Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Tale of the Wagging Tail - Part II

Another Chapter in the Tale of the Tail that Wags the Dog

Note: Two distinguished U.S. academicians, John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Stephan Walt (Harvard U.), stirred up quite a storm when they published a detailed, in-depth report on the role and the workings of the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States (London Review of Books, March 23, 2006). The report, while admirable in many respects and thoroughly convincing in the documentation of a whole slew of unsavory practices by the lobby, is based on a highly questionable thesis to the effect that the lobby has succeeded in effectively taking over control of U.S. foreign policy. As a result, the professors conclude, current U.S. policy subverts and sacrifices the U.S.’s real interests in the Middle East. This conclusion is simply unacceptable for many knowledgeable and experienced observers who refuse to ‘buy’ the unsupportable thesis that the tail, in short, is wagging the dog.

The following would be a faithful rendition of some recent events if the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis were accurate…

Further Evidence of the Israeli Lobby’s Clout in D.C.

Rumsfield Goes, But Not Because of Iraq

Bye, bye, Rummy. It is terrible what they did to Rummy. Rummy who is usually a pretty savvy guy, made the mistake of his life in approving an arms deal with the Saudis and the Emirates. Well, of course, the Israelis got wind of the deviant behavior and called in the United States ambassador and made it clear, in no uncertain terms that Rummy will have to go. Some say that Rummy was the best Defense Secretary the United States ever had, and George Bush showered effusive praise on Rummy, but he had to go, and he went. When Israel and the United States get into an argument, Israel is right even if it is wrong.(1)

Jonathan Pollard: “It was Worth the Inconvience.”

Jonathan Pollard, pleasantly ensconced in the higher echelons of the Israeli security establishment for almost two decades met with the Israeli press this week to mark the 20th anniversary of his arrest for spying against the United States. It will be recalled that the Pollard incident seemed momentarily to cloud U.S. – Israeli relations back then. Pollard was released from jail after 18 months by presidential pardon. Sources close to the White House revealed that Washington was clearly embarrassed by his arrest and had to take action at the last minute before law enforcement officials were about to wreck havoc with the special status of the United States in Israel. Pollards early release restored Israeli confidence in Washington’s deep and abiding commitment to their enduring partnership.

These days, Pollard acts as some sort of master-spy adviser here in the Israeli Mosad, and enjoys excellent relations with his CIA counterparts. Pollard, officially still a persona- non-gratis in the United States, has requested to visit Washington to participate in the special ceremony honoring the AIPAC leaders and their special Defense Department liason, Larry Franklin. (2)

Bush to Present Distinguished Service Medal to AIPAC Leaders

Pollard hopes to participate in the coming Presidential Reception where AIPAC dignitaries, Steve Rosen and Keith Weismann are to receive the Distinguished Service Medal for their role in fortifying U.S.-Israeli friendship. At the ceremony, Larry Franklin recently promoted to the number two job in the Pentagon, will receive a special award from the Israeli Government, called the Tsa’Lash, which has never before been awarded to a non-Israeli.(3)

(1) At the insistence of the U.S. government, Amos Yaron was sacked (September 1, 2005) from his job as Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Pentagon officials had previously demanded that Shaul Mofaz, the Minister of Defense, sign an official apology after it was learned that Israel had agreed to upgrade a consignment of drones that it (Israel) had previously sold to China. Sharon thanked the deposed official at a special ceremony, citing Yaron as the best Director-General in Israel’s history. Sharon knows Yaron from way back as both figures were cited by the Kahan Commission for their responsibility in the mass-killings in Sabra and Shatilla during the Lebanon war.

Eytan Haber, Yitshak Rabin’s aide de camp and intimate adviser, claims to have been witness to the following interchange: Rabin corrected former U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker. All Baker did was to bend over the table and lean towards Rabin and say: America, even when it’s wrong, it’s right.” (, August 5, 2005).

(2) Pollard has been serving time for more than twenty-one years in a maximum security prison. Countless requests by prominent Israeli politicians to free him have been to no avail.

(3) Larry Franklin, a former Pentagon official, has already confessed and been convicted of breaching security regulations by passing highly classified information to the Israelis. Franklin confessed in return for a ‘lightened’ twelve-year sentence. His two couriers, Steven Rosen and Keith Weismann, both top level AIPAC directors, are expected to go on trial any day.

And more seriously: Eytan Haber, described the real nature of the Israeli-U.S. partnership in the above quoted op-ed, mourning the demise of Amos Yaron.

“The difference between an all encompassing empire and a dragged along country is much like the difference between an all powerful master and a broken down slave. One can discover this the moment an Israeli foot steps on U.S. soil at Kennedy… Israelis who were happy, cheerful…turn silent and shocked when they stand in line, to get their passports checked. No one talks…one unnecessary gesture and the clerk will show you the way home…because he, the clerk is the master of the world. He is America.”

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Troops Are Frustrated

A 12 year old Palestinian girl was killed on April 10, 2006 in Gaza. Thirteen other members of her family including her pregnant mother, toddlers, children and teen-agers were injured by Israeli shelling. The shelling continued.

The new government is still in the process of formation and coalition discussions have just begun.

Ehud Olmert, who had to make do until now with the title of ‘acting prime minister’ has now become prime-minister designate. And in some sort of a record, he is on his way to becoming a certified war criminal from day one of his new position.
The Palestinian militants in Gaza have devised a method of manufacturing, crude, primitive home made rockets. It is not difficult to slip into the nearest field and fire a couple of these off in the direction of the closest Israeli location. It is only very rarely that these rockets, Kassems in the local vernacular, cause any damage and casualties are few and very far between. This is not to say that it is very pleasant living under the threat of these rockets; it is annoying and may be even nerve racking. Israelis in the area demand expensive building modifications. And of course, there are those who trot out the old complaint: We are powerful and have this enormous army, so why do we have to suffer from this sort of thing?

The colonels and the majors are frustrated. Day in day out, a couple of rockets are fired. As a rule they fall in empty fields, in the sea, even in Palestinian territory, though some do hit the towns. As a rule no one is hurt. But the prestige of the colonels and the majors is hurt. The prestige of their superiors, the leaders of the strongest power in the region and its generals is damaged and that hurts more than anything else. What shall we do? Golda Meir said she hated the Palestinians for forcing us to do things to them that we did not want to do. The Goliath IDF starts bombing, and shelling, the artillery roars. The rockets do not go away. It is clear to everyone that “mere” bombing and shelling of the rocket launching areas will not stop the rockets. So the military correspondents and commentators are pressed into action. They explain that death and destruction, mayhem and murder of yes, civilians, will send a clear message to the Palestinians. Civilian deaths are necessary because it is not enough to try and kill terrorists. A political message is necessary. Stop the rockets or pay the price. In short, the frustrated military and the collaborating political echeleons decided in cold-blood to kill Palestinian civilians in order to send a message. To whom? To Hamas. To Fatah. To Abu Mazen. How many are to be murdered in this fashion? The number is a military secret, like Dubya’s withdrawal date. Israel has decided to murder innocent civilians to convince the Palestinians to stop the rockets. It wants it understood that the IDF will continue the killing until the Palestinian masses will rise up and smash those who refuse to get the message. This is explained day after day on Israel media as an inevitable consequence of the rockets. Golda’s ghost has arisen.

Ha’aretz reports (April 11, 2006): “Hundreds of artillery shells are being fired daily, along with air strikes, missiles and canon from naval vessels off shore…Recently, the IDF also reduced the ’safety zone’ artillery batteries must maintain around Palestinian communities. The military was aware that the decision could result in civilian casualties as occurred yesterday. The safety zone was reduced from 300 meters to 100 meters. The shell fragmentation range is 100 meters so the decision clearly endangers civilian lives.” This is happening in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet.

The media photos of hastily bandaged children being transported to the local hospital do create some kind of stir, even in the Israel media. The official response is to up the level of the commentators, especially since the next day, four additional (ineffectual) rockets come down. The general in charge of national security explains that ours is a long haul strategy. The minister of defense and the chief of staff huddle with the officers on the spot. But the two cannot even get their story straight. Halutz, the soldier, explains that there is no intention to harm Palestinians. Mofaz, the politician is much more open: If it isn’t quiet on our side, it will not be quiet on their side. The news report is careful to report that the troops are still frustrated.

Coalition Racism

A rabble-rousing crypto-fascist by the name of Avigdor Lieberman is the inside choice for receiving the Minister of Internal Security (the Police Ministry) portfolio in Ehud Olmert’s new, still evolving cabinet. Racism usually adopts its demands to local circumstances. Around here, the racists build on and intensify widespread anxieties in the Israeli populace, and come out with the slogans and arguments that are just not evoked by decent, responsible politicians. You see, now that we have a Jewish state, we must be concerned as to how Jewish our Jewish state is. Do not assume that this is a question of public morality, culture, wisdom and social solidarity, or a challenge of how exactly Israel is a “light unto the nations.”

Instead, we are back to the demographic issue, the happy hunting ground of the anti-immigration scoundrels all over the world. But here, we have a novel twist. In most places, the locals argue for restrictions on immigration. Lieberman’s party is a party of new immigrants, and its racism is directed against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. The name of Lieberman’s party is “Yisrael Beitenu” – (Israel is Our Home) and you do not have to be too sharp to pick up on the real meaning of this seemingly innocuous designation. The party platform reeks with warnings of the ‘internal’ demographic danger to Israel’s existence. The high point is the demand to transfer two areas, populated by Palestinian Arabs, citizens of Israel, to the Palestinian Authority. As of now, it appears that Olmert, with the compliance of Peretz’s Labor Party is going make this man responsible for the equal and fair application of the law.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Ilan Pappe Exposes the Sins of Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky has an incomparable record of revealing the machinations and the deadly effects of United States foreign policy for decades. He has justly earned international respect, and even admiration, for his brilliant analyses and intellectual courage and integrity. It is only natural that many on the left wished to hear his response to a recent study by two prominent academicians in the United States, Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, (henceforth, M-W) who caused a sensation by scrutinizing the exploits of the Israeli lobby in Washington. M-W had done an excellent job of describing the brutal antics of the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States and its central player, AIPAC.

I have no reason to believe that either M or W were ever considered leftists. Thus, it is no surprise that their critique of the pro-Israel lobby is based on the assumption that this lobby has succeeded in undermining and perverting a basically honest and fair minded, almost angelic, institution, US foreign policy. Is this a good way of looking at the problem? Does the M-W approach give us a full and accurate picture of the interaction between the different US administrations over the years and the pro-Israeli lobby?

Chomsky’s article appeared in ZNet (March 28, 2006). After noting that, “M-W deserve credit for taking a position that is sure to elicit tantrums and fanatical lies and denunciations,” Chomsky comments that “we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is?”

Chomsky proceeds to a nuanced analyses of the interaction between the two elements: ” “Notice incidentally that what is at stake is a rather subtle matter: weighing the impact of several factors which (all agree) interact in determining state policy: in particular, (A) strategic-economic interests of concentrations of domestic power in the tight state-corporate linkage, and (B) the Lobby.”

Chomsky easily demonstrates the determining and overriding role of U.S strategic-economic interests. But little did he know that he was incurring the wrath of Prof. Ilan Pappe from the University of Haifa (see ALEF, Academic Left Website in Israel – Pappe’s article is appended in full). Pappe uses this opportunity to expose any number of Chomsky’s serious failings. In a few short paragraphs of dense and strangely sloppy text, Pappe presents us with a serious indictment against Chomsky. (Text quoted from Pappe includes all the spelling and grammatical errors in the original).

The First Offense – A Sin of Omission

Pappe charges that “Chomsky never paid too much and enough attention to the impact of AIPAC on American policy.” Leaving off the problem of measuring “too much” and “not enough attention” , is there anyone, including Chomsky, who doubts the impact of AIPAC on American policy? Chomsky relates in his article to the question of the “relative” impact of the Israeli lobby and this makes it crystal clear that he pays ’sufficient attention” to AIPAC. Chomsky it appears is guilty of not stressing something that does not need to be stressed, for the simple reason that it is something which is known and totally uncontroversial, such as the role of AIPAC or the role of the Christian Zionists in supporting Israel. Pappe’s accusation is silly nit-picking. Just how much must Noam Chomsky repeat well known and uncontroversial facts to satisfy Pappe’s demand for ’sufficient attention’? Pappe blames Chomsky for not “highlighting” and “illuminating things” that are clear and simple unchallenged facts. Isn’t it completely reasonable that Chomsky should devote his main attention to more controversial elements of any issue, especially those usually hidden from the public.

Chomsky’s Cardinal Sins

At this point, Pappe, stops playing around and trots out the really important sins of Noam Chomsky: “Chomsky also claims that a two state solution is still viable and opposes sanctions on Israel. Intersting positions but hardly ones the invalidate the counter positions.” Aside from problems of grammar and spelling it is difficult to even understand these sentences. Chomsky did not deal with either of these two questions in his article on M-W! Pappe might mean that these two positions on the two state solution and sanctions do not prove M-W wrong. But Chomsky never made such a claim. The only possible explanation for this attack is that Pappe is grandstanding for a certain constituency where he occupies guru status. This way he can score some points in his own circles by making Chomsky appear anti-Palestinian.

At this point, Pappe tries to poke some holes in Chomsky’s evaluation of US policy ( “a remarkable success and quite similar to those pursued elsewhere”). Pappe has found two isolated instances that do not fit into Chomsky’s generalization of US success in ME policy. He cites a shift in the post-Kennedy period that doesn’t fit into Chomsky’s thesis and then denounces the whole approach (”utterly wrong”). Why, because US non- typically “alienated traditional allies”. Now this did happen, but the US didn’t leave its traditional allies out in the cold. After helping them to get used to the idea that they were on the same side as Israel, the US actually married Egypt and Jordan off to Israel in formal peace agreements.
Here is another Ilan Pappe “clincher”. Though the Saudis profited from the US-Israeli alliance, the rhetoric coming out of Saudia didn’t fit the real situation, namely that Israel was its de facto ally. Whether the Saudis understood this at the time is a moot point. If they did not, time and U.S. diplomacy soon wizened them up. Maybe the Saudis believed that Nasser disappeared, not because of the Israeli military victory over Egypt, but because he was “an infidel.”

Pappe’s final summation is a gem of fogginess and malice and is quoted here in full :”
“It is not that Israel is a sui generis case. But due to the Zionist Lobby and Jewish money in the US it appears to be so and no other regional case of the many cases we learned so much from Chomsky’s ecxellent journeys into the past has ever constitued such a place in US policy. You probably have to be on the receiving end of the US-ISrael speical alliance to understand why it is not a typical American stance and why for re-formulating that policy you need a special campaign and effort; one that is focused on the unprecedented power Jews and Zionists have on America policy in the Middle East in general and Palestine in particular. Unpleasant maybe, but nonetheless the only valid target if indeed one believes US policy should change before peace can come to this area.”

Pappe wanders about in a cloud of confusion. First: “It is not that Israel is a sui generis case.” But his whole argument is precisely that it is just that. He writes: “But due to the Zionist Lobby and Jewish money in the US it appears to be so [sui generis]. Pappe says “appears” when he wants to say that in reality it is just that.

Indeed his argument is the same as that of M-W, but couched in a vulgar and irresponsible language. No serious public intellectual could conceive of using the phrase “unprecedented power Jews and Zionists have on America policy in the Middle East in general and Palestine in particular.” This description of the Jews (not some Jews, not many Jews, but the Jews - is indistinguishable from and easily understood as “all the Jews”). According to Pappe, the Jews, the Zionists and Jewish money have a stranglehold on the US establishment. This thesis is not only inaccurate and grossly exaggerated. It is also formulated in a wild and irresponsible language. But even more important, the very essence of the argument is wrong in that it ignores the overriding force and factor, United States hegemonic interests and imperial domination.

Pappe concludes his short, distortion-packed article, with the most amazing and startling piece of advice. He writes: “If we want to fight US policy we must focus on the only valid target, the unprecedented power of the Jews and the Zionists.” Not just one of the targets. The only valid one!

The Pappe Article
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006 23:43:06 +0200
Subject: Fwd: Re: [alef] Chomsky: The Israel Lobby?

So what do we learn from the Chomsky reaction?: We can find out what Noam has missed in his analyses in the last twenty years - as this was clear before the LRB article: Chomsky never paid too much and enough attention to the impact of AIPAC on American policy. He identified other factors and grounds, but failed to highlight something which was next door. Nor did he ever write anything of signficance on the Christian Zionists and only recently came to appreciate their role and still did not illuminate their connection to AIPAC. Chomsky also claims that a two state solution is still viable and opposes sanctions on Israel.
Intersting positions but hardly ones the invalidate the counter positions.

Now the most strange para. in his argument is ‘When we do investigate (1), we find that US policies in the ME are quite similar to those pursued elsewhere in the world, and have been a remarkable success, in the face of many
difficulties: 60 years is a long time for planning success. It’s true that Bush II has weakened the US position, not only in the ME, but that’s an entirely separate matter’.

Now this is utternly wrong - the US position shifted in the ME since Kennedy’s death, whereas it remained the same elswhere. Only in the ME did the US alienate regimes that were pro-American and were supported by all the traditonal groups that inform and form US Policy.

The rest of the arguments seem to stem from this faulty assumption and hence comes another unsubstantiated assumption that the ‘As noted, the US-Israeli alliance was firmed up precisely when Israel performed a huge service to the US-Saudis-Energy corporations by smashing secular Arab nationalism, which threatened to> divert resources to domestic needs’.

Performed or was seen to perform? Nobody thought in Riyad that this is what Israel was doing - in fact the Saudi stance became more anti-Israel at that time. It was AIPAC that made it seem like it.

It is not that Israel is a sui generis case. But due to the Zionist Lobby and Jewish money in the US it appears to be so and no other regional case of the many cases we learned so much from Chomsky’s ecxellent journeys into the past has ever constitued such a place in US policy. You probably have to be on the receiving end of the US-ISrael speical alliance to understand why it is not a typical American stance and why for re-formulating that policy you need a special campaign and effort; one that is focused on the unprecedented power Jews and Zionists have on America policy in the Middle East in general and Palestine in particular. Unpleasant maybe, but nonetheless the only valid target if indeed one believes US policy should change before peace can come to this area.