American politicians very happy to help Israel in any way they can

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

A helpful guide to seeing the power of the Zionist lobby on American politics in the wake of the Gaza flotilla massacre.

The moral calling of BDS

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

Stéphane Frédéric Hessel is a diplomat, former ambassador, French resistance fighter and participant in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948:

The Freedom Flotilla brings to mind the kind of civil society solidarity initiatives which brought an end to segregation laws in the US and apartheid in South Africa, an analogy impossible to ignore. Like the apartheid regime of South Africa, Israel’s reaction has been to label this non-violent act an “intentional provocation.” As in the case of South Africa, the call for international solidarity, in the form of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) came from an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society unions and organizations in 2005, and is being embraced by citizens of conscience and social movements worldwide. The BDS initiative calls for effectively isolating Israel, its complicit business, academic and cultural institutions, as well as companies profiting from its human rights violations and illegal policies, as long as these policies continue.

I believe that the BDS initiative is a moral strategy which has demonstrated its potential for success. Most recently, German Deutsche Bank became the latest of several European financial institutions and major pension funds to divest from Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems. Last week, two main Italian supermarket chains announced a boycott of produce from illegal Israeli settlements. Last month, performers Elvis Costello and Gil Scott-Heron cancelled appearances in Israel. Reminiscent of the South African anti-apartheid popular struggle, the current generation of students across university campuses is actively calling upon their administrations to adopt divestment policies.

I endorse the heartfelt words of Scottish writer Iain Banks, who in reaction to Israel’s atrocious attack on the Freedom Flotilla suggested that the best way for international artists, writers and academics to “convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation” is “simply by having nothing more to do with this criminal government.”

A nice example of the Israel lobby in action (and mouthing talking points)

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

Here’s how it works.

A columnist in the Sydney Morning Herald, Mike Carlton, writes a column critical of Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla.

The following week his column begins thus:

It is a ferocious beast, the Jewish lobby. Write just one sentence even mildly critical of Israel and it lunges from its lair, fangs bared. ”I rejoice every time a f—ing Palestinian dies, f— them!!!! Israel should flatten Gaza with a nuclear strike and be done with it,” said one of hundreds of Jewish emailers this week. ”How dare you insult Israel you over priviledged [sic] racist white moron, f— you and your stupid article. I wish I could smash your dumb face in.”

The stupid article was last week’s column, which suggested that Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla was lethal idiocy and that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was an unprincipled thug addicted to the use of military force.

Few of the emails were as brisk as that one. Many, though, were nakedly racist, such as this from a man named Schwarz. ”Do Jews do drive-by shootings every other day like in Sydney’s south-west? Do Jews or Arabs make up a large proportion of the Australian jail population? Do Jews gang rape young girls in Sydney?” he mused.

Others like to threaten. A travel agent from Double Bay drafted an apoplectic denunciation and circulated it to his friends. ”The more of us write with a copy [sic] to The Sydney Morning Herald, the more chance we may have that the Herald will change its one-eyed view of the situation and give us a more balanced reporting and maybe even sack Mike Carlton,” he said hopefully. One of his chaverim mistakenly forwarded it to me.

It’s standard operating procedure for the lobby to hurl accusations of anti-Semitism with that peculiar Israeli blend of paranoia and belligerence. ”That you are happy to indulge in hate-mongering makes you quite the sadist,” wrote a man from Melbourne. ”Your article gives you away as an anti-Semite and as much as you may hide behind the guise of a pro-Palestinian humanitarian, your Holocaust revisionism in comparing the conflict of the modern era to the systematic extermination of the Jews shows your true colours.”

That is just plain dumb. My Jewish friends would confirm that I am not a sadistic, anti-Semitic, hate-mongering Holocaust denier. But I did enjoy the sneers about my manifold failings as a journalist. ”You are a cheap hack making money out of lies,” was typical. ”Journalists are generally recruited if they have an IQ larger that their shoe size,” was another. Yuk yuk, guffaw.

None of this is accidental. The Israel lobby, worldwide, is orchestrated in Jerusalem by a department in the Prime Minister’s office with the rather Orwellian name of the Ministry for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs. Less than 24 hours after the attack on the Mavi Marmara, the ministry hit the internet with ”important talking points” for Jews around the world, the first of which was – surprisingly – that ”the Palestinian people are not under blockade”.

”Write letters to your local newspapers, comment on blogs and news websites, call in to radio programs and post links to social networking sites to help spread the real version of events,” urged the deliciously named Mr Ronen Plot, the Ministry Director-General.

This is all free speech, of course. I just wish they could be more polite.

That justified spray brought this letter:

I understand why Mike Carlton (June 12-13) was angered by the emails he received from some Jewish readers, and I deplore their rudeness. But I also deplore that he decided to blame it on what he calls ”that ferocious beast, the Jewish lobby”. What is often – mistakenly – called ”the Jewish lobby” is actually nothing more than individual Jewish people voicing their opinions. To ascribe their extreme opinions to some sinister Jewish lobby is not only incorrect and misleading, but highly inflammatory.

Diane Armstrong Dover Heights

Then this:

Diane Armstrong (Letters, June 14) accuses Mike Carlton of making inflammatory claims in referring ”mistakenly” to ”the Jewish lobby”. There are only ”individual Jewish people voicing their opinions”.

This claim is sheer sophistry. Jewish organisations in Australia appear to speak, and lobby, with one voice; it appears their only concern is to defend a pariah state. With endless dissembling they blame the victims of Israeli criminality.

Jews who oppose this wretched stance, notably the courageous Antony Loewenstein, are excoriated and excommunicated. Tribalism has trounced moral principles.

The Israel lobby is the Jewish lobby and its fellow travellers. I deeply resent the hold this lobby has on Australia’s governments, which debases my integrity and threatens my personal security.

Evan Jones Glebe

Mike Carlton was right to condemn the emails to which he referred. They sound appalling. But he was wrong to use the actions of some individuals to attack what he calls “the Jewish lobby”, thus casting a slur on legitimate representative organisations. For those who know their history, the language he used also had disturbing overtones.

Robin Margo

 President, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Paddington

I was one of the many Jews who wrote recently to Mike Carlton, but I was neither rude nor hysterical (”Funny, they remember their epithets but not their manners”, June 12-13). I simply asked him what he would do if he were prime minister of Israel. I suggested that the Palestinians would be better off if their militant leadership groups devoted their energies to nation-building rather than waging an unwinnable war.

I also pointed out that Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Carlton described the previous week as an unprincipled thug, correctly declared in the Knesset: ”If Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.” Needless to say there has been no response.

The truth that Carlton and most non-Jews find so uncomfortable is that, collectively, the Jews are the most peace-loving, charitable, cultured people on Earth. Jews, with about 0.02 per cent of the world’s population, have won 129 Nobel prizes, mostly for science and medicine. By contrast Muslims, with about 20 per cent of the global population, have won seven.

For those of a religious bent, Jews are often described as the ”chosen people”. This means chosen not as the favoured darlings of God, but with the awesome responsibility to set an example of morality for the rest of the world.

If, after centuries of persecution and genocide, Israelis find themselves straying from that moral leadership position in order to defend the fragile statehood they have achieved, it is with the greatest reluctance.

Mike Phillips Wollstonecraft

And then this:

My question for Mike Phillips (Letters, June 15) is what he would do if he were a Palestinian leader. How would he build a Palestinian nation when the bulk of the financial and social support necessary was available only from a hostile occupying regime or radical Islamist groups offering to help you throw them out?

If the Israeli government represents ”the most peace-loving, charitable, cultured people on Earth … with the awesome responsibility to set an example of morality for the rest of the world”, can Mr Phillips demonstrate its great reluctance to throw out the two-state solution; bomb the Palestinian Authority’s Department of Education; intermittently block Red Cross access to Palestinian people; encourage the building of Jewish settlements and a wall over Palestinian homes and land; breach numerous international laws; deny the legitimate results of a democratic election in Gaza; and declare that it alone has the right to decide on the future of deprived, desperate and, consequently, angry Palestinians?

I know peace-loving, charitable, cultured Jews and Muslims who do not want conflict and hatred in the Middle East. They would be horrified at the irony of Mr Phillips’s claim that racial superiority justifies the Israeli state’s violence towards Palestinian people.

Sall Forrest Boulogne-Billancourt, France

Who could care less about Robin Margo’s allusion to ”disturbing overtones” (Letters, June 15)? I know my history and I know anti-Semitism when I see it. I do not need the Jewish Board of Deputies and its insinuations to help me.

It is usually surprisingly easy to recognise racism. Just take Mike Phillips, who suggests Muslims are inferior to Jews as they have won fewer Nobel prizes. Using the history of a Western institution to judge an entire race beggars belief. Unfortunately, it is often this sort of ignorant racist rhetoric that the Jewish lobby has no choice but to rely on. Israel has shown about as much reluctance in straying from its ”moral” position as a member of the Jewish lobby in penning a letter.

Robert McLean Annandale

Nominating Jews as the ”chosen people”’ ignores the fact that most deities have given their followers this adulation. But in an enlightened age the term is anathema, as it is so divisive and unhelpful to people living together on the same planet.

Graeme Harrison South Coogee

While Mike Phillips is disseminating data on the differences between Jews and Muslims, could he provide us mere non-Jews with some moral leadership and give us data on how many Palestinians have been killed and maimed by the ”most peace-loving, charitable, cultured people on Earth”?

Steve Sweeney Forestville

Mike Phillips, I think you left out ”modest”.

Marian Lesslie Drummoyne

Does Evan Jones (Letters, June 15) ”deeply resent” any lobby that has a hold on Australia’s government, or just the Jewish ones?

Alice Khatchigian Ryde

Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that ”If Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war”, is silent on the continuing expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

And let’s be honest. Just because a race of people defined by their religion has won more Nobel prizes than another race defined by its religion hardly goes to the moral goodness or rightness of that people. I will not be looking to warring religions for my moral compass.

Anthony van den Broek Erskineville

I am not as sanguine as Mike Phillips about the reliability of Nobel prizes as an indicator of scientific or moral quality. During my 25 years in Cambridge I came to know or worked with at least 12 prize-winners (Fred Sanger, Max Perutz, Francis Crick, Sydney Brenner, Aaron Klug, Cesar Milstein, Tim Hunt, John Sulston, John Walker, Sidney Altman, Bob Horvitz, Liz Blackburn). Some were exceptional scientists, others were not. Some were exceptional human beings, others were some of the most flawed I have known.

The Nobel Prize is the outcome of the secret deliberations of an anonymous jury and is not exempt from error. Certainly, it is no guarantee of moral rectitude.

Gordon Koch Cherrybrook

Here endeth the lesson (except the important shifts in public opinion towards Israel and the bullying Zionist lobby).

My people like to slam all Muslims as terrorists

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

A new blog on the Foreign Policy in Focus website, Focal Points, aims to present a different perspective on the world.

A recent post highlights the resistance to new mosques in America and guess who is fanning the flames?

It has been said before that Al-Qaeda’s greatest victory was not September 11th but Abu Ghraib. Indeed, the images of Americans reveling in the humiliation of Arab prisoners enhanced the potency of al-Qaeda’s narrative and won it scores of new recruits.

But to achieve this propaganda victory, the terrorist organization first had to accomplish something more basic: provoking a vigorous hatred of Arabs and of Islam among Americans. In that sense, September 11th was not so much a lesser victory as it was preparation for the real goal.

As Muslims in New York are learning, that preparation continues to exercise a powerful effect.

Some New Yorkers—egged on by Israeli loyalists who are eager to intensify American animosity toward Muslims—are expressing increasing hostility to plans for new mosques.

The boats will be sailing into Gaza one day soon

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

This is inspiring. Let the boats come, as many as possible and as often as possible, inevitably forcing Israel to abandon its futile siege on Gaza:

The [Israeli] security forces are preparing to receive the three vessels expected to reach Gazan shores soon. Israel’s policy, as declared by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is not to allow the boats access to Gaza, so that Gaza does not become “a vanguard Iranian port.”

After the controversial raid on the Marmara, forces are training in preparation for halting the flotilla boats. The Lebanese boat is expected to arrive first, following by the vessel which left Iran Monday, plus a second vessel from Iran which will arrive in the weekend.

The Lebanese boat is expected to carry dozens of journalists and European pro-Palestinian activists including members of parliament. The vessel was organized by two groups: Free Palestine, and Reporters without Borders. The vessel is reportedly carrying humanitarian aid and equipment for schools in the Gaza Strip.

The Iranian vessels are carrying contributions from the Iranian people and aid workers. The contributions are being collected by the Iranian Red Crescent.

These are the forerunners of what appears to be a wave of boats, expected to peak at the end of Ramadan when organizations such as Free Gaza and Viva Palestine hope to organize a flotilla of 10 to 15 craft. This flotilla will be called “Freedom Fleet II”. One of the central activists, Iyad el-Sarj, who lives in Norway and is known to Israel as the founder of the campaign to lift the Gaza blockade, believes that the large flotilla will lead to irreversible change in Israel’s sea blockade policy.

The paradise known as Gaza

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

The Los Angeles Times on Gaza:

Passing through the half-mile Erez checkpoint and emerging into Gaza, the contrast could hardly be more stark. In Israel, there are shopping malls and traffic lights. In Gaza, donkey carts and herds of goats cross the road. Young boys pick through the debris of bombed-out buildings to salvage construction materials.

In Gaza City, sidewalks are filled with idle, unemployed men and lonely shopkeepers, drinking tea and smoking, waiting for customers who rarely come.

The last thing Iran needs is American “assistance”

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

I write extensively about the web in repressive regimes but I remain skeptical (to put it mildly) when neo-conservatives talk about democracy promotion.

Take Reuel Marc Gerecht in today’s New York Times:

The democracy movement also needs a large supply of digital-video broadcasting cards, which function much like prepaid telephone cards and allow downloading and uploading of digital content from satellites. The Green Movement’s technology experts have done back-of-the-envelope calculations: just $50 million per year could open the entire country to the Internet. Millions less would still allow the diverse range of pro-democracy groups to communicate with each other and more effectively counter the regime’s security forces. Compared to what the United States peacefully did to help anti-Communists during the cold war, such aid would be a pittance, financially and operationally.

And a recent talk via the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas on “Cyber dissidents”:

Credibility is key in this debate and it’s beyond me to understand how anybody can take the backers of the former Bush administration as being serious about promoting democracy, as opposed to American interests and militarism.

Everybody is seduced by Kissinger

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

What a disappointment. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen writes a column where he tells us he was called by war criminal Henry Kissinger and he rather enjoyed the experience:

Henry Kissinger called me, which does not happen often, but does happen on the eve of World Cups — a reflection of a shared obsession and a fair indication that soccer (football, actually) will trump the global battle for treasure and influence over the next month, or rather transfer it to the pitch. On the U.S. team, one of whose attractions is that it has not yet mastered the professional foul, Kissinger was laconic: “We’re better but we don’t have a national style that I’ve been able to figure out. We’re a work in progress, just as we are in managing international affairs on a global basis.

No wonder Israel likes this man

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

Israel launches an “independent” investigation into the Gaza flotilla debacle and includes a few foreign observers, including Nobel Peace laureate and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

This man’s record on such matters? From 2004:

[Trimble] called human rights organisations a “great curse” yesterday and accused them of complicity in terrorist killings.

“One of the great curses of this world is the human rights industry,” he told the Associated Press news agency at an international conference of terrorism victims in Madrid.

“They justify terrorist acts and end up being complicit in the murder of innocent victims.”

His words drew an angry reaction from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, two of the world’s biggest human rights groups, with about 200,000 members in Britain and more than a million worldwide.

Steve Crawshaw, director of the London office of Human Rights Watch, said:”It is extraordinarily regrettable and disappointing that, above all, a man like that says something like this.

“His own emphasis, together with other politicians in North ern Ireland, on the fact that violence against civilians on all sides of any conflict cannot be justified, has been so important in recent years.”

Doing the work that journalists should be doing

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

A regular reader, Sydney-based Stewart Mills, has started an investigative blog, Israeli Propaganda, that documents and challenges Israeli spin after the Gaza flotilla massacre.

And his work has only just begun.

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

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