Wingnuts, Blinders and Bubbles: Obama Continues U.S. Obeisance to Israel

by James M. Wallwingnut-small

The right wing media wingnuts (Urban Dictionary: “A wingnut: An outspoken, irrational person with deeply-held, nominally conservative, political views”) went wild over the slight bow they detected when President Obama greeted Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah with a cordial two-handed shake. It was an ignorant and silly objection.

But what word can the Urban Dictionary suggest to describe liberals, moderates, and progressives who cling to their own deeply-held, rigid political views? What word best describes the entire U.S. media corp and the U.S. Congress, for that matter, who continue to enable President Obama to pretend he does not know how tightly the state of Israel controls U.S. foreign policy.

You will not find any need for a wingnut equivalent in the MSM; wingnuts don’t know they are wingnuts.  Instead, go to the internet to find the spotlight thrown on the enabling behavior of our leaders. And develop your own wingnut word equivalent.

Start with Kathleen and Bill Christison who have just published a scathing critique of the Obama administration’s continued obeisance to Israel. Now retired after a career that included work as CIA analysts, Kathleen and Bill have also co-authored a book on the Israeli occupation and its impact on Palestinians. The book is due out from Pluto Press in June. Watch for it. 

Their essay is available at  It begins:

To a greater degree than perhaps ever before, Washington today is engulfed in denial about Israel and its stupefying behavior, about its murderous policies toward the Palestinians, about the efforts of Israel and its U.S. defenders to force us to ignore its atrocities. 

Kathleen and Bill Christison explain:

Blinders have always been part of the attire of U.S. policy makers and politicians with regard to Israel and Israeli actions, but in the wake of the three-week Israeli assault that laid waste to the tiny territory of Gaza — an assault ended very conveniently just before Barack Obama was inaugurated, so that he has been able to act as though it never occurred — the perspective from which Washington operates is strikingly more blinkered than ever in the past.

Change we can believe in moves briskly forward in Washington on many fronts, but not on any front that relates to Israel. President Barack Obama is a welcome relief from the right wing policies of George Bush, except where Israel is concerned.

We had hoped Obama would end Washington’s obeisance to Israel and the Israel Lobby. He has not.  For this we can thank the blinders. We were given fair warning the blinders would remain in place when Hilary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Richard Holbrooke and more recently, Dennis Ross, joined the Obama administration of Change. We had hoped Obama would not let this happen. We were wrong.

Ross is now officially the guy to go to for Iranian policy management. He has experience in forcing Palestinian negotiators s to accept Israel’s demands for peace agreements. But what does Ross know about Iran? Does he speak Farsi? Doesn’t really matter. What matters is that his loyalty to Israel is well documented. Our saber rattling against Iran is inspired far more by Israeli pressure than by our own realistic needs.

Ross’ presence at Clinton’s State Department’s Iran desk reassures Israel that its desire to prevent Iran from  becoming, as Israel already is, a nuclear powered state in the Middle East, will now be in loyal and capable hands.

Robert Dreyfuss wrote in The Nation:

When Dennis Ross, a hawkish, pro-Israel adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, was elevated in February to the post of special adviser on “the Gulf and Southwest Asia”–i.e., Iran–Ross’s critics hoped that his influence would be marginal. After all, unlike special envoys George Mitchell (Israel-Palestine) and Richard Holbrooke (Afghanistan-Pakistan), whose appointments were announced with fanfare, Ross’s appointment was long delayed and then announced quietly, at night, in a press release.

But diplomats and Middle East watchers hoping Ross would be sidelined are wrong. He is building an empire at the State Department: hiring staff and, with his legendary flair for bureaucratic wrangling, cementing liaisons with a wide range of US officials.

Ross is, according to Dreyfuss, “widely viewed as a cog in the machine of Israel’s Washington lobby.”  In 1985 Ross helped start the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the Israel lobby’s leading think tank. From 2001 until he resigned to accept an Obama appointment, Ross worked at WINEP, where, Dreyfuss writes:

[He] helped to oversee a series of reports designed to ring alarm bells about Iran’s nuclear research and to support closer US-Israeli ties in response. Last summer, while advising Obama, he co-chaired a task force that produced a paper titled “Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge.” . . . That report opted for an alarmist view of Iran’s nuclear program and proposed that the next president set up a formal US-Israeli mechanism for coordinating policy toward Iran (including any future need for “preventive military action”). 

Is there any reason for Dennis Ross to be in charge of the Iranian portfolio other than to reassure Israel that all is well in Obamaland?  Can he be relied upon to act as an “honest broker” in dealing with Iran, given Israel’s obsession with Iran?  The answer is no. Dreyfuss writes:

Daniel Kurtzer, an Orthodox Jew who served as US ambassador to Israel and Egypt and who was one of Obama’s top Middle East advisers last year, co-wrote a book in which he explained, “The perception always was that Dennis started from the Israeli bottom line, that he listened to what Israel wanted and then tried to sell it to the Arabs.”

The Christisons’ wrote in their Counterpunch essay that Palestinians are very aware of  Obama’s obeisance to Israel:

So far, three months into the Obama administration, there is little evidence that Obama sees clearly or is ready to speak frankly.  Another very savvy Palestinian political commentator and activist, Haidar Eid, who lives and endures Israel’s constant punishments in Gaza, recently told an interviewer that the international reaction to Israel’s Gaza assault was like the reaction to some kind of natural disaster — as if no human hand had had a role in the destruction and nothing but money and aid was required to resolve the problem.  As if, he said, the disaster had not been “created by the state of Israel to annihilate the Palestinian resistance and Palestinian society.”

Eid was commenting on an international conference of donors that convened in Sharm el-Sheikh in early March and made themselves feel magnanimous by pledging almost $5 billion in aid to relieve the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza — but not to do anything to resolve the political reality of Israeli occupation that is at the root of Gaza’s humanitarian plight.  

Speaking at a symposium in Washington, sponsored by the Middle East Policy Council just before Obama took office, Ali Abunimah, a leading Palestinian-American commentator who runs the website, said that Washington exists in “a bubble of ignorance” and denial.  In the symposium Abunimah expressed his strong conviction that the two-state solution in the region is dead. The Christison essay describes Abunimah’s analysis:

While the rest of the world, particularly at the level of civil society, is talking about war crimes tribunals for Israeli leaders and about sanctions against Israel, Abunimah observed, Washington and those world leaders beholden to it are trying to move ahead as if nothing had changed.  “We have to expect,” he said, “that the official apparatus of the peace-process industry — the Hillary Clintons, the Quartets, the Tony Blairs, the Javier Solanas, the Ban Ki-Moons, the whole panoply of official and semi-official Washington think tanks — will carry on with business as usual, trying to make believe that, through their ministrations, a Palestinian state will come into being.”  But in the real world, this state won’t happen, he said, and the time has come to speak frankly about what is going on.

Roger Cohen, New York Times columnist, is a MSM member who has escaped both the blinders and the bubble. His recent columns on Israel’s assault on Gaza has drawn outraged criticism from the Lobby. In one recent column, “Israel Cries Wolf”, Cohen traces Israel’s history of peddling fear about Iran and nuclear weapons. Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres predicted in 1992 that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.

Ehud Barak, now defense minister, warned in 1996 that Iran would be producing nuclear weapons by 2004. 

Now here comes Netanyahu, in an interview with his faithful stenographer Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, spinning the latest iteration of Israel’s attempt to frame Iran as some Nazi-like incarnation of evil:

“You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran. . . .I don’t buy the view that, as Netanyahu told Goldberg, Iran is “a fanatic regime that might put its zealotry above its self-interest.” Every scrap of evidence suggests that, on the contrary, self-interest and survival drive the mullahs.”

For Israel’s leaders there is always a “wide-eyed believer” running Iran plotting to build a bomb to destroy Israel. To better understand the history of these wide-eyed believers and Israel’s paranoia over nuclear arms,, Cohen advises President Obama to read Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance in preparation. As his sub title, “The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States”, suggests, Parsi’s 2007 book examines the long history of the”triangular relationship” between the United States, Israel and Iran. It is also a study of the use of rhetoric to cover secrecy and a hidden history which the U.S. and Israel prefer to keep secret. 

No doubt the Lobby has read it, which is why it does not want Parsi’s history of the alliance penetrating the bubble in which the Lobby maintains its control over the MSM. Cohen is a highly respected journalist. His recommendation of Parsi’s book could reach the president, and just maybe, it will reach a few of his colleagues in the MSM.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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1 Response to Wingnuts, Blinders and Bubbles: Obama Continues U.S. Obeisance to Israel

  1. Lawrence Spellens says:

    Your commentaries about Israel seem biased to me. Of course, there is little justification for the Occupation, continued illegal settlements, removal of Palestinians from Jerusalem neighborhoods, and so on. But to portray Israelis and their leaders as being somehow paranoid about Iran’s drive for a nuclear weapon or Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic harangues and threats is maddening. While the roots of Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric may be his sympathy toward the Palestinian plight (maybe), at bottom these statements imply a reaching out to other anti-Semites in the Muslim world. And, yes, in some measure I do equate anti-Semitism with hatred of Israel, just for its existence alone. Israel should be a homeland for Jews if they wish–France has French, Great Britain has the English, and the United States has Americans. This is not to say that Israel should be an exclusively Jewish state.

    Really, it’s the tone of the blogs I resent. At my health club today, someone said to me, “The worst thing about the Jews is they always serve their own interests.” Does not this imply that there are other bad things about them? And what’s wrong with serving your own interests? And is that why Jewish contributions to American culture generally have been so formidable, given they are about four percent of the American population now? Which non-African American ethnic/religious group had the greatest proportional representation in the American civil rights struggle? Oh, Jews. What a clannish people! Note: I do not support AIPAC.

    Be fair.

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