Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cost of Israel

Interesting comments from a former Democratic Senator:

Democrats in Congress have moved quickly – and commendably – to strengthen ethics rules. But truly groundbreaking reform was prevented, in part, because of the efforts of the pro-Israel lobby to preserve one of its most critical functions: taking members of Congress on free "educational" trips to Israel.

The pro-Israel lobby does most of its work without publicity. But every member of Congress and every would-be candidate for Congress comes to quickly understand a basic lesson. Money needed to run for office can come with great ease from supporters of Israel, provided that the candidate makes certain promises, in writing, to vote favorably on issues considered important to Israel. What drives much of congressional support for Israel is fear – fear that the pro-Israel lobby will either withhold campaign contributions or give money to one's opponent.

In my own experience as a US senator in the 1970s, I saw how the lobby tries to humiliate or embarrass members who do not toe the line.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Israeli Top Doner

Haim Saban is a strong Israeli hawk and big campaign donor. Could he be one of the big NY donors Wes Clark mentioned?

He is most likely the patron of the Brookings-Saban center, which hosted ethnic cleanser Avigdor Lieberman last December. Nice to know people like this have such influence in my government.

Israeli billionaire and media mogul Haim Saban is at the top of the list of donors to political campaigns in the US.

Fox Network revealed over the weekend that Saban has donated approximately USD 13 million to various candidates.

According to the report, Saban, a close friend of the Clintons, is one of the major donors to the Democratic Party, though he has also
contributed to republican candidates, including President George Bush and Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Matthew Yglesias on The Lobby

The number of voices making clear, unambigous statements, regarding the supporters of Israel moving us towards war is growing. Matthew Yglesias has just joined them.

Retired General Wesley Clark is, like me, concerned that the Bush administration is going to launch a war with Iran. Arianna Huffington spoke to him in early January and asked why he was so worried the administration was headed in this direction. According to Huffington's January 4 recounting of Clark's thoughts, he said this: "You just have to read what's in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers."

This, of course, is true. I'm Jewish and I don't think the United States should bomb Iran, but Thursday night I was talking to a Jewish friend and she does think the United States should bomb Iran. The Jewish community, in short, is divided on the issue. It's also true that most major American Jewish organizations cater to the views of extremely wealthy major donors whose political views are well to the right of the bulk of American Jews, one of the most liberal ethnic groups in the country. Furthermore, it's true that major Jewish organizations are trying to push the country into war. And, last, it's true that if you read the Israeli press you'll see that right-wing Israeli politicians are anticipating a military confrontation with Iran. (For example, here's an article about the timing of the selection of a new top dog in the Israeli Defense Forces; Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted as saying that the new leader "will have to straighten the army out, rebuild Israel's deterrence and prepare the defenses against threats, first and foremost, against Iran.")

Everything Clark said, in short, is true. What's more, everybody knows it's true. The worst that can truthfully be said about Clark is that he expressed himself in a slightly odd way. This, it seems clear, he did because it's a sensitive issue and he worried that if he spoke plainly he'd be accused of trafficking in anti-Semitism. So he spoke unclearly and, for his trouble, got … accused of trafficking in anti-Semitism.

American Prospect

Monday, January 22, 2007

War Conference in Israel

It sounds like the stuff that conspiracy theories are made of. In a coastal resort near Tel Aviv, senior Israeli politicians and generals confer with top officials and politicians from Washington to discuss the threat of a nuclear Iran. In any good conspiracy theory, however, these talks would be going on in secret – preferably in an underground bunker. In fact the Herzliya conference on “Israel’s national security” is taking place perfectly openly in a smart hotel. And I am in the audience.

The Israel participation is, as one would expect, high level. The conference is scheduled to close with a speech from Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. The lunch-time speaker yesterday was Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, and maybe the next prime minister. We’re hearing from the foreign minister, the defence minister and a string of present and former generals.

But what has really struck me is the number of top Americans who have bothered to come over for the conference. The speaker at dinner last night was Gordon England, America’s deputy defence secretary; earlier in the day we heard from Nick Burns, the number three at the State Department. Several contenders for the presidency in 2008 have also felt obliged to tip their hat to Herzliya. Mitt Romney, who is probably second favourite for the Republican nomination, is turning up in person. John McCain, the GOP front-runner is appearing by satellite, so is Rudy Giuliani. For the Democrats, John Edwards is also scheduled to make a satellite address. I cannot think of any other country in the world that could summon up this level of American participation for a conference like this. Certainly not Britain.

Neither can I.

Washington Note


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Eric Alterman on AIPAC

This is short and to the point:

Kudos to Eric for having the courage to make these statements.

Moneymen for McCain

These must be the NY money men Wes Clark is talking about:

Arizona Senator John McCain has scored an early victory in the battle between GOP presidential frontrunners by locking up support from several New York-area Republican moneymen also coveted by his northeastern rival, former Big Apple mayor Rudy Giuliani.

McCain’s stable of national finance co-chairs includes Lewis Eisenberg, a multimillionaire financier from Rumson, N.J. who previously served as finance chairman for the Republican National Committee and was a key fundraiser for former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.


McCain’s heavily Jewish finance committee includes Kravis; Mark Broxmeyer, a Long Island real estate magnate; Dr. Ben Chouake, president of the New Jersey-based pro-Israel political action committee Norpac, and Barbara Sobel, whose husband, entrepreneur Clifford Sobel, is a major GOP fundraiser who was appointed by President Bush as ambassador to the Netherlands and later Brazil.

According to Chouake, members of the New York-area finance committee have pledged to raise a minimum of $50,000 each. He said that he personally had approached the campaign with an offer of support, based on his concern about the situation in the Middle East. “The 800-pound gorilla in the room right now is Iran,” Chouake told the Forward. “You have the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who represents the first country in the world to openly state, ‘We intend to get nuclear weapons, and we intend to commit genocide.’ This is an immense threat to the United States, and this is an immense threat to Israel. So who are you going to support?… For me, the person that is the most capable, most experienced, most courageous to defend our country, would be John McCain.”


Monday, January 15, 2007

Who is Really Brazen

It seems that Zev Chafets thinks claims that supporters of Israel were not above using tricks to get the US to attack Iraq are "brazen".

This, of course, is a variation on the increasingly brazen charge that disloyal neocon Jews tricked the U.S. into Iraq on orders from Jerusalem — a theory propounded not only by Arab propagandists and academic Zionist-lobby-spotters such as professor Stephen Walt of Harvard, professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and David Duke of the Ukrainian Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, but by many "progressive" Democrats and Buchananite Republicans.

Now, Mr. Chafets throws "on orders from Jerusalem" to give him working room, but no one has made such a claim. (Perhaps he knows something we don't?) Oh, and a manditory David Duke reference.

But is it really brazen to make such a claim when Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA’s Europe division, making statements such as this:

BRADLEY: According to Drumheller, CIA Director George Tenet delivered the news about the Iraqi foreign minister at a high level meeting at the White House.

DRUMHELLER: The President, the Vice President, Dr. Rice…

BRADLEY: And at that meeting…?

DRUMHELLER: They were enthusiastic because they said they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.

BRADLEY: And what did this high level source tell you?

DRUMHELLER: He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

BRADLEY: So, in the fall of 2002, before going to war, we had it on good authority from a source within Saddam’s inner circle that he didn’t have an active program for weapons of mass destruction?


BRADLEY: There’s no doubt in your mind about that?

DRUMHELLER: No doubt in my mind at all.

BRADLEY: It directly contradicts, though, what the President and his staff were telling us.

DRUMHELLER: The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.

Well, we were certainly tricked. Now, was it "Neocon Jews" doing the tricking? Well, there is a little bit more to fill in, but the many involved included self-described Neocons, many of whom are Jews, but more importantly many of whom are on the record as having strong ties to the hard right in Israel and some being Israeli citizens.

In light of this it doesn't seem so "brazen" to come to such a conclusion, does it?


Think Progress.

Abe Foxman Interview

Here is a comment on the Abe Foxman interview in the NYT Magazine:


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lie Like a Neocon

Why anyone continues to listen to some of the leading Neocons is a puzzle. They were obviously wrong about Iraq and some certainly lied and/or were motivated by sympathies towards another nation.

But what really takes the cake is that some of them are claiming that the never advocated for the Iraq war, when it is well documented that they did.

I guess they really do think we are stupid.

When political leaders make drastic mistakes, accountability is delivered in the form of elections. That occurred in November when voters removed the party principally responsible for the war in Iraq. But the invasion would not have occurred had Americans not been persuaded of its wisdom and necessity, and leading that charge was a stable of pundits and media analysts who glorified President Bush’s policies and disseminated all sorts of false information and baseless assurances.

Yet there seems to be no accountability for these pro-war pundits. On the contrary, they continue to pose as wise, responsible experts and have suffered no lost credibility, prominence, or influence. They have accomplished this feat largely by evading responsibility for their prior opinions, pretending that they were right all along or, in the most extreme cases, denying that they ever supported the war.

This article is a truely remarkable recap of the build up to the Iraq war that should be read twice.


Rich and Wrong

Steve Sailer links to Radar magazine, which has an important but somewhat depressing article on the pundits that lead us to war and the fact that the continue to weild influce and make a lot of money.

What has to wonder what forces want them in their current positions.

A few years ago, David Brooks, New York Times columnist and media pundit extraordinaire, penned a love letter to the idea of meritocracy. It is "a way of life that emphasizes ... perpetual improvement, and permanent exertion," he effused, and is essential to America's dynamism and character. Fellow glorifiers of meritocracy have noted that our society is superior to nepotistic backwaters like Krygystan or France because we assign the most important jobs based on excellence. This makes us less prone to stagnancy or, worse yet, hideous national clusterfucks like fighting unwinnable wars for reasons nobody understands.

At Radar we are devoted re-readers of the Brooks oeuvre and were struck by this particular column. It raised interesting questions. Noticing our nation is stuck in an unwinnable war (or two), we wondered if America hasn't stumbled off the meritocratic path. More specifically, since political pundits like Brooks play such a central role in our national decision-making process, maybe something is amiss in the world of punditry. Are the incentives well-aligned? Surely those who warned us not to invade Iraq have been recognized and rewarded, and those who pushed for this disaster face tattered credibility and waning career prospects. Could it be any other way in America?

Radar Mag

Let Israel Be First in Line

Some are saying Israel will attack Iran wth stratigic nukes. While I don't think that is a smart move, I do think it is better that Israel execute the bombing rather than the US.

That way, Israel can be first in line for blowback such as this:

A military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities will have a devastating impact. "The attacks won't be confined to nuclear installations," says Agha. "They must target military facilities too to ensure that Iran cannot retaliate with missiles and air strikes against Israel and U.S. troops and installations in the Middle East. This will cause extensive destruction."

The Oxford Research Group estimates that even a non-nuclear strike will cause 10,000 deaths, mainly of civilians. The number will shoot up if nuclear weapons are used. Besides, historic heritage sites like Isfahan will be destroyed.


Even more important would be the breaching of a taboo against the use of nuclear weapons since 1945. "It is frightening even to think that nuclear weapons, whether tactical, or strategic arms which are 15 to 100 times more destructive, can be used in the 21st century," says Vanaik.

The overall human consequences of an attack on Iran will be catastrophic. These are likely to invite a strong retaliation through an accelerated Iranian nuclear weapons program and military attacks on Israeli and U.S. targets.

"This will precipitate a conflagration in the Middle East," argues Agha. "That will tend to unite Muslims across the board. The only way the US and Israeli can deal with this is by provoking a Shi’te-Sunni sectarian divide, just as in Iraq. This will have further damaging global consequences and will make the fight against terrorism far more difficult. The world will become a far more dangerous place."


Saturday, January 13, 2007


This is a tremendous article by Dan Fleshler about "linkage" between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the problems American has in the Middle East, including domestic terrorism.

Too many Israeli and American Jewish leaders have a problem with the L-word, "linkage." They reflexively denounce any suggestion that progress toward Arab-Israeli peace will help America solve its own problems in the Middle East. They should change their approach, because what they are doing not only ignores reality; it harms American and Israeli interests.

The rejection of the L-word is often prompted by denial of the tragic, obvious fact that U.S. support of Israel is one the main reasons why Muslims throughout the world despise Americans. [...]

Recently, this mentality was demonstrated by the hue and cry over the report by the Iraq study group led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton. It asserted that America "will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the U.S. deals directly with the Arab-Israel conflict." The authors believe that in a time of widespread, anti-American rancor on the "Arab street," a U.S.-sponsored, Israeli-Arab peace process would make it easier for leaders of relatively moderate Sunni states to join America in a coalition that could help stabilize Iraq and isolate Iran.

Israel has held the occupied territories for forty years now, no? Forty f---ing years! I can't think of another occupation lasting this long, but maybe there are other examples. It would seem that if they really wanted "peace" they could have had it by now.

The Game Plan

The original article from UPI Editor at Large ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE regarding Netanyahu's statements on Iran, and the Neocon game plan in general, is here.

The money shot:

Netanyahu then said Israel "must immediately launch an intense, international, public relations front first and foremost on the U.S. The goal being to encourage President Bush to live up to specific pledges he would not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. We must make clear to the government, the Congress and the American public that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the U.S. and the entire world, not only Israel."

There are signs this is already happening in Washington. Before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika decided the ousting of Saddam Hussein had to become an integral part of the "war on terror." Eventually 60 percent of Americans thought Saddam was behind 9/11, even though there was no link between the two. Today, the Bush-Cheney team faces the same spin scenario: how to weave the global war on terror and the Shiite powers that be in Iran. This one is relatively simple: Iran trains and funds Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories.

Again, as I said before, this is amazing in it openess. It goes on:

There are signs this is already happening in Washington. [...]

Anticipating the new line, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Independent-CT) referred to "Iran and al-Qaida" on Wolf Blitzer's Sunday program on CNN. That Iran is Shiite and al-Qaida Sunni becomes irrelevant in the new game plan that will most probably lead to U.S. air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities in 2007/08. [...]

The "neocons" who work closely with Netanyahu on what could be the next phase of a nascent regional war in the Middle East, say Bush has the authority to take out Iran's nuclear threat. Because it has only one purpose -- to take out Israel.

Let's just admit that any attack on Iran will be primarily to protect Israel.


Mainstream Extremism

Some Israelis are not happy about the first Muslim cabinet minister.
ISRAEL'S first Muslim cabinet minister received a baptism of fire yesterday as an extremist Jewish coalition partner termed him a "plague" and hard-line Arab nationalists denounced him as a "fig leaf" for apartheid.

Esterina Tartman, an MP from the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party said that the appointment of Ghaleb Majadale to the post of science, culture and sport minister harms Israel's character as a Jewish state.

"We need to burn this plague out of our midst and god willing, the lord will help us with that," she told Israel Radio.

Well, the leader of this "extremist" party is Avigdor Lieberman. Avigdor Lieberman is the current Minister for Strategic Affairs in Israel. He is a member of the current government.

Avigdor Lieberman was also "proudly" hosted by the Brookings Institute in Washington DC.

So, apparently the "extremist" group is rather mainstream in certain circles.

The bottom line is that we continue to see the conflict between a "religious" state and modern western values. A conlict that should receive far more discussion. There is no other country like Israel in our western world, with its inherent conflict between humanism and pluralism vs sectarianism and, yes, some government sanctioned racism.


Friday, January 12, 2007

US Raid of Iranian Offices in Iraq

The US raid of the Iranian offices in northern Iraq is puzzling. Clearly, it is an attempt to provoke Iran, or obtain information that can be used to justify a future attack on Iran.

But why pick this particular office in the northern part of Iraq?

The northern part of Iraq is relatively stable. It would seem to be an inconvenient place for Iran to facilitate unrest in the middle and southern part of Iraq, and thus an unlikely source of damming information.

It reeks of a desperate measure.

Iranian and Iraqi officials said the building was an Iranian consulate and the detainees its employees.

The US military said it was still investigating, but that the building did not have diplomatic status.

The troops raided the building at about 0300 (0001GMT), taking away computers and papers, according to local media.

AFP news agency quoted Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman as saying he did not know the nationality of the six but said they were "suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces".

More here from Juan Cole.


A More Overt Lobby

Just as so many are denying the influence of the Lobby, certain factions of it are exposing themselves, out of desperation perhaps.

For example, Bibi Netanyahu has been reported (by UPI reporter Arnaud De Borchgrave) as saying that Israel ""must immediately launch an intense, international public relations front first and foremost on the U.S. The goal being to encourage President Bush to live up to specific pledges he would not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. We must make clear to the (U.S.) government, the Congress and the American public that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the U.S. and the entire world, not only Israel."

But, he is not the only one. Israeli general Oded Tira has also "urges the Israel Lobby to, "turn to Hillary Clinton and other potential presidential candidates in the Democratic Party so that they support immediate action by Bush against Iran." Tira also calls for Lobbying the EU and Saudi Arabia so that Bush will not be isolated.

These types of overt calls from the right wing of Israel are interesting and unusual. It is exposing the war against Iran as a war made for Israel by Israel and its supporters.


Wesley Said It

Wesley Clark thinks "New York money people" are a major factor pushing us into war with Iran. I can't argue with that.

When we asked him [Wes Clark] what made him so sure the Bush administration was headed in this [bombing Iran] direction, he replied: "You just have to read what's in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers."

At one point Melinda reminded him that she was taking down everything he said (a fact that would have been hard to miss, since she was taking notes on a not-inconspicuous legal pad). His response: 'Yes, I know." For Clark, this is the biggest foreign policy issue facing the U.S. "I'm worried about the surge," he said. "But I'm worried about this even more."

I guess we have another anti-semite to add to the ever-growing list.

I should add that Mr. Clark expressly stated that the Jewish communitee was divided on the issue, which is accurate.

Huffington Post

Daily Kos has a post on this issue here.

But the Republican Jewish Coalition is not happy about these comments - link. More comments here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Iran in the Crosshairs

While Bush promotes the "surge" the real action will probably take place in Iran. This is being reported all over, including by Paul Criag Roberts, Pat Buchanan, and Leon Hadar.

The Washington Note even describes a "secret war" declared against Iran and Syria, with some interesting congressional testimony to back it up. More comments from former CIA and Bush administration National Security Council senior official Flynt Leverett on the focus on Iran here (with excellent comments).

Remember, while one hand distracts, the other hand acts.

Lobby Reform and AIPAC

Interesting discussion on AIPAC and lobby reform
here and here.

Needless to say, AIPAC is against real reform.


Interesting article on an organized effort to combat negative press against Israel.

BBC History Magazine was forced to remove an online poll after it was targeted by a project aimed at influencing internet opinion in Israel's favour.

The Give Israel Your United Support (GIYUS) website hosts a downloadable desktop tool called Megaphone. The program alerts users to opinion polls and "talkback" features on news sites so they can respond with pro-Israel views. In turn, users can alert GIYUS operators to any opinion polls they think should be targeted.


Return to Sender

Interesting perspective from a candidate for Supreme Court in Israel. She does not mention that "return" is a misnomer.

Supreme Court candidate Ruth Gabison has proposed in a recent position paper that the Law of Return be significantly restricted, in order to limit Jewish immigration from countries with "a different culture." (Click here for full article)

"There is no reason to grant rights on the basis of the [Law of] Return to individuals who have no interest in a Jewish lifestyle, and at times are even devout members of a different religious community," wrote Professor Gabison.

The proposal is apparently intended to revoke the right to immigrate from the Falashmura, who are the descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity, as well as some of the children and grandchildren of Jews from former Soviet states.


Wolf Blitzer was a Zionist

Very interesting footage of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer is the pro-Israel member of a panel on the Middle East peace process. Norman Finkelstein does quite a number on Wolf. The footage is sometime in 1989.

You would think CNN could find someone with less baggage to report on the Middle East, no? That is, unless they wanted someone with a certain perspective.