Lord Ahmed or Glenn Greenwald?

Lord Nazir Ahmed, the disgraced member of the House of Lords who resigned from the Labour Party after reports surfaced that he blamed a Jewish conspiracy for his 2009 prison sentence for dangerous driving, offered another penetrating insight into world affairs last week.  Ahmed commented thusly – at PressTV, the crusading Islamist news site known for boldly speaking truth to Jewish power – on international satellite providers’ decision not to include Iranian channels as part of their packages:

“Freedom of speech, and freedom of expression and freedom of media should be universal and it’s very unfortunate that the Zionist lobby does not like Press TV and many of the other outlets of Iran and that’s why, the pressure is so much that they need to be switched off.”

Now, here’s ‘Comment is Free’ correspondent Glenn Greenwald (in 2009 at his former Salon.com blog) on the decision by the U.S. Treasury to designate Hezbollah’s satellite television operation (Al-Manar) as a global terrorist entity, thus making it illegal for American cable providers to offer the channel:

So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the U.S. Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations and has even devoted its resources to criminally prosecuting and imprisoning satellite providers merely for including Hezbollah’s Al Manar channel in their cable package.  Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources to target and punish Israel’s enemies

Do you see any substantive difference between the two quotes?

Further, as you can see here, this quote by Greenwald was by no means a ‘one-off’.  Greenwald – who fancies himself a “liberal” and, evidently, a “journalist” – seems to share Lord Ahmed’s belief in the inexorable power wielded by Zionism.  Whilst Ahmed has rightly become an object of mockery over his fixation on Jews, it seems fair that Greenwald’s decidedly illiberal fixation on the power of organized Jewry should elicit a similar degree of opprobrium and impute to him the moral illegitimacy typically bestowed upon such bigots and conspiracists.  

Harriet Sherwood, Palestinian terrorism and the lessons the Guardian Left will never learn

The B’Tselem video used by Harriet Sherwood to illustrate her latest story, ‘How the West Bank barrier has starved business and community‘, Nov. 5, about the economic downtown in Bir Nabala, a Palestinian town roughly 8 km from Jerusalem, includes text with a telling time gap.

Clips show scenes of an evidently vibrant community in the 1990s, followed by this text:

A few seconds later, we see this:

Not once during the rest of the video, purporting to illustrate the economic downturn during this period, does the video (or Sherwood’s report) mention what extremely relevant event occurred between the 1990s and 2006.

What I’m referring to, naturally, is the Palestinian ‘Al-Aksa’ Intifada from 2000 to 2005, which necessitated the construction of Israel’s security fence.

In fact, in Sherwood’s 615 word report here is the only passage even suggesting why precisely Israelis saw the need to erect such a security barrier.

“Israel says the route of the barrier is determined by security needs, and that its construction is the reason for the decline in attacks by Palestinian militants inside Israel.”

More typical of her report, however, are passages such as these:

“Inside the derelict wedding hall, bird droppings have stained the golden cloths that are still draped over dozens of tables. Outside, the road which used to carry heavy traffic from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is now known as the street of ghosts. At its abrupt end, rubbish blows up against the 8-metre-high concrete wall that has killed the village of Bir Nabala.

The vast West Bank separation barrier, which Israel began constructing 10 years ago, reached Bir Nabala in 2006, a year after Sabah opened a second wedding hall, upstairs in the same building. Business was good: the two halls hosted an average of seven weddings a week over that year, with most bookings coming from families in nearby East Jerusalem.

And it wasn’t just Sabah. Almost all the businesses in the thriving village between Jerusalem and Ramallah closed. Palestinians from East Jerusalem who had bought or rented houses and apartments fled back to the city rather than endure a long roundabout journey, via the massive Qalandiya checkpoint, to jobs which previously had been 10 minutes drive away. Abandoned, shuttered and looted apartment blocks and businesses are now the defining feature of Bir Nabala.

According to a new report, The Long Term Impact of the Separation Barrier, by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the isolation of Bir Nabala “has caused a mass exodus from the village, abandonment of residential neighbourhoods and economic stasis”.

In general, says the report, the barrier has led to “numerous infringements of the human rights of Palestinians, over and above the direct damage done by its construction – including property rights, the right to free movement, the right to a reasonable standard of living and collective right to self-determination.”

While Harriet Sherwood, and B’Tselem, continually wax eloquently on the “rights” of Palestinians to “self-determination”, “free-movement” and “a reasonable standard of living”, absent from such platitudes are similarly sympathetic pronouncements on behalf of the rights of Israelis whose lives have been irrevocably affected by Palestinian violence.

It’s telling that Sherwood doesn’t even refer to the fence as a “security barrier” but, rather, as a “separation barrier”, no doubt in service of a broader narrative of Israeli segregation and ‘apartheid’.

It’s simply not debatable that the decision to build the fence, in order to prevent Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating into Israeli population centers, was inspired by a terror war which claimed over 1000 lives (and severely injured thousands more) from 2000 to 2005.

Further, as Mitchel Bard wrote on the efficacy of the security fence:

“Even the Palestinian terrorists have admitted the fence is a deterrent. On November 11, 2006, Islamic Jihad leader Abdallah Ramadan Shalah said on Al-Manar TV the terrorist organizations had every intention of continuing suicide bombing attacks, but that their timing and the possibility of implementing them from the West Bank depended on other factors. “For example,” he said, “there is the separation fence, which is an obstacle to the resistance, and if it were not there the situation would be entirely different.”

The value of the fence in saving lives is evident from the data: In 2002, the year before construction started, 457 Israelis were murdered; in 2009, 8 Israelis were killed.”

However, even more important than the utility of the fence is the broader lesson about the Palestinian war against Israeli civilians which prompted its construction.

Israeli reaction to Arafat’s terror war reflected a simple moral stance: the Jewish state would not be blackmailed by violence or the threat of violence. And, while most Israelis were committed to the idea of Oslo’s two-state paradigm (as most are still, in principle, today), citizens of Israel will not ‘negotiate’ with a gun to their heads.

The injurious impact, to Palestinian communities, of building a wall is unfortunate. However, the responsibility for such problems lay squarely with those who plan, execute (or morally justify) the hideous practice of intentionally igniting explosives which send thousands of pieces of shrapnel piercing through the bodies of Israeli men, women and children – thus denying them of their fundamental right to live.

Israel’s security fence is merely a consequence of Palestinian violence and their dangerous culture of incitement – a mind-numbingly simple causation which continually eludes the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent and her far-left fellow travelers.

(Here’s a list of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis between 1993 and 2012.)

‘Comment is Free’ correspondent Glenn Greenwald vs. American tolerance

Glenn Greenwald is now a correspondent for ‘Comment is Free‘, but his blog at Salon.com was on my radar since 2007, and  I continue to be struck by his ability to maintain such a seemingly large influence in the progressive world while engaging in bigoted commentary about Jewish supporters of Israel.

His demonization of the pro-Israel lobby, for instance, would make Pat Buchanan blush.  He once complained in a post that “so absolute [is] the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy…that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast [Al Manar] Hezbollah television stations.” [emphasis added]

Greenwald is also quite fond of the “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” variety-trope, and has defended Hamas against ‘charges’ they are a terrorist organization, referred to passengers on board the IHH affiliated Mavi Marmara as heroic and even suggested a moral equivalence between the U.S. and Nazi Germany, in the context of the former’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the latter’s invasion of the Sudetenland in 1938.

In April of 2010, before I joined CiF Watch, Greenwald responded to my criticism which, at the time, consisted of a substantive critique of his arguments in a section of a larger Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report on antisemitism in progressive blogs, and in a post for the blog ‘Z Word’.

Shortly after my Z-Word post, titled ‘Glenn Greenwald keeps an ugly calumny alive’, concerning his frequent charge of ‘dual loyalty’ against American Jews, he attacked me in a blog post at Salon – in which he referred to me as “someone named Adam Levick” – titled ‘U.S.-Israel rift undermining some long-standing taboos.’

An increasingly popular meme among many progressives centers around the claim that American Jews who support Israel ‘smear’ anyone who criticizes Israel with the charge of antisemitism, and Greenwald has honed this straw man to an art.  In the column criticizing me Greenwald characterized certain ‘truths’ about Israel and her supporters as “taboo” – and I continue to marvel at how Greenwald, and like-minded commentators, are always able to say such things that you evidently just can’t say.

In reality, they’d be hard pressed to find many supporters of the Jewish state who accuse folks of antisemitism merely for opposing Israel’s policies. Further, the quotes I often cite when imputing antisemitism to Greenwald are quite unambiguous in their meaning, and it’s difficult to understand how those claiming a progressive political allegiance could deny the historical Judeophobic narratives they evoke.  

For instance, in a post titled Enforced Orthodoxies on Iran, on Feb. 2, 2007, Greenwald, writing about the Iranian nuclear threat, wrote the following:

“Large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups which are agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests and they perceive it to be in Israel’s interests for the U.S. to militarily confront Iran.” 

It does seem rather remarkable that progressives, of all people, would defend such a passage – one which seamless joins both the ‘dual loyalty’ trope with rhetoric warning darkly of excessive Jewish power.

Further, in his post criticizing me, Greenwald wrote:

“…with extreme, unintended irony…Adam Levick lists this as his biography on his Twitter account: I’m an American who just made Aliyah (moved to Israel), and love America and my new country.”

But he then proceeded to acknowledge the following:

“There’s nothing wrong per se with harboring cultural affections for other countries — many individuals in the culturally diverse U.S. do.”

However, he then went on to add:

“…but, stridently denying what is so obviously true, and smearing those who point it out, does more than anything else to make something innocuous seem nefarious.”

First, just like the millions of other Americans who hold a passport to another country, my rights and responsibilities as an American citizen haven’t been downgraded due to my Israeli citizenship.

As Greenwald himself once wrote, in response to what he termed “right wing attacks” on him about his personal life, including the fact that he lives  in Brazil for a substantial amount of time each year:

“Spending substantial time in another country does not make one an “expatriate.” And even those American citizens who do give up American residence and live abroad retain full rights of citizenship, including voting rights”

Second, he’s just being dishonest when he suggests that American Jews, more broadly, deny their passion for Israel. The point they typically make is that such loyalties are not relevant to the foreign policy debates about Israel and the Middle East. And, if it’s so “innocuous”, why does he speak about such attachments using such extreme vitriol? His rhetoric “revealing” American Jews’ love for Israel is often advanced using dark, conspiratorial narratives, such as when – commenting about conservative Jewish commentator Charles Krauthammer – he wrote:

“It is difficult to find someone with a more psychopathic indifference to the slaughter of innocent people in pursuit of shadowy, unstated political goals than Charles Krauthammer.”

So, it seems that he’s aghast when critics of Israel are “smeared” by their opponents, but he’s a paragon of political sobriety when he accuses the Jewish columnist of possessing “psychopathic indifference” to the suffering of innocents, and being motivated by “shadowy, unstated political goals“. 

The larger point Greenwald and like-minded commentators often make is that, unlike American Jewish supporters of Israel, their political opinions are uncompromised by such ethnic or religious loyalties. They can be trusted to engage in cool, detached analyses of the issues of the day, taking into account nothing more than what’s in the best interests of the nation, standing above “ethnic” Americans so burdened by tribal attachments.

However, while people can, and often do, opine on political issues from any number of biases, is it even debatable that what ultimately matters is the logic and facts of their position?

If the arguments posed by Jews in favor of continued U.S. support for Israel are flawed then those who think so should attempt to dissect the error of the opinion, or a flaw in the reasoning. To argue that a Jew’s opinion is unworthy of consideration merely because of his or her ethnic loyalties is inherently anti-intellectual. 

Smearing Jews as impure of thought and unpatriotic due to their background is something historically associated with the xenophobia of the far right, and I continue to marvel at the ideological evolution at play which allows such a noxious opinion to be embraced by many on the left.

Would gay Americans who argue in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage be accused of being biased and of only being motivated by his regard for those of his own sexual orientation, when debating the issue?

Similarly, are senior citizens who lobby on behalf of the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) required to acknowledge their “bias” for older Americans when debating social security merely because they themselves are over sixty-five?

Or, for that matter, should Glenn Greenwald, due to the fact that he splits his time living in both the U.S. and Brazil, recuse himself from commenting on American relations with Brazil?

Jews who advocate for Israel of course act to a large degree out of concern for the survival of the only Jewish state in the world, but also because they are convinced that such advocacy is in no way inconsistent with their American identity or the values and interests of the nation. This belief about the shared values of the U.S. and Israel is one which is also shared by an overwhelming majority of non-Jewish Americans.

So, if commentators want to make the case that such Israel advocacy is wrong-headed – that U.S. policies which serve to enhance Israel’s security are inconsistent with America’s security – then they should make the case and let the political process play out.

The onus is on those wishing to change the historic support American has given to Israel to honestly demonstrate why the U.S.-Israeli alliance should be downgraded, based on facts and logic, not by scurrilous (and often conspiratorial) attacks on the patriotism of Jewish Americans.

There was a time when such suspicions of Americans’ ethnic loyalties were intuitively attributed to the xenophobia and nativism of the paleoconservative right, and simply because more and more commentators advancing such a narrative claim a ‘liberal’ orientation doesn’t render  it any less hateful and toxic.

A. Jay Adler wrote the following in a post about the row over the term ‘Israel Firster’, used by some liberals to impugn the national loyalty of Jewish American supporters of Israel:

“These critics defend their use of the term because they believe that this time it is true. They believe that this time there really are divided loyalties, there really is a cadre of Jews exercising excessive, secretive power while aggressively attempting to suppress any exposure of it. And like all their reactionary forebears (like every GOP reactionary today who plays the card of nationalist loyalty) they forget that the belief they cling to is the belief to which purveyors of anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish power always hold fast – it’s the essential marker of the tradition – that what they believe is true.

I remain baffled as to how those claiming the mantle of ‘tolerance’ can employ tropes about the injurious influence of a tiny religious minority which possess such a reactionary pedigree – evidently forgetting that some ideas have become ‘taboo’ due to their dark and odious political history. 

Britain’s politicians’ unsavoury relationships with Mid-East dictatorships

This is cross posted at the blog, Anne’s Opinions

For a change, the Guardian has published a story which, although it is about the Middle East, does not have an Israel angle to it at all. And yet it shows up British politics at its perfidious worst. The item, on British MPs’ 107 paid visits to Middle Eastern dictatorships, was hidden away in the Guardian’s World news page, but curiously filed under the non-world title “Politics”.

It is extraordinarily revealing, and goes a long way towards explaining Britain’s hostility to Israel.  Conversely it could be said that because of Britain’s hostility to Israel, Britain’s politicians are so cosy with Middle Eastern Arab dictators.

Either way it shows up British politicians in a most unflattering and unsavory light. It also shows how feeble is the famed “Israel lobby” and “Jewish influence” in Whitehall.

The most shameful of the politicians is Clare Short:

“Former international development secretary Clare Short accepted £1,580 worth of flights, hotel accommodation, food and travel expenses from al-Manar television in Lebanon in 2008. Al-Manar is described by the US government as “the media arm of the Hezbollah terrorist network“, and was classed as a specially designated terrorist entity by the US in 2006.

Short said her trip had been registered with Commons authorities and that the visit allowed her to see how reconstruction in southern Lebanon was proceeding after the country’s conflict with Israel in 2006.

“I did an interview for the TV programme and was free to express my views without censure, and I also met with senior Hezbollah officials,” she said. “I do not accept US advice on who I should speak to. UK diplomats also talk with Hezbollah. I have also met with Hamas leaders on a number of occasions as well as Fatah leaders, and the Syrian and Lebanese governments.”

On the basis of these meetings of hers with known and recognized terrorists, and defying British foreign policy, Short should have been blacklisted and even thrown out of Parliament, rather than letting her stay until her resignation in 2010.  She is a disgrace to any democracy. Her attitude and statements about Israel explain her disgraceful behaviour.

Note the list of countries visited:

Trips by country

Qatar 32

Bahrain 18

Oman 16

Egypt 12

UAE 10

Saudi 8

Kuwait 4

Jordan 3

Tunisia 2

Yemen 1

Syria 1

And note which little democratic country is not mentioned at all.