Goldstone: ‘I would dearly love to attend my grandson’s bar mitzvah’

Wrenching letter from Judge Goldstone to Business Day, a Johannesburg publication, on the dustup over his grandson’s bar mitzvah. (For background on Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s stiffnecked position, to which Goldstone refers, read this):
I read with dismay Chief Rabbi Goldstein’s article in yesterday’s Business Day. I was dismayed that the chief rabbi would so brazenly politicise the occasion of my 13-year-old grandson’s bar mitzvah to engage in further personal attacks on me.
I am prepared to respond fully to those attacks, but not in the run-up to my grandson’s bar mitzvah.
He and his family have been working for close to a year preparing for the once-in-a-lifetime rite of passage into the Jewish community. Of all people, the chief rabbi should be aware of the importance of this. Yet, for whatever reasons, Chief Rabbi Goldstein would rather focus on me.
I was further dismayed when I read his article because his rhetoric about “open synagogues” simply does not coincide with how my family and I have been treated. The chief rabbi has been well aware of the situation, and instead of using his position of leadership in the South African Jewish community to promote the “open synagogues” principle that he purports to profess, he would rather write articles and threaten others with lawsuits.
I must state that at no time whatsoever has the chief rabbi reached out to my family. Acting on information that we received from the synagogue, and the recent threat by the leader of the South African Zionist Federation of demonstrations if I attend the synagogue service, it was decided that it would be better if I did not attend the bar mitzvah. We have taken that decision in the best interests of my grandson and my family.
My only concern at the present time is that my grandson’s bar mitzvah should be the joyous occasion that he deserves it to be. I would dearly love to attend my grandson’s bar mitzvah. The questionable and unfortunate approach of the chief rabbi, in all the circumstances, makes it less, and not more, possible for me to do so.
Judge Richard Goldstone

Giraldi says senior Air Force adviser may have dual loyalty to Israel

I don’t understand why this isn’t a scandal, why the mainstream is not pursuing the obvious question here. Philip Giraldi reports on Lani Kass, an Israeli-American who has an influential place in the Defense establishment and the usual anti-Islamic ideas. And of course Dennis Ross formerly of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute in Jerusalem is guiding our Iran policy, and Treasury officials who crank up sanctions against Iran are friends of AIPAC. It never ends. Bush Obama, same tune. Giraldi:

Kass was born, raised, and educated in Israel.  She has a PhD in Russian studies and is fluent in Russian and Hebrew in addition to English.  Kass reportedly reached the rank of major in the Israeli air force before moving to the United States and working her way up through the US defense establishment. 
She is currently the most senior civilian adviser to Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz and is believed to have access to most American defense secrets.  Kass is best known to the public for her role in promoting Air Force cyberwarfare, but she also appears to have been a major player in counter-terrorism policy and in war preparations directed against Iran even though she has no actual substantive background in those areas. 
She believes that the US is engaged in a long war against Islamo-radicalism and that “winning” against Iran is necessary but the American people must be willing to pay the price to succeed. My concern regarding Dr. Kass is based on the potential conflict of interest and divided loyalty that is normal in anyone who is born in one country and moves to another. 
She comes from a country that has a history of large scale and highly aggressive espionage directed against the United States and she appears to continue to have close ties to her birthplace.  Dr. Kass has become a naturalized American while apparently retaining her Israeli citizenship and her three children were reportedly born in Israel, not the United States….
One might argue that Dr. Lani Kass is just another Israel firster who has risen to high office in the US government, not really unlike Dennis Ross, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, and Douglas Feith.  And that might well be true.  But at the same time one must challenge the judgment of those who enabled her rise to a position of great responsibility and power and there should be serious questions about whether her bellicose and racially tinged viewpoint comes from objective and honest analysis of the genuine challenges confronting the United States or from her loyalty to her country of birth.

Schakowsky says not a word about settlements in gushing over Israel

A sign of how little the discourse has moved, here is Jan Schakowsky of Ohio, a leftlib congresswoman, or so we like to think, she opposed the Iraq war, celebrating Israel on its founding day yesterday in the most unreconstructed terms. The desert bloomed. A thriving democracy. Not a word about Palestinian statelessness. On the left, it is common to hear Jews in recovery talk about the trees they paid for in Israel as children, and how they feel complicit in Palestinian dispossession as a result and are making amends now.
Notice that Schakowsky is still proud of having planted those trees. I think this speech is also a sign of the fact that Jewish identity cuts across party lines, and makes even libs conservative. I know this is ceremonial boilerplate, still: Congress will be the last place to  wake up, I’m afraid, but twill happen. Schakowsky, after the jump:
Madam Speaker, I rise to honor the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Jewish State of Israel. Israel has weathered decades of war and terrorism but it remains a thriving democracy and America ’s closest friend and ally in the Middle East .
As a very young child, I remember the immense pride and joy my family felt when the Jewish State became a reality. I had the privilege of traveling once again to Israel earlier this month, and again I was struck by the resilience, courage, and innovation of the Israeli people, as well as their pride in the beautifully lush country they have built in the desert.
I thought about my childhood again and the number of times I had saved my nickels and dimes to by a tree certificate that we used for birthdays and anniversaries to plant trees in Israel and make that desert bloom.
No longer just a longing of the Jewish people, Israel today is a leader in technology, energy, and scientific innovation – including medical innovation. It is also the only democratic state in the Middle East and our steadfast friend, ally, and partner. / Today, we mark the 62nd anniversary of the State of Israel and celebrate the unbreakable bonds between our two countries.
Sixty-two years after the U.S. became the first country to recognize the new State of Israel we still share common dreams and continue to strengthen our critical relationship.
Just minutes after the declaration of the founding of the State of Israel, President Harry Truman recognized that country and it began a 62-year-long commitment, non-partisan, bipartisan – universal throughout our country – recognizing the importance of our relationship with the State of Israel. I believe that this Congress of the United States maintains that dedication and will forever more. Thank you.

sincerity and chosenness

A few days ago my wife and I went to a party and I got a little drunk and charmed the table. Our host had served me two vodka cocktails and then at dinner there was a lot of red wine. On the drive home my wife got upset with me for being obnoxious and I said that I was a talent and needed to express myself. For the rest of the night and the next day or so, she would say, “I get it—you’re a showoff, right, so you need to dominate a conversation? Isn’t that what you told me?”
One thing that set me off is that there were a couple of people at the party who are much more successful than I am in the media field (not to mention the Israel lobby) so my competitive instinct took over. My wife regards this as beneath me. One of the successful people was a writer who my wife wrote off as having no personality and being a suckup and a liar. A liar?
My wife had asked her something about social life, and the writer said offhandedly, Oh I never see anyone, I haven’t been out in a year. My wife said this was a flatout lie. The writer is a social type, it is completely obvious, and she obviously gets out all the time and just didn’t answer the question maybe because she regards our society as lesser or because her answer seemed clever to her. There was no sincerity, my wife said. And in turn my wife faulted me for a lack of sincerity, in my drunken holdingforthness.
I relate everything to my Jewishness, and I read this conflict in Jewish terms. The writer is Jewish and I am familiar with her manners. I grew up hearing and telling jokes about the value and pleasure of irony and deception. The famous Minsk Pinsk joke, in which one salesman accuses another of lying when he has told him the truth, was told at my dinner table. My wife doesn’t like irony. She grew up going to a Quaker resort where the three words on the dining room wall were Simplicity Sincerity and Service. I’ve come to respect those values. But can I develop them in myself, and do I even want to?
A friend advised me recently that I am struggling with the idea of chosenness. I associate New York success, that thing the three partygoers possess in greater measure than I do, with chosenness, and along with chosenness, spectacle: marketing, branding, performance. I don’t know that it’s altogether a bad thing. But chosenness is a real element in Jewish culture.
You hear even secularized Jews mention the Jewish covenant with god; why, in the middle of an academic work called Capitalism and the Jews, author Jerry Muller states in passing that Jews have such a covenant—and I bridle, because the religious language is never interrogated, and neither is the sense of specialness that comes along with it.

Chicago hearing looks at the effect of US military aid to Israel

Videos from last weekend’s mock Congressional Hearing in Chicago about US policy toward Israel/Palestine have been posted.  Below are two of the most powerful. The first featuers Amr Shurrab from Khan Younis who lost two of his brothers on the same day during the Israeli attack on Gaza in January, 2009. The second features Cindy Corrie who recounts the death of her daughter Rachel and her search for answers and accountability.

I think UN Partition vote happened this way, too

Great piece of reporting by Josh Nathan-Kazis at the Forward, on how the Israel lobby beat back divestment at Berkeley last week.

In the two weeks prior [to April 14 vote], Berkeley Hillel coordinated a comprehensive national lobbying campaign consisting of a teach-in, face-to-face meetings with student senators and an intervention by a Nobel laureate, all aimed at robbing the divestment supporters of three senate votes.
Adam Naftalin-Kelman, the Hillel’s newly installed executive director, said that the strategy for countering divestment efforts was devised at a roundtable meeting convened by Hillel and attended by representatives of local branches of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish Community Relations Council, J Street, Israel’s consul general in San Francisco and local rabbis.
Outmaneuvering the pro-divestment supporters, this organizing coup appears to have worked: After a marathon debate that lasted well into the next morning, two senators changed their minds and one abstained, and the veto was upheld.
“Three votes changed,” Akiva Tor, the consul general, told the Forward. “So something happened.”…
The Hillel-organized teach-in, open exclusively to members of the student senate, featured talks by the consul general, an Israeli visiting professor, a professor of international law and others. Seven senators attended. One, a co-sponsor of the bill who did not change her vote, said that the presenters were respectful but she felt uncomfortable.
“There were undertones of intimidation to me,” Emily Carlton said. “For one thing, they were all a lot older, they were all a lot more distinguished.”

I read this with some sadness, reflected in my headline. Must all of these important decisions be subject to such back-room influence? Truman said he’d never been pressured so much as he was on his decision to recognize Israel, overruling his own State Department and U.N. representative. Obama is getting pressured now. Really, is this the best way to make policy? Don’t people resent it?

‘TNR’s hit man on HRW likes to talk about Muslim birthrates

The forthcoming New Republic, not yet available online, has a hit job on Human Rights Watch written by Benjamin Birnbaum. I am told this is the same Ben Birnbaum who wrote for the Cornell Sun a few years ago:

Lastly and most controversially, European nations must slow the relative growth of their Muslim minorities by diversifying their sources of immigration beyond the Muslim world and creating incentives for their women to, um, start making babies again.
That last part sounded bad, I know.
The Islamic Republic of France sounds worse to me.

Or there’s this jokey-joke about that funny topic, torture:

“There are those, though, who believe that any pressure to make someone talk constitutes torture. It’s shocking to hear what some so-called human rights groups include in the category: Sleep deprivation? Exposure to cold
temperatures?? Loud rap music??? That’s not torture — that’s a Saturday night at Cornell!”

Birnbaum won a hasbara prize as an undergraduate. Zionism continues its war on Jewish intelligence, abetted by that leader of intellectuals, Marty Peretz. 

Treasury officials are sure cozy with Israel lobby

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, “Setting the Trap on Iran:”

The next step in this pressure campaign is the sanctions regime being crafted by Stuart Levey, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence. This will have several interlocking components: The showpiece will be a new U.N. Security Council resolution to add sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its affiliated companies, along with other Iranian firms involved in manufacturing, transporting and financing weapons shipments and other illicit activities. But that’s just the beginning.

Now here is Levey, speaking before an AIPAC policy conference in 2005, and doing some Israel sign-language:

To start, allow me to first introduce my office. I am the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial and Intelligence, or “TFI.” TFI is a relatively new office. It was created in 2004 to oversee the Treasury Department’s enforcement and intelligence functions aimed at stopping illicit money flows to terrorists and other criminals….
It is a real pleasure to be speaking with you today. I have been an admirer of the great work this organization does since my days on the one-year program at Hebrew University in 1983 and 1984. I want to commend you for the important work that you are doing to promote strong ties between Israel and the United States and to advocate for a lasting peace in the Middle East….
We all remember the Munich Olympics and Leon Klinghoffer and Pan Am 103 and Entebbe and Maalot and so many more. We all knew all along that terrorist groups could not be reasoned with or negotiated with, and that they sought nothing but destruction. As President Bush articulated in his address to you last year, “[Terrorists] kill without mercy. They kill without shame. And they count their victories in the death of the innocent.”
You can imagine, then, how meaningful it is for me to play a role in this Administration’s efforts to combat terrorism. I start off every morning reading the daily intelligence book, and then spend my day working to undercut the supply-lines of terrorist groups. It is, quite honestly, exhilarating. I often feel like the baseball players I used to watch growing up who, when asked about salary issues, would say “Are you kidding?? I get paid to do something that I love. I would do this for free.”…

Then in the New York Times a year or so back, we had “Stuart Levey’s War.” 

“Stuart Levey’s war is like ‘Charlie Wilson’s War,’ ” a U.S. official said over coffee in the State Department cafeteria, referring to a former Texas congressman’s campaign to change policy on Afghanistan, a saga made into a movie. “It’s the most direct and aggressive stuff we’ve got going. It delivers.”

Is it really that surprising that Levey hangs on from Bush into Obama? Both the New York Times and the Washington Post must have an unwritten policy in which identifying any member of the administration or a Washington think tank with the pro-Israel forces is not allowed. Ignatius is not an ignorant reporter so his failure to identify Levey for what he is, an openly pro-Israel supporter serving in a critical position in the US government, must have some other reason.  
Oh and here is Levey’s number two, David Cohen, at a recent appearance at Israel lobby group Washington Institute for Near East Policy. According to his WINEP intro, “David Cohen is the assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing. In this role, he is responsible for formulating and coordinating the Treasury Department’s counterterrorism financing and anti-money-laundering efforts.”

Before I begin, I want to offer my special thanks to Matt Levitt and Mike Jacobson [senior fellows at WINEP] for facilitating this event. As many of you know, Matt and Mike each spent several years doing outstanding work in Treasury’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
We at Treasury remain grateful for their service, and the Washington Institute has been fortunate to benefit these past few years from their insightful and innovative scholarship on critical issues relating to terrorismand terrorist financing.

Minnesota students lock-down a Caterpillar plant, citing ‘ethnic cleansing’ and occupation 

Wow, another sign that Israel/Palestine is coming home, and that the American left has taken on the issue: a half-dozen Macalester College students, in St. Paul, Minnesota, participated in a lockdown of a Caterpillar distribution plant yesterday, and managed to block a driveway at the plant for some hours. The students know the issue.

Specially armored Caterpillar bulldozers are Israel’s tools for the relentless, slow-motion destruction of Palestinian lives, homes, and livelihoods. Israel uses Caterpillar to demolish Palestinian homes, rip up Palestinian olive groves, and to build new settler homes with manicured lawns and central air. Since 1967, Israel has demolished 24,145 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories; in the same time period, Israel has built 214 settlements and erected a separation wall which cuts deep into the West Bank.
Time after time, settlements ‘spring up’ right where they are most disruptive to local economies, while Israel further shatters trade routes and freedom of movement with Apartheid walls, Israeli-only roads, and pervasive checkpoints. The goal is to push Palestinian’s off the land, leaving it open for Israeli settlement.  This is not a complicated issue–Israel is enacting a policy of ethnic cleansing and Apartheid onto the Palestinian peoples.
We’ve put our bodies here today to oppose Caterpillar’s participation in occupation and injustice.

h/t Alex Kane.

Finkelstein: Goldstone report marks the end of Jewish liberalism’s apologetics for Israel’s crimes

Norman Finkelstein’s latest book, titled “‘This Time We Went Too Far’:  Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion,” was released recently, and has been garnering a lot of praise in publications that reviewed the book.  Below is an excerpt from a review of the book I wrote in the Indypendent, a New York-based free newspaper.  You can read the whole review here.
In his prolific and rigorous writings, Finkelstein has waged incisive academic assaults against Israel’s defenders, most notably Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer and Harvard professor. Finkelstein’s latest, ‘This Time We Went Too Far’: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, is no exception. The book takes aim at (among others) Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst for ABC News and the author of a number of books on the Middle East, for absolving Israel of war crimes in a “strategic analysis” of Operation Cast Lead he published with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman’s analysis, Finkelstein writes, “synthesizes Israel’s makeshift rebuttals to criticism of the invasion.”
The hot core of the polemic against Cordesman — and the defense of Israeli conduct he represents — is Finkelstein’s masterful command of international human rights law and a sharp exegesis of the United Nations report on the Israeli assault. Much more accessible than Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1995) or The Holocaust Industry (2000), ‘This Time We Went Too Far’ spares readers the usual thicket of research from the annals of war documentation.
Finkelstein’s work is clear, concise, well documented and burning with righteous anger, and he still devotes enough pages to developing a solid framework of historical context and critical analysis to give newcomers to this complex subject a working knowledge of the conflict’s dimensions.
When it comes to Israel, the political is always personal for Finkelstein, and facts and figures that anchor his research are humanized by accounts of his experience on the ground. In a moving passage, he describes visiting Gaza as part of a CODEPINK delegation in the aftermath of the Israeli assault, recalling an 11-year-old Palestinian girl lingering beside the demolished American International School. I visited Gaza and observed that very spot; the American International School remained in ruin, with only rubble left over.
‘This Time We Went Too Far’ is hardly light fare, though. Finkelstein saves an important commentary on the much-maligned Goldstone Report for the epilogue. Richard Goldstone, a highly respected South African jurist, has been demonized by the Israel lobby for his charge that Israel committed “war crimes,” in a report on the Gaza invasion commissioned by the U.N. His devastating indictment has earned him opponents across the political spectrum. (Alan Dershowitz, once a friend, made headlines when he called Goldstone an “evil, evil man” for his “despicable” report and he was a “traitor” to the Jewish people.)
Finkelstein argues that the publication of the report marks the “end of an apologetic Jewish liberalism that denies or extenuates Israel’s crimes” and “the emergence of a new era in which the human rights dimension of the Israel-Palestine conflict move[s] center-stage.” This point reflects one of the book’s central messages: “This book … sets forth grounds for hope. The bloodletting in Gaza has roused the world’s conscience. The prospects have never been more propitious for galvanizing the public not just to mourn but also to act.”
What’s missing from ‘This Time’ is the voice of the Palestinian people. Finkelstein’s arguments would have benefitted from the powerful testimony Palestinians gave before the Goldstone mission. Also absent in is an adequate discussion of the growing “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement against Israeli policy, a perfect example of the shift in discourse surrounding Israel/Palestine. Post-Gaza, the BDS movement has grown and received more international attention than ever before — an affirmation of Finkelstein’s view that the world’s perception of the Israel/Palestine conflict is undergoing a sea change.

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