State Department once warned against a tactic the NYT now blesses in Afghanistan
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

Earlier today we did a post about a New York Times piece generally approving “targeted killing” as a means of advancing the project in Afghanistan. Targeted killing “has turned out to work well.” And never was heard a discouraging word. 
We mentioned a State Department report on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, from 2004. Our source sent it along to us. The Times ought to have a look at it. Key excerpts:

Israel’s overall human rights record in the occupied territories remained poor and worsened in the treatment of foreign human rights activists as it continued to commit numerous, serious human rights abuses. Security forces killed at least 573 Palestinians and 1 foreign national and injured 2,992 Palestinians and other persons during the year, some of whom were innocent bystanders. Israeli security forces targeted and killed at least 44 Palestinians, many of whom were terrorists or suspected terrorists. Israeli forces undertook many of these targeted killings in areas where civilian casualties were likely, killing 47 bystanders in the process, including children. The Israeli Government said that it made every effort to reduce civilian casualties during these operations…
During the year, the IDF targeted for killing at least 44 Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorism. In the process, IDF forces killed more bystanders than targeted individuals, including children. IDF forces killed at least 47 bystanders of those targeted and injured a number of others, including bystanders, relatives, or associates. Israel stated that it only targeted individuals believed to be “ticking bombs” on the verge of carrying out terrorist attacks. In practice, however, the IDF targeted some leaders of terrorist organizations generally considered not to be directly engaged in carrying out attacks. 

Great way to win the Afghan people over from the Taliban, huh.

Israeli high school students assisted in state’s destruction of Bedouin village
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

The other day we picked up the news from CNN that when Israeli security forces descended on a Bedouin village in the Negev and destroyed it, uprooting over 200 people, busloads of civilians were there cheering.
Max Blumenthal has now visited Al-Arakib and has a thorough report on his blog that the cheering civilians were high school students. Excerpt:
Arab Negev News publisher Ata Abu Madyam supplied me with a series of photos he took of the civilians in action. They depicted Israeli high school students who appeared to have volunteered as members of the Israeli police civilian guard (I am working on identifying some participants by name). Prior to the demolitions, the student volunteers were sent into the villagers’ homes to extract their furniture and belongings.
A number of villagers including Madyam told me the volunteers smashed windows and mirrors in their homes and defaced family photographs with crude drawings. Then they lounged around on the furniture of al-Arakib residents in plain sight of the owners. Finally, according to Matyam, the volunteers celebrated while bulldozers destroyed the homes. 
“What we learned from the summer camp of destruction,” Madyam remarked, “is that Israeli youth are not being educated on democracy, they are being raised on racism.” (The cover of the latest issue of Madyam’s Arab Negev News features a photo of Palestinians being expelled to Jordan in 1948 juxtaposed with a photo of a family fleeing al-Arakib last week. The headline reads, “Nakba 2010.”)

According to residents of al-Arakib, the youth volunteers vandalized village homes
 According to residents of al-Arakib, the youth volunteers vandalized homes throughout the village 

The Israeli civilian guard, which incorporates 70,000 citizens including youth as young as 15 (about 15% of Israeli police volunteers are teenagers), is one of many programs designed to incorporate Israeli children into the state’s military apparatus. It is not hard to imagine what lessons the high school students who participated in the leveling of al-Arakib took from their experience, nor is it especially difficult to predict what sort of citizens they will become once they reach adulthood. Not only are they being indoctrinated to swear blind allegiance to the military, they are learning to treat the Arab outclass as less than human. The volunteers’ behavior toward Bedouins, who are citizens of Israel and serve loyally in Israeli army combat units despite widespread racism, was strikingly reminiscent of the behavior of settler youth in Hebron who pelt Palestinian shopkeepers in the old city with eggs, rocks and human waste. If there is a distinction between the two cases, it is that the Hebron settlers act as vigilantes while the teenagers of Israeli civilian guard vandalize Arab property as agents of the state.

‘New Republic’ writer lauds ADL’s stand against mosque
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

Ben Birnbaum’s twitter feed; mosque is being “demagogued” on right and left, but ADL’s “nuanced statement should be commended, not condemned.” 
Here’s Ben Birnbaum at New Republic, a long piece of Israel lobbyana, attacking Human Rights Watch as an enemy of Israel. Reliable narrator?
the battlefield of public opinion is a psychological minefield
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

oh god, i’m going thru this psychological minefield.
just an amazing amount of bullshit pushback in my blogging reality. i seem to fluxuate between periods of self doubt with respect to the ‘tone’ of my blogging (basically just being me which apparently really drives some people nuts in not a good way) or feeling fine about it. i’m not ‘sensitive’ enough to others (jewish) suffering. i know i should just blow it off and not worry about it or completely quit, but i consider it a battlefield of public opinion and i simply can’t let them own the narrative. it is so emotionally exhausting sometimes i just have to turn off my computer. i have to work on my ‘niceness’. after getting heavily penalized for making a snarky comment alleging i could totally relate to what it feels like to want to return to my great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandmother’s back yard (i just counted them, 72, like the virgins, double the amount of greats for historical accuracy) it finally occurred to me (but only yesterday after someone relinked to this great offense thing i said last month that i had actually forgotten saying it but i was ‘reminded’ about how rude i was) why is it that I, as a non religious basically non ethnic person (whatever ‘white’ represents) am supposed to show deference and respect to religious people as a matter of course yet nobody has to honor my atheism ( a general ‘the force be with you’ belief energy making it happen if i really wish upon a star type atheism, sometimes if i’m in the mood). religious people are victim of ritual brainwashing procedures week in and week out. why is my belief not respected? why do i get penalized for being in the reality based community?
Foxman says some are ‘entitled’ to be bigots
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

The Times’ Mark Barbaro and Paul Vitello did excellent reporting on the mosque controversy, and the role of Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.

“It’s the wrong place,” Mr. Foxman said. “Find another place.”
Asked why the opposition of the families was so pivotal in the decision, Mr. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, said they were entitled to their emotions.
“Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational,” he said. Referring to the loved ones of Sept. 11 victims, he said, “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”

The statement is curious at a number of levels. First, Foxman is as noted a Holocaust survivor, born in 1940 in Poland, saved by his Catholic nanny, reunited with his parents after the war. So he is rationalizing his own bigotry? And by this logic are Palestinian victims of the Nakba entitled to be anti-Semites? 
P.S. Here is Mayor Bloomberg in the same article: “What is great about America, and particularly New York, is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us?” Mr. Bloomberg asked recently. “Democracy is stronger than this…”

Neocon/Israel lobby strategy for getting US into war with Iran
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

Gareth Porter at responds forcefully to Reuel Marc Gerecht, at the Weekly Standard, calling on Israel to bomb Iran. Again, I ask, when is this type of discussion going to happen in the mainstream media, so that Americans can sort out what they really want?

the aim of Gerecht and of the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is to support an attack by Israel so that the United States can be drawn into direct, full-scale war with Iran.
That has long been the Israeli strategy for Iran, because Israel cannot fight a war with Iran without full U.S. involvement. Israel needs to know that the United States will finish the war that Israel wants to start.
Gerecht openly expresses the hope that any Iranian response to the Israeli attack would trigger full-scale U.S. war against Iran. “If Khamenei has a death-wish, he’ll let the Revolutionary Guards mine the strait, the entrance to the Persian Gulf,” writes Gerecht. “It might be the only thing that would push President Obama to strike Iran militarily….” Gerecht suggest that the same logic would apply to any Iranian “terrorism against the United States after an Israeli strike,” by which we really means any attack on a U.S. target in the Middle East. Gerecht writes that Obama might be “obliged” to threaten major retaliation “immediately after an Israeli surprise attack.”
That’s the key sentence in this very long Gerecht argument. Obama is not going to be “obliged” to join Israeli aggression against Iran unless he feels that domestic political pressures to do so are too strong to resist. That’s why the Israelis are determined to line up a strong majority in Congress and public opinion for war to foreclose Obama’s options….
The idea of waging a U.S. war of destruction against Iran is obvious lunacy, which is why U.S. military leaders have strongly resisted it both during the Bush and Obama administrations. But Gerecht makes it clear that Israel believes it can use its control of Congress to pound Obama into submission. Democrats in Congress, he boasts, “are mentally in a different galaxy than they were under President Bush.” Even though Israel has increasingly been regarded around the world as a rogue state after its Gaza atrocities and the commando killings of unarmed civilians on board the Mavi Marmara, its grip on the U.S. Congressappears as strong as ever.


Timing is everything
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

Two Armenian-Americans have sued the Turkish government in California for the Armenian genocide of nearly a century ago.

The suit seeks class action status on behalf of all Armenians and Turkish citizens “who were deprived of their citizenship, brutally deported, (and) had their property seized” by the Turkish government. 

Hmmm. Here’s the law firm. I imagine they’re preparing a Nakba lawsuit as we speak. (thanks to Reem Mokhtar)

‘NYT’ says ‘targeted killings’ are good U.S. tactic, with no mention of civilian deaths
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

This feels very 1969: Helene Cooper and Mark Landler in the Times, approve a new tactic in Afghanistan, better than counterinsurgency:

what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Faced with that reality, and the pressure of a self-imposed deadline to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011, the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents. The shift could change the nature of the war and potentially, in the view of some officials, hasten a political settlement with the Taliban. 
Based on the American military experience in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, it is not clear that killing enemy fighters is sufficient by itself to cripple an insurgency. Still, commando raids over the last five months have taken more than 130 significant insurgents out of action… 

Helene Cooper is usually very good. But, 130 taken out of action? Does that mean killed and maimed? And with no civilian casualties? Hard to believe. In Gaza, a few years back, State reported that Israel’s targeted killings resulted in more innocent bystanders being killed than actual targets in one calendar year. My canary says the numbers were 47 and 44. and is looking for the link. Sheikh Yassin’s murder (an old quadriplegic) took out 11 others. The absence of detail in the story is a huge hole, and consequently it reads more like propaganda, stripped of information that undercuts the narrative being constructed.

Manhattanites are for mosque by sizeable margin
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

Great post by Nate Silver at showing that opposition to the mosque is not what the media have made it out to be. I have included Silver’s stunning map of the site for Cordoba House. Jeez, how far does the mosque have to be from Ground Zero for it to be hallal?  
To be clear, Cordoba House is “in the neighborhood” of Ground Zero, and this seems to have been a deliberate choice made by its developers. But to suggest that Cordoba House is “at” Ground Zero, as some reporting and opposition groups have, is either negligent or willfully misleading.
The World Trade Center campus, shown in purple in the map below, is quite large, roughly two-tenths of a mile by two-tenths of a mile across. Eleven different streets abut or intersect it, and there are numerous points of access by foot, by cars or taxi, or on public transportation networks.

Cordoba House, shown in a red outline on the map, would be on Park Place between West Broadway and Church Street. Park Place does not intersect Ground Zero; instead, it runs parallel to it, two blocks to its north.
…Interestingly, although the
Quinnipiac poll showed a majority of New York City residents opposed to the project, a 46-36 plurality of Manhattanites were in favor of it. There could be a variety of reasons for this, but one might be that they have a superior understanding of the borough’s geography. It is not as though there’s just one road to Ground Zero and some huge mosque would be built right next door to it.
Although the Quinnipiac Poll described Cordoba House fairly completely — as “a Muslim mosque and cultural center” — the
Rasmussen poll describes it merely as “a mosque near the 9/11 Ground Zero site”, omitting any description of its multipurpose nature. It is hard to say how much difference this makes, but Rasmussen, which often has problems with question wording, would probably do more to inform its respondents by referring to it as Quinnipiac did.
Another problem with both the Quinnipiac and Ramsussen polls is that it’s a bit ambiguous what it means to “support” or “oppose” the project in this context. I imagine there is a spectrum of about five different positions that one might take on Cordoba House:
1) I support the project: its goals seem laudable, and it would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
2) I am indifferent about the project itself — I can see the arguments both for it and against it. But this is a free country, and the developers certainly have a right to express themselves.
3) I’d rather that the project weren’t built, especially so near to Ground Zero. But it’s certainly not the government’s business to stop its construction.
4) I’m opposed to the project and hope that it isn’t built. But I’m indifferent about whether or not the City should act to stop it.
5) I’m definitely opposed to the project, and the City should exercise its authority to prevent it from being built.
Arguably, responses 3 through 5 all qualify as “opposition” to the project, whereas only the first one indicates clear support. But one’s personal position on the mosque is not necessarily the same as thinking that the City should take affirmative steps to prohibit its construction by eminent domain laws by or other means, a position held by only those in Group 5. This is somewhat analogous to asking: “do you support or oppose flag-burning?”. Without additional context, it would be quite natural for someone to say they opposed it, but they might nevertheless consider it to be Constitutionally protected activity.



‘Every Democrat assumes the biggest discernible group giving money is Jews’
Posted: 01 Aug 2010

Yesterday I did my usual angst-ridden tapdance as I wrote that we need to talk about “Jewish money” in American politics. Here are Jim Lobe and M.J. Rosenberg speaking logically about the issue in a recent post by Lobe, which shows how even delicate issues can be addressed by smart journalists. 

Despite their relatively small number – about two percent of the total U.S. population and about three percent of voters in most elections, Jewish Americans are major donors to political campaigns, accounting for as much as 25 percent of all financial contributions to national campaigns and as much as 40 percent of all contributions to Democratic candidates, in particular.
They are also widely – if often mistakenly – seen by political candidates as virtually unconditional supporters of Israel prepared to reward or punish candidates based on their positions on the Jewish state.
“Every Democrat assumes that the biggest discernible group that contributes to their campaign is Jews,” according to M.J. Rosenberg, a Middle East analyst who worked for the most powerful Lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in the 1980s.
“…(I)f a donor has a Jewish name, or is known to be Jewish, the assumption is that he or she is pro-Israel and will be offended by any deviation from the [Lobby’s] line,” he said.


A few comments. The old dodge was, Jewish voters were in key states. The great thing about Lobe’s post is that it dispenses with this hypocrisy. Lobe’s 40 percent to Dems has been estimated at 60 percent for Democratic presidential candidates, by the Washington Post. Also, Lobe’s statement that political candidates are often mistaken in regarding the Jewish community as monolithic on the Israel question, well, I differ from my good friend here. As the J Street experience shows, the Jewish community has been overwhelmingly supportive of rightwing Israeli policies. Has any candidate shown that individual Jewish donors, as Jews, are going to support liberal policies vis-a-vis Palestinians? I don’t see it. Yes we are building a movement inside Jewish life to oppose existing policies. But how significant is it? 
Finally, isn’t it interesting that the Wikipedia entry on the Israel lobby describes it as chiefly Christian? What an irresponsible dodge. Until the Jewish community takes responsibility for its role in Israel’s militarism — as leading Zionist historian Melvin Urofsky did, when he wrote a book called We Are One!, and described the relationship between American Jews and Israel as a “marriage”– we won’t be able to get out of this political puzzle. In the end, it really does involve Jewish identity.


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