Schumer invited Netanyahu to a private meeting during his visit. Netanyahu refused the meeting, dismissing two of Israel’s strongest Senate supporters with the same arrogance he had demonstrated when he arranged his speech behind Obama’s back.

This is not chutzpah, Yiddish for “arrogance with a flair”. It is the arrogance of a politician desperate to win a reelection campaign back home and solidify his control of the U.S. Senate.

So far, Durbin has suffered his public rejection in silence. Schumer meekly responded to his insult by urging his congressional colleagues to attend the speech.

The Obama administration has brought its big guns into play to express its anger over the speech. The president, vice president and Secretary of State John Kerry will ignore Netanyahu.

Secretary of State John Kerry had earlier hit back at Netanyahu with an even stronger reminder that this is not the first time Netanyahu has intruded into U.S. political decision-making.

Philip Weiss reported that:

“Secretary of State John Kerry said Netanyahu was “wrong” to oppose the U.S. preliminary deal with Iran and criticized Netanyahu for his advice to the U.S. before we invaded Iraq in 2003.

‘The Prime Minister was also profoundly forward-leaning about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision.’

At the time, discussing the impending attack on Iraq, Netanyahu said on CSPAN, to a congressional panel in Washington:

“If you take out Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region… The task and the great opportunity and challenge is not merely to effect the ouster of the regime, but also to transform the region.”

“Kerry’s criticism”, Weiss writes, “links Netanyahu implicitly with the neoconservatives who pushed the war to transform the Middle East, and makes all but explicit the idea that the neocons pushed the war out of concern for Israel’s security.”

Israel’s military and security leaders have made clear that they do not agree with Bibi’s insistence that Iran is well along to developing its very own nukes. On this issue, Bibi stands largely alone in his paranoia.

Those members of Congress who attend the Tuesday speech will cheer a foreign leader who is in Washington to lobby them to defy their own president.

Robert Naiman, writing in Truth Out, offers this background on Bibi’s rationale for speaking to Congress, quoting Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi’s explanation of why Netanyahu is giving the speech:

“The Republicans know, as the president has already made clear, that he will veto this legislation. So in order to pass legislation that overcomes the veto, two-thirds are required in the Senate. So if the prime minister can persuade another one or two or another three or four, this could have weight,” he said.

Naiman explains the Netanyahu logic this way: To get a two-thirds majority in the Senate, Netanyahu needs to pressure Democrats. No show Senators Leahy, Sanders, Schatz and Kaine, will not be on Netanyahu’s whip list.

Ten Senate Democrats who are on Netanyahu’s must whip list, Naiman surmises, are what he calls the “Menendez 10″, senators who have openly voiced “their potential willingness to undermine the President’s diplomacy”:

Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Charles Schumer (D-NY)Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Gary Peters (D-MI); Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA); Ben Cardin (D-MD); Chris Coons (D-DE); Joe Manchin (D-WV); Joe Donnelly (D-IN); and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Netanyahu already has his anti-Obama 52 Republican senators and, presumably the “Menendez 10″ Democrats. With a few more Democratic stragglers, Netanyahu would be, writes Naiman, “within striking distance of a veto-proof Senate majority for war”.

The “skip the speech” campaign no doubt helped to raise the final count of those Democrats who chose not attend. They avoided the embarrassment of having to cheer what was a cheerleader’s plea against President Obama.

The Washington Post this week reminded us that Wednesday of this week (February 25) this nation reached a milestone for peace. There have been no U.S. deaths in combat for 75 straight days, starting on December 11, 2014. This is the longest span of time without a U.S. military combat death since 9/11.

,A sober thought for the members of the House and Senate who decided on Tuesday between supporting President Obama or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Portions of this posting appeared in an earlier version of Wall Writings, dated February 28. 

The picture of Netanyahu above is from the New York Times. It is by Doug Mills. The picture of Jan Schakowsky is by Nancy Stone from the Chicago Tribune.

Posted in Israel, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Politics and Elections | 8 Comments

At War With Those “Who Have Perverted Islam”

by James M. WallScreen Shot 2015-02-20 at 3.05.55 PM

During a speech at this week’s White House  conference on countering violent extremism, President Obama described the enemy that calls itself ISIL:

“We are not at war with Islam; we are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

That statement is sensible and it is clear. It represents the President’s careful separation of ISIL (initially self-designated as the Islamic State in the Levant) from the world’s Muslim population.

ISIL is not remotely representative of Islam. It steals its language the way extremists out of Jewish and Christian backgrounds pervert those religious communities.

ISIL is not Islamic, it is a gang of thugs who have perverted the historic Islamic faith to kill, rape and destroy, in a murderous rampage seeking political dominance.  

ISIL’s gang has thus far recruited 20,000 fighters, not 200,000, as GOP presidential aspirant Jeb Bush recently stated in his initial venture into foreign policy speech making, a number he later reduced to the correct 20,000.

ISIL easily receives the public exposure mass murderers always crave. ISIL employs social media and produces its own chillingly evil reality videos which are immediately lapped up by the world’s media.

Simplistic hate is ISIL’s mantra; a video that trumpets that mantra is the media’s favorite message.

In the U.S., ISIL has simplistic-minded political allies who dislike anything said by President Obama, and are eager to denounce him at every opportunity.  The latest ISIL  political ally to surface is Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, and an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin wrote in his essay, The Paranoid Style of Rudy Giuliani that since 2008, Giuliani “has become a national embarrassment of a distinctive type”.

The former mayor’s most recent embarrassing remark came at an event in New York this week which was a part of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s nascent Presidential campaign.

Responding to President Obama’s careful separation of the world’s Muslim population from ISIL, Giuliani said during a dinner at the “21” Club, according to Politico

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the President loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

You got this much right, Rudy, it was a horrible thing to say.  Even candidate Walker, who wanted the spotlight on himself, not Giuliani, remained silent on his guest’s remarks.

Elaborating in an interview on Fox News, instead of admitting he had misspoken, Giuliani kept up his tirade: 

“President Obama was brought up in an atmosphere in which he was taught to be a critic of America. That is a distinction with prior American Presidents.”

Giuliani would have the clock turn back to those Cold War days when things were simple from the perspective of those Americans Richard Hofstadter called in 1964, the “paranoid right wing”. 

Jeffrey Toobin provides a series of Giuliani attacks, all of which are distortions of the truth.

Giuliani’s attacks on the President are not principally meant as assertions of fact. They are meant to tap into a deep wellspring of American political thought, one defined by the Columbia historian Richard Hofstadter five decades ago.

Of Hofstadter’s now famous and defining 1964 article in Harper’s, Toobin writes,19firstdraft-Rudy-Giuliani-tmagArticle

“Hofstadter described ‘the paranoid style in American politics,’ which he said was characterized by “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy’. Looking back, Hofstadter pointed to the anti-Masonic movement and the nativist and anti-Catholic movement as examples, but he also ascribed the paranoid style to his own era.”

In his Harper’s article, Hofstadter wrote:

“The modern right wing . . . feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion.

The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power.

Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.”

Hofstadter wrote these words in 1964. 

The paranoid right Hofstadter described, emerges in every political generation. Rudy Giuliani, this generation’s right wing spokesman, at least in this current news cycle, reports, inaccurately, as usual, that President Obama is someone not raised in this country.

Therefore, it follows, from Giuliani’s ill-informed, paranoid, perspective, that the President does not “love America”.

That is sheer gobbledegook, nonsense designed to deceive. But it plays well to the political right, and it gets extensive attention in right wing media outlets like Fox News, reaching precisely ISIL’s target audience

Giuliani added to his gobbledegook with an additional “denial of racial prejudice” comment, as reported in the New York Times, that  “his criticism of Mr. Obama’s upbringing should not be considered racist because the president was raised by “a white mother.”

Congratulations, Mr. former Mayor, you are carrying the water ISIL wants you to carry to America, which Hofstadter defined as “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy”.

The picture of President Obama above, is a screen shot from a CNN video at http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/17/politics/isis-obama-extremism-summit/index.html. The picture of former Mayor Giuliani is a Getty image by Chip Somodevilla, from the New York Times.

Posted in Jeb Bush, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Obama | 11 Comments

Good Morning America, Bibi is Coming to Town

by James M. WallMIDEAST ISRAEL POLITICS

Good Morning America: Do you know who has stolen your Congress? In two weeks you could hear from one of the culprits.

On March 3, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to what was once your United States Congress.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak to the Congress and tell the members that President Obama is wrong. Netanyahu promises to say the President is wrong to think it is possible to negotiate Iran back from the brink of adding further to the world’s nuclear arsenal.

Benjamin Netanyahu will tell the Congress that negotiations are wrong because only the threat and application of military power will succeed in stopping Iran from beginning to build its own nuclear weapons arsenal, a collection of deadly weapons that could rival Israel’s Middle East nuclear military control.

A control, that is, snugly resting and hidden in a secret stash of more than 400 Israeli nuclear weapons, a secret protected by the United States’ refusal ever to mention its existence, even during negotiations about Iran’s nuclear future

The Israeli Prime Minister will be greeted by cheers and applause from those members of Congress who will be in attendance. Some members will not attend. How many will skip the event could depend on voters who demand their absence.

Even strong pro-Israel outlets like Fox News, and Liberal Zionist media outlets like MSNBC, are urging Netanyahu to cancel his March 3 moment in the world media spotlight.

That media backing could encourage members to follow the example of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, two of whom have announced they have duties to perform elsewhere when Bibi comes to town.

President Obama was more direct. He said it was not good political form to take sides in a foreign election. 

Joe Biden will be the most significant missing person in the House chamber on March 3. He  normally sits next to Boehner when a joint session of Congress assembles. Biden’s  announced absence is a risky move for someone who might contest Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The invitation to Netanyahu came as quite a surprise to both Obama and Biden, as well as to Kerry’s State Department. Protocol for invitations to speak to a joint session calls for prior agreement from the White House.

Prior consultation was ignored by newly-elevated Republican House Speaker John Boehner, the first of many in-your-face steps Boehner is expected to make in the next two years.

The invitation and Netanyahu’s prearranged acceptance, is giving a certain grim delight to Netanyahu’s opponents in Israel’s March 17 election.

An Israeli campaign speech to the U.S. Congress two weeks before an election?  Not politically smart, which is no doubt the only reason Netanyahu may still cancel.

Update: CNN reports that “New York Rep. Charlie Rangel is among more than a dozen congressional Democrats who are planning to skip Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next month.”

Rangel, ever the canny politician, insists he is not “a boycotter”. He insists he is “a friend of Israel”, and is not boycotting. His absence will be “about respecting my President on foreign policy.”

Meanwhile, Kairos USA continues its campaign urging voters to contact their members and request they “stay away from the speech”. USA Kairos provides  a helpful link  on how voters may contact their members. End Update.

Assuming Netanyahu is stubborn enough to keep his speech date, regardless of the political damage back home, and the pressure he puts on his supporters in Congress, this is a time when voters have an opportunity to influence their members of Congress to do the right thing, which is to “stay away”.

Permanent ownership of our Congress is at stake here. In the next two weeks, Americans have the opportunity to call, write, email or speak directly to each of their three elected representatives (one house member, two senators).  

This is the time to paraphrase a line from Mission Commander Swanbeck in the film with Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible 2.

“Good morning, Mr. Hunt. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves the recovery of a stolen item designated freedom.”

The mission now for those who choose to accept it, is to deliver a warning to their elected members, recalling a loud whisper by Pete in the film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?,

“Do not seek the treasure. Its an ambush.”

Your three members will get Pete’s meaning: The danger of an ambush lurks behind the treasure they seek.

This should be the time when some members of Congress will choose to follow Pete’s advice, avoid the ambush, and not “seek the treasure”. Their choice is between their President and Israel’s Prime Minister. They won’t get many opportunities to regain their integrity as specific as this one.images

To bolster your determination to carry out your mission to tell your members to stop “seeking the  treasure”, read carefully the counsel offered by Israel’s leading peace activist, former Irgun fighter and former Knesset member, 91-year-old Uri Avnery. (right).

In a timely and prophetic posting this week, which he entitled, “The Casino Republic”, Avnery tells us what the political future could hold for the U.S., unless dependance on pro-Israel money is broken.

He would have us start by studying what has happened in Israel after the invasion of the deep pockets of American billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Avnery describes the control Adelson has gained over Israel’s current prime minister. He begins “The Casino Republic”:

“Who is the ruler of Israel?
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, of course.
WRONG.

The real ruler of Israel is one Sheldon Adelson, 81, American Jew, Casino king, who was rated as the world’s tenth richest person, worth 37.2 billion dollars at the latest count. But who is counting?

Besides his casinos in Las Vegas, Macao and Singapore, he owns the US Republican party and, lately, both Houses of the US Congress.

He also owns Binyamin Netanyahu.”

Avnery outlines how Adelson captured Netanyahu. 

“Addison’s connection with Israel is personal. On a blind date, he fell in love with an Israeli woman.

Miriam Farbstein was born in Haifa, attended a prestigious high school, did her army service in the Israeli institute which deals with bacteriological warfare and is a multifaceted scientist. After one of her sons (from her first marriage) died of an overdose, she is devoted to the fight against drugs, especially cannabis.

Both Adelsons are fanatical supporters of Israel. Not just any Israel, but a rightist, supremacist, arrogant, violent, expansionist, annexationist, non-compromising, colonialist Israel.

In “Bibi” Netanyahu they found their man. Through Netanyahu they hope to rule Israel as their private fief.

To assure this, they did an extraordinary thing: they founded an Israeli newspaper, solely devoted to the furthering of the interests of Binyamin Netanyahu. Not of the Likud, not of a specific policy, but of Netanyahu personally.”

Back home, Adelson prepares for the 2016 U.S.presidential race.

Avnery is warning American voters and power brokers what to expect from an Adelson-controlled American government. 

The decision by members of Congress to attend, or not to attend, Netanyahu’s speech March 3 is a test of loyalty for members, to their elected president or to the Sheldon Adelson-controlled prime minister of Israel.

That is a political decision.  It is also a personal moral decision, which is why the words from Joshua 24:15, cannot be repeated too often: “Choose ye this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.  

The picture above of Benjamin Netanyahu is from Max Blumenthal.com. The picture of Uri Avnery is from the website http://www.vebidoo.de/torsten+uri

Posted in Iran, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Netanyahu, Obama | 10 Comments

Obama “Preacher In Chief” at Prayer Breakfast

by James M. WallScreen Shot 2015-02-10 at 12.40.06 AM

President Obama’s speech at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast February 5, was not a speech. It was a sermon. “Those fortunate to see the speech witnessed President Obama as Preacher in Chief.”

This critique was rendered by Egberto Willies, a Contributing Editor for Daily KOS. In good sermonic form, Obama proclaimed:

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

The president’s critics, including “Republican pundits, and GOP presidential candidates have attempted to force the President to equate the religion of Islam with atrocities perpetrated in Islam’s name”.

The President emphasized that “it is the people perpetrating the heinous acts and not the religion that must be condemned”.

The full text of Obama’s speech is available at whitehouse.gov. A four-minutes video of  speech excerpts may be viewed here.

Daily Kos’ Willies described the right wing post-breakfast reaction to Obama’s speech:

“Pundits started hyperventilating. Tucker Carlson claimed the President was telling Christians they had no right to judge ISIS as they also have blood on their hands. Likely GOP Primary Presidential candidate Ben Carson said he felt betrayed by the President’.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat took a more scholarly path in his appraisal of Obama in his column, “Obama The Theologian”.  Douthat found the spirit of Reinhold Niebuhr (pictured above) permeating President Obama’s Prayer Breakfast speech.

“More than most presidents, [Obama] has tried to incorporate one of Niebuhr’s insights into his public rhetoric: the idea that no society is innocent, and that Americans in particular need to put aside illusions about our own alleged perfection.

After acknowledging with faint praise, Obama’s Niebuhrian credentials, Douthat proceeds to argue that a single speech does not provide sufficient time to explain to his public how he draws on Niebuhrian thought to confront complex political decision-making. 

He finds problems with Obama’s use of Niebuhr, the first of which “is that presidents are not historians nor theologians, and in political rhetoric it’s hard to escape from over simplification.”

“You can introduce the Crusades to complicate a lazy “Islam violent, Christianity peaceful” binary, but then a lot of Christians are going to hear an implied equivalence between the Islamic State’s reign of terror and the incredibly complicated multi century story of medieval Christendom’s conflict with Islam”.

Unfortunately, Douthat leaves little room for serious theological reflection ever registering an impact on political decision-making. 

Niebuhr’s influence on Obama was noted in a lengthy 2010 CNN article tracing Niebuhr’s  emergence as a major theological figure. His influence touched many:

“Niebuhr distilled his view of human nature in his monumental book, “Moral Man and Immoral Society.” The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. cited the book in his “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” Former President Carter is also an admirer of Niebuhr’s.

quotes coyote.comGustav Niebuhr, a grand nephew of Reinhold’s, says that in his speeches the president avoids moral absolutes: “The U.S. is not always right, and its enemies are not always evil.”

Niebuhr saw his great-uncle’s attitude embedded in Obama’s speech to the Arab world in Cairo, Egypt, when Obama acknowledged U.S. involvement in helping overthrow a democratically elected government in Iran during the 1950s and avoided “clash of civilizations” rhetoric that implied that the U.S. is free of moral taint.

Times conservative columnist David Brooks gave Obama’s Prayer Breakfast speech high marks during a Meet the Press panel, February 8.

Brook’s admiration of Obama’s use of Niebuhr was a surprising contrast to two other, less conservative, Meet the Press panelists, Jon Meacham and Andrea Mitchell.

Jon Meacham is currently executive editor and executive vice president at Random House. He is a former editor-in-chief of Newsweek, and the winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for his book, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.

Andrea Mitchell is the NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent.  Brooks is both a columnist for The New York Times and a commentator on the PBS NewsHour.

Egberto Willies reported, “When [Moderator] Chuck Todd asked if politicians can have the debate [on American sins and humility]”, Brooks answered:

“I am totally pro Obama on this. I think he said the right thing. It was a gospel of humility. What sorts of people need a little gospel of humility? People in Washington, pundits, religious believers, — I happen to be all three of those things — and so we are told to walk humbly in the path, that the Lord’s paths are mysterious.”

Mitchell and Meacham shied away entirely from any serious discussion of the theological issues raised by Obama.

Willies called Mitchell’s comments on the panel, “simply ludicrous”.

‘”She does not believe the prayer breakfast is a place to speak truth. ‘You don’t use the word Crusade in any context right now. It’s too fraught,’ Andrea Mitchell said. ‘And the week after a [Jordanian] pilot is burned alive and a video shown, you don’t lean over backward to be philosophical about the sins of the fathers.”

In other words, Willies observes of Mitchell, “You have to deal with issues that are in front of you or don’t deal with it at all.” In this way, Mitchell ignores “the sins that indirectly impact or have impacted all that is occurring in the world.”

Willies is especially hard on Meacham, writing about the former Newsweek editor who

“seems to believe that atrocities in the name of Christ ended with the Crusades. He forgot the savagery Christianity inflicted on Native Americans from the tip of South America, the Caribbean, Central America, to North America.

Brooks is not new to the Obama-Niebuhrian beat. In the conservative Christian periodical, First Things, Ronald E. Osborn writes about Barack Obama’s understanding and utilization of Reinhold Niebuhr’s thought. 

Osborn begins with Obama’s December 10, 2009 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in which Obama “offered a vigorous defense of the just war tradition in response to problems of evil and injustice in the world.”

In his Nobel speech, Osborn writes, Obama “offered a moral vision that closely followed, without any direct reference, the ideas of perhaps the most influential American theologian of the twentieth century.”

He then refers to “a much cited 2007 New York Times article, [in which] David Brooks wrote that he had asked then-Senator Obama an off-the-cuff question: Had he ever read Reinhold Niebuhr?”

“I love him,” Obama replied. “He’s one of my favorite philosophers.” He then proceeded, Brooks reported, to discuss the theologian’s ideas with great enthusiasm and incision.”

In the years since that strong endorsement of Obama’s theological acumen, David Brooks has found few opportunities to repeat his enthusiasm for Obama’s decision-making in complex foreign and domestic policy issues from a man who has absorbed the wisdom of Reinhold Niebuhr. 

The 2015 Prayer Breakfast gave him that opportunity. Brooks did not falter. He gave Obama the right amount of credit for trying to deal with political issues from a perspective of Christian realism. 

President Obama has two years remaining in which to make the morally ambiguous decisions a president must make. His 2015 Prayer Breakfast sermon suggests he knows how he wants to handle those decisions.

The picture of Reinhold Niebuhr above is from the economist.com. The video is from Daily Kos.

Posted in Middle East Politics, Obama, Religious Faith | 2 Comments

Pressure Grows to Delay or Drop Bibi’s Speech

by James M. WallThe Atlantic Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been “reaching out”, as the New York Times delicately puts it, to Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress who were blindsided by Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress March 3.

Netanyahu’s office confirmed Thursday, according to the Times, that the Prime Minister had called Democrats and “other friends” in Congress in recent days, and that he “reiterated that the survival of Israel is not a partisan issue.”

AIPAC usually handles “reaching out” for Israel when needed among power players in Washington.  Not this time. AIPAC, according to a U.S. Jewish media source, did not know about the speech in advance of Boehner’s invitation.

The damage has to be cleaned up by Netanyahu, if he wants to save his plan to address the U.S. Congress two weeks before he faces reelection in Israel March 17.

As a rule, political calls between Israel and the Congress are not made public. This uproar, however, calls for naming names. The Times provides them:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Thursday that Mr. Netanyahu had called him the previous afternoon to explain why the White House had been circumvented before he was invited to speak before Congress.

The prime minister has also called Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat.

Secret talks began three weeks ago between Netanyahu, his American-born ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer (pictured above), and Boehner.  Their goal: Bring Netanyahu back for his third appearance before Congress, an honor allowed previously only to Winston Churchill.

The Speaker held up the announcement of the speech until the day after President Obama’s State of the Union address.

In an action that angered the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Dermer on the same day as the State of the Union, and Dermer said nothing to him about the March 3 speech.

CNN reports that Dermer blames Boehner for his failure to inform Kerry about the speech. 

Boehner’s office said he made it clear to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer that “it was his (Boehner’s) prerogative to inform the White House,” and Dermer has said multiple times that is what he was led to believe.

“It was the speaker’s responsibility and normal protocol for the Speaker’s office to notify the administration of the invitation,” Dermer told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg  on Friday.

CNN also reports that the White House was not told of the Netanyahu invitation on January 21, until two weeks after Boehner “first asked Dermer if Netanyahu might be interested.”  The Prime Minister was indeed “open in principle to an invitation”.

This is a disturbing picture of the absence of diplomatic finesse in a maneuver that carries war or peace consequences. 

Truthout’s Robert Naiman makes a strong case as to why the speech should be postponed, starting with Boehner’s failure to consult with the White House before issuing an invitation to a foreign leader.

In addition, Naiman points out, Netanyahu’s speech would afford him the opportunity to join forces with Republican leaders in attacking President Obama’s Iran policy and undermining “the US/Europe-Iran talks and put the US on a path to war with Iran”.

Democratic congressional members who have condemned a Netanyahu address to Congress as “undiplomatic and reckless”, are torn between supporting the president on a foreign policy issue and offending what the New York Times refers to as “the powerful pro-Israeli interests in the United States or Jewish voters.”

Writing in MondoweissPhilip Weiss notes that “with even AIPAC washing its hands of the speech, it sure looks as if Israel supporters want an exit from this fiasco.”

“Jettisoning Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer or cancelling the speech, would seem like a small price to pay in the news cycle next to a spectacle in which leading Democrats are forced to line up against Netanyahu in Washington, even as they file in and out of the AIPAC policy conference and praise Israel to the skies.”

Dermer’s stock in Israeli ruling circles had been growing steadily since he moved to Israel in his middle 20s from his hometown in Miami Beach, Florida. He gave up his U.S. citizenship to take a government position before becoming Israel’s ambassador to the U.S.

Now his stock has taken a hit, at least for the moment. Alan Elsner of J Street, the liberal Jewish NGO in Washington, savaged Dermer in Haaretz, “Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., is planting a rotten seed.”

Elsner also writes that Dermer has placed Israel’s most essential protection at risk:

“At a time of growing diplomatic isolation, Israel only has one firm ally that it can depend on – the United States. Does it really want to further narrow that base of support by depending entirely on Republicans, as Dermer seems to want to do?”

According to the Times, Michael Oren, another U.S.-born Israeli politician, who served as Dermer’s predecessor as ambassador to the U.S.  has called on Netanyahu to cancel the speech. Oren is currently aligned against Netanyahu’s party in the upcoming Israeli elections. 

Center for American Progress)The ever skittish Democratic House members, do have three members willing to openly call for postponement.

Politico reports:

Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota [co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus], (pictured at left), Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Maxine Waters of California, said Boehner’s invitation for Netanyahu to speak March 3 is “harmful for three reasons: it undermines the president’s foreign policy; it puts a close ally in the middle of a domestic political debate; and it elevates a candidate in a foreign election.”

Ellison, Cohen and Waters are circulating a letter among House members, addressed to Speaker Boehner, asking him to postpone the invitation until after the Israeli election and until Congress has considered the issue of Iran sanctions.

Will all of this activity lead to a postponement or cancellation?

In the spirit of this weekend’s Super Bowl betting fever, Adam Horowitz has posted odds on how this Netanyahu-Dermer-Boehner fiasco might play out.  Here are a few of his betting odds:

Odds Netanyahu cancels his speech and apologizes to President Obama: 100 to 1

Odds Netanyahu “reschedules” his speech, makes sure it never happens and hopes no one ever brings it up again: 2 to 1

Odds Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer gets canned: 3 to 1

Odds Dermer moves back to Florida: 5 to 1

Odds Dermer runs the Republican Jewish Coalition within three months: 2 to 1

Over/Under on standing ovations Netanyahu will receive in 60-minute speech: 60

If like me, you learned as a child that gambling is a sin, then do not place any of these bets.  Horowitz, however, has more odds listed. It will not be a sin to look at all of them.  They offer a clue as to how Israel and the Congress will reestablish their relationship.

 The picture of Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer at top is by Reuters. It appeared in The Atlantic. The picture of Congressman Ellison is from the Center for American Progressives.

Posted in Israel, John Kerry, Middle East, Netanyahu, Obama, US govermemt, War | Leave a comment

Barack to Bibi: Stop “Meddling” In Our Politics

by James M. WallAP 2011

On Monday morning, January 12, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An unidentified senior American official said that Obama warned Netanyahu “not to meddle in the battle” Obama was “waging against Congress over the sanctions legislation”.

Ha’aretz, reported the firmness with which Obama addressed Netanyahu:

“Obama stressed to Netanyahu that he is seeking to reach an agreement with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons and assure the international community in a verifiable fashion that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, 

One week later, after secret meetings with Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner invited Israel’s Prime Minister to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 11.

It is unprecedented for a House speaker to invite a foreign leader to speak to the Congress without prior consultation and agreement with the President of the United States.

Obama is aware that new sanctions legislation would probably sabotage negotiations between Obama, Iran and five other countries. For this reason, Obama has promised to veto any new sanctions legislation.

Nevertheless, the Speaker readily agreed when Netanyahu asked Boehner to shift the invitation to speak to the Congress from February 11 to March 3, only two weeks before Israel’s March 15 elections where Netanyahu faces strong opposition.

Netanyahu has a second reason to ask Boehner to move the date of his speech. According to Boehner, Netanyahu wanted to give his speech to the U.S. Congress during the time of the pro-Israel AIPAC conference in Washington, March 1. 

After consorting with American-born Israeli Ambassador Dermer, Boehner issued his initial invitation to Netanyahu behind Obama’s back.

Again, ignoring his own president, Speaker Boehner quickly agreed to the new AIPAC-friendly date of March 3. 

With this change, the Netanyahu-Boehner tag team (pictured above) achieves two Netanyahu goals: one, schmoozing with his AIPAC congressional funders while two, basking in the politically enhancing glow of all that congressional cheering.

This will be speech number three that Netanyahu delivers to a U.S. Congress, tying him with only one other world leader, Britain’s Winston Churchill who had delivered three speeches from the podium where U.S. presidents deliver their annual State of the Union addresses.

For its part, showing more diplomatic restraint than Netanyahu, the White House reacted to the Netanyahu-Boehner congressional insult by announcing that President Barack Obama would not meet with Netanyahu during his visit.

The official White House rationale was simple: “As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections.”

The White House also announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will not meet with Netanyahu. Vice President Joe Biden is also expected to ignore the Israeli leader, giving Netanyahu a trifecta snub.

What cares Netanyahu about diplomatic slights? He is fighting for his political life in Israel’s March 15 elections. If his party wins and reinstates him as prime minister, Bibi is looking toward to at least two years with an overly friendly Republican controlled congress.

His political motto is simple: Will travel anywhere for votes, even to grief-stricken events.

On January 7, masked gunmen killed 12 people in a Paris attack on the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo. It was among the deadliest such attacks in postwar France.

In response to the massacre, the French planned a “rally against terror”. The French government invited world leaders to participate in a march, while also sending word  to both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas not to attend.

A French official explained that French President Francois Hollande “wanted the event to focus on demonstrating solidarity with France, and to avoid anything liable to divert attention to other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

One French source noted that one “French concern – not conveyed to representatives of the Israeli government – was that Netanyahu would take advantage of the event for campaign purposes and make speeches, especially about the Jews of France.”

Such obvious political moves would be contrary to the French government’s desire to have the march promote a European solidarity as part of “dealing with the terror attacks.”

The same “please stay away” message was sent to President Abbas. Both Abbas and Netanyahu agreed to “stay away”. Each issued cover stories that they would not attend.

The night before the Paris march, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett announced they would go to Paris to take part in the march and meet with members of the Jewish community.

Netanyahu quickly informed the French he would also come to Paris for the march and meetings with Jewish groups.

With Netanyahu on his way to Paris, the French quickly invited Abbas a second time. Abbas accepted.

What followed early in the Paris march resembled a Buster Keaton silent street comedy. President Abbas was marching on the front row, absorbing full television camera attention, while Prime Minister Netanyahu was several rows back in the crowd.

But not for long. Yahoo News reported that Netanyahu literally pushed his way to the front of the line,

The picture below catches the leader of the modern state of Israel looking like Buster Keaton, barely concealing a poker face of innocence after pushing his way forward.

APTOPIX France Attacks Rally

The world leaders shown here marched in Paris on January 11, 2015. They are, from left to right, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, France’s President Francois Hollande, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU President Donald Tusk, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

In Washington, on March 3, there will be no competition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will not need to push. Speaker Boehner has already done that for him.

The pictures above are from Ha’aretz and AP.

Posted in Israel, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama | 10 Comments

Obama to Senators: Choose U.S. Over Donors

by James M. Wall

Sen Menendez NJ CNNOn Thursday of last week, President Barack Obama spoke to a group of Democratic senators in a private meeting during a Baltimore hotel political retreat.

He asked the senators not to support a bill, drafted by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (left) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), which would add further sanctions on Iran during this time of delicate nuclear negotiations between the U.S., its allies and Iran.

One unnamed senator in the room told the New York Times that Obama said that “as a former senator himself, he understood how outside forces — like special interests and donors — can influence senators to act”.

The president urged the lawmakers to “take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain”. Seated in front of the podium, Senator Menendez stood up to say he took “personal offense” at the president’s remark.

The New Jersey Democrat told the president that he (Menendez) had worked for more than 20 years to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and had always been focused on the long-term implications.

What “special interests and donors” did the President have in mind that caused Senator Menendez to take “personal offense”? 

The unnamed source did not say. Neither did the New York Times. CNN, which credited the Times as its source for the reference to “special interests and donors” also refrained from identifying the “special interests” that brought Senator Melendez out of his chair.

As Dana Carvey’s  Church Lady  on Saturday Night Live, might have said in one of her church chats:

“Which churchlady02donors could he possibly mean? Let’s see now, Senator Menendez, President Obama, Israel and Iran. Is there a naughty connection here? Is Satan lurking about? Now, isn’t that special.”

President Obama talks about negotiating with Iran and reminds a group of senators that from personal experience, he understands “donors have influence”, a remark to which Senator Menendez took “personal offense”.

It is a strong possibility that the Church Lady was on  to something, and President Obama was speaking of Israel’s influence on the U.S. Congress. Israel is well known as the world’s major power demanding that the U.S. force Iran out of nuclear power development.  

Still, as Phillip Weiss perceptively noted in his posting on the closed door Baltimore meeting, the New York Times could not bring itself to mention Israel in the story.

Deeply engrained in the Times‘ collective psyche, is the mandate to avoid like the plague any implication that Israelis (never say “the Jews”) control the U.S. Congress. 

Members of Congress know that Israel is the fourth largest nuclear arms power in the world. Every member of Congress also knows to never, ever, acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear arsenal, with between 200 and 800 nuclear war heads, tucked away in its Dimona desert location.

Israel’s nuclear arsenal, and the excessive power of the Jewish Lobby, are terms not up for discussion, nor even hinted at by anyone who expects a long political career. President Obama knew that the day he entered politics. 

070906-israel-lobbyThe Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by Obama’s University of Chicago colleague John Mearsheimer, and Harvard’s Stephen M. Walt, was in print a year before Obama launched his first campaign for president in 2007.

Michael F. Brown, Institute for Middle East Understanding wrote a review of The Israel Lobby for The Electronic Intifada in September 2007.

One line from that review shows an optimism of the book’s authors, that is unfortunately, still far from fruition:

“Indeed, perhaps the most powerful section of the book is when the authors highlight cases in which significant parts of the lobby have leveled the anti-Semitism charge at individuals guilty of nothing more than challenging the human rights record of Israel.

Due to such overuse, they write, “There are signs that the reflexive charge of anti-Semitism is beginning to lose its power to stifle debate.”

The Times, which strives daily to avoid any smidgen of  “anti-Semitism”, fills its columns with political and economic speculations, but it will not allow into the debate the mere speculation that President Obama linked U.S. senators to the “deep pocket influence” of  the Israel Lobby. 

How deep? In Senator Menendez’ 2012 senate reelection campaign, he received $56,000 from  pro-Israel PACs, the third highest PAC donation total to senators that year. (Campaign finance calculations are from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, courtesy Janet McMahon, managing editor).

Senator Menendez will have the president know he has spent 20 years as a U.S. senator opposing Iran’s growing strength as a Middle East power because of a personal conviction, not because the Israel Lobby wants him to remain a loyal and devoted supporter of a foreign power, Israel.

Senator Mark Kirk, who now occupies Barack Obama’s old Illinois U.S. Senate seat, co-authored with Senator Menendez an earlier Senate bill which failed to find the 60 votes necessary to overturn a filibuster after Obama threatened to veto the legislation,

Senator Kirk, who served as a U.S. House representative from Illinois before his election to the Senate, has received a lifetime contribution total of $339,386, from pro-Israel PACs, through 2014. 

Meanwhile, a revised Kirk-Menendez bill is back for consideration in the new Republican-controlled Senate. 

The vote trading and warnings, if we are to believe Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, will not be about the money from pro-Israel donors. It will be, the senator tells us, because of his “personal convictions”. 

Posted in Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama | 4 Comments