Mondoweiss Online Newsletter


DMV, Department of Muslim Verification (AP exposes NYPD/CIA community infiltration program)

Aug 24, 2011

Paul Mutter

With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas,” reports the Associated Press, in an expose on the growing ties between the two agencies.

Well, not surprising, except that in this case, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) was conducting this operation a couple of public transit stops out of its jurisdiction in New Brunswick, NJ, the home of Rutgers University (my alma mater! – I wonder if I was put on the surveillance list as a “useful idiot” of the Islamists?). Rutgers, coincidentally, has a significant Muslim student body, as does the surrounding area.

The other surprising detail is that the CIA (and apparently, not the FBI, though they have their own like-minded programs) was helping the NYPD carry out this action – which, as AP reporter Adam Goldman notes, was only one part of a much larger domestic surveillance program the two agencies have been collaborating on – even though one is a federal intelligence agency charged with overseas intelligence gathering and the other is a metropolitan police department. Both are nominally under “civilian” control.

The CIA is generally prohibited by law from spying on American citizens – the idea behind this being that an intelligence agency with both domestic and foreign surveillance capacities (like the Stasi) would have a little too much totalitarian potential for the U.S.

Of course, theory and practice are two different things.The CIA has indeed conducted domestic operations against U.S. citizens over the years. Apparently, though, while it was pretty good at monitoring American journalists and congresspeople during the Cold War,some “hawks” hold that the “internal reforms” foisted upon the agency after Nixon’s resignation resulted in an organizational culture that, years on, failed to effectively monitor people entering the country in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks. In other words, the story goes, while the CIA was at fault, the people who forced it to “reform” back in the 70s were the root problem. Hence, since 9/11, there have been calls within and without for the CIA to take a more active role in domestic affairs (and the CIA has done so).

Particularly telling is this passage from the AP:

“The New York Police Department is doing everything it can to make sure there’s not another 9/11 here and that more innocent New Yorkers are not killed by terrorists,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. “And we have nothing to apologize for in that regard.”

But officials said they’ve also been careful to keep information about some programs out of court, where a judge might take a different view. The NYPD considers even basic details, such as the intelligence division’s organization chart, to be too sensitive to reveal in court.

Max Blumenthal, among others, has compared the NYPD tactics to Israeli police tactics in the West Bank, and so too did an unnamed NYPD source in the AP article. There is a well-established link between the two nations’ law enforcement apparatuses. I think a comparison could also be made with the tactics of the “Security Branch” of the South African Police (SAP) during apartheid operating in the “Bantustans,” since the white Afrikaner-dominated agency made extensive use of individuals who could “blend in” to conduct espionage, just as the NYPD is doing:

At the CIA, one of the biggest obstacles has always been that U.S. intelligence officials are overwhelmingly white, their mannerisms clearly American. The NYPD didn’t have that problem, thanks to its diverse pool of officers.

Using census data, the department matched undercover officers to ethnic communities and instructed them to blend in, the officials said. Pakistani-American officers infiltrated Pakistani neighborhoods, Palestinians focused on Palestinian neighborhoods. They hung out in hookah bars and cafes, quietly observing the community around them.

Continuing the South African analogy, the SAP was more or less trained to regard all “blacks” as potential criminals and terrorists. (Of his “Criminology and Ethnology” training, SAP Security Branch whistleblower Paul Erasmus said, “If that didn’t turn you into a racist then nothing on God’s earth would have”). The arguments that the SAP and NYPD put forth for their actions are also broadly similar: you go into the neighborhoods where the crimes are (or may be) happening, and that isn’t profiling. Except, well, it is. Especially when the training promotes a mentality that everyone in those areas is a potential criminal/terrorist.

The CIA-NYPD effort (the officers sent in were said to be part of a “Demographic Unit” or “Terrorism Interdiction Unit”) was helped along, according to the AP, when a law from the 1970s that limited the amount of espionage work the NYPD could conduct was struck down after 9/11. Interestingly, that law was focused on protecting anti-war protesters, and  the NYPD-CIA program’s top brain trustee, David Cohen, is now in hot water fortaking action to infiltrate informants into anti-war groups during the Bush Administration. “Cohen’s affidavit,” writes Christoper Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, “dramatically and starkly illustrated the extent to which the NYPD was prepared to conflate political activity with terrorism.” Words that could be equally said of the SAP under apartheid, or the Israeli response toPalestinian political activism.

The CIA-NYPD actions, while indicative of the way Americans view Muslims (is a South African-inspired “Department of Muslim Affairs” next?), is also indicative of the increasingly incestuous relationships among the U.S.’s “intelligence” and “security” apparatuses. The comeback from those agencies: well, we haven’t had another 9/11 since 9/11, now have we? Or as another CIA hand at the NYPD put it in the AP article, “We’ve been given the public tolerance and the luxury to be very aggressive on this topic.”
I have long believed that being an American means that you regard possessing civil liberties is a trade-off for absolute security, and that having these liberties is worth living with fear and uncertainty because the alternative – the pursuit of the illusion of absolute security – is living with the omnipresent fear and uncertainty of the surveillance state. Of the police becoming terrorists, as an LAPD official told the AP.

Americans, though (or at least their elected officials), areincreasingly willing to disregard that trade-off and bleat for the illusion of absolute security, even if it means sacrificing civil liberties.

But it isn’t just Americans that are responding to the threat of terrorism this way. NYPD. CIA. The Mishteret Yisrael. SAP. They all share the same wavelength. People wonder if it is possible for the U.S. to become a “surveillance state“; but if you are Muslim, you are not asking that question. You are living that reality.

Israeli air strikes on Gaza threaten shaky truce

Aug 24, 2011


Al Jazeera is reporting more Israeli air strikes on Gaza. And mortars are being fired from Gaza into Israel.

An Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip has killed one Palestinian and wounded two others, prompting Hamas to allege that it violated a two-day-old unofficial truce.

Wednesday’s missile attack, which targeted a vehicle in Rafah near the border with Egypt, raised fears of a fresh descent into violence scarcely 48 hours after factions had agreed to end rocket fire on southern Israel, on condition that the Israeli Air Force also stopped its raids.


Gaza’s Hamas government accused Israel of violating the unwritten truce with its latest air strikes and called for UN intervention.

A statement issued by Hamas read: “Such aggressive behaviour confirms that Israel has no true intention of maintaining the truce and insists on escalating the situation. We call upon the international community and the United Nations in particular to pressure Israel to stop its aggression against our people.”

I’ve been reading Gazan tweets and they’re being pounded as I type this. More death and injury is being reported on that venue and I’ve received an email from a friend in Gaza, it feels like all hell’s breaking loose, again.

‘J Street’ smears good Richard Silverstein…

Aug 24, 2011

Philip Weiss

So much for friends on the left; J Street’s twitter feedhas put out a bizarrely-vicious thrust at Richard Silverstein, urging followers to read Adam Holland’s “excellent take of Richard Silverstein’s disgusting racist and crazy attacks on Holland & others.” The tweet links to Holland’s attack on Richard Silverstein, an honorable and independent journalist if ever there was one (and in the great American tradition, self-appointed). Holland accuses Silverstein of the use of racially offensive stereotypes, including the phrase, “rich, pro-Israel Jews.” What does Holland want to do to our political vocabulary? And there’s this kind of thing:

After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, [Silverstein] bizarrely condemned Israel for sending portable hospital facilities to assist the victims, an act of charity that many people regarded as heroic. Silverstein called it “the Zionization of disaster relief” in a blog post that was subsequently reposted on neo-Nazi and other racist websites.

I don’t know what J Street means to achieve by going after non-Zionists. And as the late Tony Judt said, just because some bigots endorse what you say doesn’t make you a bigot. Thanks to Max Blumenthal.

Gov Rick Perry threw himself into effort to stop Gaza flotilla

Aug 24, 2011

Philip Weiss

Alana Goodman in Commentary begins a report on an Israeli law group that acted to stop the Gaza flotilla last June with a scene in a “radical, leftwing coffee shop in Washington.” Do these people really think the world works that way? Wow. The piece focuses on Shurat HaDin, a “rightwing Israeli law center” in Tel Aviv that used international legal actions and threats of same to prevent many flotilla boats from leaving Greece. The firm worked in concert with the Israeli Prime Minister’s office. “They said we had to do anything, anything possible to stop the flotilla,” says one of the Shurat HaDin lawyers. More:

Next, Shurat HaDin lawyers discovered American flotilla activists were potentially in violation of the Neutrality Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from taking part in a hostile act against an allied country. “So we approached the Attorney General of the United States to fix it. And we also got Gov. Rick Perry to write a letter to Eric Holder,” said Darshan-Leitner.

It may seem a little weird that the governor of Texas would be one of the first people [Nitsana] Darshan-Leitner approached to help with the plan. But she explained that Perry was enthusiastically on-board with the cause ever since he met her on a trip to Israel.

“I once spoke at a mission that Perry took part in, in Israel,” she said. “And he approached me and said, ‘I love what you do. It’s amazing what you do. If you ever need help combating Israel’s enemies, I’m here to assist.’”

So with Attorney General Holder on notice – and a Neutrality Act lawsuit filed in New York federal court – Shurat HaDin turned its attention toward Greece. The group discovered the country had a Neutrality Act similar to the one in the U.S., and it prohibited boats from leaving Greece to sail to illegal ports, including Gaza.

Shurat HaDin notified the Greek minister of civil protection about the flotilla, and he immediately blocked the ships from leaving Greece.

“The second thing he did was order the port authorities in Greece to raid the boats and to find what’s wrong with each and every boat – to be very, very particular,” said Darshan-Leitner, clearly amused. “And at that point, an additional six or seven boats were grounded. Because they found a lot of [problems] there.”

This was around the time Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin and her fellow flotilla activists finally caught on to the scheme. But by that point, there wasn’t much they could do.

Tons of empty seats at Glenn Beck’s J’lem rally

Aug 24, 2011

Philip Weiss

See the photos of empty seats, from Ami Kaufman at +972. Jon Voight is in one of the occupied seats.

Another congressman posting from Israel gets flak for representing wrong country

Aug 24, 2011

Philip Weiss

TC Jewish Folk, a “hip” site for Jewish life in the Twin Cities, is posting diaries from Congressman Erik Paulsen, a Democrat who represents suburban Minneapolis. Note that the website prefaces Paulsen’s blogpost with “He is in Israel this week with AIPAC….” Apparently that’s hip?

In my short few days here I’ve seen so many situations that demonstrate how Israelis are so resilient in so many ways.
I am also better able to understand the deep, rich history here by spending time in the Old City as well as the smaller City of David by walking through a recently discovered tunnel from only about four and a half months ago.

But look, some commenters are going after Paulsen:

1) peter says: August 23, 2011 at 4:52 PM “I’m looking forward to helping ensure the U.S./Israeli relationship remains strong.” Sir, Can you define “relationship”? I know that the US taxpayers cover lots of Israeli military expenses. Let me ask you, what kind of benefit should an average US taxpayer expect in return? Simple question. You should know the answer. Thank you. Peter

2) pj says: August 23, 2011 at 2:16 PM Representative, While you are on your little junket listening to people whine about a lack of beach access, please consider that many Americans can’t afford to go to the beach this year. Real unemployment is close to 20%, we just lost our credit rating, and our children’s future is being sold to fund wars we were ssuckered into on faulty intelligence. How many American old people died during the recent heat wave because they could not afford air conditioning? How many veterans are homeless and unemployed? How many people in Israel are getting American taxpayer money and protection? How many of them have thanked us, the American People, for the money you and your fellow politicians get them from taxpayers? If you represent Israel, why don’t you stay there forever, and calculate that in American time or Israeli time? You’ll not be missed.

Romney seems to be positioning himself to capture neoconservative support

Aug 24, 2011

Philip Weiss

Two Romney items. Justin Elliott reports at Salon on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy adviser’s support for a terrorist group that is aimed at Iran. You’ll note that Daniel Pipes loves this group:

A foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been active in recent months in an advocacy campaign to rehabilitate the reputation of an underground organization in Iran known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq. The MEK has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a “terrorist” organization.

Mitchell Reiss, former director of policy planning at the State Department during the Bush administration, is now advising the former Massachusetts governor on foreign policy, the New Republic recently reported. Reiss also advised Romney’s 2008 campaign…

The Obama administration, which has engaged in complex negotiations with the Iranians over their nuclear aspirations, is being pressured to “delist” the MEK by those who say this would help undermine the Iranian regime, which is seen as a threat to Israel, a U.S. ally.

“With one simple signature, the Obama administration can help empower Iranians to seize control over their destiny — and perhaps end the mullahs’ mad nuclear dash,” wrote Daniel Pipes in National Review last month.

Then there’s this from Business Insider. Romney taking Wall Street money from Obama. I don’t know who these guys are (apart from the fact that Schafer once worked for Michael Steinhardt, a giant Israel supporter), but I’m guessing they’re pretty conservative on Middle East issues:

At least 67 Wall Street executives who backed President Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign are abandoning his campaign for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s,The Hill reports.

Romney, who founded Bain Capital, is viewed by many as better for the financial sector than Obama — who signed the controversial Dodd-Frank regulatory bill.

Among the donors who have changed sides are Joshua Harris of Apollo Management, Oscar Schafer of OSS Capital Management, David Solomon of Goldman Sachs, Barry Sternlicht of the Starwood Capital Group, and David Blitzer of the Blackstone Group.

Preacher Beck: ‘See the miracle of Israel… see all that God has done for us… He said to his people, ‘I’m coming, stand here…”

Aug 24, 2011


Why the Palestinians can’t recognize the Jewish State

Aug 24, 2011

Ahmad Samih Khalidi

This article originally appeared in the current issue of theJournal of Palestine Studies, Vol 40, no. 4 (Summer 2011):

In his speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on 24 May 2011, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared:

It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say: “I will accept a Jewish state.” Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end; that they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace.

Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people has become a central Israeli demand that is being portrayed as an existential concomitant of Israel’s perceived security needs. Despite Israeli claims to the contrary, this is in fact a relatively recent demand, as Raef Zreik argued in the last issue of this journal. It was not raised in previous rounds of negotiations either with the Palestinians or with any other Arab party before 2008.

Be that as it may, not only has it been adopted by the current Israeli government, but it has secured growing support abroad from both Western governments and pro-Israeli and Jewish circles in the diaspora. In a major policy address on 19 May, President Barack Obama formally endorsed the definition of “Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people”—the first time a U.S. president has done so.

Meanwhile, the official PA/PLO position is that how Israel defines itself is not a Palestinian concern, and that the Palestinians cannot accede to this demand on two basic grounds: first, because defining Israel as a Jewish state prejudices the political and civic rights of Israel’s Arab citizens, who comprise 20 percent of the population and whose second-class status would be consolidated by dint of recognizing the “Jewishness” of the state, and second, because to acknowledge Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people would compromise the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, as there would be no moral or political grounds for them to return to a universally recognized Jewish state.

Negating One’s Own History

But even the PLO riposte, while perhaps valid as far as it goes, is to my mind neither complete nor totally convincing. The Palestinians cannot be indifferent to how Israel defines itself or how others are ready to define it. In the context of the struggle over the shape and future of the Holy Land, one side’s appropriation of a certain definition affects not only the rights of those who reside in the territory, but their very history and identity, their relationship to the land, and by extension their rights, future, and fate as well. There are, in fact, several deeper layers to this issue that warrant further examination and debate.

First, and perhaps most importantly, if Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, then the lands that it occupies today (and perhaps more, for there are as yet no borders to this “homeland”) belong to this people by way of right. And if these lands rightfully comprise the Jewish homeland, then the Arab presence there becomes historically aberrant and contingent; the Palestinians effectively become historic interlopers and trespassers—a transient presence on someone else’s national soil.

This is not a moot or exaggerated point. It touches on the very core of the conflict and its genesis. Indeed, it is the heart of the Zionist claim to Palestine: Palestine belongs to the Jews and their right to the land is antecedent and superior to that of the Arabs. This is what Zionism is all about, and what justifies both the Jewish return to the land and the dispossession of its Arab inhabitants.

Clearly, this is not the Palestinian Arab narrative, nor can it be. Palestinians do not believe that the historical Jewish presence in and connection to the land entail a superior claim to it. Palestine as our homeland was established in the course of over fifteen hundred years of continuous Arab-Muslim presence; it was only by superior force and colonial machination that we were eventually dispossessed of it. For us to adopt the Zionist narrative would mean that the homes that our forefathers built, the land that they tilled for centuries, and the sanctuaries they built and prayed at were not really ours at all, and that our defense of them was morally flawed and wrongful: we had no right to any of these to begin with.

The demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people has yet another dimension. It places the moral burden of the conflict on the Palestinians, and consequently, not only exonerates Israel from the dubious moral circumstances of its birth but makes the Palestinians the historical transgressors. Indeed, by refusing to accept the Jewish claim to the land, we are to blame for what has befallen us: had we accepted Israel’s claim during the Mandate years, the entire conflict could have been averted; we should simply have handed the land “back” to its rightful owners from the time that they began to articulate, at the dawn of the twentieth century, their interest in it as an actual—rather than spiritual—homeland. From this perspective, it is Arab rejection that caused the conflict and not the Zionist transgression against Arab land and rights. This is of course precisely why this Israeli government and its most ardent Zionist supporters want to wrest this recognition from the Palestinians, as it would absolve Israel of its “original sin” and delegitimize the Palestinians’ version of their own history.

Taking this reasoning to its logical (if extreme) conclusion, recognition would give Israel the right to demand a measure of retributive justice. If the Palestinians caused the conflict, they should pay for their “sins”: the Palestinian refugees should not be compensated for their dispossession, and the Palestinian people as a whole should lose any claim to equality or equivalence in any political settlement premised on supposedly painful or generous Israeli concessions. Certainly, the putative Palestinian state should not be allowed what Israel allows itself, whether this is the right to self-defense or the right to be free from foreign (i.e., Israeli) military or civilian presence on its soil. (Note the striking passage in President Obama’s address in which the flat statement that “every state has the right to defend itself” is followed immediately—and without a trace of irony—by the demand that the putative state of Palestine be “nonmilitarized.”) From this perspective, the Palestinians must remain on semipermanent probation as past culprits and potential future miscreants.

Recognizing the “Jewishness” of the State as it Stands Today

But, the argument goes, all this has to do with the past. Why cannot the PLO/PA extend recognition to Israel as the Jewish homeland as it stands today? In other words, why can’t recognition be seen not as an extension of a historic conflict, but simply as a reflection of today’s realities and as a means of resolving the conflict?

There are a number of answers to this. We understand that there is a Jewish majority in Israel today and that the character of the state reflects this. But we cannot sever the thread that connects the past to the present and, necessarily, to the future. A “homeland” cannot merely be a construct of today, with no implications for tomorrow.

And there is more. Israel’s Arab population is of the same provenance and root as the rest of the Palestinian Arabs—their right to be where they are is no less than that of the residents of the West Bank or Gaza, no less than the right of Palestinians anywhere to claim the land of Palestine/Israel as their patrimony. By accepting the definition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people (indeed, “in any way it wishes,” according to the official PLO position), the “outside” Palestinians (in the occupied territories and the diaspora) would effectively be undermining the Israeli Arabs’ claim to belong to this same homeland. The land of Palestine/Israel would thus no longer be their home, and their right to be there would no longer have any historical or moral validity: Israel’s self-definition accepted, on what basis would they continue to reside in someone else’s homeland, and what grounds would they have to demand equal political and civic rights there to begin with?

By thus signaling our indifference to Israel’s self-definition, we would be dissociating ourselves from our kinship with the “insiders” and acknowledging that our common identity or fate has little meaning for us. In other words, the message to Israel would be: “Do with the Palestinian citizens what you will, because you can define yourself as you want regardless of what this implies.” The upshot would not only be prejudicial to the Israeli Arabs’ political and civil rights, but a dissolution of the ties that have shaped a common Palestinian identity across the boundaries of a nominal and entirely arbitrary line drawn on a map in 1949. In this context, and in defense of the rights of the Arab minority in Israel, the PLO (and the international community) could as well demand as a precondition for peace that Israel define itself as a state for all its citizens—a demand that is certainly more consistent with the Western liberal tradition that Israel purports to represent than its claim to ethno-religious exclusivity.

The language of homelands is deeply problematic, especially when it involves diametrically opposed and deep-seated narratives. The formulation “Israel as the state of the Jewish people” leads us back to the same political and ideological impasse as “Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people,” as it is based on the same premise. “Two states for two peoples” begs the question of who these two peoples are: Is Israel the state of all its peoples, or just a Jewish state? How Israel defines itself is of profound import to the Palestinians and the nature of any potential settlement. To call on the Palestinians to recognize the Israeli state as the homeland of the Jewish people is to take a decisive stand against the Palestinians’ history, narrative, and political rights. The international community must understand and recognize this as it moves toward accepting Israel’s demands. The Israelis and the Jewish communities across the world must reconcile themselves to a peace that is based on other foundations than this.

The Palestinians (as represented by the PLO) have already formally recognized both the reality of the State of Israel and “its right to live in peace and security,” per the 9 September 1993 letter from PLO chairman Yasir Arafat to Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The recognition was doubly reinforced by the two subsequent amendments of the PLO charter, in 1996 and in 1999 (the latter at the demand of then prime minister Netanyahu himself). In any future peace treaty, the Palestinians may reasonably be further asked to accept the agreed borders as final and inviolable, to commit to a resolution of all outstanding problems by peaceful means, not to allow their territory to be used for hostile acts against Israel, to respect the holy sites of all faiths, and to undertake that a comprehensive settlement of all the core issues will represent a final end to the conflict.

What they cannot be expected to do is to renege on their past, deny their identity, take on the moral burden of transgressor, and give up on what they believe is their history. In other words, they cannot be expected to become Zionists.

Ahmad Samih Khalidi, a former Palestinian negotiator, is editor of Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya, the Arabic-language sister publication to the Journal of Palestine Studies. A version of this essay was posted on Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel web site under the title “The Palestinians Cannot Be Zionists” on 15 June 2011 and this article appears in the current issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 40, no. 4 (Summer 2011).

Blumenthal: Absence of the occupation in the tent protests reflects total separation between Jews and Palestinians

Aug 24, 2011

Adam Horowitz

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