SOAS London event dispells ‘simplistic’ view that Hizbullah is a terror group

Cross posted from London-based blogger Richard Millett 

To say that my question “Is this book pro-Hizbollah?” wasn’t well received on Tuesday night at SOAS is an understatement.



I was at the book launch of The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication written by Lina Khatib, Dina Matar and Atef Alshaer.

After I had asked my question Dina Matar said “I knew you were going to ask that” and Lina Khatib waved the book at me and said “Why don’t you read it?”

The book explains how Hizbullah has been successful in staying relevant since its 1982 inception by adapting itself to changing situations and communicating these adaptations through various means such as poetry and social media.

Hizbullah are poets? Who knew.

One can imagine: “To kill a Jew, or not to kill a Jew. That is the question.”

Continue reading

Jewish Daily Forward ‘Top 50′ list includes “journalist” who promotes antisemitism

The Jewish Daily Forward 2013 ‘Top 50‘ represents their annual survey of the 50 men and women who’ve made “a significant impact on the Jewish story” over the past year, and is informed by “rules require that every one is an American citizen whose actions speak with a Jewish inflection”.  Their 2013 list includes such prolific Jewish voices as Philip Roth and Ruth Wisse – as well as a former Guardian columnist we’ve commented on quite frequently: 


Their selection of Glenn Greenwald is explained thusly:

The biggest story of 2013, and possibly the decade, has been the exposure of the National Security Agency’s domestic and international surveillance program, including the extent of intelligence-sharing between America and Israel. At the center of this story — its conduit — is Glenn Greenwald.

As a columnist for the Guardian, Greenwald came into contact with the NSA security contractor Edward Snowden in May. Snowden was ready to reveal the extent of the agency’s spying, and Greenwald’s first story ran on June 6. At that point, Greenwald became the world’s most important journalist — though some question whether he is a journalist or an advocate.

Greenwald, 46, is based in Brazil, where he lives with his partner, but he grew up in New York and Florida and worked as a constitutional and civil rights lawyer before he started a blog in 2005 and saw his career take off.

Though his fame over the past year has been due to the NSA revelations, Greenwald’s columns, at Salon and the Guardian, frequently dealt with Israel in a critical way

Whilst the far-left orientation of the paper, which once ran a glowing profile of a prolific opponent of Israel’s continued existence known as Ali Abunimah, at least partly explains the honor they bestowed to Greenwald, their characterization of his politics as ‘critical of Israel’ represents a simply egregious deception.  

As we’ve demonstrated continually, it is not at all an exaggeration to characterize Greenwald’s hostility to Israel (and the U.S.) as similar to the hate rhetoric of Islamist extremists – a fact which may in part explain Greenwald’s defense of Hamas, Hezbollah and even, on at least one occasion, an American Al Qaeda operative.

Additionally, to get a sense of The Jewish Daily Forward’s ideological airbrush of Greenwald – employing the Guardian tactic of characterizing commentators who engage in antisemitism as merely “critical of Israel” – here is a collection passages from his columns which ‘deal with Jews in a critical way‘.

  • 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.” – Feb. 3, 2007, Unclaimed Territory
  • “The dominant narrative among neocons and the media is that, deep down in his heart, [Obama] may be insufficiently devoted to Israel to be president of the United States. Has there ever been another country to which American politicians were required to pledge their uncritical, absolute loyalty the way they are, now, with Israel?” - May 13, 2008 Salon
  • If you don’t…pledge your loyalty to our policies toward Israel and to Israel, what will happen to you is what just happened to Charles Freeman. You’ll be demonized and have your career ended.” – Jan. 8, 2009, interview on Hugh Hewitt  Show
  • “Those [American Jews] who favor the attack on Gaza are certainly guilty…of such overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis that they long ago ceased viewing this conflict with any remnant of objectivity.” – Jan. 4, 2009 Salon
  • “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.” – March 9, 2009, Salon
  • 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.” – March 11, 2009 Salon
  • “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; and that results in serious cost and harm to the United States. In doing so, they insure not only that our policies towards Israel remain firmly in place no matter the outcome of our elections, but also that those policies remain beyond the realm of what can be questioned or debated by those who want to have a political future.” – March 11, 2009 Salon
  • “[Charles] Freeman is being dragged through the mud by the standard cast of accusatory Israel-centric neocons (Marty Peretz, Jon Chait, Jeffrey Goldberg, Commentary, The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb, etc. etc., etc.).” –March 9, 2009 Salon
  • “Meanwhile, one of the many Israel-Firsters in the U.S. Congress — Rep. Anthony Weiner, last seen lambasting President Obama for daring to publicly mention a difference between the U.S. and Israel — today not only defended Israel’s attack. – June 1, 2010 Salon
  • This is a truly disgusting spectacle…commentators — all of whom are writing well within the range of mainstream opinion on Israel — are being publicly smeared early in their careers as anti-Semites as part of a coordinated, ongoing campaign planned by Josh Block and carried out by numerous journalists with large media platforms, and aided and abetted by Jewish groups trading on their credibility to suppress debate. – Jan 19, 2012 Salon

On The Jewish Daily Forward’s history page, we are told that the paper (which originally launched as a Yiddish-language daily in 1897) has fought, over the years, for social justice, and has been “among the nation’s most eloquent defenders of democracy and Jewish rights.”

So, perhaps the paper’s editor, Jane Eisner, can explain how they can reconcile their commitment to promoting social justice and defending Jewish rights with their decision to honor an extreme ideologue who trades in explicitly racist narratives about the injurious influence of ‘disloyal’ American Jews on the body politic.

The Guardian or PressTV? Iran’s president to export the Islamic Revolution ‘peacefully’

If you were to glance at the Guardian’s home page today, you’d be treated to the following featured story:


So, apparently, the newly sworn-in Iranian president is launching a “peace” agenda.  

Interestingly, if you open the link on the Guardian graphic you get a report by  titled ‘Hassan Rouhani sworn in as president of Iran, urging moderation and respect‘ – indicating that the home page title was the creation of a Guardian editor, and not the author.  Dehghan’s piece is actually a pretty straight forward assessment, simply repeating the highlights of Rouhani’s speech.

However, here’s the passage of Rouhani’s speech highlighted by Dehghan which likely inspired the Guardian headline about the new “peace agenda”:

Rouhani said Iranians sought “peace” and “stability” in their region and across the world and said Tehran was against “foreign intervention” in any country. 

Pardon our cynicism, but it seems reasonable to ask if, as part of Rouhani’s new campaign for peace, the Islamic Republic will indeed stop providing money, arms and personnel to the Syrian army – support which has perpetuated the unimaginable bloodshed in a more than two-year long civil war.

Similarly, we can be forgiven for remaining skeptical that the new peace campaign will bring an end to a foreign policy which bestows upon Iran the distinction of being arguably the largest exporter of terror around the globe – which includes crucial support for Islamist terror movements such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

And, those genuine peace advocates among us may reasonably believe that it strains credulity to imagine a brave, new ‘dovish’ Islamist regime which will suddenly cease in its coordinated campaign of antisemitic propaganda, which includes Holocaust denial and incitement to genocide.

So, while continuing to export the Islamic Revolution by providing a military lifeline to the butcher in Damascus and sending sophisticated weapons to terror movements in Lebanon and Gaza, thus helping to destabilize the region, we are being asked to believe that the new President will, nonetheless, emphatically oppose all forms of “foreign intervention”.

Iranian imperialism with a ‘smiling face’, courtesy of the Guardian. 

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 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.  

Glenn Greenwald: Hamas and Hezbollah are NOT terrorist movements

We reported recently that Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald has been speaking at the annual Marxist-Leninist conference, and we posted a few clips of his 2011 appearance at the conference, held in Chicago.  During his talk (titled ‘Civil Liberties under Obama’), the CiF columnist defended American al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki, and downplayed the “scope” of the 9/11 attacks – which he suggested were much more limited (in the scale of violence) than what the U.S. has perpetrated in the Arab world.

Additionally, the following is a short clip from his 2012 presentation (also held in Chicago) in front of the ‘revolutionary socialist group’, where he addresses the topic of terrorism and how the word is, in his view, misused.

As Greenwald would have you believe that the sole objectives of Hamas and Hezbollah is to protect the citizens of Gaza and Lebanon respectively, here are a few facts about the putatively benign ‘anti-imperialist’ movements which may be useful:


  • Hamas is the Arabic acronym for “The Islamic Resistance Movement” and grew out of the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood movement which arose in Egypt in the 1920s.
  • Hamas’s founding charter cites the wisdom of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to “prove” that Jews are indeed trying to take over the world, and cites a Hadith which calls for the murder of Jews.


  • Hezbollah’ is a Shiite Islamist group founded in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon in 1982 as an extension of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and adopted much of the Iranian doctrine, including the use of terror as a means of attaining its objectives.  Among the group’s goals in Lebanon is the creation of a fundamentalist Iranian-style Islamic republic and removal of all non-Muslim influences.
  • Before 9/11, Hezbollah killed more Americans than any other terrorist group:  More than 300 were murdered in six separate attacks, including 243 Marines in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. 
  • Hezbollah has incited its followers to carry out suicide bombings against Western targets all over the world (including in America), and the group’s leader, Hasan Nasrallah, has said the following: “Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute […] Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, Death to America will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America.”
  • The continuing military presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon (particularly their weapons smuggling) represents clear violations of UN Resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006), both of which call for the disbanding of all such illegal militias which threaten the sovereignty of the country.
  •  Hezbollah has engaged in terrorist acts in Europe, Africa, South America, N. America and even in Arab states – including in Yemen and Bahrain.
  • Hezbollah’s Nasrallah has explicitly stated that Jews anywhere in the world are legitimate targets. Specifically, Nasrallah has said: “If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide”. (Daily Star, Oct. 23, 2002)

In addition to the risible suggestion that the two violent extremist groups are merely trying to protect Palestinian and Lebanese civilians from Israeli aggression, Greenwald was simply not telling his socialist friends the truth when he claimed the groups haven’t targeted American citizens. Moreover, as his willingness to defend even al-Qaeda operatives demonstrates, his apologias on behalf of violent Islamist extremists are clearly not limited to the Middle East. 

In contextualizing Greenwald’s columns in both and the Guardian – where he routinely excoriates the U.S. for all number of ‘imperialist’ crimes against the Arab world and expresses sympathy for even the most violent, reactionary Islamist movements – it’s difficult not to marvel at the ideological dynamics within UK and U.S. politics whereby some genuinely see Greenwald as a “progressive” political voice.  

Harriet Sherwood warns that Israel may “internationalize” Syrian war

In previous posts we’ve commented on wild accusations by both Guardian contributor Patrick Seale and the Indy’s Robert Fisk warning that recent Israeli military operations in Syria – to prevent sophisticated weapons from getting in the hands of Hezbollah – runs the risk of dragging a reluctant US, or its allies, into the three-year war.

Fisk (writing in the Indy) warned:

…Israel has now intervened in the Syrian war.  It may say it was only aiming at weapons destined for the Hezbollah – but these were weapons also being used against rebel forces in Syria.  By diminishing the regime’s supply of these weapons, it is therefore helping the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad. And since Israel regards itself as a Western nation – best friend and best US military ally in the Middle East, etc, etc – this means that “we” are now involved in the war, directly and from the air. 

Seale (writing for Middle East Online) was even more explicit in imputing Israeli malice:

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.

Harriet Sherwood’s May 20 report, John Kerry to visit Middle East this week to revive peace talks, which explores the broader regional political and strategic challenges beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, advances a similar trope.

Sherwood’s report includes the following passage:

Much of the secretary of state’s attention will be focussed on Syria during his four-day trip to the Middle East, which includes visits to Oman and Jordan. He is expected to discuss with Netanyahu Israel’s recent airstrikes on weapons stores near Damascus and the risks of such action internationalising the civil war, now into its third year.

Unlike Fisk and Seale, Sherwood doesn’t expand on her contention that such limited Israeli involvement could result in wider international involvement in the war.  Moreover, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent fails to acknowledge that the war (which has claimed up to 90,000 lives, and resulted in roughly 1.5 million refugees) was “internationalized” long before the Israeli strike – with Iran, Hezbollah and Russia playing leading roles in the pro-Assad axis.


Bombed-out mosque in the northern town of Azaz, 47km north of Aleppo

Iran’s role in keeping Assad in power is significant — supplying the regime with a large and strategically important supply of weapons and advisors, and allowing terrorists from its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to cross into Syria and fight alongside government forces. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have even been training key Syrian military and security forces and helping the regime expand its military capabilities. 

Additionally, Russia, motivated by both financial considerations and the desire to maintain influence in the region by preventing the departure of one its few strategic allies, continues to provide diplomatic cover for Assad (such as vetoing UN sanctions) and, most importantly, sends a huge supply of sophisticated arms to government forces.

Finally, recent efforts by the UK to lift the EU arms embargo on Syria, in order to possibly begin funneling weapons to selected opposition groups, suggests an evolving view that though all of the potential political outcomes in the civil war are fraught with danger, the West increasingly believes that it can not sit idly by and watch as the most extreme Al Qaeda backed rebel groups, such as the Nusra Front, gain strength.

Whatever additional limited IDF operations may be launched against Syrian arms destined for Hezbollah will represent a quite rational and intuitive political decision to prevent the illegal Shiite Islamist militia occupying Lebanon from gaining more deadly weapons to use against Israeli citizens.  

The Arab on Arab bloodshed in Syria has been “internationalized” since the beginning of the conflict, and whatever limited actions Jerusalem may take to limit the violence crossing its border will have little or no bearing on the decisions world powers will make independently regarding how best to secure their own interests in a Middle East war which shows no signs of abating. 

The Rage, Relativism and Racism of Glenn Greenwald

The following was originally published at the blog Jacobinism, and is being reposted here with the author’s permission

“Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,

All centuries but this, and every country but his own…”
– W. S. Gilbert 

SHOT 6/8/08The ACLU annual membership conference in Washington, D.C.

For a commentator who gets as exercised about the killing of innocent Muslims as Glenn Greenwald does, he has had precious little to say about the ongoing catastrophe in Syria. That is, until Monday 6 May. 

After more than two years of an increasingly vicious civil war that has so far claimed the lives of an estimated 80,000 Syrians, events took a particularly ugly turn last week. On Saturday 4, news began to filter out of sectarian massacres committed by regime loyalists over the previous two days in the coastal city of Banias and the neighbouring village of al-Bayda. Graphic pictures depicting the piled corpses of men, women and small children were greeted with a wave of revulsion amid unconfirmed estimates that between 60 and 100 people had been murdered at both sites. Meanwhile, reports and allegations that the regime had begun using sarin and other unspecified chemical agents against rebel forces and civilians continued to emerge, intensifying the debate about whether or not Obama’s “red line” had been crossed and what on earth to do about it if it had.

Then on Sunday March 5, Israel apparently rocketed government positions inside Syria, seemingly with impunity and from Lebanese airspace. Although Israel has not taken public responsibility for the attack, it was widely reported that the targeted strikes were aimed at the destruction of shipments of Fateh-110 rockets being held in and around Damascus, en route from Iran to Lebanese Shi’ite terror group Hezbollah. Dozens of soldiers loyal to Assad’s brutal Ba’athist dictatorship were killed in the process.

After more than two years of silence on the subject Greenwald evidently decided that a red line of his own had been crossed and that enough was enough. So he drew himself up, approached his podium at The Guardian and declared:

Few things are more ludicrous than the attempt by advocates of US and Israeli militarism to pretend that they’re applying anything remotely resembling “principles”. Their only cognizable “principle” is rank tribalism: My Side is superior, and therefore we are entitled to do things that Our Enemies are not.

Greenwald, it transpired to the surprise of no-one, was not particularly interested in the horrors of the Syrian civil war – neither the butchery unleashed by Assad’s regime in Banias and al-Bayda nor the appalling human rights crisis afflicting much of the country warranted so much as a murmur.

What irks him is that those seeking to defend or justify Israel’s very brief and limited involvement in the conflict should presume to offer a moral justification for her behaviour when, so far as Greenwald can tell, their reasoning is nothing more honourable than a naked and single-minded chauvinism rooted in an unjustifiable Western exceptionalism.

In support of this contention, Greenwald defies those he calls “Israeli defenders” to defend equivalent (theoretical) actions taken by Iran or Syria on the same grounds of self-interest, or to condemn Israel’s nuclear arsenal with the same vehemence reserved for Iran’s ambitions. Stretching the already elastic logic of this argument to its limit, he even implies that those who defend Israel while denouncing Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan (the victims of whom Greenwald describes as “incidental”) are guilty of double-standards.

The use of this kind of shabby relativist equivalence to denigrate Western democracies and excuse the actions of terrorists and dictators is par for the course on certain sections of the self-proclaimed anti-Imperialist Left. But, oddly, Greenwald is indignant that anyone should presume to characterise his views in this way. “The ultimate irony,” he complains…

…is that those [like Greenwald] who advocate for the universal application of principles to all nations are usually tarred with the trite accusatory slogan of “moral relativism”. But the real moral relativists are those who believe that the morality of an act is determined not by its content but by the identity of those who commit them: namely, whether it’s themselves or someone else doing it….[thus] Israel and the US (and its dictatorial allies in Riyadh and Doha) have the absolute right to bomb other countries or arm rebels in those countries if they perceive doing so is necessary to stop a threat but Iran and Syria (and other countries disobedient to US dictates) do not. This whole debate would be much more tolerable if it were at least honestly acknowledged that what is driving the discussion are tribalistic notions of entitlement and nothing more noble.

Hmm. It seems to me that the only reason Greenwald is perplexed by accusations of relativism is that he doesn’t understand what the term means. Moral relativism holds that there is no objective means of deciding right and wrong so, since countries and their respective cultures cannot be judged by any meaningfully objective standard, they must simply be understood as different, rather than comparatively better or worse.

Pursuing this logic, then, a culture which tortures and imprisons dissidents is no worse than one which protects free assembly and expression; a culture which publicly hangs homosexuals from cranes is no worse than one which enshrines their equality and rights as individuals in law; a culture which confines women to the home and denies them the vote is no worse than one in which they run companies and head governments. Lest this sounds like a caricature, it ought to be remembered that Michel Foucault eulogised the Iranian revolution on the grounds that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s nascent theocracy was simply a different (and in many ways superior) “regime of truth”.

Greenwald’s steadfast refusal to arrange countries into a moral hierarchy explicitly endorses the complete suspension of moral judgement required by the above. As does his conclusion that there can be no reason for assigning cultural superiority to free societies, nor justifying acts of violence committed in their defence, besides an “adolescent, self-praising, tribalistic license” on the part of those fortunate enough to live in them. To Greenwald, it seems, arguments about cultural superiority are no better than a debate between competing, morally indistinguishable subjectivities, each as valid or invalid as the next.It is this thinking that allows Greenwald to endorse Mehdi Hasan’s assertion of a direct equivalence between a theocracy aiding a genocidal dictator by shelling rebels to further its own interests, with the actions of a democracy safeguarding its security and the lives of its citizens from Hezbollah rockets:
tweetShiraz Maher is correct to identify this as tawdry relativism. Greenwald, on the other hand, misdescribes Hasan’s position (and by extension, his own) as universalist because it seems he doesn’t understand what that term means either.

The universal application of moral and ethical principles requires the organisation of cultures into a moral hierarchy, according to the degree to which objectively good precepts and values are upheld. These might include a commitment to rationalist (and therefore secular) government; the protection of individual human rights, irrespective of race, gender or sexuality; the defence of free expression and free assembly and a free press; the independence of judicial process and so on.

Those of us who recognise the universal importance and desirability of the above, have little difficulty in ascribing inferiority to a culture that is – conversely – obscurantist, theocratic, misogynistic, racist and oppressive, such as that of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The recognition of this fact is the most elementary form of solidarity one can show to its embattled populace, enslaved by a tyrannical regime and its religious codes, who yearn for modernity.

However, it must be noted that, elsewhere, Greenwald has written passionately and extensively in defence of free speech. This is odd given the above, since it suggests an acknowledgement on his part that (a) freedom of expression has an axiomatic, objective moral worth and that (b) consequently, a society in which expression is restricted is inferior to one in which it is comparably free.

Greenwald has also criticised the US detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on the grounds that they deny those held there the protection of the rule of law and due process. But if these are markers by which it is possible to judge the American administration’s commitment to human rights, why are they not also suitable markers by which to judge that of the Iranian or Syrian regimes, whose behaviour by these standards is demonstrably much worse? And if these markers are deemed legitimate points of universalist comparison by Greenwald, then why not others such as the emancipation of women, and the protection of LGBTQ rights? And why the reluctance to judge, and where necessary indict, cultures accordingly?

One will search Greenwald’s writing for coherence in vain because, although he espouses moral relativism when it suits his agenda, as we’ve just seen, he’ll vehemently disown it with his very next breath. His is not a thoughtful, principled commitment to a philosophy he’s prepared to defend or apply consistently. Rather, his geopolitical outlook might be best described as a half-understood kind of dime-store Third Worldism; a gruesome combination of a thoroughgoing Western masochism with an ostensible compassion for the wretched of the earth that masks the same racist condescension and contempt typified by the worst kind of colonialist paternalism.

Thus, the planet is divided between the sentimentalised poor of the Global South and the brutal, arrogant power of the modern West. The former struggle valiantly beneath the jackboot of the latter’s economic and military hegemony, yet are ennobled by a humble commitment to primitive – and often deeply regressive – traditions, and confinement within a pitiable victimhood. Any resistance to the hegemonic power of the West or rejection of modernity is therefore held to be, by its very nature, progressive and laudable, irrespective of how barbarous the groups/individuals/regimes in question, or how retrogressive their aims. As Greenwald’s firm opposition to the French intervention in Mali and his unbending defence of the Iranian theocracy’s right to apocalyptic weaponry demonstrate, there seems to be no third world regime or militia repellent or cruel enough that he would deny them his solidarity should they come into conflict with the West’s democracies.

Greenwald can only withhold judgement of Iran’s dismal human rights record or Syria’s campaign of sectarian slaughter by affirming that Persians and Arabs are simply not culturally suited to the liberties and protections derived from Enlightenment thought to which Westerners rightly feel they are entitled. Instead, they must be perceived as childlike, simple and sometimes savage peoples whose cultural proclivities demonstrate a preference for subjugation, violence, injustice and fear over liberty and peace, and who are incapable of understanding egalitarian concepts of human rights due to their uniquely ‘Western’ character.

Greenwald is of course free to believe this if he wishes, but I can hardly think of a more reactionary or racist point of view. And this manichean thinking is only made possible by the application of an indefensible double-standard, one which demands that the actions of the West be judged according to a quasi-Biblical moral absolutism, whilst the actions of those in Third World, no matter how egregious, are afforded a relativist justification, and indulgently excused in the name of ‘resistance':

In the end, for all his righteous fulminating about injustice, what animates Greenwald is not a sincere and fair-minded commitment to universalist principles and norms, but simply a myopic and visceral hatred of the West, America and – especially – Israel. This is self-criticism, unfettered by perspective or coherent moral philosophy, and thereby transformed into a disabling self-loathing, manifested in unseemly displays of narcissistic self-flagellation.

With Israel, as with the West in general, no concession will ever be enough; no achievement will ever be deemed praiseworthy; no atonement, no matter how abject, will be sufficient. And if Israel should fall to her enemies, Greenwald would doubtless affect a tone of gravest sorrow and announce that, alas, once again, the Jews had brought it on themselves, just as America had done when she was assaulted by theocratic fascists on 9/11. But on that count, for the time being – at least as long as Israel possesses nuclear weapons with which to safeguard her security and survival, and the anti-Semitic theocracy in Iran does not – Greenwald’s spiteful schadenfreude will have to wait.

Those who advance the contemptible argument that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians demonstrates that Jews have ‘learned nothing’ from Auschwitz contrive to ignore the evidence before their eyes. It is surely because of this experience more than any other that Israel was established as a secular parliamentary democracy in which minority rights and free expression remain protected to this day. This despite being surrounded by peoples and regimes hostile to her very existence since inception, not one of which comes close to affording its citizens the freedoms Israel does.

Which is not to say I agree with everything Israel or America or any other democracy does. Rather that as an emancipatory model, free and democratic societies possess a worth above the immediate benefits they bestow on their own citizens and beyond the reach of the crimes they commit. The space provided for dissent and disputation allows for self-criticism and evolution; political accountability and an independent judiciary provide oversight, punishment and redress. The separation of religion and the State ensure policy will be decided on the basis of reason and argument rather than the enforcing of religious dogma. It is this framework that has allowed the West’s democracies to evolve and grow in ways that closed societies cannot, thereby facilitating progress.

The regimes in Iran and Syria may make no such claim in defence of their survival. On the contrary, their very existence ought to be an offence to anyone who cares about individual liberty, as Glenn Greenwald claims to do. And it is for this reason that self-interested actions taken by these regimes to further their interests are not remotely morally equivalent to those taken by democracies to protect their people. That is, unless, like Glenn Greenwald, you happen to be a moral relativist.

Should Israel’s Security be Sacrificed at the Altar of ‘Regional Stability’?

This is a guest post by Gidon Ben Zvi

Check out the front page of Monday’s (May 6th, 2013) edition of The Guardian and your hair will be blown back by this scorching headline: “Syria Accuses Israel of Declaring War”. The fact that The Guardian chose to legitimise the Syrian narrative is a relatively minor nuisance in an article that effectively intertwines one nation’s right to self-defence with the looming threat of a wider regional conflict. 

The article, written by Julian Borger and Joel Greenberg, does not deny the Israeli version of events leading up to the recent air strikes against military targets around Damascus. Rather, and much more insidiously, the piece draws an incongruous parallel between terrorism’s enablers and the chief regional check against its expansion.

First, The Guardian quotes an Iranian army ground forces commander as saying that, “Iran was ready to train the Syrian army if necessary”. Next, the winds of war are further fanned with this bit of sabre rattling, courtesy of the office of the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, which denounced the attack, declaring it illegal and a threat to “security and stability in the region“. Meanwhile, Nabil Elaraby, chief of the Arab League, appealed to the U.N. Security Council to “move immediately to stop the Israeli aggressions on Syria”.

The Guardian fails to frame the most recent conflagration between Israel and the forces of terrorism with appropriate historical context, therefore distorting coverage enough to publish inaccurate information. Exhibit A: whilst ‘Hezbollah’ is mentioned several times, no space is dedicated to defining what ‘Hezbollah’ is: an extremist Shiite Muslim group that receives financial and political support from Iran and Syria. Borger and Greenberg also neglect to note that the governments of the U.S., Netherlands, Bahrain, France, U.K., Australia and Canada classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Next, The Guardian piece spends a good couple of paragraphs describing the effects of Israel’s unleashed war machine on the average Syrian citizen:

“Mohammed Saeed, another activist who lives in the Damascus suburb of Douma, said: ‘The explosions were so strong that earth shook under us.’ He said the smell of the fire caused by the air raid near Qasioun was detectable kilometres away.”

Heart-wrenching. However, The Guardian simply ignores recent history by not including any background as to what precipitated the Second Lebanon War, which is important if readers are to gain a comprehensive understanding as to the geo-political forces currently at play. 

Here’s a dose of inconvenient reality to consider: on July 12th 2006, The Second Lebanon War began when Hezbollah terrorists opened fire with rockets on the Israeli border towns of Zar’it and Shtula, wounding several civilians. This was a diversion for an anti-tank missile attack on two armored Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence. The purpose of the attack was to capture Israelis who could be used in a prisoner exchange barter. 

Under cover of this diversionary shelling, two IDF (Israel Defense Forces) patrol vehicles were ambushed. Three soldiers were killed in this attack, two were hurt and two others – Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev – were taken prisoners.

Following the kidnapping, IDF forces opened a massive attack on Hezbollah posts near the border. An armored force entered Lebanese territory seeking to retrieve the abducted soldiers, but a short time later it hit a mine and its four crew members were killed. Attempts to extricate the tank back to Israel ended with another soldier dead.

Shortly after the kidnapping, the Israeli Government unanimously authorized a military operation against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

Following a 33-day war, Israel agreed to abide by the terms of United Nations’ Security Council resolution 1701 for an armistice between it and Hezbollah. The resolution called for “a complete halt of acts of aggression, and especially those committed by Hezbollah and the military actions on behalf of Israel.” 

Furthermore, Lebanon was asked to implement the already existing resolution 1559 dealing with disarmament of armed militias – first among them being Hezbollah.

It is the article’s historical myopia that makes it possible for The Guardian to downplay the moral imperative behind the recent Israeli military strike and to frame the story as a no-win situation pitting one country’s security against larger regional stability.  

And Israel’s right as a sovereign nation to defend its citizens is thus neatly nullified. 

Fortunately for Israel, it has the United Nations as an ally. Article 51 of the U.N. Charter states the following:Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of collective or individual self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security…”

Good, worthy journalism is based on journalistic objectivity, which has been defined as a “…genuine effort to be an honest broker when it comes to news. That means playing it straight without favouring one side when the facts are in dispute, regardless of your own views and preferences.”.

When a front page news story about Israel and Hezbollah omits both the background and the staggering results of the previous conflict between these two regional players – 4,000 rockets fired upon northern Israeli cities, 164 Israeli citizens (119 soldiers and 45 civilians) killed and hundreds injured – one is compelled to question the qualifications of the journalists on duty to deliver just the facts and allow their readership to draw its own conclusions.

Going forward, Julian Borger and Joel Greenberg would be well advised to keep their opinions firmly within the confines of The Guardian’s op-ed page. 

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


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 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.

Glenn Greenwald’s latest diatribe against Israel’s supporters, and others he detests

- “The outgoing Salon blogger can’t seem to have an honest discussion without accusing his debate partners of malicious motives”. (Foreign Policy Magazine, Aug. 16, 2012, 

Glenn Greenwald doesn’t seem much interested in the vexing moral questions naturally elicited by the ongoing bloodbath in Syria. The Arab dictator’s bombing of civilians, and the routine use of torture,  summary executions, and sexual violence against women and children by troops and ethnic groups loyal to the regime don’t weigh heavily on his conscience.   

And, whilst the putative topic of Glenn Greenwald latest CiF piece would suggest an interest in Israel’s recent, brief military foray into the conflict, he characteristically doesn’t attempt to engage in anything approaching serious critical scrutiny over IAF operations to destroy sophisticated Iranian made weaponry heading to Hezbollah.   Similarly, he doesn’t bother devoting space in his column calculating the political, military and political factors at play in the regional threat faced by the Jewish state from Bashar al-Assad and his Shiite Islamist allies, Hezbollah and Iran.

Additionally, Greenwald doesn’t take a stab at weighing the costs and benefits of Israeli military action relative to the alternative of simply allowing the illegal militia occupying much of Lebanon – which has already accumulated an arsenal of thousands of sophisticated rockets – free rein to further threaten Israeli communities, and what remains of Lebanon’s tattered national sovereignty.

Indeed, in reading Glenn Greenwald it seems clear that he doesn’t much fancy such serious, critical analyses of the real and often vexing political and moral decisions faced by democratically elected heads of state.

Greenwald’s inspiration – the blogging muse which constantly ignites his frenetic prose – lay in deconstructing the confidence and righteousness of democracy’s defenders, and those otherwise possessed with the moral clarity which he seems to so detest.

He informs us in quite vivid language, yet in tellingly vague military terms, about of the damage caused by Israel’s bombs  – which he notes are “massive” – and the IDF’s military objective communicated by “Israeli defenders” – and, evidently, only “Israeli defenders” – of targeting weapons provided by Iran that were to end up in the hands of Hezbollah.

And, he then – again, avoiding directly weighing in on the policy decision at hand – evokes a straw man while lashing out at supporters of Israel’s action.

Because people who cheer for military action by their side like to pretend that they’re something more than primitive “might-makes-right” tribalists, the claim is being hauled out that Israel’s actions are justified by the “principle” that it has the right to defend itself from foreign weapons in the hands of hostile forces.

Greenwald then descends further into the absurd:

Or, for that matter, if Syria this week attacks a US military base on US soil and incidentally kills some American civilians (as Nidal Hasan did), and then cites as justification the fact that the US has been aiding Syrian rebels, would any establishment US journalist or political official argue that this was remotely justified?

Of course, Nidal Hasan didn’t “incidentally” kill some American civilians.  He entered the Soldier Readiness Processing Center in Fort Hood, TX in 2009 and, armed with several high-caliber assault rifles, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” while open firing on a room crammed with fellow soldiers. Hasan “sprayed bullets at soldiers in a fanlike motion” before aiming at individual soldiers.  Nidal didn’t attack a “military base”, but engaged in a cold-blooded execution of as many people as possible.

Greenwald’s contemptuous critique continues:

Few things are more ludicrous than the attempt by advocates of US and Israeli militarism to pretend that they’re applying anything remotely resembling “principles”. Their only cognizable “principle” is rank tribalism: My Side is superior, and therefore we are entitled to do things that Our Enemies are not

One could say quite reasonably that this is the pure expression of the crux of US political discourse on such matters: they must abide by rules from which we’re immune, because we’re superior. So much of the pseudo-high-minded theorizing emanating from DC think thanks and US media outlets boils down to this adolescent, self-praising, tribalistic license: we have the right to do X, but they do not. 

This whole debate would be much more tolerable if it were at least honestly acknowledged that what is driving the discussion are tribalistic notions of entitlement and nothing more noble.

Greenwald, a review of his posts on the subject of terrorism suggests, doesn’t merely advance the post-modern cliché that ‘one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, but believes that the term “terrorism” is racially loaded and that the suggestion of serious moral distinctions between political actors represents an expression of primitive triumphalism.  

Greenwald not only isn’t prepared to acknowledge that regimes in Damascus, Khartoum, Pyongyang, or Tehran (for instance) may have less regard for human rights than those in Washington, D.C. or Jerusalem, but that those possessing such beliefs are necessarily compromised by intellectually and morally debilitating ethnocentric biases.

As such, for Greenwald, the suggestion of considerable moral differences between Syria and Israel is necessarily loaded with the pathos of “tribalistic license”.

A review of his latest post, as well as much of his work to date, demonstrates that he’s not prepared to engage in serious thinking regarding the threats posed in the region by the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis.  Nor does he possess the capacity to conduct a broader analysis of the Middle East – in the context of the Arab upheavals in general and the Syrian war in particular – and dissect the continuing democracy deficit in the region.

In his latest 800 word diatribe against Israel’s “supporters”, Greenwald doesn’t even briefly suggest why Israel’s limited military operation in Syria wasn’t justified, because such quotidian concerns – relating to how citizens of democratic nations can most effectively, and most ethically, defend themselves from hostile state and non-state actors – don’t seem to much interest him.

For a careful, sober political survey of the Israeli-Arab (and Israeli-Islamist) conflict, and the broader issues concerning the “Arab Spring”, you’ll have to seek the commentary of serious analysts - those more concerned with honestly assessing the political dynamics of the region than with engaging in ad hominem and often hysterical attacks against their opponents. 

Robert Fisk convinces himself that Israel has ‘dragged the West into Syrian war’

It seems that the ethically challenged British ‘journalist’ Robert Fisk wanted desperately to impute the worst motives to Israel in analyzing reports of up to a dozen IAF strikes over the last few days on advanced Syrian weapons to prevent their transfer to Hezbollah.  However, the weakness of his latest essay suggests that he may have found the case against Israel’s sober decision not to allow Iranian made Fateh-110 missiles to fall into the hands of the Shiite terror movement allied with Bashar al-Assad was simply too difficult.

File photo of the Iranian made Fateh 110 missile, which Israel reported targeted in raids into Syria over the weekend.

File photo of the Iranian made Fateh 110 missile, which Israel reportedly targeted in raids into Syria over the weekend.

Facts have not served much of an obstacle for Fisk in the past when desiring a particular conclusion to a story, and his May 5 piece in the Indy –  implicitly suggesting that Israel is dragging unwilling, ineffectual Western governments into foreign wars – seems to be no exception.


He begins by expressing skepticism over the ‘official’ reason for Israel’s reported raid on Bashar al-Assad’s weapons and military facilities:

The story is already familiar: the Israelis wanted to prevent a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon;  they were being sent by the Syrian government. According, at least, to a ‘Western intelligence source’. Anonymous, of course. And it opens the old question: why when the Syrian regime is fighting for its life would it send advanced missiles out of Syria?

Well, for starters, Iran and Hezbollah have both backed President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, a conflict, now in its third year, which has claimed over 70,000 lives and produced over one million refugees. But as fighting between forces loyal to the Assad regime and the rebels escalates,  Assad has a powerful interest in facilitating the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in case he loses his grip on power and it becomes more difficult for the regime to channel weapons from Iran directly to Damascus.

Additionally, some analysts have argued that an even more heavily armed Hezbollah could become a powerful ally for Assad if he is forced to leave Damascus and take refuge in the Hezbollah-controlled northern Bekaa Valley.

Later, Fisk gets to the central thesis of his polemic:

Much more important, however, is the salient fact that Israel has now intervened in the Syrian war.  It may say it was only aiming at weapons destined for the Hezbollah – but these were weapons also being used against rebel forces in Syria.  By diminishing the regime’s supply of these weapons, it is therefore helping the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad. And since Israel regards itself as a Western nation – best friend and best US military ally in the Middle East, etc, etc – this means that “we” are now involved in the war, directly and from the air. 

Fisk’s specious logic nearly “Fisks” itself, as his entire argument – that Israel has dragged the West into a foreign war – seems largely based on the following argument cum non-sequitur:

1. Israel has attacked arms caches in Syria

2. Israel regards itself as a Western nation.

3. Therefore, Israel has dragged the West into the Syrian war.

The Indy contributor offers nothing else to suggest that Israeli strikes to prevent the transfer of deadly weapons to Syria has any influence whatsoever on the current debate in the US, or within other Western nations, over whether to intervene militarily in the civil war.

Of course, in addition to the speciousness of his logic, Fisk is essentially parroting Assad talking points – which, notably, was also employed in a highly misleading headline chosen by a major UK news corporation – that Israel is acting in alliance with “Islamist terrorists” to overthrow the regime, a charge so unserious that even Guardian Middle East Editor Ian Black dismissed it as “lacking any evidence”.

Finally, Fisk complains thusly:

Let’s see if the US and the EU condemn Israel’s air attacks. I doubt it. Which would mean, if we are silent, that we approve of them.

However, Fisk’s suggestion that the US has been “silent” on the reported attacks is flatly untrue.

President Obama stated, after news of IAF strikes on Syria was first reported, that Israel was justified to guard “against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terror groups like Hezbollah” and suggested that there is considerable US-Israeli coordination regarding the threat of weapons transfers in Syria – a clear expression of support for Israel’s right to self-defense which was also echoed yesterday by UK foreign secretary William Hague.

One of the few places outside of the Syrian propaganda ministry where Israel’s decision to prevent Hezbollah – an Iranian backed illegal militia which occupies large swaths of Lebanon – from acquiring more deadly weaponry represents a ‘dangerous provocation’ which may ignite another Western war in the Mid-East is the mind of Robert Fisk.

Harriet Sherwood misleads on Syrian weapon crisis with distorted reading of Res. 1701

The Guardian has published several articles on suspected military strikes, over the last several days, by the Israeli Air Force, which likely targeted sophisticated weaponry (possibly Russian made SA-17 anti-aircraft missilesreportedly on its way to the Iranian backed terror group, Hezbollah, illegally based in Lebanon.

Israeli officials have been warning for months that the IDF will not allow the transfer of advanced Syrian weapons – including chemical and biological weapons – to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and Hezbollah.  

Assuming reports of the Israeli strikes are accurate, it may indicate that Assad had decided test Israeli resolve to prevent such arms transfers.

Harriet Sherwood’s latest report on the conflagration in Lebanon, ‘Israeli warplanes violate Lebanese airspace, Feb 1, included these passages:

Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon again on Friday, two days after air strikes targeted a convoy of arms or a weapons research base inside Syrian territory.

Under UN security council resolution 1701, passed following the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Israeli planes are forbidden from flying over Lebanon. [emphasis added]

Sherwood is referring to the UN security council resolution which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Here are relevant provisions of 1701:

14. Calls upon the government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11 to assist the government of Lebanon at its request;
15. Decides further that all states shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft;
a. the sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories, and;
b. the provision to any entity or individual in Lebanon of any technical training or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items listed in subparagraph (a) above, except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorised by the government of Lebanon or by Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11;

So, by any reading of 1701, arms transfers from Syria to Hezbollah (in Lebanon) are prohibited and, therefore, Israeli efforts to prevent such transfers would arguably be justified, according to at least the spirit of the resolution.

Further, and more relevant to the current crisis, 1701 includes the following, which specifically prohibits the continuing presence and arming of Hezbollah – an illegal militia – in Lebanon, by calling for:

  • security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorised in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • Full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state;
  • No foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government;

Yet, it is widely known that Hezbollah has flagrantly violated 1701, as it has continued to maintain and develop a military infrastructure, including sophisticated offensive and defensive weaponry, south of the Litani river, and are believed to possess nearly 1,000 facilities in southern Lebanon, located in up to 270 civilian villages.

Here’s an IDF map illustrating Hezbollah’s ‘illegal occupation’ of Lebanon.


Not only has Hezbollah failed to disarm, but has in fact acquired (from Iran and Syria) an astonishing array of up to 50,000 rockets (4 x the amount they possessed at the end of the 2006 war) which threaten Israel and the entire region – all under the eyes of UN observers (UNIFIL) tasked with preventing the Shiite terror group’s re-arming. 

Interestingly, Sherwood does add, further in her report, that “Western…sources said Israel’s target was a convoy of trucks carrying Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon”, but, not surprisingly, fails to note that such a transfer would necessarily violate 1701.

Even if Sherwood is to argue that reported IAF missions over Lebanon technically violate 1701, the absence of any context regarding Hezbollah’s flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the resolution for over six years represents another classic example of a Guardian omission which serves to grossly distort the political reality of the region.

Guardian analyst laments that Israel’s ‘far-right’ gov’t won’t make peace with global jihadists

A recent edition of the Guardian’s ongoing Middle East Live Blog (edited by  and ) added a bit of analysis to recent reports that the IDF has been striking sophisticated (possibly Russian made) weaponry which was reportedly on its way to the Iranian backed terror group, Hezbollah in Lebanon.


Version of the advanced anti-missile system that Israel reportedly intercepted in a Syria which was heading to Hezbollah

The reported strikes would be consistent with previous warnings by Israeli leaders of the possibility of military action to prevent the Syrian regime’s arms – including chemical and biological weapons – from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, or “global jihadists” [such as al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups in like Jabhat al-Nusra], fighting inside Syria, especially in light of the increasing instability of the Assad regime.

The Guardian report notes the following:

Expect to see more Israeli air strikes against Syria, warns analyst Nicholas Noe, who is concerned that the crisis threatens to escalate into a regional conflagration.

Noe, co-founder of and expert on Hezbollah, said: “Unfortunately if the past is any guide to the future we are in for more Israeli air strikes, and a political process to settle this is not going to be forthcoming.”

Noe then is quoted thus:

“Unfortunately I don’t think this extraordinarily right wing Israeli leadership is interested in sending messages of peace.

They see some of the greatest enemies to the north, Hezbollah and Syria, as very vulnerable and I’m greatly concerned that there is a strong desire among parts of the Israeli establishment who want to use this opportunity to strike some strong blows against their strategic enemies.

Noe, a ‘Comment is Free’ contributor, would evidently have us believe that, if not for the “extraordinary right wing Israeli leadership”, peace between Israel, Syria, al-Qaeda affiliated groups and Hezbollah could possibly be forthcoming. 

This sage commentary by Noe, an “analyst” who has shilled for Hezbollah previously at CiF, suggesting that it is Israel which is the the military aggressor, represents yet another in a series of increasingly hysterical characterizations of Israel’s alleged “extreme right” political orientation – a specious and misleading narrative in the political context of the region, and one which evidently hasn’t been modified by contradictory evidence produced by the Israeli elections.

“Progressive” global jihadists and “liberal” Hezbollah leaders are no doubt increasingly depressed about the prospect of having their peaceful acquisition of sophisticated Syrian arms stymied by the belligerent Jewish state. 

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,, 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. 

An unlikely endorsement of Israeli democracy at ‘Comment is Free’

Jamal Zahalka is an Arab citizen of Israel, and the member of a political party which opposes his state’s existence.

He has received a BA, MA and PhD at Hebrew University.

In April of 2006, after a Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, during Passover, killed nine Israelis and wounded more than sixty, Zahalka met, not with families of the victims, but with top Hamas members, in a show of solidarity.

He and three of his colleagues visited Syria and Lebanon in September 2006, after the 2nd Lebanon War in a show of solidarity with Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is an Iranian sponsored Shiite terrorist group in Lebanon whose goal is the establishment of an Islamic government across the Arab world. Their leaders have characterized Israel as a “cancerous entity” of “ultimate evil” whose “annihilation … is a definite matter”, and has called for the murder of Jews all over the world.

In 2009, Zahalka attended a pro-Hamas rally near the Gaza border, on the one year anniversary of Cast Lead, and accused Defense Minister Ehud Barak of enjoying “…killing children in Gaza.”

In 2009, the Israeli Central Elections Committee accused the party which Zahalka belongs to of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist. 

Zahalka has also condemned Israel while speaking abroad in front of anti-Zionist groups, where he has called Israel an ‘apartheid’ state. He has also described the state as a “ethnocracy” and a nation which practices “racial colonialism”.

Yesterday, Nov.  4, Zahalka penned an essay at ‘Comment is Free’, calling for sanctions against Israel, which he characterized as a “racist”, “extremist” state that is suffering form an erosion in democracy. 

Oh, and one more thing.

Jamal Zahalka is an Israeli MK, and the leader of the Balad Party (National Democratic Assembly).

Imagine for a second what the reaction would be in the democratic US if a Congressman met with, and expressed support for, al-Qaeda figures or leaders of other proscribed terrorists groups committed to the destruction of the United States.  In fact, such acts are codified as treasonous in the Constitution, Article 3, which prohibits acts which have the effect of giving “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy.

The legal impunity Jamal Zahalka will continue to enjoy – the rights of citizenship, and special rights as an MK, afforded him by the very state whose existence he incites against – represents stubborn proof attesting to the continuing vitality of Israeli democracy.

Contrary to the illiberal politics in most of the Arab Middle East, democracy in Israel is thriving, and Jamal Zahalka is certainly using its full advantage.