Saturday, April 28, 2012

Zionism: The Ultimate Art of Inception

"If you will it, it is no dream."
- Theodor Herzl, Altneuland (1906)

The 2010 film Inception explored a world in which the subconscious mind may be infiltrated, manipulated, subverted and deceived as a form of corporate espionage. The general method of such criminal activity was to enter into a shared dream-space (sometimes a dream within a dream) with the intended targeted individual and extract a vital piece of information from their mind.

But the really impressive - and nearly impossible - task was not to extract information but to implant an idea so deep into a subject's subconscious that it germinated on its own and fooled the target into believing that this idea was genuine and spontaneous.

As described by one of the film's characters, "You need the simplest version of the idea - the one that will grow naturally in the subject's mind. Subtle art." While broad concepts can be suggested to the target's conscious mind, the feat of inception is achieved by going deeper and deeper into levels of the subconscious (dreams within dreams) so that those concepts may be translated by the target's subconscious mind and fed back to him/herself. That way, the target "gives himself the idea," which, we are told, is "the only way to make it stick. It has to seem self-generated."

Successful inception, therefore, is essentially a perfected form of brainwashing and propaganda. It forces someone to be fed an idea that he or she would not have otherwise generated by a self-interested second party in such a way that the target is wholly unaware that the idea - an idea then acted upon and which would change the course of one's life or belief system - is not his or her own. It is a foreign idea foisted upon the target by external forces but disguised as one's own.

Writer-director Christopher Nolan came up with the concept for the film in 2001 while, in his words, "exploring the idea of people sharing a dream space-entering a dream space and sharing a dream. That gives you the ability to access somebody's subconscious. What would that be used and abused for?"

But Nolan was not the first to tread such ground.  In fact, the exact concept of inception had been articulated in an almost identical fashion about eight decades earlier by a leading Zionist recruiter Kurt Blumenfeld.  Blumenfeld was the secretary of the German Federation of Zionists from 1909 to 1911 and the secretary general of the Executive of World Zionist Organizations from 1911 to 1914.  In April 1921, he enlisted Albert Einstein, whose scientific theories had made him somewhat of a international celebrity and one of the world's most recognized and respected Jews at the time, to travel to the United States alongside WZO president Chaim Weizmann to help raise funds to to establish the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Before the trip, Blumenfeld wrote to Weizmann, warning him about Einstein's personal feelings about the Zionist cause:
"Einstein, as you know, is no Zionist, and I ask you not to try to make him a Zionist or to try to attach him to our organization... Einstein, who leans to socialism, feels very involved with the cause of Jewish labor and Jewish workers...

"I heard...that you expect Einstein to give speeches. Please be quite careful with that, Einstein...often says things out of naiveté which are unwelcome by us."
It was not so much "naiveté," but Einstein's opposition to nationalism that worried Blumenfeld. The renowned scientist overtly opposed the creation of a "Jewish State" in Palestine and spoke often of the importance of Jewish cooperation with indigenous Palestinian Arabs, rather than the colonization of them.

Einstein biographer Ronald W. Clark explains the shrewdness with which Blumenfeld, who knew that for Einstein "Zionism and Palestine were only peripheral concerns," brought the eminent physicist into the Zionist fold:
Utilizing him for publicity purposes was thus a delicate matter and "was only successful if I was able to get under his skin in such a way that eventually he believed that words had not been put into his mouth but had come forth from him spontaneously."
Thus was Blumenfeld's own conception of inception - the subtle manipulation of religious/cultural affiliation to help raise money for the Zionist cause - clearly articulated. Similarly, in response to Inception's main protagonist Dominick Cobb's explanation that because "the subconscious motivates through emotion, not reason...we have to translate the idea into an emotional concept," his associate Arthur wonders, "How do you translate a business strategy into an emotion?" The answer, at least for Blumenfeld, was obvious: hasbara.

But Einstein, to put it mildly, was no fool. He had no illusions as to why he had been asked along on this fund-raising tour. Shortly after agreeing to join Weizmann, Einstein wrote to his friend, Romanian mathematician Maurice Solovine:
"I am not going entirely willingly to America, but I am doing so only in the interests of the Zionists, who are obligated to ask for dollars for education in Jerusalem, and on this occasion I am to play the role of a little tin god and a decoy."
As longtime Einstein expert Fred Jerome reminds us, he also wrote,
"Of course they don't need me for my abilities but only because of my name [which] they hope will have a fair amount of success with the rich kinsmen of Dollar-land."
Though the trip was a success and Einstein did not at all regret undertaking the task, the fundraising tour offered him a glimpse of the true face of American Zionism. Upon his return to Germany, he sent a letter to his close friend, physicist Paul Ehrenfest, in which he lamented that, in certain circles of affluent Zionists, "a high-tensioned Jewish nationalism shows itself that threatens to degenerate into intolerance and bigotry; but hopefully this is only an infantile disorder."

Tragically, that infantile disorder remains the guiding force behind Zionism and the racist, discriminatory and violent policies of Israel today.

So, what lesson should be learned from Blumenfeld's attempted Einstein inception? Whenever someone starts spouting hasbara talking points at you, just hit 'em with this:


Monday, April 23, 2012

The Holocaust, Hallowed Ground, and Hollow Words:
Obama's Selective View of the Struggle for Human Dignity

Obama and Elie Wiesel at Holocaust Memorial Museum with museum director Sara Bloomfield
(photo by Pete Souza)

In a speech at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., flanked by such Zionist luminaries as Elie Wiesel and Michael Oren, President Barack Obama referred to "those sacred grounds at Yad Vashem," the vast Holocaust memorial complex in Jerusalem. But considering the horrors of the Holocaust didn't occur anywhere near the grounds of Yad Vashem, one has to wonder what makes those grounds so hallowed.  After all, Auschwitz is over 1,500 miles away from Jerusalem; Treblinka is nearly 1,600 miles away; Dachau is almost 1,700 miles away; Buchenwald is over 1,800 miles away.  Do all Holocaust Museums stand on "sacred ground" just because of the subject matter they commemorate?  If so, wasn't Obama himself standing on sacred ground at 100 15th Street SW in the District of Columbia?  Will the ground upon which the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of (In)Tolerance is being built be sacred because of the museum, or because of the ancient Muslim cemetery it has uprooted and destroyed?

Perhaps the grounds of Yad Vashem are sacred, though.  Only a short distance away, within eyesight, is where Deir Yassin used to be before Zionist militias wiped it and its inhabitants off the face of the Earth.

Obama spoke of atrocities committed upon countless innocents, "just for being different, just for being Jewish" and warned against "the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human."  One wonders what he would say if confronted with the fact that the indigenous people of Palestine are deliberately, systematically and institutionally discriminated against, imprisoned without charge or trial, occupied and colonized, bombed and burned, shot at and under siege because they are not Jewish and because they refuse to forget who they are and where they come from, they refuse to acquiesce to the six and a half decades of ethnic cleansing, aided and abetted, funded, immunized and ignored by the nation Barack Obama now represents.

Obama said that "'Never again' is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security -- and that includes the State of Israel."  He mentioned Israel by name six additional times in his speech.  Never once did the words Palestine or Palestinians cross his lips.  He then proceeded to conflate Zionism with Judaism, present international law as anti-Semitic, and pulled a Netanyahu by warning of the looming specter of a caricatured Iran, one that exists only in the warped minds of fear merchants and warmongers.

Said Obama, "When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon."

Obama also spoke of civilians "subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights," he spoke of "all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them," and vowed to "sustain a legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice, and a humanitarian effort to get relief and medicine" to those desperately in need.  Obama praised those who "still brave the streets," who "still demand to be heard" and "still seek their dignity."  He praised the "people [who] have not given up."

He was referring to Syria, of course, and not to Bil'in, Ni'lin, or Budrus. He didn't mean tanks in Gaza, IDF snipers who open fire on unarmed protesters and murder schoolchildren or the torture and abuse of Palestinians- including children - in Israeli jails.  When he spoke of "unspeakable violence," the "humanitarian effort" and the "legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice," Obama obviously didn't mean the devastation of Gaza by the Israeli military, the ongoing humanitarian crisis there or the recommendations of the Goldstone Report.

Obama patted himself on the back for "sign[ing] an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence."  Of course, these sanctions were not extended to U.S. chums Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, or South Korea - all places where internet censorship is rampant and pervasive.

Obama concluded by stating, "To stare into the abyss, to face the darkness and insist there is a future -- to not give up, to say yes to life, to believe in the possibility of justice" and declared, "If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there’s a place for dignity for every human being."

He was speaking, rightfully, to the survivors of the Holocaust.  But he was also, unwittingly and unwillingly, speaking for those who continue to struggle for equal rights, for universal rights, for dignity, freedom, sovereignty and self-determination, for justice long deferred in their own historic and ancestral homeland.  He was speaking for Palestine.

But don't tell Elie Wiesel.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

David Albright's Alarmism & Allegations of Khamenei's Flip-Flopperism

David Albright, providing testimony at the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “Stopping the Spread of Nuclear Weapons, Countering Nuclear Terrorism: The NPT Review Conference and the Nuclear Security Summit” in Washington DC on April 21, 2010. (photo by Jeff Malet)

On April 20, 2012, The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), led by career alarmist David Albright released a brief - and rather odd - report.  Deliberately designed to question the credibility of Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei's recent reiteration of his religious declaration against nuclear weapons, the short memo (entitled "Internal IAEA information links the Supreme Leader to 1984 decision to seek a nuclear arsenal") opens with patronizing rhetoric:
Can we believe Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, when he says he opposes the construction of nuclear weapons on religious grounds? Information obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suggests the need to approach the statement with skepticism.
The report goes on to quote from "an internal 2009 IAEA document," recounting a meeting of high-level Iranian officials in 1984.  The report claims that "Ayatollah Khamenei declared...that the spiritual leader Imam Khomeini had decided to reactivate the nuclear programme" because "this was the only way to secure the very essence of the Islamic Revolution from the schemes of its enemies, especially the United States and Israel, and to prepare it for the emergence of Imam Mehdi."  Furthermore, "Ayatollah Khamenei further declared during the meeting, that a nuclear arsenal would serve Iran as a deterrent in the hands of God’s soldiers."

The ISIS statement concludes, "Khamenei’s pledge against nuclear weapons is welcome. However, it is not prudent to take his recent commitment at face value. He must prove it."

A footnote on the brief post states:
This quote is not contained in the excerpts published by ISIS from the 2009 internal IAEA document.  The statement appeared in the book Peddling Peril by Albright, 2010, p. 71. Almost all of the rest of the document was published on the ISIS web site and is available here:
By following the trail to this ISIS report from October 2, 2009, one can easily spot how absurd this entire charade really is.  First, note the acknowledgement that "[t]he information below [in the ISIS document] is taken from one version of this IAEA assessment cited by the AP; it is a 67-page long report titled 'Possible Military Dimensions of Iran's Nuclear Program.' ISIS is not certain of the date of this document but understands it was authored in the past 6 to 12 months."

And: "Much of the IAEA's information, including test data, reports, diagrams, and videos, was reportedly contained on a laptop."

Also, "ISIS emphasizes that these excerpts appear to be from a working document that has been revised at least once. Its author is unknown. It is subject to revision both substantively and editorially.

So what's the source material for this alleged high-echelon, dark room, Tehran tete-a-tete in which Khamenei neatly made reference, in a few sentences, to all well-worn tropes that we're fed regarding Iran: paranoia over the schemes of enemies; Twelverism, martyrdom, and mujahideen; and fierce anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli rhetoric (at a time when Iran was deeply entrenched in a war with neighboring Iraq, which isn't mentioned...)?  Oh right!  It's that mysterious stolen Laptop of Death, the authenticity of which has long been known to rest somewhere on the spectrum of dubious to fabricated, and which was provided to the IAEA by the United States by way of the MEK by way of the Mossad and has never been made available to either the public, press or Iran itself to assess.  Gotcha.

Oddly enough, back in 2005, Albright himself questioned the relevance of the laptop's alleged contents to any clandestine nuclear weapons program.  In a letter to the New York Times, he wrote that "the [laptop's reported] information does not contain any words such as nuclear or nuclear warhead."

Albright has also denounced information provided by the MEK about the Iranian nuclear program as untrustworthy.  As far back as October 2003, he told the San Francisco Chronicle, with specific regard to claims about a possible Iranian nuclear weapons program revealed at the time by the MEK, "We should be very suspicious about what our leaders or the exile groups say about Iran's nuclear capacity." He continued, "There is a drumbeat of allegations, but there's not a whole lot of solid information. It may be that Iran has not made the decision to build nuclear weapons. We have to be very careful not to overstate the intelligence."

Last August, he said that MEK claims reflected "a political agenda," while "[t]here is not a single bit of evidence that has been offered to back any of this."  He added, "I can no more trust their information."

Moreover, it is truly pathetic to see David Albright stoop to using the "swift boat" model of discourse in order to paint Khamenei as a "flip-flopper."  ISIS has a well-documented history of hysteria and has long acted as a font of deliberately leaked information that serves explicitly to fear-monger about the Iranian nuclear program (just as it did with Iraq).

This one alleged quote from Khamenei seems to have been floating around since September 17, 2009, when George Jahn used it in an Associated Press article.  It was subsequently picked up the next day by Julian Borger in the Guardian.  ISIS is never identified as the source of this leaked information and this alleged quote is not seen in Albright's writing until 2010.

Since then, this one quote - a quote which, incidentally, proves literally nothing and is simply used as a way to further call into question the three decades of consistent statements by Iranian officials regarding nuclear weapons, in no small part related to the claims that the "taqiyya" concept in Shi'a Islam is somehow a license to "lie" (welcome back Orientalism, folks!) - has been used and misused repeatedly by Iran alarmists, mostly of the virulent Islamophobic and Israeli apologist stripe.

Not only do outlets like neocon Commentary magazine and the right-wing Zionist blog Elder of Ziyon traffic in such nonsense, but Ehud Barak recently touted this grotesque and Islamophobic distortion of truth to CNN's Christiane Amanpour when, with regard to the Khamenei fatwa, he stated (with a smirk and eye-roll):
"Have you heard the term taqiyya, which means in Islam, especially the Shi'a, a kind of permission, from heaven, to the leader to lie [and] mislead partners as long as it's needed in order to reach the objective, the political objectives of the movement, the group or the tribe or the clan or the nation. So, I don't buy it."
This lie is often used in conjunction, not only with the 1984 Khamenei quote that Albright is now promoting, but also with the claim that Ayatollah Khomeini himself actually supported the development of nuclear weapons.  As "proof" of this so-called support, Iran alarmists point to Khomeini's 1988 agreement to a cease-fire with Iraq (which he likened to "drinking the poisoned chalice"), alleging that the Iranian leader was merely using the cease-fire to build up a nuclear bomb.

But one look at what Khomeini actually said proves the opposite.

In the document, Khomeini clearly lays out his rationale for agreeing to the cease-fire.  He explains that nearly all military officials and experts concur that Iran will not be able to win the war at present due to the military superiority of Iraq as a result of its foreign backers.  He explains that "military and political officials of the Islamic Republic see the continuation of the war not advisable at all, and are firmly pointing out that, under no circumstances and at any price, they can obtain even one-tenth of the weapons put at Saddam's disposal by the Eastern and Western arrogant [powers]."  Khomeini continues that his decision is also made "in view of the shocking letter of the IRGC commander" who "is one of the few commanders who believes in the continuation of the war."

Khomeini responds directly to this "shocking letter" (not the most sympathetic description) by first summarizing this commander's position.  The commander, he explains, claims he "can embark on offensive operations if after 1371 [1992] the Islamic Republic is able to have 350 infantry brigades, 2,500 tanks, 300 fighter planes and 300 helicopters as well as having the ability to make a substantial number of laser and atomic weapons which will be the necessity of the war at that time" and "adds that the strength of the IRGC must be increased seven times and the Military by two-and-half times."

"He also said that America should be evicted from the Persian Gulf, otherwise he would not succeed," Khomeini continues. "The [IRGC] commander stated that the most important factor for his success was the timely budget and resources, and in his opinion, the government and the supreme commander's staff would not be able to meet their commitments," and concludes, "In spite of stating this, he said the Islamic Republic must continue fighting, which is now no more than a slogan."

Khomeini uses this letter as an example of what he refuses to do.  He explicitly disagrees with this unnamed IRGC commander and makes his decision based on rational, strategic considerations and what will most benefit his country and religion.  Doesn't sound like much of an endorsement of a nuclear weapons program, does it?

Khomeini also calls upon government officials to support the cease-fire and to "be careful because some hard-liners with their revolutionary slogans might divert you attention from what is best for Islam," adding, "Diversionary actions are haram [religiously forbidden]."

But back to the original issue of the ISIS report casting aspersions on the Khamenei fatwa: by stating that "Khamenei's pledge against nuclear weapons" is a "recent commitment," Albright and team is being willfully dishonest or staggeringly ignorant.  This commitment never to build or acquire nuclear weapons (not only on religious ground, but on strategic, humane, and legal grounds as well) is decades-old and has been reaffirmed, repeated and referenced constantly.

Efforts like those of David Albright and his fellow Iran hysterics to depict Iranian officials as liars and deceivers, to be seen always as mischievous snake-charmers and unworthy of Western trust, is a new low in the ever-continuing propaganda about the Iranian nuclear program.

No wonder Albright titled his 2009 book "Peddling Peril."  He's a pro at it. 


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Employing Islamophobia to Dismiss Diplomacy:
Barak Talks Taqiyya with Amanpour

In a new interview with Christiane Amanpour, Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak addressed questions about Iran's nuclear program and a potential Israeli attack on Iran by rehashing long-debunked propaganda and outright lies.

Beyond the sheer absurdity of a government official of a state that refuses to sign the NPT and has an undeclared, unmonitored, and un-inspected arsenal of hundreds of nuclear weapons dictating terms to an NPT member state with a non-militarized nuclear enrichment program fully under international safeguards, some of Barak's claims simply echoed last week's widely-criticized New York Times article by James Risen.

Following the recent emphasis on Iranian Rahbar Sayyid Ali Khamenei's fatwa against nuclear weapons, Risen's piece claims that public statements by the Iranian leader should not be taken seriously based upon both comments he made regarding Moammar Qaddafi's voluntary dismantling of Libya's nascent nuclear program and what Risen terms the "Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community."

Many analysts have already addressed Risen's (and his unnamed sources) clear misunderstanding or disingenuous definition of taqiyya, or religious dissimulation, which is not Shi'a-sanctioned lying at all but rather a dispensation for Shi'a Muslims to conceal their particular faith in the face of immediate and imminent danger, threat, oppression or compulsion as a means of individual survival.  The concept derives from the historical persecution of Shiites in majority Sunni communities and is aimed at protecting adherents from physical danger or property appropriation.  Additionally, taqiyya may only be employed if such concealment of faith - not the permission to just lie about anything - does not result in causing injustice to anyone else.

Nevertheless, in his CNN interview, Barak slathers the Orientalism and Islamophobia on thick when, in response to Amanpour's suggestion that the Iranian nuclear issue may be "resolved diplomatically", he said, "The Iranians have a long tradition of decei[ving] and defying the whole world, sometimes even through certain diplomatic steps like this. So we are a little bit skeptical."  He later expounds (with requisite smirking, eye-rolling and eyebrow-raising) on this theme when asked about Khamenei's repeated fatwa:
"Have you heard the term taqiyya, which means in Islam, especially the Shi'a, a kind of permission, from heaven, to the leader to lie [and] mislead partners as long as it's needed in order to reach the objective, the political objectives of the movement, the group or the tribe or the clam or the nation. So, I don't buy it."
Barak's repetition of these falsehoods puts him squarely in the company of some of the most ardent Islamophobes and apologists for Israel, and who are - unsurprisingly - also those pushing hardest for an illegal military assault on Iran.

In fact, Barak's comments are not nothing new for him. A decade ago, in an interview with Benny Morris published in The New York Review of Books, Barak decried what he saw as inherent Palestinian duplicity due to the influence of Islam:
They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie…creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as "the truth."
Furthermore, Barak reveals himself to be completely ignorant both about the concept of taqiyya (his definition is so wrong and self-serving as to be not only laughable, but irrelevant) and about the particulars of Shi'a doctrine and Iranian politics as established by the founding fathers of the Islamic Republic.

In his 1979 treatise, "Shi'ite Islam" (translated into English by Sayyed Hussein Nasr), renowned Shi'a scholar Allama Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabaei defined taqiyya as a circumstance whereby a person "hides his religion or certain of his religious practices in situations that would cause definite or probable danger as a result of the actions of those who are opposed to his religion or particular religious practices." He elaborates:
The exact extent of danger which would make permissible the practice of Taqiyya has been debated among different Shi'a scholars. In our view point, the practice of Taqiyya is permitted if there is definite danger facing one's own life or the life of one's family, or the possibility of the loss of the honor and virtue of one's wife or of other female members of the family, or the danger of the loss of one's material belongings to such an extent as to cause complete destitution and prevent a man from being able to continue to support himself and his family.
Even Ayatollah Khomeini in his own book, "Islamic Government," presents his view on taqiyya, which he declares is only permissible when one's life is jeopardized.  As a matter of faith, taqiyya may not be employed to protect "Islam in its entirety" and it is the responsibility of the Rahbar to openly resist against such a danger and refrain from capitulating to anti-Islamic demands, "even if such refrainment leads to the death."  Khomeini explains:
The Imams, may peace be upon them, imposed on the jurisprudence very important ordinances and committed them to shouldering and preserving the trust. It is not right to resort to dissimulation on every issue, small and big. Dissimulation was legislated to preserve one's life or others from damage on subsidiary issues of the laws. But if Islam in its entirety is in danger, then there is no place for dissimulation and for silence.
The claim that taqiyya permits (or even encourages) religious Muslims to lie for any reason whatsoever is simply not true - but its misinterpretation does reveal the Islamophobic tendencies of those who promote such falsehoods as a way to discount and discredit diplomacy on their way to war.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Condemning Nazi Comparisons and the Instant Israelification of Elie Wiesel

In an interview with the Israeli daily Globes, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel rejected the constant comparisons and conflations of Nazi Germany with Iran, calling such efforts to drawn analogies to the Holocaust "unacceptable and impossible," and also noted, "For example, there are the haredim (ultra-orthodox), who put yellow stars on their children in protests - and in Israel of all places. What have we come to?"

Wiesel is of the opinion that "Iran is a danger, but to claim that it is creating a second Auschwitz?  I compare nothing to the Holocaust."

When asked his thoughts on the tendency of German people to turn "remorse over the Holocaust into part of their identity," Wiesel responded, "I oppose declaring collective punishment. Only the perpetrators of the crime are guilty."

Remember, this is coming from a man who wrote, in the wake of the 2010 Mavi Marmara massacre, that while "the death of nine pro-Palestinian peace activists" was "unfortunate," the fallout resulting in "political attacks on Israel" were "surely hasty and exaggerated." He claims the Israeli commandos who boarded the flotilla - which he says was "chartered by pro-Hamas groups, the initiative coming from the most militant wing of Hamas" - were "immediately surrounded by visibly trained men who set savagely upon them." Wiesel further describes his version of what happened that night:
The men on the deck of the largest vessel, the Mavi Marmara, had been waiting for the commandos - and they acted as a well-organized lynch mob. It was a setup, a trap. We know that now. They were force-oriented militants, not pacifists. They were armed, not with guns but with knives and iron rods.
In his op-ed in the New York Daily News, Wiesel wrote that "Gaza, under Hamas, is after all a war zone. Its thousands of rockets constitute a permanent threat to Israel's citizens," claiming that while Israel's blockade "block[s] arms shipments" to Hamas, it "does allow shipments of medical aid and of food." He also repeated the lie that flotilla passengers told the Israeli Navy to “go back to Auschwitz," despite the fact that this piece of propaganda has already been roundly debunked by Max Blumenthal.

Wiesel's awareness of the deliberately-imposed humanitarian crisis and collective punishment in Gaza seems to be obscured by his blind insistence on Israeli benevolence and self-defense. It is unsurprising that Wiesel - who uses his role as a "moral authority"  to routinely spout hasbara and apologia to Zionist audiences like John Hagee's Christians United for Israel - has repeatedly refused to visit Gaza to see with his own eyes the truth of collective punishment, even when asked by a fellow Holocaust survivor.  No wonder he called the Goldstone Report "a crime against the Jewish people.”

In 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert effectively offered the Israeli Presidency to Wiesel. Wiesel demurred.  When questioned about why he turned down the offer, Wiesel reasonably explained:
I refused because I am not Israeli and I don’t live in Israel. He said, 'I'll make you an Israeli in five minutes.' There was pressure on me to accept the offer. In Israel, when you say no, the pressure is only increased. But I said that it wouldn’t happen, because I'm not suited for the job and that my wife would divorce me. Six weeks after the offer, I made a visit to Israel and I was welcomed like never before.
That Wiesel declined the post is not the issue; he should have and did.  What is striking is that, apparently, not being Israeli is clearly not an problem for the President of Israel.  As far as Olmert was concerned, if the indigenous people of the land can be forcibly displaced and dispossessed in explicit contravention of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, continually for six and a half decades, why shouldn't a famous author who doesn't even live in Israel, be "ma[de] an Israeli in five minutes" and granted a ceremonial, figurehead political position of a nuclear-armed, ethnocratic, colonial-settler state?  Perhaps it is reasonable to assume that, since it took David Ben-Gurion a mere sixteen minutes to read the 979 words proclaiming the "independence" of a brand new state, established upon the ruins and soon-to-be more ruins of Palestine, making someone Israeli in five minutes isn't a big deal.

Similarly, when Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Abba Eban (on behalf of Ben-Gurion) offered Albert Einstein the same position after the death of Chaim Weizmann in 1952, Einstein declined the post as well. Yet, his reasoning was surely different. He knew that what Israeli leaders wanted from Einstein, in their scramble to fill the popularity void left by Weizmann's death, was "my name, not my person."  In his response to Eban's offer, Einstein wrote "I have never in my life undertaken a task that I could not fulfill to the satisfaction of my own conscience."  Writing to his stepdaughter Margot about his decision, Einstein explained, "I would have to say to the Israeli people things they would not like to hear."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Old News of 'New Anti-Semitism'

 Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor and Avigdor Lieberman at the World Holocaust Forum

An Associated Press article by Diaa Hadid, filed from Tel Aviv and published Wednesday, warns of a potential increase in anti-Semitism and possible anti-Jewish violence in Europe if Israel carries out a military assault on Iran. The piece focuses on Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, speaking at Tel Aviv University "after the presentation of an annual report on worldwide anti-Semitic attacks" and in advance of Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Kantor said "he feared a minority of angry, extremist European Muslims who live in impoverished neighborhoods might use an Israeli attack [against Iran] as a pretext to hit local Jews, particularly in France and Great Britain." 

The report cited by Kantor was issued by Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry.  And yes, the Kantor Center is indeed named after Moshe Kantor himself, who paid for its creation in 2010.  Kantor is not only the head of the EJC, he's also the Chairman of the European Jewish Fund (which he established in 2006) and, with his net worth of $2.3 billion, is one of the richest people in the world.

AP quotes Kantor as saying, "If Israel attacks Iran, it will be a dramatic increase of anti-Semitic, very violent attacks against Jews. And the vehicle for the realization of the attacks will be these enclave communities, where the level of hatred is very high and they are prepared to attack enemies inside their countries."  An Israeli assault on Iran would produce, in Kantor's words, a "tsunami of hate against Jews."

Note how Kantor worries that an actual, unprovoked violent attack by a nuclear-armed state against a non-nuclear-armed state is called a "pretext" for potential, future anti-Semitism in Europe. So what are Kantor and the EJC doing about this? Well, AP reports that "his group is prodding European governments to take more measures to protect Jewish communities. He said its biggest efforts were focused on combatting anti-Semitism in the radical fringes of European Muslim neighborhoods."  Kantor also described this alleged latent and potential violence emanating from Muslim communities in Europe as "a bomb ready to explode."

That's right. Kantor isn't using his platform in Tel Aviv and position in Europe to warn against an illegal Israeli attack; no, he just wants more protection for European Jews if and when such an attack occurs. Apparently, the ancient community of 25,000 Iranian Jews don't need similar protection for Israeli missiles and bombs.

But, this type of fear-mongering about the so-called "new anti-Semitism" is old news. While the provocation - "pretext" - is now linked to Iran, in the past it has been focused more on Palestine.

Over eight years ago, in March 2004, Los Angeles Times staffer Jeffrey Fleischman wrote, "Intolerance toward Jews is changing. Traditional anti-Semitism is coinciding with leftist opposition to Israel's response to the Palestinian intifada. And attacks on Jewish institutions in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere suggest that a burgeoning population of frustrated Muslim men is transplanting Middle East animosities into Europe."

Despite describing Europe as "an eloquent testament to constitutions and human rights," Fleischman claims that, "as Europe reinvents itself, so does the way it hates." He also quotes Cobi Benatoff, then-president of the European Jewish Congress, as issuing a "warning cry, a warning to Europe," saying, "Anti-Semitism and prejudice have returned. The monster is with us again. What is of most concern to us, however, is the indifference of our fellow European citizens."

Naturally, the Palestine connection is made. "The backlash against Jews over the Palestinian struggle to gain statehood is more pronounced in countries with large Muslim populations such as France, where about 700,000 Jews live amid more than 5 million Muslims," Fleischman reports. "Germany has about 100,000 Jews and 3.5 million Muslims, and Britain has 300,000 Jews and about 2 million Muslims."

Look at how outnumbered they are!  Those poor, potential victims, adrift in a sea of bearded barbarity! How spooky!

But this type of hysteria is nothing new.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Foxman & Friends:
ADL Head Lambastes NYC High School Trip to Israel/Palestine for Insufficient Hasbara

 Students and faculty of Friends Seminary high school in Palestine, March 2012 (Friends Seminary)

The Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman is annoyed that a group of seventeen high school students and six faculty members from New York City's prestigious Friends Seminary recently visited Israel and Palestine (which he terms the "West Bank region"), but didn't spend nearly enough time being force-fed ADL-approved hasbara.

Writing in The Jerusalem Post in late March, Foxman expressed his clear frustration that "the participants will be spending most of their time in the West Bank meeting with Palestinians," during which time students "will have overnight stays with Palestinian families" and "will be developing oral histories of those families." While Foxman states that "[t]here is, of course, nothing intrinsically wrong in doing these things," he worries that "because of the intensely personal nature of the home visits in the West Bank, which will expose the group only to a Palestinian perspective, these visits should be balanced by similar experiences with Israelis within Israel," including "meeting with Israeli families" and "visiting important venues like the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem."

Foxman is irked about what he calls the school's "distorted, anti-Israel version of historical and current events in the Middle East" and worries that its administrators and students won't "recognize how easily what seems like criticisms of Israel can veer into anti-Semitism.

What Foxman deftly omitted from his criticism of the Friends trip is that, at the time his piece was published, students, who are all enrolled in Arabic language classes at Friends, had already visited Jerusalem's Western Wall, explored a number of synagogues, St. Anne's Church and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, spent time at The Israel Museum, where they met with the director of a program that conducts workshops in which Palestinian and Israeli children create art together, and visited the Jordan River Valley with Mira Edelstein of the Tel-Aviv-based organization EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME). The day after Foxman's piece appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the group traveled to Jaffa where they met with Dr. Edward Rettig, Director of the Israel/Middle East Office of the American Jewish Committee as well as a representative of The Abraham Fund Initiatives, a non-profit organization dedicated to "promote coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens."

Nevertheless, Foxman criticizes Friends for "taking high school kids to the Middle East and devising such a pro-Palestinian schedule," especially because "Israel is America's main ally in the region, a number of the students are Jewish, and balance is one of the school's valued and oft-stated educational goals."

It is unsurprising that Foxman's disingenuous yearning for "balance" is driven by his desire to see the "impressionable high school students" exposed to Israeli narratives that reinforce the eternal victimhood of not only Israel but all Jews worldwide and which equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Learning about the personal experiences of Palestinians and experiencing the infrastructure, discrimination and oppression of the occupation does not fit with Foxman's agenda.

This past November, the ADL took a "group of senior Latino and Latin American journalists, editors and producers completed an eight-day mission to Israel" in an effort "to counter what it sees as Latinos’ less favorable attitudes toward Israel." The Jerusalem Post reported that "Stops on the tour included the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, Sderot, Nazareth, Safed, Lake Kinneret and the Golan."

What balance!

These Latino journalists, who hailed from the United States, Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela, went to multiple areas under Israeli occupation and probably met with numerous local colonists in their illegal settlements on stolen land! Imagine how "intensely personal" these "visits in the West Bank" were for the journalists. One has to assume that, due to Foxman's apparent commitment to a "balanced" narrative presenting "similar experiences" of both Israelis and Palestinians, when visiting Christian holy sites on the ADL's dime and with their own guides, the Latino journalists were able to spend ample time speaking with Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim. Oh, wait, that didn't happen? Shocking!

In early 2004, the ADL took "[s]enior law enforcement personnel from across America, including "sixteen police chiefs and FBI terrorism task force representatives," to Israel to meet "with their Israeli counterparts and learned how to better predict, prevent and respond to terrorism." By Foxman's standards of "balance," the officials must have been told about the rampant Israeli arrest of Palestinian children and toddlers, who suffer abuse - mental, physical and sexual - and who are tortured during and traumatized by their imprisonment.  They surely learned about Israel's use of administrative detention to hold Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial, a direct violation of universal human rights and international law.

Did the group visit Palestinian communities victimized by housing demolitions, a particularly vindictive form of collective punishment favored by the Israeli government, examine the illegality of Israel's Apartheid Annexation Wall and U.S.-supplied weaponry, or study the implications of surveillance state built upon domestic spying and racial profiling? Of course not.