More wild Israel-lobby ‘trutherism’ at ‘Comment is Free’

Last year, ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Stephen Kinzer, much like fellow contributors Glenn Greenwald and Michael Cohen, was angry at the opponents of Chuck Hagel.  Hagel, you may recall, is the former (conservative Republicansenator from Nebraska who, despite being hostile to abortion rights, gay rights and civil rights, became a progressive cause celeb among the Guardian-style left upon being nominated for US Defense Secretary.

Kinzer, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, made the following argument in his Dec. 31, 2012 ‘CiF’ op-ed, adding to the chorus of voices from the Guardian Left who are convinced of the pro-Israel lobby’s sinister grip on politics, accusing the lobby and their supporters of agitating for a US war with Iran.

“What do Nebraska and Iran have in common? Not much – but enough to cause big trouble for former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, whose possible nomination to be secretary of defense is being challenged by the powerful bomb-Iran-yesterday lobby.”

Militarists in Washington, taking their cue from pro-Israel lobbyists, are trying to derail the appointment because Hagel doubts the wisdom of starting another war in the Middle East.

More recently, in a ‘CiF’ op-ed (‘Are Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions clouding her morals?‘, Jan. 29) criticizing former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s apparent failure to take a position on a bill which would increase sanctions against Iran in the event negotiations with the six world powers (P5+1) fail to produce an agreement, Kinzer wrote the following:

Here lies the dilemma. A strong statement by Clinton in favor of reconciliation would be a game-changer in Washington. She would be giving a centrist, establishment endorsement of her former boss’s most important foreign policy initiative. That would provide political cover for moderate Democrats terrified of antagonizing the Netanyahu government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is leading the anti-reconciliation campaign in Washington.

Such a statement, however, would risk outraging pro-Netanyahu groups and individuals who have been among Clinton’s key supporters since her days as a Senator from New York. Having spent years painstakingly laying the ground for a presidential campaign, she does not want to risk a misstep that would alienate major campaign contributors.

Whilst his fear mongering over the alleged toxic influence of the pro-Israel lobby (and money from “pro-Netanyahu groups and individuals”) is predictable, Kinzer takes his agitprop to the next level in suggesting that U.S. Senators are not only fearful of AIPAC, but in fact are “terrified” of the prime minister of the Jewish state. 

While it’s less than clear what form of retribution the prime minister of Israel can exact on American legislators, Kinzer and his band of Israel lobby truthers never seem interested in exploring a simpler and less conspiratorial explanation for why US politicians are disinclined to support recent US overtures toward Iran: most Americans dislike Iran and don’t believe that they can be trusted to abide by any nuclear agreement.

Finally, an interesting fact about American public opinion routinely ignored by ideologically obtuse critics of Israel and the ‘Israeli lobby’ was revealed in a recent survey on U.S. attitudes toward American Jews commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League. When asked to identify which of five well-known lobby groups wields “the most influence on American government policy,” only 4% chose the pro-Israel lobby. Americans evidently consider the pro-Israel lobby to be far less powerful than the gun, oil and drug lobbies.

Here’s a chart of the data:

Screen-Shot-2013-10-31-at-4.00.50-PMWhat such dark anti-Israel conspiracists fail to acknowledge is that whatever influence the pro-Israel lobby in Washington does have is largely merely a reflection of the popularity of Israel among the American people.

But, as this blog continues to demonstrate, when it comes to Israel related commentary at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’, facts, logic and empirical evidence take a back seat to ideology almost every time.  

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‘CiF’ contributor Patrick Seale accuses Israel of “provoking” the US to war in Syria

seale

Patrick Seale

Whilst even before the state of Israel was reborn antisemitic demagogues like Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin characterized American Jews as disloyal “fifth columnists” who were pushing the U.S. to war for financial reasons, even after the war any temporary post-Holocaust taboos on the imputation of such malevolence to Jews soon were eroded. 

Paul Findley, a former U.S. Congressman whose book They Dare to Speak Out, an attack on the ‘pernicious’ influence of the “Israel lobby,” became a bestseller in 1985.  And, a couple of decades later academics considered to be foreign policy “realists”, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, became popular within anti-Zionist circles after their publication of ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’.  The book warned of the “stranglehold” which the Israel “Lobby” exercises over Congress; of their “manipulation of the media” and efforts to “squelch debate”.  They also argued that the 2003 Iraq war wouldn’t have been possible without the influence of Israel and the American Israel lobby.

While paleoconservative commentators in the mid to late 2000s have unsurprisingly also championed this narrative – Pat Buchanan wrote in 2008 that “Israel and its Fifth Column in [Washington , DC] seek to stampede us into war with Iran” – some liberal columnists have engaged in similar rhetoric.  For instance, columnist Joe Klein asserted in his TIME blog that Jewish neoconservatives “plumped” for the war in Iraq and are now doing the same for “an even more foolish assault on Iran” with the goal of making the world “safe for Israel.”  

Additionally, Guardian contributors have advanced the specious claim that Israel, or the Israel lobby, are primarily responsible for US sanctions against Iran, and represent a powerful and dangerous force pushing the US to outright war against the Islamic Republic. Such narratives, with varying degrees of explicitness, have been advanced by, among other CiF contributors, veteran Guardian journalists Simon Tisdall and Simon Jenkins, and the paper’s associate editor, Seumas Milne.  And, of course, Glenn Greenwald has been the most explicit promoter of the ‘Jewish necon’ cabal to take the country to war against Iran’ meme, arguing the following at his previous blog at Salon.com in 2007.

It is simply true that there are 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.

Turning to the crisis in Syria, whilst we recently commented on suggestions made by Robert Fisk at the Indy that recent Israeli strikes on weapons in Syria intended for Hezbollah was an act which would recklessly push ‘the West’ into the Syrian war, a recent commentary by occasional Guardian contributor Patrick Seale, writing in ‘Middle East Online‘, takes Fisk’s hysterical claim a few steps further.

He writes:

On April 23, a senior Israeli officer, Brig Gen Utai Brun, head of research at army intelligence, made a serious accusation against Syria. In a lecture at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, he declared: “To the best of our professional understanding, the Syrian regime has used lethal chemical weapons against gunmen in a series of incidents in recent months…” General Brun gave no evidence for his accusation and produced no physical proof, but he added that the Israel Defence Forces believed Syria had used the nerve agent sarin on several occasions, including a specific attack on March 19.

In addition to Seale’s erroneous suggestion that it was Israel alone which charged Syria with using chemical weapons – French and British intelligence claimed on April  18 (several days before the Israeli claims cited by Seale) that “there is credible evidence that Syria has fired chemical weapons”  – his argument that such charges are without “proof” is contradicted by recent statements by the Obama Administration  charging Assad with using such weapons.

Seale’s commentary continues: 

As it happened, [Israeli] General Brun made his accusation against Syria during a three-day visit to Israel by America’s new Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel — a man whose appointment Israel’s supporters in the United States had sought to prevent. Some Jewish organisations had come close to calling him anti-Semitic. Only by eating humble pie did Hagel manage to have his appointment confirmed. He now clearly hopes to put an end to his quarrel with America’s pro-Israeli lobby.

On this his first visit to Israel as Defence Secretary, he announced that Israel was to receive a rich haul of advanced U.S. weapons — air refuelling tankers, cutting-edge radar and the V-22 Osprey ‘tiltrotor’ aircraft, an advanced plane so far denied to all other US allies. But Hagel’s generous gesture was to no avail.

Seale’s facile logic assumes that the decision by the US Defense Department to sell Israel advanced weaponry – which was part of a broader Middle East arms package which included weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – must be the result, not of deliberations by the national security apparatus of the Obama administration, but of Secretary Hagel’s wish to mollify the pro-Israel lobby.

Seale then jumps to his broader conclusion:

Although Israel was evidently delighted with the weapons, this did not inhibit it from accusing Syria of using chemical weapons — clearly in the hope of provoking a U.S. attack on that country.

Hagel was angry that Israel was putting pressure on the United States to intervene in Syria. The Israeli authorities may well have thought that Hagel, still recovering from the beating pro-Israelis had given him in Washington, would not dare dispute Israel’s assessment

Finally, Seale makes this extraordinary leap:

By insisting that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, General Brun’s aim seems to have been to persuade the United States to destroy both the Syrian regime and its Hezbollah ally

Interestingly, however, while some anti-Zionists have indeed accused Israel of siding with the rebels, many others have made the opposite claim – that Israel is siding with Assad and against the revolution in order to maintain relative peace on their northern border.  The failure of anti-Israel propagandists to stay on message aside, Israel has continually made it clear both in word and in deed that it is not at war with Syria, but primarily concerned with the threat posed by Hezbollah – an Iranian backed heavily armed Shiite Islamist terror group occupying large swaths of Lebanon.

Moreover, you’d be hard pressed to find a commentator or analyst other than Seale who has seriously argued that Israel is deviously trying to provoke the US into a Middle East war against its will. Seal’s accusation that Israel is “provoking” the US to “destroy” both the Syrian regime and Hezbollah is pure fantasy, concocted by a lazy and easily suggestible mind mired in historically based conspiratorial notions imputing enormous power to both the Jewish state and its supporters in the US.

The power of the mythical ‘Israel lobby’ on Michael Cohen’s political imagination

‘Comment is Free’ analyst Michael Cohen seems to be cut out of the same ideological cloth as Glenn Greenwald, imputing enormous power to the ‘Israel lobby’ – an evidently quite dangerous network of Americans who are more concerned about the interests of a foreign country than those of the United States.

The lobby’s use of smears and intimidation to coerce the US Congress into towing the pro-Israel line explains, for Cohen and his fellow political travelers at the Guardian, the difficulties Chuck Hagel has experienced during confirmation hearings in the Senate over his nomination to be Defense Secretary. 

Cohen, who’s been contributing to CiF since December, 2012, has already penned two pieces at CiF on the Hagel nomination, and the alleged hold the pro-Israel lobby has exerted on the process.  And, in his most recent post, Chuck Hagel’s confirmation and the orthodoxy of US debate on Israel‘, Feb. 14, Cohen positively cites the sage analysis of Stephen Walt, who noted that the Hagel row proved ‘the lobby’s iron grip on Congress – an influence which grossly distorts the debate over important foreign policy debates.

Cohen writes the following:

“Part of what is going on here is obviously politics. As Harvard Professor Stephen Walt has repeatedly argued, this is demonstrative of the extraordinary power that the Israel lobby holds over Congress and official Washington.”

Walt, in the Feb. 1 post linked to by Cohen, crows that the Hagel debate proves the wisdom of what he wrote – in a book on the ‘Israel Lobby’ –  when he warned “that AIPAC…has an almost unchallenged hold on Congress“.

So, is it true that Hagel’s troubles during the confirmation hearings prove AIPAC’s suffocating control over congress?

Interestingly, Cohen, in the very next line of his CiF essay, does a 180.

“But in the case of Hagel, the strongest pro-Israel lobby, Aipac, has been silent on the nomination.”

So, Cohen, over the course of two consecutive sentences in the same passage, approvingly cites Walt’s argument on AIPAC’s power over the Hagel process, and then makes an admission which completely contradicts Walt’s thesis.

How can an organization which has been “silent on the [Hagel] nomination” concurrently be exercising an “unchallenged hold” on the process?

Since it is uncertain, based on the passage, whether Cohen thoroughly read the short blog post which he cited, my guess is that he’s likely also unaware that Walt has defended John Mearsheimer, the co-author of his book on the Israel lobby, from charges of endorsing antisemitism.

Of course, the “smears” against Mearsheimer are based largely on his endorsement of a quite well-known Nazi sympathizer and Holocaust denier:

atzmon

Perhaps critics of the ‘Israel lobby’ would cause pro-Israel Jews a bit less “anguish” if they would not impute such a farcical degree of power to Americans who support the Jewish state and, at the very least, studiously avoid associating with those so clearly compromised by such deep-seated Judeophobic antipathies.  

Glenn Greenwald’s smears, distortions and lies about Brooklyn College BDS row

Over the course of several days the Guardian’s Glenn  Greenwald penned two long essays (and a short post), encompassing over 6,275 words, much of which attacked straw men, engaged in profound distortions, and included classic Greenwald vitriol and hyperbole.

GG_DNow_20101203 (1)The two full length pieces (which, not surprisingly, given that the topic is Israel, have already elicited nearly 2500 reader comments) are titled,  Brooklyn College’s academic freedom increasingly threatened over Israel event, Feb 2, and ‘NYC officials threaten funding of Brooklyn College over Israel event‘, Feb 4., and  a multi-topic post which included his first commentary on the Brooklyn College row, on Feb. 29.

Factual errors/errors of omission

A good example of a Greenwald distortion can seen early in this opening passage on Feb. 4:

“On Tuesday, I wrote about a brewing controversy that was threatening the academic freedom of Brooklyn College (see Item 7). The controversy was triggered by the sponsorship of the school’s Political Science department of an event, scheduled for 7 February, featuring two advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aimed at stopping Israeli oppression of the Palestinians [one speaker is a Palestinian (Omar Barghouti) and the other a Jewish American (philosopher Judith Butler)]“

It is simply a lie to claim that Barghouti and Butler merely aim to stop the oppression, as they are both are on record supporting the use of BDS as part of their larger goal to rid the Middle East of the Jewish state. Further, Barghouti, when not studying at Tel Aviv University, supports an academic boycott of Israel –  a ban on professors due to their national origin which would certainly seem quite inconsistent with the spirit of academic freedom.

Second, despite Greenwald’s hysterical claims, there is no threat to academic freedom at Brooklyn College. Most critics have merely objected to the fact that the political science department endorsed the BDS event and that it was going to be a one-sided debate.

In fact, one of the most prominent activists criticizing the event, Alan Dershowitz, said quite clearly that “of course, the event should go forward.” 

Hysterical, unsupportable claims

His Jan. 29 piece includes this classic Greenwald scare quote:

“It doesn’t matter what you think of the BDS movement. This is all part of a pernicious trend to ban controversial ideas from the place they should be most freely discussed: colleges and universities

 Indeed, this current controversy is a replica of the most extreme efforts by official authoritarians to suppress ideas they dislike.”

Again, contrary to what Greenwald is claiming, the event at Brooklyn College is not going to be banned. Further, to suggest that there is some “pernicious trend” of banning controversial speakers on college campuses ( which evokes censorship by “authoritarians”) is simply absurd.

Smearing his critics: Imputing the motives and tactics of BDS critics:

His Feb. 4 piece includes this:

“Plainly, this entire controversy has only one “principle” and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel.”

This is a classic Greenwald tick. When pro-Israel advocates who Greenwald dislikes engage in free speech, and participate in the political process, they are always characterized by Greenwald acting dishonorably: “threatening”, “bullying” and “intimidating”.  Also, note the misleading sentence at the end: falsely suggesting again that critics of the BDS event are trying to cancel the event. They clearly are not.

Martyrs: Defending antisemites and racists as victims:

Here, Greenwald trots out some of his favorite martyrs, victims of the coordinated campaign by pro-Israel advocates to ‘stifle debate about Israel’.

“In sum, the ugly lynch mob now assembled against Brooklyn College and its academic event is all too familiar in the US when it comes to criticism of and activism against Israeli government policy. Indeed, in the US, there are few more efficient ways to have your reputation and career as a politician or academic destroyed than by saying something perceived as critical of Israel. This is not news. Ask Chas Freeman. Or Ocatavia Nasr. Or Finkelstein. Or Juan Cole. Or Stephen Walt. Or Chuck Hagel.”

Career’s ruined? Really?

  • Steven Walt enjoys a profitable speaking tour, and received a six figure advance from his publisher for the book he wrote with John Mearsheimer called ‘The Israel Lobby’.  (Walt and Mearsheimer achieved notoriety recently for defending and endorsing a book by a Holocaust denier and Nazi sympathizer named Gilad Atzmon.)
  • Juan Cole Professor of History at the University of Michigan, and a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern affairs on TV and in print media. (See a sample of Cole’s hateful and racist comments, here.)
  • Octavia Nassr served as CNN’s Senior Editor of Mideast affairs until her dismissal in July 2010 over her public statement of respect on Twitter for Hezbollah’s cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who she considered “one of Hezbollah‘s giants I respect a lot.” CNN fired her for violating standards of objectivity in its reporting, and it’s unclear how Greenwald, who frequently bemoans the failure of the media to be objective, can frame CNN’s decision as evidence of the power of the Israel lobby. (My guess is that she said something positive about al Qaeda, for instance, CNN would have similarly dismissed her.)
  • Norman Finkelstein is the author of eight books and seems to have a very lucrative speaking tour: Other than being denied tenure at DePaul University over quite legitimate question regarding the quality of his scholarship his career as an Israel critic seems to be thriving.  Though his most notorious book, “The Holocaust Industry”, was reviewed by The New York Times’ and described its premise as a “novel variation” of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, there is simply no evidence that Finkelstein has suffered any social and financial injury from the frequent criticism he faces.
  • Chas Freeman, who was in the US Foreign Service for 30 years, and, as we noted in a post yesterday, his ‘victimhood’ seems to consist of having to, in 2009, withdraw his name from consideration to be chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council after revelations emerged over past statements about Saudi Arabia, China, and Israel’s alleged role as a catalyst in the 9/11 attacks, which concerned many senators.  Additionally, Greenwald’s suggestion that Freeman is just “critical of Israel”, as we noted yesterday, is simply a lie.  Among Freeman’s ugly smears of American Jews, as such, is the vile, reactionary charge that Jewish supporters of Israel represent a “fifth column” in the US – that is, according to Freeman, such Jews are clandestinely seeking to undermine America from within due to their ethnic loyalties.
  • Chuck Hagel will likely be confirmed as Defense Secretary.

Finally, it’s not surprising that Greenwald would sympathize with Chas Freeman, as Greenwald himself has engaged in similar antisemitic narratives on his blog.  Here are just a few.

  • “Large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups are the ones agitating for a US war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests.”
  • So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.”
  • “Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”
  • “The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions. [Charles] Freeman’s critics may have scored a short-term victory in that regard, but the more obvious it becomes what is really driving these scandals, the more difficult it will be to maintain this suffocating control over American debates and American policy.”

No doubt, Greenwald would accuse this Zionist blog of engaging in “McCarthyite smears and “stifling debate” by revealing accurate quotes demonstrating his decidedly illiberal, Judeophobic and borderline conspiratorial musings. 

Chas Freeman, “Fifth Columnists” and the ‘Guardian Left’

chasWhile observing the commentary at ‘Comment is Free’ over Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Defense Secretary, it’s difficult not to marvel at the dynamics at play by which a conservative Republican has engendered support from the Guardian Left due primarily, it seems, to the (pro-Israel) political orientation of some of the nominee’s opponents.

Indeed, for some on the Guardian Left, the narrative advanced about many political debates in Washington could be reduced to ‘the enemy of the ‘Israel lobby’ is necessarily a progressive political protagonist’.

To CiF’s Michael Cohen, for instance, the fact that the largest pro-Israel lobbying groups (most notably AIPAC) have stayed away from the Hagel row is no obstacle to framing the debate along this binary lobby/anti-lobby paradigm, and condemning Hagel’s opponents – in a manner similar to Glenn Greenwald - for engaging in a “McCarthyite” smear campaign.  (Chuck Hagel’s Senate hearings: A discredit to all concerned, ‘Comment is Free’, Feb. 1)

Cohen – whose views towards Israel are such that he recently suggested that more Israeli fatalities as the result of terrorist attacks would actually help the peace process – criticizes the control the “Jewish lobby” has over the process, thus:

“As we saw during the GOP primaries last year, the new apparent litmus test for being a foreign policy-maker in the US government appears to be the extent to which you offer unconditional support for basically everything that Israel does,

Ted Cruz tried to link Hagel to a speech given by Chas Freeman, a former US diplomat who has been publicly critical of American support for the Jewish state, and in particular, the domestic lobbyists that defend Israel.

When Cruz could not identify an obvious link between the two men, he backed off. But the moment was chilling because the implications of Cruz’s questioning wasn’t hard to deduce: simply having a relationship with Freeman and his controversial views on Israel would have been enough to indict Hagel.

This is quite frankly modern-day McCarthyism: guilt by association with those who hold differing views. It was the low point of the day in which the depths of practically every valley of squalid foreign policy discourse was plumbed. That a hearing on the fitness of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense was dominated by a discussion of a country that is not even a military ally of the United States – and which, in the just the last three months, has taken actions on settlement construction that run precisely counter to US policy – offered compelling evidence of the disproportionate and unhealthy role that Israel plays in US foreign policy debates.”

While the at times comical misuse of the word “McCarthyism” by some on the left to characterize legitimate criticism and debate within a democratic framework is, in itself, an under-explored topic, it’s remarkable that Cohen defends Chas Freeman, who has, himself, engaged in ugly, racist smears of American Jews.

Joe McCarthy – the former US senator whose politics during the Cold War inspired the term ‘McCarthyism’ – is largely known for the fact that, in the 1950s, he led hearings into the “un-American” activities of those who he (often falsely) accused of actively working for the communist party or even being agents of the KGB.  While the threat of Soviet infiltration into the upper echelons of US government during the time was indeed real (as the Venona papers have proved) McCarthy’s notoriety is derived by the fact that he recklessly imputed disloyalty to many who were completely innocent – all of which brings us to Chas Freeman.

Freeman was forced to withdraw his name from consideration to be chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council in the Obama Administration, in March 2009, due to his vitriolic attacks on Israel (which, he had argued, was a “catalyst” for the attacks on 9/11), his close ties with the Saudi government, and comments he made which were sympathetic to China’s bloody crackdown of pro-democracy activists at Tiananmen Square.

After the nomination row, Freeman was even more explicit in his attacks on American Jewish supporters of Israel, and published a postat the extremist anti-Zionist blog, Mondoweiss, where he argued that Zionism was worse than S. Africa.  His post included the following passage:

“[At least] South Africa’s whites did not have a dedicated cadre of coreligionists or ethnic kin abroad who labored to protect them from the consequences of their deviance from the norms of humane behavior as defined by Western civilization at large.  Nor, despite open sympathy for South African whites in the American South and among ardent anti-Communists, did apartheid enjoy international ideological support outside the neo-Nazi fringe.  Israel’s policies are supported morally, politically, and financially by large Jewish communities…”

So, just how dangerous are these “large Jewish communities”?  Helpfully, Freeman further expanded on his concern about the influence of Jews during a speech he delivered in Russia on Dec. 1:

 …I would like to put forward some thoughts about the control of narrative and the manipulation of information as an essential element of modern warfare. The Israelis call this ‘hasbara.’ Since they are without doubt the most skilled contemporary practitioners of the art, it seems appropriate to use the Hebrew word for it. And, since Israel’s most recent war (against the Palestinians in Gaza) sputtered to an end just ten days ago, I’ll cite a few examples from that war to illustrate my main points.

In some countries, like the United States, Israel can rely upon a ‘fifth column’ of activist sympathizers to amplify its messages, to rebut and discredit statements that contradict its arguments, facts, and fabrications, and to impugn the moral standing of those who make such statements.”

In case there was any doubt who Freeman was referring to as “fifth columnists”, he went on to “name names” – imputing guilt to members of several Jewish organizations (and at least one American rabbi).

To be clear, “fifth columnists” refers to a group of people who clandestinely seek to undermine a nation from within.  It declares people “disloyal–enemies of their own country”, often due to their ethnic or race-based loyalties, and the use of such a charge against Jews has represented one of the more popular antisemitic narratives.

Historically, even before the birth of the modern state of Israel, Jews stood accused of not possessing sufficient loyalty to the nations where they resided. One of the earliest examples of this fusion of “excessive” Jewish power with ‘dual loyalty was the suspicion in parts of medieval Christian Europe that Jews were in league with some Muslim powers.  The charge of dual loyalty manifested itself in the Dreyfus Affair through the Nazi’s rise to power – and, indeed, this notion in large measure underlay the failure of European emancipation more broadly.  In the 1920s Henry Ford published The International JewThe World’s Problem where it was asserted, along with other calumnies, that disloyal Jews were pushing the United States towards war – a charge which resurfaced in the political aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq, and in the current framing of a possible US war with Iran.

 Explicit characterizations of Jews as “fifth columnists” has an extremist right pedigree (David Duke highlighted Freeman’s recent charge against Jews on his website, per screenshot below ), so it seems that genuine anti-racists would be troubled that Guardian Left commentators such as Cohen and Greenwald are not only evidently not outraged by Freeman’s antisemitic (and McCarthy-style) attack on Jews, but consider him a victim.

duke

Increasingly, many on the far left (certainly on the Guardian Left) explain, in a tone of exasperation, that they’re tired of false accusations of antisemitism which, they often add, make people less sensitive to “real” antisemitism.  Yet, it seems, when confronted with a competition for their sympathy, foes of the Israel lobby (no matter how crude, unenlightened and Judeophobic their rhetoric) seem to win out over a historically oppressed Jewish minority every time.

A ‘left’ which can’t condemn, passionately and without qualifications, the hideous charge that American Jews are corrupting the body politic, and are working to undermine the nation, due to an unhealthy ethnic loyalty, are simply not worthy of the progressive mantle to which they so hubristically lay claim.

The curious case of the Arab vote in the Israeli elections

A guest post by AKUS

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2013.Arab League to Israeli Arabs: Vote to stop the far right‘.

“The Arab League on Sunday called for Israeli Arabs to vote so that they can stop the establishment of a right-wing government “that will promote racist laws and ethnic cleansing.””

The Guardian: Wrong about everything. All the time:

“Silver Blaze”, Arthur Conan Doyle:

Gregory : “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

At some point, if not already, someone is going to analyze the Arab vote in the recent Israeli elections once the excitement of playing “build the coalition” subsides.

Israel’s Arab demographic makes up about 20% of the population. If every Arab voter only voted for one or other of the Arab parties, all else being equal (e.g., the same proportion of adults eligible to vote in the Arab sector as in the non-Arab sector) the Arab parties would hold approximately 24 seats in the Knesset. Instead, it appears that they have 8 seats (United Arab list – Ta’al and Balad). Even adding in Hadash, which has a mix of Jewish and Arab communists, they have at most 12 seats.

So how did at least half and probably more than half of Israel’s Arabs vote? That is surely the most curious aspect of the recent election results.

We can rule out the right wing and orthodox Jewish parties.  Apparently, therefore, Israeli Arabs exercised their votes for the center and center-left parties, giving them the 12- 16 “missing seats”. Traditionally, Labor has had strong support in the Arab sector, and this may have helped them retain 15 seats in the new Knesset. One of Labor’s seats will be occupied by a Christian Arab woman, Nadia Hilou, of Jaffa. It is also likely, I would think, that Yesh Atid’s unexpectedly strong showing could be due to Arabs responding to its social and political messages of cooperation and equality.

Until an analysis of the Arab vote is available, and specially the missing Arab vote in the sense of missing from the Arab parties, I suggest it reinforces two major themes of this election.

One is that people in Israel, like every else, vote for their daily interests ahead of grand foreign policy issues. Young Arabs are just as likely to be concerned about their and their children’s futures. Issues like housing, jobs, financial security, and protection from the manic regimes surrounding Israel are as likely to be their top concerns as they are for non-Arab Israelis. In addition, they will be willing to vote for parties that accept them as equals and promise to make the effort to ensure equality is not just written into the laws, as it is, but practiced in daily life. They certainly are underwhelmed by the radical Arabs like Zuabi and Tibi.

The other is that, quite clearly, the Palestinian issue is not one that is the most pressing for a majority of Israel’s Arabs, even if they believe that Yesh Atid and Labor could be more accommodating to the possibility of creating a Palestinian State on the West Bank than the other Jewish parties. Polls have shown that a majority of Israel’s Arabs believe that they are better off in every way than they would be in the countries surrounding Israel. Polls held in towns and villages bordering the Green Line have demonstrated that Israel’s Arab have no desire and no intent to join a putative Palestinian state, should one ever arise on the West Bank. Put quite simply, they know where their bread is buttered, and it is not with the Gazans or West Bankers.

This was the curious incident in the last election – the Arab vote did nothing to reflect what so many treat as Israel’s primary concern – the future of the West Bank.

Thus, while the Guardian and the mainstream media – not to mention the EU and factions within the United States – agonize over the “two state solution”, Israel’s Arabs have made their own views quite plain. Their “missing seats” show that they are Israelis, not Palestinians, they are in Israel to stay, and wish to be part of what we can only hope will be a strengthening main-stream Israeli consensus formed by centrist parties such as Yesh Atid and Labor and a move away from the extremism of the Likud and Habayit Hayehudi.

 

Guardian headline tidies up inconvenient quote by nominee for Defense Secretary

While reasonable people can, of course, disagree over the merits of Chuck Hagel’s nomination for US Defense Secretary, a Guardian headline used for Chris McGreal’s latest story (Jan. 7) on the row blatantly distorts a relevant quote by the Nebraska Senator in a manner which has the effect of misleading readers.

Here’s the quote  by Hagel which some opponents of his nomination have cited as cause for concern.

“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Washington, DC].”

Interestingly, given his own history of using language which evokes Judeophobic stereotypes, McGreal contextualizes the quote quite fairly – and even acknowledges the danger of employing antisemitic rhetoric which warns of the danger posed by Jewish power.

McGreal writes:

“Hagel later apologised for the use of the term “Jewish lobby” [when he spoke of the influence of the lobby on Congress] saying he should have said “pro-Israel lobby”, an issue of particular sensitivity because it touches on antisemitic tropes about Jewish control, but also because it is inaccurate, given the wider support for Israel among Americans, notably Christian evangelicals.”

In addition, the actual quote by Hagel is accurately cited in McGreal’s report.  

Fair enough.

However, here’s the Guardian headline for McGreal’s report:

McGreal

No, it’s clearly not antisemitic to merely acknowledge that the pro-Israel lobby has a powerful voice.

However, that’s not what Hagel said.

A Guardian editor used inverted quotes in order to paraphrase the senator’s words in a manner which make them more palatable and less offensive.

What the editor did, in effect, was to run interference for a politician the paper has framed as the protagonist in a battle against pro-Israel advocates who wish to “stifle debate” about Israel.

This is not journalism but, rather, advocacy: another example of a paper which continually distorts information to suit a particular ideological agenda.

“Israel-firsters”, “traitors” and other epithets hurled at Chuck Hagel’s critics by Guardian readers

The empirical probability that reader comments in response to Israel-related content at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ will quickly devolve into anti-Zionist vitriol is as good as the likelihood that the specific epithets used by commenters will be consistent with the Guardian Left narrative.

Both are near certainties.    

While we’ve often posted about reader comments which are more explicitly antisemitic, the following thread effectively illustrates the manner in which the debate over Hagel’s nomination for Defense Secretary has been framed at the Guardian – where a conservative Republican has engendered the sympathy of the Guardian Left due largely to the political orientation of those aligned against him.   

Here is a brief snippet of the conversation below the line of Matt Williams’ Jan. 7 Guardian report, ‘Obama keen on Chuck Hagel nomination despite opposition‘.

The Israeli-Palestinian issue is “never debated” in the US.

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Israel, and American “Israel Firsters” control the US.

3

Historically oppressed Jews have now become the oppressors. 

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American Israel-Firsters are, in fact, traitors to their country.

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Then, there was this rebuttal:

smWe hear it all the time below the line, following dog whistles above the line, at ‘Comment is Free’. 

‘Comment is Free’, “Neocons” and attacks against a much maligned Abrahamic faith

There have been countless reader comments about Jews at ‘Comment is Free’ far more hateful than the following, which appeared  beneath Glenn Greenwald’s latest post, ‘Who paid the Log Cabin Republican anti-Hagel NTY Ad?’, but the language used is quite instructive in several respects.

This reader comment hasn’t been deleted by CiF moderators at the time this post was published.

hate

The interesting thing about this comment is that, despite its risible rhetorical excesses, much of it is in almost complete alignment with the dominant leftist narrative about the injurious effect of the Israel lobby on American politics.  In fact, the passage concerning the Israel lobby’s power, money and purchase of US politicians pretty much represents conventional wisdom within a segment of the American left, as well as at the Guardian.

Further, the word neocon - which refers to new conservatives who moved right due to a disenchantment with liberalism’s ideological excesses and what was perceived as its domestic policy failures, and now support conservative social policy and a US foreign policy which promotes freedom abroad –  has become one of the more popular forms of polemical abuse.  

Often it is a euphemism for Zionists (and sometimes Jews), and anyone who believe that the US should aggressively oppose the rise Islamism around the world, and (even when not used in a bigoted context) commentators such as Greenwald often use the term to paint a broad brush over all who believe the US should continue to support Israel. 

His characterization of opponents of Chuck Hagel’s possible nomination for Defense Secretary as neocons represents classic Greenwald.  

Typical is this passage from his CiF commentary:  

“…a favorite tactic of neocons - who have led the smear campaign against Hagel – is to cynically exploit liberal causes to generate progressive support for their militaristic agenda.”

As is the case with most bigoted and simplistic commentators who impute ill motives to their political opponents, Greenwald is unburdened by political nuance and thus employs the word neocon to attack Hagel’s opponents even though some of the most prominent groups who opposed the possible nomination are clearly not of the neocon persuasion.

For instance, there was significant opposition to Hagel’s nomination by decidedly liberal Jewish groups such as the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League.  

Similarly, liberal US political leaders such as Congressman Barney Frank (one of the most prominent openly gay members of the House of Representatives) and Senator Chuck Schumer have expressed strong opposition to Hagel.

In addition to Frank, some gay advocacy organizations – which are very liberal on most issues – have similarly expressed opposition to Hagel (or at least have expressed serious reservations).

Fierce opposition to Hagel has also come from the influential liberal activist, and founder of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas – who has launched a campaign against the nomination.

While much of the Jewish opposition to Hagel has indeed been motivated by concerns over comments he has made thought by some to be antisemitic, and his opposition to aggressively confronting Iran, gay advocates have expressed concern over homophobic comments Hagel has made, while liberal activists like Moulitsas oppose Hagel for the simple reason that he is a staunch conservative whose views are fundamentally at odds with those of liberal Democrats.

Despite the fact that much of the opposition to Hagel’s nomination has come from those who would never identify with the values of neo-conservationism, decrying an alleged “neocon smear campaign” is an easy way of imputing sinister motivations to such opponents – by suggesting that they’re motivated not by what’s best for the US, but, rather what’s best for Israel, and that such “Israel-firsters” are willing to defame anyone who stands in their way.

Finally, the following passage in Greenwald’s essay is especially illustrative of the anti-neocon persuasion. 

“As it so often does, the [neocon] tactic has worked magically…as numerous progressives who do actually care about gay issues – from Rachel Maddow to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force - dutifully popped up to attack the neocons‘ number one public enemy. Andrew Sullivan is right that this is a classic technique of the neocon smear campaign - recruit progressives to their cause with exploitation of unrelated issues.” 

To commentators such as Greenwald, even those opposing Hagel who clearly aren’t neocons simply could not have reached their conclusions independently but, rather, as the result of being cynically manipulated by neocon trickery.    

Guardian-Left anti-neocons such as Greenwald – and their army of supporters below the line – are increasingly identified as much by their intellectual laziness, convoluted casuistry and a remarkably facile understanding of the world as they are by a willingness to trade in antisemitic calumnies. 

CiF attacks anti-Hagel war agitators: Israel lobby, bond dealers & arms manufacturers

‘Comment is Free’ contributor Stephen Kinzer, much like fellow contributors Glenn Greenwald and Michael Cohen, is angry with the foes of Chuck Hagel.

Hagel, a far-right Republican hostile to abortion rights, gay rights and civil rights, and who has come under fire for his views on Israel, the Middle East and the Islamist regime in Tehran, has strangely become a progressive cause celeb among the Guardian-style left.

At the heart of the case against Senator Hagel’s nomination, according to Kinzer, is the Nebraska Senator’s opposition to the powerful pro-war movement. 

He writes:

“What do Nebraska and Iran have in common? Not much – but enough to cause big trouble for former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, whose possible nomination to be secretary of defense is being challenged by the powerful bomb-Iran-yesterday lobby.”

Also troubling Kinzer are the “militarists” controlled by the pro-Israel lobby.

Militarists in Washington, taking their cue from pro-Israel lobbyists, are trying to derail the appointment because Hagel doubts the wisdom of starting another war in the Middle East.”

Kinzer helpfully contextualizes the political debate in Washington by evoking a political debate in the US which took place 95 years ago.

“Nebraska Senator George Norris, who voted against both United States entry into first world war and American membership in the League of Nations…told Americans that the push toward global engagement was the project of “munition manufacturers, stockbrokers, and bond dealers“; and he warned that it “brings no prosperity to the great mass of common and patriotic citizens.”

Hagel is in the great American tradition of the prairie populist. He has sought to speak a word or two of truth to power. Power is not amused. That is why his nomination is in trouble before it has even been announced.”

An isolationist who warns of the hidden hand of militarists, unpatriotic Zionists, the military industrial complex, and monied classes?

The fact that such hysterical, sophomoric agitprop – which manages to evoke the nativist fear-mongering of Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford – has found its way onto the pages of ‘Comment is Free’ would only come as a surprise to those who still entertain the fanciful notion that the Guardian is a liberal institution. 

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald again smears pro-Israel American Jews

While the baffling support given to a far-right conservative (deemed hostile to women’s rights, gay rights and civil rights) named Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary by many on the far-left represents an interesting topic, the narrative advanced by Hagel defender Glenn Greenwald is especially worth exploring.

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Greenwald’s latest post, titled ‘Who paid for the Log Cabin Republicans’ anti-Hagel NYT ad?‘, primarily focuses on the question of who’s funding an anti-Hagel ad published by a well-known gay Republican group in the US (the Log Cabin Republicans), but also touches on one of Greenwald’s favorite themes: the alleged “stifling of debate” by the Israel lobby.

After floating the theory that a pro-Israeli lobby group may have funded the Log Cabin Republican ad, Greenwald pivots to one of his favorite targets:

While I agree with those who insist that a Hagel nomination would not meaningfully change administration policy, the goal of the anti-Hagel smear campaign is to ensure that there can be no debate and no diversity of views on Israel when it comes to top government officials.

As we noted, Greenwald similarly complained last week, on MSNBC, about the supposed “smear” campaign against Hagel by the pro-Israel lobby, and accused such activists of having a “stranglehold” over the American debate about Israel.

More importantly, it’s impossible to properly contextualize Greenwald’s complaint about the injurious effect of the Israel lobby on the US body politic without recalling previous comments by Greenwald which evoke the same theme.

Here are a few examples from his old blog at Salon.com:

“So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.” 

Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”

The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions. [Charles] Freeman’s critics may have scored a short-term victory in that regard, but the more obvious it becomes what is really driving these scandals, the more difficult it will be to maintain this suffocating control over American debates and American policy.”

“The point is that the power the [Israel lobby] exercises [is] harmful in the extreme. They use it to squelch debate, destroy the careers and reputations of those who deviate from their orthodoxies, and compel both political parties to maintain strict adherence to an agenda that is held by a minority of Americans; that is principally concerned with the interests of a foreign country.”

I have written previously about the dark history of the broader narrative Greenwald advances about the undue influence of the pro-Israeli/Jewish lobby, but beyond the odiousness of imputing such malevolence, and ill motives, to such (largely Jewish) pro-Israel activists, there is a fatal flaw in his argument.

When pro-Israel advocates in the US contact the media to make their voice heard, lobby for or against congressional legislation, or contact their representatives to express their concerns about a nominee for an important position, they are merely exercising their First Amendment rights as all Americans have the right to do.  

They aren’t “stifling”, squelching, or exercising a stranglehold over debate – and, despite the dark, conspiratorial musings of some, don’t possess the power to do so – but, rather, are participating in the political process, confident in their freedom to do so as citizens who are equal under the law.

Pro-Israel activists (and Jews as such) in America who legally use the levers of democracy to express their concerns about Chuck Hagel – regardless of the merits of their argument – are not denying the rights of Glenn Greenwald, Peter Beinart, Andrew Sullivan, Richard Silverstein, and others, to advocate on behalf of Hagel.

In short, free speech isn’t a zero-sum game.

Moreover, plain decency – and, it would seem, a liberal sense of fairness – would at the very least demand that Hagel’s defenders debate the issue on its merits, and avoid engaging in what amounts to nothing more than a vicious ad hominem attack on the Jewish community.

The stranglehold on the US by one lobby: One minute with Glenn Greenwald

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald is evidently traveling and has been unable to write over the last couple of days, but was decent enough to post a few clips from his appearance on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes, ‘The Israel Lobby’s smear campaign and Dark Zero Thirty, Dec. 22.

Greenwald was on the show to discuss (among other issues) the possible nomination of Chuck Hagel as US Defense Secretary.  Talk of Hagel’s nomination has come under fire due to the Nebraska Senator’s views on Israel and the Middle East. 

In this brief clip which follows (which I edited from a longer segment on the MSNBC show) Greenwald is seen reacting to a speech Hagel gave about the 2nd Lebanon War on the Senate floor (on July 31, 2006), in which he demanded that “the sickening slaughter on both sides must end”.  

Though it’s arguably true that Israel’s supporters in the US have indeed over-reacted to the possible Hagel nomination, MSNBC’s  Hayes framed the row in a manner which allowed Greenwald the opportunity to denounce the Israel lobby, and he didn’t disappoint.

What you’re “allowed” to say:

In the first 15 seconds, Greenwald claims that you’re “allowed” to criticize Israeli policy more in Israel than you are in the United States, representing one of the central conceits of such critics: that pro-Israel lobbyists stifle debate.  

Of course, Greenwald, MJ Rosenberg, Andrew Sullivan as with Chuck Hagel, Congressman Keith Ellison and Dennis Kucinich, and academics like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, are “allowed” to be as critical as they’d like about Israel.

However, defenders of Israel are equally entitled to voice their views and use the democratic process in hopes that their side prevails over US policy decisions.  

The fact that critics of Israel face moral opprobrium doesn’t mean their voice is being silence. Freedom of speech does not require that such speech be immune from criticism.

Israel bombs ‘a longstanding ally’ of the US.

At the 25 second mark Greenwald complains how unfair it is that Senator Hagel wasn’t “allowed” to criticize Israel for bombing “a longstanding ally of the United States” – which refers to Lebanon (in the context of the 2nd Lebanon War) and conveniently ignores that Israel was at war, not with the government of Lebanon, but with the Iranian backed Islamist terror movement, Hezbollah.  

US public opinion was overwhelmingly supportive of Israel’s action, which was prompted by Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel, as well as a cross-border raid in which they killed eight Israeli soldiers and abducted two others.

Israel wasn’t bombing an ally. The citizens of an ally, Lebanon, were being held hostage to the terror committed on its soil by an illegal militia funded, armed and trained by Iran.

Israel lobby has a “stranglehold” over the American debate about Israel 

At the 40 second mark he goes even further, claiming there is a “stranglehold” over US debate about Israel.  In fact, Greenwald has used the term “stranglehold” before in the same context.

“So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.” – Greenwald, Salon.com, 2009

Greenwald, in the 2009 quote, is referring to Hezbollah’s TV station, Al-Manar, which was banned by the US in 2006 – labelled a ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity.  

Greenwald believes not only that the Israel lobby controls the debate about Israel in the US, but, evidently, that is also controls much of US national security policy as well.

Interestingly, Al-Manar has also been banned in France and Germany, and to varying extents in the UK, Canada, Netherlands, and Australia, which would evidently suggest, per Greenwald’s logic, that the Israel lobby has pulled off a feat that Hezbollah could not – achieving a truly global penetration.  

In fairness, Greenwald likely would not buy into theories about Zionist global conspiracies.  

However, when you carelessly use the language and tropes of those who do, you further legitimize their toxic narratives about the dangers of Jewish control.