To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The 'New Yorker' On Netanyahu's Duplicity, AIPAC's 'Dual Loyalty' And The Israel Lobby's Dangerous Hold On The US Congress

Connie Bruck’s reporting on the backlash against Israel and its primary American enabler, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a powerful indictment against the very “lobby” that New Yorker editor David Remnick himself scoffed at back in 2007 when Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer were launching the book version of their now-infamous treatise.  At the time, Remnick said that The Israel Lobby And U.S. Foreign Policy was “a phenomenon of its moment,” implying that it was an act of scapegoating for “the duplicitous and manipulative arguments for invading Iraq put forward by the Bush Administration” as well as “the general inability of the press to upend those duplicities, the triumphalist illusions, the miserable performance of the military strategists, the arrogance of the Pentagon, the stifling of dissent within the military and the government, the moral disaster of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the rise of an intractable civil war, and now an incapacity to deal with the singular winner of the war, Iran.” All of which had left Americans “ furious and demanding explanations,” Remnick argued. He noted that Walt and Mearsheimer had been accused of anti Semitism, but did not make that direct accusation himself, though the suggestion was there. The timing of his disparagement was noteworthy. Coming just before the book's publication later that week it seemed kind of catty. Remnick obviously had an advance copy of the book.  Why didn't he just review the book itself, instead of writing a jaundiced, PW-style pre-publication notice, especially for a landmark effort that broke a long conspiracy of silence on Israel's corrupting influence in Washington and would go on to became a robust national bestseller?

Bruck’s piece does have a bit of the annoying ethnic insularity that marks the wider journalistic debate about the US-Israel "special relationship;” the subtitle of the digital version is “Are American Jews Turning Against AIPAC?” as if non-Jewish Americans are irrelevant. But the article does not shy from material that raises the issue of “dual loyalty” on the part of AIPAC operatives and their wealthy right-wing Jewish donors, which the accompanying artwork seems to echo.

John Yarmuth, a Jewish congressman from Louisville, Kentucky, told Bruck that “I think there is a growing sense among members that things are done just to placate AIPAC, and that AIPAC is not really working to advance what is in the interest of the United States. We all took an oath of office. And AIPAC, in many instances, is asking us to ignore it.” Another congressman, Brian Baird, ousted in 2011 after getting on AIPAC’s bad side, observed that “When key votes are cast, the question on the House floor, troublingly, is often not ‘What is the right thing to do for the United States of America?’ but ‘How is AIPAC going to score this?’ ” 

Fascinatingly---and irritatingly--- when Baird pressed AIPAC officials on this, he often sensed  a kind of subtle contempt for America itself, a variant of a larger syndrome that might be called goyimhass. “There is a disdain for the U.S., and a dismissal of any legitimacy of our right to question (Israel)—because who are we to talk about moral values? Whether it’s that we didn’t help early enough in the Holocaust, or look at what we did to our African-Americans, or our Native Americans—whatever! And they see us, members of Congress, as basically for sale. So they want us to shut up and play the game.” A former AIPAC official told Bruck that, historically speaking, the lobbying group had a rather grandiose vision that deluded them to think that  “if AIPAC had existed prior to the Second World War, America would have stopped Hitler.”

At the time the Israel Lobby came out, New Yorker writer Jeffrey Goldberg, who reviewed the book for the New Republic, took authors Walt and Mearsheimer to task for an overreliance on secondary sources.  The two scholars were “dilettantes ” who wrote “about the lobbying activities of AIPAC and other Jewish lobbying and advocacy groups as if they had never set foot in the capital.” Goldberg was particularly disdainful that Walt and Mearsheimer admitted they did no independent reporting, in effect, not interviewing “a single member of Congress for their book about Congress.” In fact, if the book did have a weakness, this was it, although for Goldberg it was a more of a fig leaf for what were at bottom his own ideological objections and ethnic discomfort. Still, by relying on well-placed first hand sources, most speaking to her on the record, Bruck has immunized herself against this kind of criticism.  The result was the kind of “long, dispassionate, names-and-dates-and-quotes” story that the Atlantic’s Jim Fallows, who is no one’s idea of a Washington “tourist,” said marked “a positive step toward realistic discourse.”

It’s said, perhaps too simplistically, that America “lost” Vietnam when Walter Cronkite returned from there in February, 1968 and expressed doubts about the war on the air. The fact that Remnick gave a green light to this piece may not represent the same kind of watershed but it is significant--- a very clear sign that the dam of denial and avoidance on the American "Israel Question" is crumbling. I don't want to push it too far because the US-Israel "special relationship" certainly needs a lot more rebalancing than this kind of magazine article, but there actually seems to be something patriotic going on here. It's an American "win." 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jewish Survivors Use Holocaust Card vs. Elie Wiesel For Supporting Israeli Gaza ‘Massacre.’ Condemn US For Financial & Diplomatic Backing And Call For ‘Full’ Boycott Of Israel

From today’s Haaretz:
Hundreds of Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors have signed a letter, published as an advertisement in Saturday's New York Times, condemning "the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza" and calling for a complete boycott of Israel.
According to the letter, the condemnation was prompted by an advertisement written by Elie Wiesel and published in major news outlets worldwide, accusing Hamas of "child sacrifice" and comparing the group to the Nazis.
The letter, signed by 327 Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors and sponsored by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, accuses Wiesel of "abuse of history" in order to justify Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip…
The letter also blames the United States of aiding Israel in its Gaza operation, and the West in general of protecting Israel from condemnation.
"Genocide begins with the silence of the world," the letter reads.
The letter ends with a call to bring the blockade of Gaza to an immediate end, and for a full boycott of Israel. "Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!," the letter concludes.
Full Text Of Letter:
"Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza
"As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.
"We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.
"Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.
"We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!


It’ll be interesting to see if pro Israel spinners can find a way to blame this on the deep and ineradicable anti Semitism that they contend is hiding behind much of the world’s humanitarian concerns for Gazan civilians as well as demands that Israel be investigated for war crimes. I think they just got hoisted by the own fraying petard.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dark Shadows Over 'The Light Onto Nations:' Israel's Fascist Turn


Images of belching, snorting tanks in Gaza, as well as the triumphalist rhetoric of Israeli politicians perched figuratively on top of them, are not new things. In fact, you could say they’re wired into Israel’s DNA. The Zionist militant Vladimir Jabotinsky wrote in 1923 that Zionists needed to erect a great “iron wall” of military supremacy to nurture the nascent Jewish state against the uncompromising opposition of the native Arabs. Spurning those with a softer vision of Jewish national redemption, while also dissing Christianity, Jabotinky declared that

The messiah will not come in the figure of a poor man riding on a donkey. The messiah will come, like all messiahs riding on a tank delivering his orations to the people.

According to John Judis’s Genesis, Jabotinsky did not consider himself a fascist, though he did praise Mussolini and saw democracy as a means to achieving a Jewish state, but not as an end in itself.  Judis explains that some of Jabotinsky’s followers however were “less reticent about fascist ides and methods.” Judis relates how Abba Ahimer, who replaced Jabotinsky as the leader of the Revisionsit Zionist faction, referred to him as  “Duce” and wrote a series of newspaper articles called “From the Dairy of a Fascist.” Ahimer extolled the 20th century as “the century of dictatorship, enthusiasm and the cult of the fist that was formed amid the fumes of tanks.”

Jabotinsky the Zionist Revisionist has himself become the object of revisionism. Hillel Halkin’s recent biography of Jabotinsky, which the Wall Street Journal assigned to Douglas Feith for review in a striking example of the pro Israel insularity now plaguing the paper’s editorial page, explains that Jabotinsky’s martial side is exaggerated, and that David Ben Gurion slandered him by calling him “Vladimir Hitler.” Jabotoinksy was essentially a literary figure, committed to a revival of the Hebrew language and culture, Feith contends, preferring “Jabotinsky's multifaceted nature as a littérateur and polemicist.” The book was also noted in Tablet, along similar ideological lines.

But Jabotinsky’s authoritarian legacy endures in the fury with which the Likud government of Benjamin Netanyahu let loose the Israel Defense Forces on Gaza, which looks likely to result in serious war crimes being leveled against the Jewish state. Perhaps even more noteworthy are a number of anti democratic tendencies building within an increasingly right-leaning and religiously conservative Israel. The “cult of the fist” lives on.

With a PhD in modern European history, the American Conservative’s founding editor Scott McConnell takes pains to differentiate exactly what form of authoritarianism is emerging in what its more ardent supporters call “the Middle East’s only democracy.”  In an essay posted last week called “What Gaza Revealed” McConnell says that there’s a need “to avoid crude polemical comparisons to Nazi Germany, particularly Nazism during the Holocaust era.” Such comparisons “are often meant to be gratuitously offensive. Israel is not Nazi Germany.” Nevertheless, McConnell writes

With its most recent Gaza war the country has turned a page, exposing Americans and the world to a new and far more fascist Israel than was evident in past decade.

The Israeli peace camp that energized mass demonstrations against Israel’s military misadventurism in Lebanon in the 1980s has “has nearly disappeared” McConnnell writes, adding “it is no longer safe in Israel to oppose government policy by peaceful demonstration.” In fact, the country as a whole is having trouble passing what former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, who went on to become a man of the Israeli right, calls “the town square test,” which says the distinction between a “fear society” and a “free society” depends on whether someone can “walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm.”  Referencing incidents that have not gotten the attention in the American press that they deserve, McConnell says:

To protest Israeli bombardment of Gaza now is to risk attack by right-wing thugs, while the police look on [1] or sometimes help the pro-government attackers [2]. Meanwhile, Israeli pro-government politicians look for new ways [3] to punish dissenters, either by rendering human right organizations unable to function or by pressuring employers to fire dissenters from their jobs—tactics now described as “white fascism”. Israel hasn’t traversed the entire route of becoming a Sharansky “fear society,” but it is on that trajectory.

(I might add several things to this list, subsequent to McConnell's post. This includes the Israeli government's refusal this week to let Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International into Gaza in order to obstruct war crimes investigations. Also, the protest that Jewish extremists mounted at the Tel Aviv wedding of a Jewish woman to an Arab man holding signs that said "Death to Arabs," as their leader, a former Knesset member, declared that the interfaith nuptial was "worse than what Hitler did.") 

McConnell adds to his brief with a note on the ugly, racist and incendiary rhetoric of Israel’s right wing politicians, some of whom, I would add, are well received by the American pro Israel community, including prominent figures in the Republican party.

There is Ayelet Shaked,  [4]whose open call for genocide against Palestinians provoked one British-Israeli citizen to contemplate burning her Israeli passport. Shaked was giving political voice to the Israeli mobs that run around Jerusalem shouting “Death to the Arabs” and looking for Palestinians to beat up, though she is after all only one member of Israel’s Parliament. But what is one to make of Moshe Feiglin, not a marginal Israeli figure but deputy speaker of the Knesset, a top player in Israel’s ruling Likud Party? He recently called [5] for Gazans to resettled in concentration camps, and all of Hamas and its supporters to be “annihilated.” All societies have their hate groups and extremists, but nowhere in the democratic world are they nearer to the center of power than Israel. In the 1980s Meir Kahane had a small following in Israel, but his pro-ethnic cleansing party was made illegal. Now Kahanists are in the center of the country’s ruling ideology.

This now is Israel, a country whose military relishes unfair fights against poorly armed militias, where imposing collective punishment of innocents is the main point, whose elected politicians pine openly for concentration camps and genocide.

McConnell makes the point that the Israeli “turn to fascism” was explored in Max Blumenthal’s book, Goliath, which was loathed and dismissed by “the lobby” without ever being answered effectively. But “Gaza has brought Blumenthal’s ideas to a point, releasing the pent-up animus and anti-democratic hatred for all the world to see.”

McConnell explores the issue of psychological resistance---how difficult it often is for people to really see and recognize these kinds of political transformations in real time, as they live them. Historically in Europe, he explains, there was “a time lag” between the reality of Germany “becoming a murderous dictatorship, and the perception of that reality,” which cost many people their lives by not reading the writing on the wall and getting out in time.

Because Israel (like the Germany of early last century) is a country of advanced science and medicine, a country containing hundreds of thousands of individuals who would be perceived as exemplary anywhere in the world, there is a kind of cognitive dissonance: we draw back from recognizing the polity before our eyes because it doesn’t match  the image of Israel we grew up with (however idealized and unrealistic that may have been). But yes, Feiglin and Shaked represent the real Israel of today.

He senses that American opinion on Israel is starting to shift.

Perception of the new reality lags is beginning, ever so slowly, to catch up. Even in conversations with well-heeled members of the business establishment, one also can sense a sea change—one hears murmurs of disapproval, even outrage, expressed in places (an upscale golf club) where one would never before have heard it. Politicians are the last to reflect this: the Senate passed a unanimous vote of approval for Israel early in the conflict, and the House adjourned leaving all manner of pressing business undone, but making sure, by a 395 to 8 vote, that Israel received more funding for its Iron Dome.  … The American polity will change, probably bit by bit for a while and then in a big rush—as a result of political leadership. The evolution of public opinion towards gay marriage seems a plausible template.

I’m actually dubious that American opinion on Israel will undergo a shift any time soon like the one on a domestic issue like gay marriage, particularly as the pro Israel community here and hawkish politicians in Israel invoke the specter of ISIS and its jihadist fervor as an pretext to void the question of Palestinian statehood. And as politicians like Hillary Clinton, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and US congressman Steve Israel, to name but a few, either run to Israel or give supportive interviews to pander to pro Israel money and pro Israel votes, I’m not exactly seeing the “leadership” that McConnel says will move public opinion.   

Whether opinion shifts and whether that shifted opinion has any material impact on the nature of the “special relationship,” McConnell is right though when he says that America is facing “the terribly difficult problem” of

how to treat Israel, hyper-nationalistic, loaded with nuclear weapons, deeply racist, persuaded that any opposition to it is derived from anti-Semitism, feeling that the Holocaust gives it license to do whatever it wants and that the normal rules of international conduct will never apply to it. It won’t be an easy matter to solve.  

As Thomas Friedman wrote this spring, “We’re not dealing anymore with your grandfather’s Israel.” Written just after as the violence in Gaza had crested, McConnell’s grim picture of contemporary Israel may be a bit overwrought. But right now Israel is throwing off the kind of dark shadows that make “The Light Onto Nations” look more like a fading star.

Jabotinsky composite 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On McLaughlin Group, Mort Zuckerman Seems to Be Fibbing About Seeing the 'Devastation' of Gaza Firsthand

Uh-Oh. I think Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman just got caught in a bit of a lie, in answer to a question put to him Eleanor Clift on this week’s McLaughlin Group. The segment focused on Zuckerman’s visit this week to Israel, where he had accompanied New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on a whirlwind tour of embattled Israel as part of something called the New York State-Israel “Unity Mission.” Mort had just described the tour he and Cuomo had been given of a rather extensive tunnel that Hamas had built into Israeli territory, which he said reminded of something you might see in the New York City subway system. Clift then asked: “Did you tour any of the devastation in Gaza?’ 

If Zuckerman kept to Cuomo’s itinerary, he would not have seen such devastation, since Cuomo spent his entire 28.5 hours on the ground in Israel proper. Although Palestinian officials had extended an invitation for Cuomo to visit Palestinian territory in the West Bank, he declined to do so, and so far there has been no news that Zuckerman made his way into Gaza on his own. This would have required a lot of "fixing" on the ground and would have been something Zuckerman himself would have written about by now, or would have had the Daily News reporter who travelled with him write up.

The exchange between Clift and Zuckerman picks up at the 9 minute mark of this video.

Clift to Zuckerman: Did you tour any of the devastation in Gaza?”

Zuckerman to Clift: Yeah, I did.

It’s not entirely clear on the audio, but Clift seems to have then asked Zuckerman “When?” This would have been a reference to the much-noted pace of the Zuckerman-Cuomo “Unity Tour” and the reluctance to visit Palestinian territory, I guess, with the assumption that Zuckerman was talking about having personally witnessing this devastation--and not through a telescope or a satellite or a drone camera. But Zuckerman was moving on---fast, as fumferers tend to do--- and launched very quickly into a spiel on how the “devastation” Clift was pressing him about was entirely the work of Hamas and its cynical use of civilian pawns.

Bad enough for Zuckerman to have been Cuomo’s enabler in pandering to pro Israel money and votes and grooming his national profile by staging a dog and pony show in support of a country that is credibly accused of war crimes---lots of them--in its recent Gaza operations. But to lie that you’ve actually witnessed the physical aftermath of Israel’s onslaught when in fact you have not is kinda low---and an insult to the very brave men and women who risked their lives in Gaza to report the news during the month-long Israeli attacks there.  

Foreign correspondents of Zuckerman’s vintage (post-Scoop, pre-internet) used to play fast and loose with datelines all the time, claiming they were in some difficult-to-get-to place and had seen something important when all that they had actually personally witnessed was the battle for position at the hotel bar. Maybe it’s just a function of generational lag---a macho “senior moment.” Then too, it could be jet lag; it's hard to be clearheaded after seeing so much so fast, even if you haven't really seen everything you say you've seen. Maybe Mort just misheard what Clift had asked. 

But I suspect it’s just one more manifestation of the dishonesty that has long haunted the American discourse on Israel, the casual lying both by commission and omission that is as maddening as it is chronic.   

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jeffrey Goldberg’s Crystal Ball On David Gregory’s Future @ 'Meet The Press' Was As Reliable As His Iraq WMD Reporting

“Time is on David’s side. It’s semi-inevitable. He just has to keep doing what he’s doing, and continue to break new ground on the big stories of the week. In five to 10 years, we’ll be talking about him as the grand old man of Sunday morning.”

This was the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who has been a regular on Meet The Press, at least before David Gregory’s firing this week, swatting aside speculation that the MTP host was on the ropes at NBC News, as reported by Paul Farhi in the Washington Post back in April. Gregory didn't make out as well as Goldberg predicted. After years of abysmal ratings that saw MTP lose the sizable lead over its Sunday morning competitors that it has been bequeathed by the late Tim Russert, NBC announced late last week that it was replacing Gregory, who in turn announced he would be leaving the network altogether.    

I didn’t address it at the time in the post I did on Gregory’s possible demise, but I recall thinking that it was somewhat journalistically inappropriate on Farhi’s part to give Goldberg the last word. I mean, Goldberg and Gregory are friends, fellow members in a Torah study group with several other leading media figures in Washington in fact. Goldberg owes his slot on the shows “Powerhouse Roundtable” to a large degree on that friendship.  What else is Goldberg supposed to say?    

In hindsight, however, it only makes Goldberg look like a smug sycophant, and represents just one more item in a lengthening list where Goldberg has been wrong, both as a reporter and as a pundit--- the WMD’s he said Iraq has developed and possessed in 2002 and the Israeli air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities he said was imminent in 2010. (And let’s not even get into how wrong he’s been on the central thesis of the Israel Lobby, whose authors he’s been shamelessly and demagogically smearing as anti Semites since reviewing it for the New Republic in 2007. )

In the aftermath of Gaza and the limits to American leverage over Israeli politicians and military leaders that Gaza revealed, it is my deep sense that the US-Israel special relationship is seriously skewed, and that a rectification is in the offing, though it's going to take something even more scandalous than Gaza to bring that about. To the extent that someone like Jeffrey Goldberg is considered the “official therapist” of that special relationship, it would not surprise me that a demotion of some kind is part of that rectification. But I won’t make any predictions just now, even as the bill of particulars against Goldberg grows, just as the case against Israel’s "special" place in the American political system grows too. Exceptionalism, like a media career, can have an expiration date.   

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Decorated US Marine Jailed For 'Dodging' Israeli Draft After Arriving In Israel --- To Volunteer

If one of the issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unresolved borders, the principal problem at the heart of the US-Israeli “special relationship” is one of boundaries---as in boundary issues.

This certain seems to the case with young American Jews flocking to serve in the IDF and the almost uniformly positive response such “patriotic” gestures have gotten in the mainstream press, which seems to have decided that traditional notions of citizenship are outdated in a post-national world.

Once the Gaza pace slows I’ll be going into some of the problems that dual nationality imposes on the "special relationship" ---dual loyalty not being the least of them. In the meantime, here’s a great example of the confusion that dual US-Israeli citizenship can create vis a vis military service, which is voluntary in the US but compulsory in Israel. The Israeli English language news site Ynet  has the story of David Krauskopf, a 25 year  decorated former US Marine who is also a dual US-Israeli citizen who was jailed when he arrived in Israel this month on charges of dodging the Israeli draft.  

In fact, Krauskopf had gone to Israel to volunteer in support of his brother who is currently serving in the IDF. According to Ynet, the fact that Krauskopf was still serving in the US Marine reserves cut no ice in the eyes of Israeli military, although one military justice cited by Ynet indicated that the case would ultimately be resolved by diplomats and not by Israeli military courts. In the meantime, Krauskopf remains in custody.

According to Krauskopf’s lawyer, “It’s unthinkable that military service in the US, which is our greatest ally, is not recognized in Israel.”

Lest Krauskopf argues that he is being "singled out," which Israel as a nation is always very sensitive about (even more so now as Gaza war crimes charges loom), Ynet also reports that the IDF is hunting down nearly 5000 IDf deserters and home-grown Israeli draft dodgers. The problem is that they don't have enough jail space to house them all. 

Which makes the jailing of Krauskopf even more absurd. What's that old military acronym, FUBAR? Is there a Hebrew translation?   

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Times Truckles To Israeli Censorship --- And Then Some. Gag Order On Palestinian Teen Burning Murder Has Been Lifted, The Accused Says He Is 'The Messiah,' But Still No Story

The arrests of six Jewish extremists for the burning death of Palestinian teen ager Mohammed Abu Khdeir --- in retaliation for the kidnapping murders of three Israeli teens several weeks before--- was the subject of an immediate Israeli police gag order that barred news organizations from reporting details of the case’s investigation, including the identity of the suspects. The order applied to Israeli as well as foreign media and put the New York Times back in the crosshairs of a debate on the limits of its institutional obligations to observe official Israeli censorship, a debate that continues with press restrictions on military operations in Gaza. At the time, the paper was already observing a gag order in the case of the three kidnapped Israeli teens whose deaths were blamed on the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group Hamas. 

Both of these instances of official Israeli censorship followed on the heels another Israeli government gag order case in April, in which the paper delayed reporting on the incommunicado detention of a Palestinian journalist/activist on suspicion of terrorist conspiracy as he returned from a conference in Lebanon until the man was released into house arrest before being cleared.  The April case revealed a certain amount of institutional confusion on the part of the Times. Bureau chief Jodi Rudoren told Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan that that it was paper's policy to observe such censorship and was necessary for maintaining official accreditation, while the paper’s masthead editors said the knew of no such policy.

At the time, however, Rudoren tried to calm any anxieties about the impact such an order might have on the paper’s overall coverage by minimizing the significance of the detained Palestinian journalist, telling Sullivan that it would have resulted in at most a short “brief.” In the case of a more important story with a gag order, Rudoren speculated that the paper would probably do an end run around legal restrictions in Israel by writing a story from New York or Washington.   

In fact the Times took another course in the gag order on the teen burning murder case, though one with the similar aim of preserving Rudoren’s press credentials, as well as Isabel Kershner, Rudoren's colleague in the Jerusalem bureau who is an Israeli citizen. Within a week Times editors dispatched London-based correspondent Steve Erlanger to do an end run around Israeli censors, reporting on Sunday July 10th that there were links between the killing and “Israeli right- wing extremist groups that have at times operated with impunity.” The headline on the report read: Killing of Palestinian Youth Puts an Israeli Focus on Extremism.”

Erlanger made note that the largest Hebrew language newspaper in Israel Israeli Hebrew language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth was reporting that the ringleader was “the son of a well-known rabbi” who lived in the settlement of Adam near Jerusalem and that he was said to have psychiatric issues, but that none of the details had been confirmed. In fact though YNet, an English language website associated with Yedioth Ahronoth was reporting that the man in question was both the son and grandson of two right wing Israeli rabbis associated with resurgent Jewish fundamentalism in the militant settler community.    

The gag order in the Abu Khdeir  case was lifted July 20th. Haaretz reported that the identity of the chief suspect, 29 year old Yosef Haim Ben-David, who ran an eyeglass store in Jerusalem and bears a striking resemblance to Charles Manson in some press photographs.  As formal court proceedings unfolded in late July, the Forward ran a Jewish Telegraph Agency story reporting that Ben-David and had announced that he was “the Messiah” in Jerusalem District Court. And that he would be pursuing a temporary insanity defense. The Forward also reported that  Ben-David had been committed to a mental hospital in recent months after allegedly attempting to murder his infant daughter, and that he was also charged with attempting to kidnap a 7-year-old boy from eastern Jerusalem a day before the murder of Khdeir. Other Israeli news organizations, such as the Jerusalem Post, reported that officials had placed the gag order on the suspect’s identity in part to protect the suspect’s family from reprisals like the firebombing attack they claimed to have suffered but that was in fact fictional, according to the Israeli judge who lifted the order.   

Yet as significant as this case was to sequence of events that culminated in the now nearly month long Israeli military operation in Gaza, the Times has not followed up with news of the suspect’s identity. Nor has it reported the man’s deranged claims to be the Messiah or the full significance of his family connections to the rising tide of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel which is said to have spread quite extensively into the IDF.

Of course, keeping up with news on the Gaza operation might very well be a be a factor in the delay. But the paper was able to report in a very timely manner on the lifting of the gag order associated with the killing of the three kidnapped Israeli teens, noting that a Palestinian man who had been arrested had told interrogators that he had received financing for the operation from Hamas. And it has been almost three weeks now since the Israeli judge lifted the censorship order. So why is the news that the man responsible for the horrendous revenge murder of a Palestinian teen is a pretender Messiah with connections to the shadowy and combustible world of Jewish extremism, not fit to print here even after the official gag order barring its publication has expired over there?  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Israel's Chilling Executioners---And Ethnic Cleansers, Genociders, Forced Expulsionists And Concentration Campers

As I’ve written before, I don't think the Star of David has become the new swastika or that an increasingly authoritarian and right wing Israel is becoming an avatar of Nazi Germany. But today’s Dish has a compendium of esteemed and influential Israeli hardliners whose eliminationist proposals for dealing with the Palestinians in Gaza really do sound disturbing historical echoes.  

The most disturbing part is that these hardliners---the deputy speaker of the Knesset who was appointed by Netanyahu, a former head of Israel's national Security Council, Israel's former chief rabbi and the head of the largest youth group in the world--- are not, as Andrew Sullivan points out, "fringe figures. " They are also people who have a welcome place among pro Israel supporters here. Sullivan points out that none of these people have suffered any consequences so far for their statements, which leads him to ask the simple question: 

which leader of another American ally has appointed a man who favors genocide and ethnic cleansing as the deputy speaker of the legislature? Which other democracy has legitimate political parties in the governing coalition calling for permanent occupation of a neighboring state – and deliberate social engineering to create a new demographic ethnic reality in that conquered land? Putin’s Russia has not sunk that low. 

Sullivan says that Gaza’s "grotesque" death toll is a "distillation" of the mindset of the Israeli hardliners he quotes in his post and reveal “ at best a chilling contempt for Arab life and at worst, with the shelling of schools and shelters, a policy of indiscriminate hatred and revenge."

To see in front of one’s nose is a constant struggle. But I see evil in front of noses here – and evil that is gaining strength because of willful American blindness.

During the ill-starred Kerry peace negotiations, the Israeli right and the enablers in the lobby here raised the issue of Palestinian “incitement” against Israel ---i.e. propaganda that delegitimiazed Israel’s right to exist, or school curricula in the Palestinian educational system that taught schoolchildren to “hate” Jews. Is this kind of Zionist incitement---in this case a set of utterly crude and dangerous proposals for ridding Gaza of its problematic residents --- any different?

In fact, I think it’s worse, because it's coming from people who, nominally speaking are supposed to "share" American values. In fact though there’s a very, very dark strain of thought that is emerging in our “ally” that really needs to be brought out into the light so that we, as Americans, can see just what the US-Israel “special relationship” really entails.