For Common Dreams, Lance Tapley reports: Like many other news websites, Common Dreams has been plagued by inflammatory anti-Semitic comments following its stories. But on Common Dreams these posts have been so frequent and intense they have driven away donors from a nonprofit dependent on reader generosity.
A Common Dreams investigation has discovered that more than a thousand of these damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.
His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, “JewishProgressive,” whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names.
The deception was many-layered. At one point he had one of his characters charge that the anti-Semitic comments and the criticism of the anti-Semitic comments must be written by “internet trolls who have been known to impersonate anti-Semites in order to then double-back and accuse others of supporting anti-Semitism” — exactly what he was doing. (Trolls are posters who foment discord.)
The impersonation, this character wrote, must be part of an “elaborate Hasbara setup,” referring to an Israeli international public-relations campaign. When Common Dreams finally confronted the man behind the deceptive posting, he denied that he himself was involved with Hasbara.
His posting on Common Dreams illustrates the susceptibility of website comment threads to massive manipulation. [Continue reading...]
In case anyone has the slightest doubt whether Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016, read her interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic.
She dutifully supports every position the Israel lobby demands and even deftly conjures up a rhetorical connection between jihadists and the nuclear threat from Iran, introducing a piece of non-proliferation jargon into counterterrorism when she refers to the breakout capacity “of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States.”
For a few neocons in Washington who are indulging in fantasies about their political rehabilitation, much of what Clinton says, must be music to their ears. She shares the view frequently expressed by Israel apologists during its assault on Gaza, that Israel is getting more criticism than it deserves.
When it comes to killing Palestinian civilians, Israel still suffers from its “old PR problem.” Indeed, hundreds of dead children always cause a PR problem.
Hillary Clinton: [W]e do see this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair.
Jeffrey Goldberg: What do you think causes this reaction?
HRC: There are a number of factors going into it. You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV.
And what you see on TV is so effectively stage-managed by Hamas, and always has been. What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It’s the old PR problem that Israel has. Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel.
JG: Nevertheless there are hundreds of children –
HRC: Absolutely, and it’s dreadful.
JG: Who do you hold responsible for those deaths? How do you parcel out blame?
HRC: I’m not sure it’s possible to parcel out blame because it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict and wanted to do so in order to leverage its position, having been shut out by the Egyptians post-Morsi, having been shunned by the Gulf, having been pulled into a technocratic government with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority that might have caused better governance and a greater willingness on the part of the people of Gaza to move away from tolerating Hamas in their midst. So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.
That doesn’t mean that, just as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians, that there aren’t mistakes that are made. We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are– and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position — that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.
Roy Greenslade writes: The Times is under attack for refusing to run an advert about the conflict in Gaza. The paper is accused of being part of a British media “infamously skewed against Israel.”
The ad is a statement, written jointly by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel prize-winning author, and Shmuley Boteach, an outspoken American-born Orthodox rabbi.
It calls on President Obama and other political leaders across the world “to condemn Hamas’s use of children as human shields”, which amounts to “child sacrifice”.
The advert has been carried in five US newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, which is published by News Corporation, the owner of The Times. The Guardian has agreed to run the advert on Monday.
The New York Observer reports that the fee The Guardian will receive for the ad is roughly $20,000. A source at the paper is quoted saying: “The Guardian may be left wing but they obviously believe in free speech and allowing their readers to hear the voice of a Nobel Laureate about a very important issue.”
If The Guardian is only printing this ad because it believes in free speech and it does not endorse the ad’s content, it could make its position clear by donating the $20,000 fee to a Gaza relief fund.
International Business Times: Actress Penelope Cruz and her husband Javier Bardem have roused the fury of Hollywood producers, with pledges made to snub the Spanish couple.
Oscar-winner Bardem and Cruz signed an open letter speaking against “the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army”.
The letter accused Israel of “advancing on Palestinian territories instead of withdrawing to the 1967 borders.
“Gaza is living through horror… while the international community does nothing.”
The Spanish letter was signed by 100 leading figures in the film industry, including director Pedro Almodovar.
One top producer who has worked with Cruz says he privately has vowed not to hire her again, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Another top Hollywood executive also privately expressed his disapproval, saying he’s “furious at Javier and Penelope” and wasn’t sure about working with the Spanish couple again.
David Palumbo-Liu writes: A few weeks ago Steven Salaita had reason to be pleased. After a full review by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he had received a generous offer of a tenured, associate professor position there — the normal contract was offered, signed by the school, he had received confirmation of his salary, a teaching schedule, everything except the final approval of the UIUC chancellor.
In academia this is not at all unusual; departments and schools are told to go ahead with the offer, so as to be competitive with both the candidate’s current school and others that might be bidding for their talent. Salaita is a world-renowned scholar of indigenous studies (and also a frequent Salon contributor). At that point, as required by academic protocols, upon accepting the position he resigned the one he held at Virginia Tech.
But final approval never came. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports today that “Phyllis M. Wise, the campus’s chancellor, and Christophe Pierre, the University of Illinois system’s vice president for academic affairs, informed the job candidate, Steven G. Salaita, on Friday that they were effectively revoking a written offer of a tenured professorship made to him last year by refusing to submit it to the system’s Board of Trustees next month for confirmation.”
According to Inside Higher Education: “Sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza. While many academics at Illinois and elsewhere are deeply critical of Israel, Salaita’s tweets have struck some as crossing a line into uncivil behavior.” Nevertheless, IHE goes on to report: “But as recently as July 22 (before the job offer was revoked), a university spokeswoman defended Salaita’s comments on Twitter and elsewhere. A spokeswoman told the News-Gazette for an article about Salaita that “faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.”
With both the university and Salaita keeping quiet on the details of the firing at the moment, it’s hard to tell what exactly changed the university’s mind. But it would seem that Salaita would be doubly protected from summary firing. First of all, no matter how “uncivil,” “disagreeable” or even repugnant some of his tweets might appear to some people, they are nonetheless protected under the First Amendment. This holds true for all individuals. But Salaita is also protected by academic freedom, a concept enshrined in American institutions of higher education.
Not only that, Salaita would be protected as a tenured professor, had it not been for his being caught between resigning from Virginia Tech and being formally hired by UIUC. The concepts of academic freedom and tenure go hand in hand — both are aimed at guaranteeing professors the freedom to found new knowledge, which is often only possible by critically examining old knowledge and continually retesting norms and assumptions, without fear of reprisals from entrenched interests, or from those who might be threatened or offended. Besides the lofty ideals of the pursuit of knowledge, academic freedom and tenure have practical goals as well — they assure that no professor will lose their livelihood for taking unpopular stances. In sum, then, Salaita was on firm ground according to all the norms and protocols for both free speech and academic freedom.
But his tweets had indeed offended not a few, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which wrote to UI president Robert Easter accusing Salaita of being anti-Semitic and declaring that “such outrageous statements present a real danger to the entire campus community, especially to its Jewish students.” Here is where things start to blur, and to blur in ways that make this issue much more than simply a matter for the ivory tower. We see a deliberate confusion of a private individual’s thoughts and beliefs and their professional life. Despite the fears of the Wiesenthal Center, there has been no proof whatsoever that Salaita’s tweets would be required reading in the classroom. Or that his political views would be force-fed to the students. Furthermore, the “danger” mentioned here is extremely vague. What is deeply troubling in this case is the influence of outside agencies and organizations on a university decision, and the absolute lack of transparency on the part of the university. [Continue reading...]
JTA reports: If the results of a recent focus group and polls are any indication, the gap is growing between Congress and young Americans when it comes to support for Israel.
Polls conducted in late July by Gallup and the Pew Research Center found that support for Israel is weaker among younger Americans and Democrats than among Americans generally. Add to that the results of a recent focus group culled from 12 congressional staffers — a small but very influential cohort — and pro-Israel activists are worried about the long-term sustainability of broad U.S. support for Israel in Congress.
Last Friday, a select group of Jewish institutions was sent a confidential summary of the staffers discussing the recent Gaza conflict. The tone of the summary, which was obtained by JTA, was one of alarm.
“Congress is supposed to be our fortress,” wrote authors Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi and Meagan Buren, the founder and a former top aide, respectively, at The Israel Project. “While Israel faces Hamas tunnels, it appears that the negativity and lack of support among young people is tunneling its way into congressional offices, even while the congressmen and senators remain steadfast on the surface.” Mizrahi and Buren left The Israel Project in 2012.
Among the statements the dozen congressional staffers agreed on: “Israel attacked Gaza in a wild overreaction.” “It’s Groundhog Day every 18 months, perennial conflict, doesn’t seem like anyone wants peace anymore.” [The Israeli government is] “not peace loving.”
Several JTA interviews with staffers for pro-Israel lawmakers suggested that the Mizrahi report’s conclusion is on target.
“On the Hill and with some people with whom I have spoken who are robust Israel supporters, people are concerned if not angry,” one of the staffers, a Democrat, told JTA. [Continue reading...]
Peter Beinart writes: If you’ve been anywhere near the American Jewish community over the past few weeks, you’ve heard the following morality tale: Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005, hoping the newly independent country would become the Singapore of the Middle East. Instead, Hamas seized power, ransacked greenhouses, threw its opponents off rooftops and began launching thousands of rockets at Israel.
American Jewish leaders use this narrative to justify their skepticism of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. But in crucial ways, it’s wrong. And without understanding why it’s wrong, you can’t understand why this war is wrong too.
Let’s take the claims in turn. [Read more...]
Politico reports: The Obama administration’s $225 million request to aid Israel during its war with Hamas may not be enough, warned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday afternoon.
At the request of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Senate Democrats folded $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system into a larger bill that offers $2.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the influx of Central American migrants to the southern border. But Reid said Israel will need even more help from the United States if the war in Gaza continues, demonstrating the need to pass the funding package this week ahead of a five-week congressional recess.
Reid predicted that Hagel’s aid request for Israel may turn out to be “only temporary” given the steep costs associated with operating Iron Dome, which picks off Hamas’s rockets at a price-tag of $62,000 per missile, according to Reid.
“We should not give the Israeli people the minimum amount of aid and then cross our fingers and hope it all works out in the future,” Reid said. “We can do better and need to go further in protecting Israel.”
David Weigel describes scenes in this year’s Christians United for Israel conference in Washington: Over two boisterous days, the only speaker who brought the crowd to silence was Sgt. Benjamin Anthony, an Israel Defense Forces veteran whose organization Our Soldiers Speak sent him to campuses and other hot zones to describe the reality in Israel.
“There is an entire generation being raised in southern Israel, barely any of whom do not suffer from PTSD due to the rocket fire,” said Anthony. “The entire Zionist experiment rests in no small part on what it is we do during this campaign.”
What the IDF needed was a total victory. “Rocket factories can be destroyed,” said Anthony. “Weapon factories can be destroyed. Terrorists can be eliminated. Tunnels can be dug out.” But it could only happen if America resisted the temptation to criticize Israel or to stop the operation.
“Hamas started this war,” said Anthony. “The soldiers of Israel must smash their skulls and break their spines.”
When he said that, a standing-room crowd of pastors and activists and politicians rose to its feet, waving the twin flags of the countries God loved.
“The United States Senate is in Israel’s camp,” said Senator Lindsey Graham as on Thursday evening the Senate expressed its unanimous support for Israel’s assault on Gaza.
What’s new? As Pat Buchanan once said: Capitol Hill is Israeli occupied territory.
Servile elected representatives, obsequiously following the directions of the Israel lobby might be business as usual in Washington, but that’s not how democracy works everywhere.
Eli Lake reports: Elliott Abrams — a former deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush and a leading pro-Israel writer and policy analyst — told The Daily Beast, “My view is over time it would be healthy for the relationship if the aid diminished. Israel should be less dependent on American financial assistance and should become the kind of ally that we have in Australia, Canada, or the United Kingdom: an intimate military relationship and alliance, but no military aid.”
That is also the view expressed by leading Israeli politicians. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of economics and the leader of the right-wing Israel Home party, said in 2013, “Today, U.S. military aid is roughly 1 percent of Israel’s economy. I think, generally, we need to free ourselves from it. We have to do it responsibly, since I’m not aware of all the aspects of the budget. I don’t want to say, ‘Let’s just give it up,’ but our situation today is very different from what it was 20 and 30 years ago.”
Today Israel is prosperous. In 2000, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $124.9 billion. In 2013, the Israeli GDP was $291.3 billion. And that is before Israel has seen any real revenue from the fields of natural gas it recently discovered. The country has become so prosperous that legislation is now before the country’s Knesset to create a sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned investment vehicle designed to invest the surplus revenue Israel collects from selling its natural gas.
“I have heard discussions of a sovereign wealth fund, by which the Israelis mean they want to handle the revenues carefully the way Norway does and not waste them,” Abrams said. “But I do not believe a country that has a sovereign wealth fund can be an aid recipient.”
Abrams was careful to say he did not favor cutting the military aid while Obama was still president. “Were there a reduction now, it would be attributed to administration hostility to Israel and be seen as a weakening of U.S. support,” he said. “It should be done only in a context of robust American political support and close relations between American and Israeli leaders.” [Continue reading...]
David Sheen writes: As news spreads of the circumstances surrounding last week’s murder of 17-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdair, many international observers are responding with incredulity. Israeli police say the teenager was kidnapped from his home, beaten in the head, forced to consume a flammable liquid, and then burned alive. They also say they believe the crime was carried out by Jewish Israelis, acting out of racist hatred for non-Jewish Palestinian Arabs.
These details have come as a shock for many Jewish people living outside of Israel, who find it hard to believe that Jews could be capable of such venomous violence. Multiple viral videos of Jewish Israelis chanting “Death to Arabs!” in downtown Jerusalem earlier that same evening have added to the bewilderment of Israel’s liberal supporters in the Diaspora.
Clearly, such deep-seated hatred could not have sprung up spontaneously; surely it had been building up for weeks, months, and years. But why then, were many Jews outside of Israel only learning of it now, for the first time? Why hadn’t they been warned about it by the Jewish communal organizations that are in constant contact with their Israeli counterparts? With their claim to be a “premier civil rights” group, where has the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) been all this time, and why hasn’t it been sounding the alarm? [Continue reading...]
Al-Monitor reports: The pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has begun a lobbying blitz to stop lawmakers from cutting military aid to Egypt, Al-Monitor has learned.
House appropriators on Tuesday defeated an amendment from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., that would have cut military assistance by $300 million, from $1.3 billion down to $1 billion.
The lopsided 35-11 vote was partly due to pressure by the American Israel Political Action Committee, Schiff suggested when asked to confirm that AIPAC was involved in the debate. [Continue reading...]
Larry Derfner writes: What is J Street doing? Why is it acting in concert with right-wing Zionist organizations like AIPAC and StandWithUs in fighting against boycott, sanctions and divestment, while offering no alternative of its own for ending the occupation?
Because the truth is that J Street offers no alternative anymore; now that the Kerry talks have failed, and all the secretary of state has to show for them is a footprint on his pants seat courtesy of the Netanyahu government, America is through trying to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And everybody seems to acknowledge this except J Street. Which is not a surprise, because without America in the peace process, J Street’s reason for being is gone.
That’s tough; the organization is going to have to change or close shop. And I hope it does change successfully by finding a new way to advance the two-state solution. Moreover, I hope it finds a less antagonistic way than BDS to accomplish this. And if it does find such a way, I will join J Street in a minute, because as an Israeli I don’t particularly enjoy supporting the boycott of Israel – but I do it because I see no other way anymore to end the occupation and allow the two-state solution to come into being. And nobody else has come up with another way, either. So as far as anyone can see, it’s either BDS or occupation forever.
Yet J Street, by default, has thrown in on the side of occupation forever. With nothing left to offer except hollow pep talks about the peace process, it’s fighting BDS – together with the pro-Netanyahu, pro-occupation American Zionist right. [Continue reading..]
Grant Smith writes: Newly declassified postwar Naval Intelligence files shine new light on a little-known chapter of U.S.-Israel relations. Massive supplies of American WWII military surplus under liquidation by the War Assets Administration were an irresistible target for Israel’s government-in-waiting the Jewish Agency and nascent military the Haganah in the years immediately preceding Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948. The Jewish Agency was an organization contemplated as a vital actor for achieving that statehood in Theodore Herzl’s original Zionist vision. Explosives, advanced fighter, bomber and transport aircraft, and Jewish veterans culled from a list stolen from the U.S. Chaplain all entered a Jewish Agency pipeline stretching from the US to Mexico, Panama, Italy and Czechoslovakia to Palestine. The stories these newly declassified files tell not only foreshadow the institutionalized immunity of crimes committed in the name of Israel, but major challenges the US would later have to confront beyond displaced Palestinian refugees and simmering conflict – ongoing money laundering into US politics and Israel’s early desire to build nuclear weapons.
In late April, 1948 US Naval Intelligence became aware of the Jewish Agency’s attempted illegal export of 42 combat military aircraft engines through a front organization called “Service Airways.” The clandestine operation, headed by future Israel Aircraft Industries pioneer Adolph “Al” Schwimmer has been told in other accounts such as The Pledge by Leonard Slater. The Jewish Agency, operating out of an “American Section” in New York, had already been busted for illegally acquiring M3 demolition blocks. Schwimmer’s role was to acquire the best transport aircraft as well as P-51D fighters and B-17s for illegal shipment to Jewish fighters in Palestine. Secrecy was key. The Navy noted Schwimmer “has kept all information confidential inasmuch as he did not desire any publicity be given the fact that the Jewish Agency was purchasing airplanes in the United States, and that he specifically did not desire that any representatives of the Arab nation should receive the information.” [Continue reading...]
Donna Nevel and Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark write: This week the Anti-Defamation League – an organization with a long history of trying to silence and intimidate those who don’t share their unwavering support for Israel and its policies – published a survey ringing the alarm about anti-Semitism. Rather than advance our understanding of this serious issue, the survey seems predictably designed to stir up fear that Jew-hatred is a growing global phenomenon that puts the world’s Jews universally at risk, and that the biggest culprits are Muslims and Arabs, particularly Palestinians.
While some responses to the survey may well be of legitimate concern, many of its questions are pointedly designed to skew the results because they have little to do with revealing actual anti-Semitism, as defined, for example, by the US Holocaust Museum. For example, one question asked whether Jews think more highly of themselves than of other groups, and answering yes tallies points in the anti-Semitic column. But common sense suggests that almost anyone in the world would likely answer affirmatively about any other ethnic or religious community.
The most striking example of a leading question undergirds the ADL’s claim that the highest percentage of anti-Semitism is among Palestinians who live in the occupied territories. The ADL asked a group of people for whom the movement of goods, money and labor is controlled by Israel, “Do Jews have too much power in the business world?”. Were they really to be expected to answer anything but “yes”? [Continue reading...]
Jeff Stein reports: When White House national security advisor Susan Rice’s security detail cleared her Jerusalem hotel suite for bugs and intruders Tuesday night, they might’ve had in mind a surprise visitor to Vice President Al Gore’s room 16 years ago this week: a spy in an air duct.
According to a senior former U.S. intelligence operative, a Secret Service agent who was enjoying a moment of solitude in Gore’s bathroom before the Veep arrived heard a metallic scraping sound. “The Secret Service had secured [Gore’s] room in advance and they all left except for one agent, who decided to take a long, slow time on the pot,” the operative recalled for Newsweek. “So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.”
Did the agent scramble for his gun? No, the former operative said with a chuckle. “He kind of coughed and the guy went back into the vents.”
To some, the incident stands as an apt metaphor for the behind-closed-doors relations between Israel and America, “frenemies” even in the best of times. The brazen air-duct caper “crossed the line” of acceptable behavior between friendly intelligence services – but because it was done by Israel, it was quickly hushed up by U.S. officials.
Despite strident denials this week by Israeli officials, Israel has been caught carrying out aggressive espionage operations against American targets for decades, according to U.S. intelligence officials and congressional sources. And they still do it. They just don’t get arrested very often. [Continue reading...]
Peter Beinart writes: Imagine this. Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Elizabeth Warren and multiple lesser Democratic notables travel halfway across the country to kiss the ring of a Palestinian-American billionaire who has shown himself willing to spend tens of millions of dollars subsidizing presidential campaigns.
The billionaire has some provocative views. Six months earlier, he suggested that if Israel does not end its nuclear weapons program, America should drop an “atomic weapon…in the middle of the [Negev] desert that doesn’t hurt a soul.” If that doesn’t work, America should drop “the next one…in the middle of” Tel Aviv.
The billionaire insists that there is no such thing as the Jewish people. It’s a hoax; the Jews “have fooled the world very successfully.” And he declares that “There isn’t a” Jew “alive who wasn’t raised on a curriculum of hatred and hostility toward the” Palestinians.
Change the words “Democrat” to “Republican,” “Israel” to “Iran” and “Palestinian” to “Jewish,” and that’s exactly what just happened. Leading contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination spent last weekend wooing and feting a billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, whose views – if directed at Jews—would put him in the company of Louis Farrakhan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. [Continue reading...]