Archive for Israel

A Giant Step Toward Peace?

Posted in On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on August 27, 2020 by playthell
      Dirty Donald and his Partners in Crime

Or Yet Another Grand Delusion

Before the ink on the deal for diplomatic recognition between Israel and the United Arab Emirates could dry, there was chatter emanating from the White House about Don tha Con being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in bringing the parties together – yet another manifestation of his hysterical Obama envy. The recognition of Israel by the UAE is being hailed as a watershed event that will improve the rancorous relations between Israel and her Arab neighbors, which has prevailed since the founding of the Zionist state in 1948.

However, while the American administration is touting the historic importance of this agreement, cheered on by traditional allies in the NATO Alliance, some key parties with serious interests at stake are not cheering. Their reactions range from the outright rejection by all factions of the Palestinians, whose status as a Middle Eastern people occupied by European Colonial settlers is the foci of the conflict, to the deafening silence of the Saudi’s; the regions richest and most powerful Arab state; to open hostility from Turkey and Iran – the most powerful Muslim military states in the region.

In view of this hodgepodge of reactions, it requires the boundless optimism of a professional hustler to conclude this deal is cause for enthusiastic celebration.  A candid view of the unvarnished facts, rather than the wishful thinking that permeates the US-Israeli narrative of events, presents a radically different scenario. Rather than a prelude to a period of regional peace, we see a rocky road ahead full of pitfalls and mine fields – real and metaphorical – that could just as easily lead to increased armed conflict and instability throughout the Mid-East.

In the view of many observers, this writer prominently among them, when the contradictions between the various ethnic and religious factions, the instability of oppressive kleptocratic Arab regimes – Saudi Arabia prominently among them – combined with the interest of individual nation states, the probability of protracted regional conflict seems inevitable. The task of this essay is to play past the fanfares and confetti, and objectively weigh the nitty gritty facts of the matter without fear or favor as the reactions of parties with skin in the game unfolds.

As is to be expected, the official “Joint Statement” issued by the three parties that crafted the agreement initiating diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE, is bristling with self-congratulation and promises of better days ahead for this trouble region:

“ This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region. All three countries face many common challenges and will mutually benefit from today’s historic achievement…As a result of this diplomatic breakthrough and at the request of President Trump with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world. The United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are confident that additional diplomatic breakthroughs with other nations are possible, and will work together to achieve this goal.”

However, the Palestinian leadership across the ideological spectrum, uniformly reject this view. And since it is their status as an oppressed people under Israeli military occupation that is at the center of the conflict between Israel and the Islamic world, no solution to this decades old problem can be realized without their cooperation. Hence one could reasonably argue that insofar as the Palestinians are concerned, the ambitiously titled “Abraham Agreement,” was as dead as the ancient Hebrew prophet after whom it was named at birth.

In a statement issued through his Senior Advisor, Nabil Abu Rodina, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the agreement “a blow to the Arab Peace Initiative and the decisions of the Arab and Islamic summits, as well as an aggression against the Palestinian people.” Abbas also denounced the agreement as “a de-facto recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” This recognition follows the US lead in one of the Trump Administration’s most blatant assaults on the rights of the Palestinian people, and a serious blow to a “two state” solution, which the entire world recognizes as the best way out of this protracted quagmire that continues to destabilize the oil rich Middle East.

Hence President Abbas considers the UAE recognition of Israel to be treasonous to the struggle of the Palestinian people. And he minces no words in denouncing it: “The Palestinian leadership rejects what the United Arab Emirates has done and considers it a betrayal…“Neither the Emirates nor any other party has the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian leadership shall allow nobody to interfere in the Palestinian affairs or decide on their behalf regarding their legitimate rights in their homeland…”

President Abbas denunciation and rejection of the Israeli/UAE agreement was echoed from all factions of the polycephalis Palestinian national liberation movement. After a meeting between Abbas and Haniyeh, leader of the more militant Hamas faction, Hamas issued this statemen:
“They clearly affirmed the rejection of this declared agreement, considering that it is a non-binding agreement for the Palestinian people, and will not be respected, and stressed that all components of our people stand together in rejecting normalization or recognizing the occupation at the expense of our people’s rights…They also stressed during the call that no one is allowed to make Palestine, its sanctuary, its most remote places, its martyrs and the suffering of its people a bridge for normalization with the enemy.”

The statement from Dr. Hanan Ashwari, a longtime negotiator for Palestinian rights and a member of highest circles of PLO leadership, perhaps summed up the pain Palestinians are feeling in the most poignant human terms. Upon hearing of the agreement after it was a done deal, she tweeted to the people of the world: “May you never experience the agony of having your country stolen; may you never feel the pain of living in captivity under occupation; may you never witness the demolition of your home or murder of your loved ones. May you never be sold out by your “friends.”

How Palestinians feel about the deal

 

The uniformly bitter rejection of the Israeli/UAE deal by the Palestinian leadership belies the rosy scenario conjured up by the treacherous triumvirate led by Dirty Don tha Con. And the deal’s vehement rejection by the Islamic powerhouses Turkey and Iran, representing millions of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, insures there will be troubled waters ahead that renders all the projections of smooth sailing ahead little more than a grand delusion.

The harsh Turkish rejection surprised many seasoned observers of Middle Eastern affairs. Considering the semi-secret pact between Israel and Turkey, whereby the Turks would support Israeli’s positions in regional conflicts with the Arabs, so long as the Israeli’s blocked any attempt in the United Nations to label the mass slaughter of Armenians by the Turkish government in the early 20th century “a genocide.” Hence we can conclude the Turks were really ticked when they declared:

“History and the conscience of the region’s peoples will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behaviour of the UAE, betraying the Palestinian cause for the sake of its narrow interests…It is extremely worrying that the UAE should, with a unilateral action, try and do away with the [2002] Arab Peace Plan developed by the Arab League. It is not in the slightest credible that this three-way declaration should be presented as supporting the Palestinian cause.”

Iran, the powerful Persian nation and center of Shiite Islam, has been a consistent critic of Israel, insisting that their grievances with Europeans should have been settled with Europeans, with reparations in European territorial transfers to create a Jewish nation, rather than join the European imperialists and dispossess the Palestinian people of their lands and birth rights, when they were innocent bystanders to the crimes of the European holocaust. Although the Iranians are consistently portrayed as “Jew haters” in the US press, there are some Hassidic Jews, the Satmar sect of Williamsburg Brooklyn, who not only agree with the Iranian point of view, but has sent Rabbi’s there on missions of solidary.

This fact is mostly hushed up in the major press, an institution for whom I have worked, and despite its shortcomings, I still consider indispensable to democratic government, because it dramatically exposes the lie that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Especially when they turn out at the annual “Israel Independence Day” celebration in New York, jeering and denouncing the parade! The Satmar Hasidum, whose views are firmly based in the teaching of the Torah, believe that Zionism is heresy, and the Israeli state they created in the name of Judaism is an abomination. For an in-depth discussion of this issue see: “Is Zionism Anti-Semitism?” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2014/08/06/is-anti-zionism-anti-semitism/

Hence, one does not have to be an anti-Semite i.e. “Jew Hater” to reach the conclusion the Iranian government arrived at. This is “a huge mistake,” said Ayatollah Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran. “ The Emirate rulers think that if they approach America and the Zionist regime, their security will improve and their economy will grow…but this is totally wrong,” opined Rouhani, who called the deal between Israel and the UAE “a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.” Alas, there is one seriously unintended consequence of this deal for the treacherous triumvirate: it has forged a new unity between the largest Sunni military power and Iran, the center of Shiite Islam!

It is a welcome development for Iran, who has long been a target of covert actions carried out by the CIA and its Israeli counterpart, the MOSSAD. There were numerous actions carried out to impede and disable the Iranian nuclear program, from hacking into computer systems and planting highly complex viruses, to assassinating Iranian nuclear scientist. International intelligence experts were able to identify the perpetrators of these secret assaults because their sophistication was such that only a very few intelligence agencies in the world could successfully carry them out. Hence it was fairly easy to trace the origins of these attacks.

For the Iranians, being a target of covert US attacks is an old story that harkens back over half a century. The evidence is unimpeachable that all of Iran’s current political and economic problems stem from the CIA overthrow of the democratically elected liberal western educated president Muhammad Mossadegh in 1953. An event in retaliation for the Mossadegh government’s insistence that British and American oil companies pay a fair price for Iranian oil. And in the place of the democratic government the US installed the ruthless dictator Shah Reza Palevi.

The oppressive corrupt regime of the Shah, and his fawning genuflection before western civilization, ignoring the feelings of the Muslim masses, sparked a resistance movement that resulted in the first and only successful Islamic state in the world. And the United States has opposed the Islamic Republic of Iran ever since, even backing an Iraqi attack on them resulting in massive Iranian losses in blood and treasure. Hence the Iranians have good reason to be suspicious and hostile toward the US, and this is the source of US fears regarding Iranian intentions. As with several other issues, the US is wrestling with the consequences of the sins of our history.

However, the oft-cited fear of a radical Islamic Jihadist group gaining possession of nuclear weapons should not be centered on Iran, which is as preposterous as the discredited belief that they would get nuclear weapons from Iraq. Yet this argument was major justification for the American invasion of that country, kicking off a protracted war that is still in progress a generation later. In each case there were rumors that Iraq had the bomb, and Iran was about to get it.

However, the one Muslim nation that unquestionably has a nuclear arsenal is never mentioned: Pakistan. The way in which Pakistan acquired the bomb is the result of other policy blunders of the Cold War era during the 20th century, when the paramount objective of US foreign policy was to contain the expansion of Communism, which Washington regarded as an extension of Russian power and influence. This dogmatic view of the communist threat led to the Korean war, the Vietnam War, and hostile covert actions against progressive left-wing movements and governments all over the America’s.

From the agrarian reform movement led by president Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, for which he was overthrown by CIA backed mercenaries’ in 1954 and replaced with right-wing dictator Rios Mott, the CIA organized Bay of Pigs invasion of right-wing Cuban exiles in a failed attempt to overthrow the Castro led revolution in Cuba, to the CIA backed military coup that overthrew of the Allende government in Chile; installing the fascist murderer Augusto Pinochet, to funding the Contra-War in Nicaragua, et al. The history of CIA covert actions as an instrument of US foreign policy has been a source of chaos and death all over the world.

The Congo in Central Africa is still suffering from the CIA organized overthrow of Patrice Lumumba. And the West African nation of Ghana, whose president, the brilliant political philosopher Kwame Nkrumah, who was also the victim of a CIA promoted military coup, has never fulfilled it’s promise as the leader of a continent wide progressive pan-African political union based on a socialist economic model.

This policy of containing Communist expansion – which came to mean any form of socialism- led to the US forming alliances with India and Pakistan, two members of the non-aligned block of Third World nations growing out of the 1956 Bandung Conference, in which the non-white formerly colonized nations of Africa and Asia that had only recently become independent from European domination, decided not to align with the Communist or capitalist blocs. Instead, they would choose an independent path of development and form alliances as they served the interests of their nations. Hence the Non-Aligned Movement was born, and the effort to win the hearts and minds of the colored peoples in these emergent countries, became a major objective of the Cold War.

Due to the history of European colonialization in Africa and Asia, and the centuries old racial caste system that extolled white supremacy in the US, the capitalist bloc was at a disadvantage in competing with the Communist Bloc, led by the Soviet Union, which had opposed colonialism and provided aid and comfort to anti-colonial movements. Hence in the struggle to seek alliances with India and Pakistan against Russia and the People’s Republic of China, the US had allowed India, “the world’s largest democracy,” to acquire the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon.

When Hindu India announced their nuclear capability with “a peaceful” atomic explosion in 1974 called “Smiling Buddha,” Pakistan, their Muslim neighbor, took notice and accelerated their own efforts to produce a bomb of their own. Indeed, Ali Bhutto, who was Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time, had declared as early as the first Indio-Pakistan war in 1965, when he had heard rumors from Pakistani scientists that India was working on an atomic bomb: “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves for a thousand years, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. The Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb and now the Hindus have the bomb. Why not the Muslims too have the bomb.”

Bhutto had no doubt that Pakistan had the technical talent to build an atom bomb, citing the distinguished Pakistani nuclear physicist Dr. Raziuddin Siddiqui,, who had worked on the invention of atomic weapons with the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos New Mexico, where the first atom bomb was invented and later dropped on Japan. He had also worked on the British atomic bomb project. So this Pakistani scientist was one of the world’s foremost authorities on the production of nuclear weapons and Bhutto appealed to his patriotism, urging him to do for Pakistan what he had done for the US and Britain,

When the US, under President Jimmy Carter, attempted to stop Pakistan from going nuclear the Pakistani’s accused Americans of applying a double standard. But President Carter, a nuclear engineer who had served as an officer on a nuclear submarine, well understood the dangers of two people’s with nuclear arsenals, who had such deep religious antagonisms they were forced to split into the separate nations of Hindustan and Pakistan because they couldn’t get along as of citizens newly independent India. And he was determined to prevent Pakistan from acquiring nuclear weapons. Whatever the evils of British Colonial rule, they had successfully suppressed religious strife between Hindu’s and Muslims in a unitary Indian state.

Although Jimmy Carter managed to slow down the Pakistani efforts to build a nuclear weapon, the US reliance on Pakistan in supporting the efforts of Muslim fundamentalist Mujahidin “Jihad” against the Soviet Forces that had invaded Afghanistan, caused them to look the other way while Pakistan went nuclear. Under the direction of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, a metallurgist, in collaboration with Pakistani experts such as Dr. Munir Khan, a nuclear scientist who had served as director of the Nuclear Power and Reactor Division of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, acquired a nuclear weapon in an effort that spanned 30 years. Pakistan announced their entry into the exclusive club of nuclear nations when the successfully exploded five nuclear weapons in underground explosions on May 28, 1998, declaring itself “a nuclear power,” fifteen days after India had exploded two atomic bombs and declared itself a nuclear power.

Although the idea of an  “Islamic Bomb” originate with Ali Bhutto it       was General Muhammad Zia who made it his mantra as a justification for building the bomb. Hence, the idea of the atomic bomb being an equalizer for the Islamic world in the community of modern nations has been present from the beginning. Thus, it stands to reason, that should the Jihadist ever get their hands on a nuclear weapon, it will originate in Pakistan, a nation teeming with Muslim fundamentalists.

Furthermore, that the US will not even acknowledge the fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, despite the fact that it is well known to nuclear experts, is a source of great animosity among the Muslim Masses as well as the intellectual elite. By some estimates Israel’s nuclear arsenal is greater than that of Great Britain!

Although Egypt and Jordan hailed the Israel-UAE agreement as a sign of progress in the Middle East, it surprises no one who is informed on the region. For Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel years ago. It was an act that cost the longtime Egyptian strong man, benevolent autocrat, modernizing military leader, and Arab accommodationist, Anwar Sadat his life. As he was assassinated in a public ceremony by Muslim fanatics in his own military.

It was the price he paid in blood for seeking peace with Israel, while the Palestinian people remained under the boot of the Zionist settler colonialist; whose claim to Palestinian lands was based on the their reading of the Torah, not the Koran. Which made him an apostate to the Jihadists, a heresy punishable by death.

And although I have been unable to find a statement from their leadership putting forth the Jihadist position on the Israel UAE deal, it is enough to know that as I write there are reports of Jihadists praying to Allah, pleading that all the “infidels” in western countries become infected with the Corona-Virus! Already we can surmise that chances are they will reject it

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One thing however is certain, there is no chance that the Trump administration will negotiate a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Alas, any possibility of success was sabotaged the moment Ditzy Donald assigned that smirky Schmuck Jered Kushner to negotiate the deal. An arrogant dilettante and passionate Zionist, Kushner was about as qualified for this mission as a chimpanzee is to perform a Bach Fugue. First of all, his father is a builder of West Bank settlements; hence he is deeply biased in favor of the Israeli settlers on the occupied Palestinian lands that is at the heart of the conflict. And although there are no blood ties, Jered is like a member of Bibi’s extended family. Incompetence at the art of diplomacy, coupled with an inability to view the situation objectively, is a recipe for failure in a conflict as complex as this.

Furthermore, Kushner’s cavalier attitude toward the historical grievances and just claims of the Palestinian people, and his barely concealed contempt for their leadership, is a serious impediment to successful negotiations. His approach to this decades old conflict is premised on the assumption that the power of Israel, backed by the US, is such that they can impose a solution on the Palestinians of their making. Indeed, the arrogant novice Kushner has said as much. In an interview with Al Jazeera Kushner discussed the Palestinian problem as if it were a real estate transaction that can be settled by dangling dollars before them, 50 billion to sell out their birth rights. (see clip at the bottom of essay)

It is no wonder that the Palestinians rebuffed this light-weight charlatan, a New York real estate huckster like his Father-In-Law, who put him in charge of negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Neither of them has a clue how to go about the task. Having made no progress om this mission, they are now pursing a strategy of inducing Arab nations, former allies of the Palestinians, to recognize Israel diplomatically and thus force the Palestinians to accept Israeli/American demands. This is why the UAE recognition of Israel is being celebrated so loudly.

Yet the idea that a solution can be found to the Israel/Palestine conflict, which has persisted for more than 60 years, without consulting the Palestinians – whose tragic plight is the raison d’etre for the conflict – is the definition of delusion. However, this deal is best understood in terms of how it benefits the parties that negotiated it: Netanyahu, Trump, and the UAE. Ditzy Donald and Bumbling Bibi desperately need a political win. Under indictment for corruption and without a clear majority in the Knesset, and Benny Ganz poised to take over, Bibi’s future is increasingly uncertain. Devious Donald is also on shaky ground. Losing decisively in the polls with the election a couple of months away, and under criminal investigations in Manhattan, Don tha Con also needs a victory. And in his fevered narcissistic imagination this deal could win him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alas, as in most things, the combination of Trump’s ignorance and megalomania conspires to lead him into delusions of grandeur that bear no relation to reality. For I can envision no scenario where the Nobel Committee will award the prestigious and much coveted Peace Prize to a shallow charlatan and pompous poseur like Devious Donnie Drumft, whose claim to fame is forging an alliance between a kleptocratic autocracy and an apartheid settler state, at the expense of the oppressed Palestinians who are still denied justice.

I suspect that Don tha Con will not win the Nobel Prize; the UAE may have increased it’s military position against Iran but has antagonized segments of its populace and that will lead to increased internal instability. Bebi is trapped between the Devil and the deep blue sea, because in order to maintain his pledge not to declare Israeli sovereignty over the “occupied” Palestinian territory on the West Bank, he will fuel the rage of right-wing Jewish settlers who angrily accuse him of “betrayal!” And should they pull out of his fragile coalition things could fall apart and Benny Ganz will become Prime Minister.

This is the reason why before the world could become adjusted to news of his UAE deal, Bibi was already backing out of his commitment not to seek control of the West Bank settlements and integrate them into the Israeli state. Pointing out that he had not abandoned his expansionist ambitions permanently, but was “temporarily” putting the decision on hold. Yet the NATO nations – France, England, Germany, Spain and the USA – all explicitly state that their support for this deal is based upon the Israel governments pledge to forfeit their expansionist policy unconditionally.

So what’s a land hungry Jew to do? Especially since Bibi’s decision might spark a region wide war. We shall see what the future holds: Is this a giant step toward peace, or yet another mirage conjured up by grand illusionist in the Mid-East desert?

** See Al Jazeera Interview with Jared Kushner, https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2019/06/jared-kushner-israel-palestine-deal-time-190625113553537.html

The Goat!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on March 30, 2013 by playthell
Image: U.S. President Obama smiles while he addresses students at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem
Greatest Of All Times

Barack Obama In Israel

As is the case with so many essays published at Commentaries On The Times, the present essay came to me serendipitously, like a revelation from on high.  I had just finished watching a video of President Obama’s speech before students and other selected quest in Israel, and marveling at his political skills as he wooed and won the audience; who gave him repeated and boisterous standing ovations.

I got the feeling that I was watching the most gifted politician in American history.  Then I heard a guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, discussing his new book about forgotten US Presidents who had left their mark on American civilization, and was confirmed in that feeling.

When he was asked if he thought President Obama would be remembered, the author quickly pointed out that Barack Obama will be remembered if only because he is the first African/American President.  But then he went on to enumerate the President’s monumental achievements – saving the world economy from ruin, rescuing the US auto-industry, the Affordable Health Care Act, The Lilly Ledbetter Act, Icing Osama bin Laden, etc – and assured us they will never be forgotten.

As Erhardt talked I kept thinking about the President’s speech, and how Bibi Netanyahu was getting a dose of what the reactionary Republicans have been getting at the hands of this highly intelligent, profoundly humane, visionary, virtuoso at the art of politics.

For just as in America, Barack was winning the intelligent youths of Israel and touching the heart strings of all Israeli’s who dream of a peaceful future with their Arab neighbors.  It was not long before Bibi, Barack’s former antagonist, assumed a lips to posterior posture and maintained it for the balance of the President’s visit.  Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Barack and Bibi in Israel
Barack and Bibi
Watch the hands: Who’s Listening to whom?

Taking a trip to Israel was viewed as an act akin to walking unarmed into a lion’s den by many astute observers from all over the American political spectrum. The right wing Republican infotainment complex was so certain the trip would be a disaster for the President that FOX NEWS – the flagship media shill of the Grand Obstructionist Party- was running advertisements for an upcoming program exposing President Obama’s hatred for Israel, hosted by that greasy headed numbskull charlatan Sean Hannity.  Unfortunately for them, the ad debuted just as the President was being addressed as “Dear Barack” by Israeli in a ceremony where he was conferred Israel’s highest civilian award…no other American President has received this honor.

 Israel Honors Barack

Barack being Honored in Israel

Simon Perez Places ….Medal on President Obama

Although such a reception would have been newsworthy during the best of times in the US Israeli relationship, it was especially remarkable now.  Just a couple of months ago Prime Minister Netanyahu brazenly attempted to interfere in the US presidential election by showing an open preference for his old Boston business partner Mitt Romney.  But when Obama won reelection it almost finished Netanyahu’s political career.

Among the most important duties of any Israeli Prime minister is to manage and maintain good relations with the US, without whose largess Israel’s security is compromised, and Netanyahu’s disrespectful treatment of President Obama had imperiled that critical relationship.  It almost cost Netanyahu the last election a few weeks ago. And this blunder was followed by the recent attempt to block the President’s nomination of former Republican Senator and decorated combat veteran Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, led by the US Israel Lobby, an appointment that is now a fait accompli.

The speeches Barack Obama presented on his Mid-East sojourn were models of political acumen; they were designed to advance his goal of working out a solution to the intractable Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  And this is the basis upon which they must be judged, not one’s pet ideological peeves.  And the nit picking of academic historians, though accurate in factual detail, may well-represent a cure that is worse than the disease, in that it will sacrifice today’s progress on the altar of yesterday’s truths.

Of course thoughtful people who are familiar with the facts about the Middle-East will disagree with the substance of some of the President’s assertions, and others will question the symbolism of some of his acts – like placing a stone from the monument honoring Dr. Martian Luther King on the tomb of Theodore Hertzel, the founder of Modern Zionism; who was a racial nationalist and thus was far more like Minister Farrakhan than Reverend King, although pro-Zionist Jews will be quick to deny this fact.

It comes as no surprise that many of the President’s critics on the left were cynical about the trip altogether.  In an article titled “Why Obama’s Israel Trip is One Big Mistake” published on  Slate.Com,  Janine Zachariah scoffs at the President’s attempt to win over the Israeli’s and assures us: “If Obama wants to talk about drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the Israel Defense Forces or the price of apartments in Tel Aviv, he’ll find an audience. Those relatively marginal issues are what dominated Israel’s recent election, not the future with the Palestinians.” 

As usual, the hysterics on the left are wrong in their snarky critiques of the President.  Ms. Zachariah presents a laundry list of charges against Israel, which in her opinion nullifies any reason the President may have for visiting the Jewish nation.  Yet she offers no explanation as to how Barack will be able to address these complex issues without winning over substantial portions of the Israeli and American electorates.

It is as if the left yearns for a dictator who can issue a directive and the machinery of state act upon it the way the Catholic bureaucracy responds to an encyclical from the Pope, or the Chinese Communist Party carried out to the dictums of Chairman Mao without opposition.

But this is the USA, and we have a divided government in which the power of the executive is checked by the countervailing power of the legislature.  Hence the President will need the cooperation of Congress in order to successfully address the complex issues outlined by Ms. Zachariah, and he won’t get it if the Israel Lobby can successfully paint him as an enemy of Israel.

However, as is characteristic of the President’s critics on the left, Ms. Zachariah does not take the political opposition into account.  And as I have pointed out ad nauseum: That’s why the American left is confined to the status of a national debating society throwing verbal spitballs from the sidelines of American politics.  They are not even in the game where real power is exercised.

However as President of the United States Barack Obama is in the arena grappling with these monumental problems, trying to make deals that will further his objectives of peace and justice in the Middle East.  Which means his tactics must accommodate political reality, the commentariat can say whatever they want.  And even if he does not succeed he will have done no worse than all the American presidents before him.  But let’s not count him out just yet; for Barack is no ordinary politician.

The President’s political gifts were prominently on display during his Israeli Sojourn.  He beguiled the Israeli’s with his infectious charm, sun shine smile and moving eloquence.  And, Contrary to Ms. Zachariah’s prediction, he did talk about the future of the Palestinian people, in fact he called for the birth of a Palestinian State…and he was greeted with tumultuous applause. After effusive praise of Israel’s virtues and the history of Jewish suffering, the President told the audience:

There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, and leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is why security must be at the center of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiation. That is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations.

But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”

The reaction of Haaretz, Israel’s leading newspaper, is a measure of the way Israeli’s responded to the President’s speech.

“For Barack Obama to come to Jerusalem, and speak to Israeli students and talk persuasively of the possibility of a secure and peaceful future, for him to do that and garner a roaring ovation of approval, he would have to have given one hell of a speech. He did.  This was the speech that these young Israelis not only needed but wanted to hear. A speech that radically redefined centrism in Israel, bringing it down to extraordinary common denominators in directions Israelis have learned to think of as diametrically opposed.  He spoke of security and peace as inextricably and necessarily linked, not a narrow choice between options, but a conscious choice for both.  They roared.”

The article went on to point out that the Israeli college students President Obama was speaking to were different from American students in important ways.

“This was not the student crowd that Obama is used to. These students are Israelis. This is a crowd that is world-weary, hair-trigger volatile. They have come by it honestly. In comparison to their American counterparts, they are, by and large, older by several years – some would say, several lifetimes. They enter college after years in the military, often followed by the escape-valve rehab of a marathon trek to remote continents.

They know a snow job when they hear it. And the rare times when someone makes a sincere and enormous effort to understand them, to see things from their point of view, and to bring them a message that no leader in Israel has managed to bring them, they know that too.”

The praise for President Obama becomes ever more effusive, and ends with this observation “This is not the same country after this speech. Four years from now, when he hands back the White House, Barack Obama should consider a change of direction, even a change of venue. Let him run here. It’s about time we knew again what a real leader was like.”

************

Of all the reasons given for the affinity between the USA and Israel, one of the major reasons is never mentioned: their mutual origins as colonial settler states.  Perhaps this is because of the fundamental character of these societies: which is the massive land theft and displacement of the indigenous populations by force and the establishment of a racial caste system in which the invaders become the ruling elite.  This is true whether we are talking about the creation of the USA by Englishmen in the 18th century; the Republic of Liberia by Afro-Americans in the 19th century; or the state Israel in the 20th century. 

However if we simply changed the word “Arabs” to “Indians” this observation on the founding of Israel by  the great Zionist warrior, Moshe Dayan – in a 1969 speech in Haifa, quoted from quoted in Ha’aretz, April 4, 1969, could well have been made by an American statesman.

“We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs and we are building here a Hebrew, a Jewish state; instead of the Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of those villages, and I do not blame you because these villages no longer exist. There is not a single-Jewish settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab Village.” ­

The similarities between the Israeli and American experience with nation building can be easily seen in the fact that American cities from Chicago Illinois, to Tecumseh Michigan, to Chicopee Massachusetts are named after the Indian villages that once resided upon this land before it was stolen by white invaders from Europe.

President Obama was no more candid in his discussion of the founding of Israel than any of the US presidents who have preceded him.  And the reason is simple: it contradicts the Master Narrative, i.e. the national myth of their civilization…hence neither Israeli nor American Leaders are anxious to discuss the real story of their nation’s founding.

Phillip Weiss, an American Jewish journalist, published an article titled It’s Time for the Media to Talk about Zionism on the World News Daily Information Clearing House, a website that bills itself as offering “News you won’t find on CNN or Fox News.”  Mr. Weiss excoriated the major American media for its lack of objective reporting and candid commentary on the state of Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians.  In this criticism he is joined by a host of brilliant Jewish critics of Israel and the one sided reportage on the question of Palestinian rights and national aspirations.

Don’t ask don’t tell is the rule regarding the crimes against the indigenous peoples that were essential to the founding of America and Israel.  But unlike Native Americans, the seizure of Palestinian lands occurred in the Middle of the 20th century, when genocidal invasions were unacceptable; largely as a result of the furor over the Jewish holocaust in Germany.   The Palestinians are 20th century victims of land hungry settler/colonialists, and they have been waging a protracted war against Israel for over half a century.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is also the root cause of their problems with Iran.  And President Obama’s position on Iran will not help the situation.  While he is resisting Netanyahu’s blatant attempt to persuade him to commit the US to a military conflict with the Persian nation, he has nevertheless adopted the Israeli view of the threat to the national security of the US and Israel, which is more propaganda than truth, more fiction than fact.

When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction. It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat. But this is not simply a challenge for Israel – it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States. It would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime, spark an arms race in a volatile region, and embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.

That is why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations. The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing. It is isolated. Its economy is in a dire condition. Its leadership is divided. And its position – in the region, and the world – has only grown weaker.

First of all, Iran has not grown weaker because the misguided American attack on Iraq has empowered the Shiites, which is a de-facto extension of the power and influence of Iran in the region and would make a war with Iran infinitely more difficult than the Iraq war, in which the US deployed troops for ten years at a cost of two trillion dollars!  It was the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history…an attack on Iran will prove worse!

If the Iraq war was folly, an American war with Iran initiated by Israel would be an exercise in self-mutilation: a disaster for US relations in the region, and on the home front because it would wreck the US economy. Furthermore the President’s contention that Iran acquiring an atomic bomb “would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime,” is dishonest hyperbole that will not advance the goal of peace in the Middle East – since everybody knows that Israel has a formidable nuclear arsenal yet refuses to even sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thus do not allow inspections on its soil.

This attitude will result in a permanent state of hostility with their Muslim neighbors, which has caused Israel to become a garrison state, ever vigilant at the possibility of violence. And it shall remain so as long as the question of Palestinian sovereignty is unresolved.  Hence it is the possibility of peace offered by President Obama that inspired the most fervent hope and tumultuous applause

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 30, 2013

 

The World According to Bibi

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on October 2, 2012 by playthell

Bibi and the Bomb

 On Israel, America and the Arrogance of Power

The pressure to attack Iran was racheted up to fever pitch when Bibi Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, spoke before the United Nations General Assembly yesterday.  In one of the most hypocritical speeches ever presented at the UN, and there have been many, Bibi, who presides over the only nuclear armed nation in the Middle East, presented the case for a military assault on Iran to prevent them from acquiring an atomic bomb.

He argued that “The most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom?”  There was not the slightest hint of irony in Bibi’s plea for the liberty of Iranians, even while he stands on the neck of the Palestinian people…and stomp their dreams in the dust.

He painted aghastlyportrait of what would happen should Iran acquire such a weapon, declaring it would endanger the peace of the entire world!  It is a claim that I regard as dangerous hysterical hyperbole, designed to put President Obama on the spot and force him closer to the Israeli position on Iran.

Yet Bibi’s case against Iran was masterfully constructed and eloquently argued overall.  The first part of the speech skillfully painted a convincing portrait of the Islamic fanatics who rule Iran as madmen who are fully capable of launching an atomic attack against Israel.  In light of some of the things they have said on the record, Netanyahu had plenty of examples he could point to: beginning with Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s denial of the holocaust.

Netanyahu’s response to Ahmadinejad’s claim that the Holocaust is a lie was devastating, because most of the people in the world regard the charge as scurrilous and anyone who mouths it a demented moral cripple – this writer included.  The Israeli Prime Minister’s description of the basic character, history and aims of the fanaticism that fuels the Global Islamic Jihad was also fundamentally true:

“Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated.” He declared. “The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization. It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century…”

The Prime Minister’s claim for Israel as a valuable contributor to the advance of science and technology that benefits all humanity was equally true. But Netanyahu’s oration soon degenerated into self-serving propaganda and hyperbolic attacks on the Palestinians, and even the United Nations itself.

“The jury is still out on the United Nations,” he said, “and recent signs are not encouraging. Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims.”

This expression of doubt about UN intentions was intended as a smack in the face for the UN having commissioned the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes in the 2009 Gaza War, and for calling Zionism a racist ideology in an earlier General Assembly resolution.

The Goldstone Report on the Gaza Strip presented the official findings of a group of international experts who were dispatched by the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate violations of International Human Rights Laws, and International Humanitarian Laws after the Gaza War of 2009. A former South African judge with broad experience investigating war crimes Richard Goldstone, who served as a prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda – headed the commission of inquiry and their findings were widely recognized as valid.

But Israel refused to recognize the commission’s findings or abide by its recommendations.  And almost four years later Bibi had this to say about the report.

Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn? Israel. A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot.  By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth. What a perversion of justice.”

Well, I don’t know about Roosevelt or Churchill, but President Harry Truman, the only leader in world history who ordered an atomic attack on another country, would have been an excellent candidate for a war crimes tribunal. The evidence strongly suggests the atomic bombing of Japan was a planned attack against a civilian population; therein lies the crime.

The diligent researcher can find abundant evidence that the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan was an arbitrary choice; it was not essential to victory over Japan as we have been told by apologists whose objective is to cover up a horrendous war crime.

The fact is that while Japan had a massive army of 5 million men, spread throughout Asia, with 2 million committed to the defense of the Japanese homeland, and 5,000 Kamikaze suicide pilots ready to crash their planes into US ships, Japan was in the final stages of collapse.

There was already an invasion plan in which the Russians would play a major role, that dramatically reduced the cost to the US in blood and treasure.   It was a widely shared belief among the war planners that Japan could be defeated without the bomb.

Dr. Leo Szilard,  a Hungarian born nuclear physicist who had set in motion the effort to build the bomb by writing a letter to President Roosevelt – co-signed by Dr. Albert Einstein, the world’s most famous physicist – expressed this view. As did many scientists who contributed to the effort to build the world’s first atomic bomb.

The creation of the “Manhattan Project” – code name for the secret US government program that created the atomic bomb – was inspired by the arguments made by Szilard and Einstein that convinced President Roosevelt that Nazi scientist were well on the way to making an atomic weapon.

The horror of such a possibility certainly justifies the American decision to develop a crash program to beat Hitler to the bomb. The Manhattan Project employed 120,000 people and cost 2 billion dollars, and they succeeded in producing the first atom bomb.

This was a great achievement in scientific research, technical mastery and organizational/management.  The  should be enough on its own to refute the silly rightwing dogma introduced by that “charming dunce” Ronald Reagan – in the former Defense Secretary Clarke Clifford’s coinage – who told us that government could do nothing right, even as he sought to head our government.  However by the time the Atomic bomb became a reality, with the successful detonation at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, the Nazi’s had surrendered several months earlier on May 7.  So the war in Europe was over.

With Germany and Italy defeated the last of the Axis powers still at war was the “Empire of the Rising Sun” in Japan.  And there is evidence that Truman wanted to teach these little brown devils a lesson they could never forget, as well as cutting the Russians out of any role in the Far East while also deterring Russian ambitions in postwar Europe.

Beyond the racist attitudes toward the Japanese – which is well documented by Afro-American historian Dr. Gerald Horne in his brilliant revisionist text on the war to control the Pacific region, Race War – these were objectives that looked beyond the defeat of Japan and began to envision the shape of the post war world order.

Recalling the decision to drop the atom bomb on Japan four years later, in 1949, Dr. Szilard says:

“The question of whether the bomb should be used in the war against Japan came up for discussion. Mr. Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war. He knew at that time, as the rest of the Government knew, that Japan was essentially defeated and that we could win the War in another six months.

At that time Mr. Byrnes was much concerned about the spreading of Russian influence in Europe. . . . Mr. Byrnes’ concern about Russia I fully shared, but his view that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable in Europe I was not able to share. Indeed I could hardly imagine any premise more false and disastrous upon which to base our policy, and I was dismayed when a few weeks later I learned that he was to be our Secretary of State.”

 There are many examples of a similar doubt and apprehension among the small band of scientists, politicians and military men who were involved with development and use of the atomic bomb.  Consider, for instance, this passage from the Memoirs of General H. H. Arnold, Commander of the American Army Air Force in the Second World War (1949)

The surrender of Japan was not entirely the result of the two atomic bombs. We had hit some 60 Japanese cities with our regular H. E. (High Explosive) and incendiary bomb$ and, as a result of our raids, about 241,000 people had been killed, 313,000 wounded, and about 2,333,000 homes destroyed. Our B-29’s had destroyed most of the Japanese industries and, with the laying of mines, which prevented the arrival of incoming cargoes of critical items, had made it impossible for Japan to carryon a large-scale war. . . . Accordingly, it always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.”

 The point of all this historical reflection is to remind us that the US is the last nation that has the moral authority to lecture other nations on the evils of nuclear weapons, since it is self-evident that it is a lesson we have yet to learn.  As I write, the US has tens of thousands of nuclear weapons in our arsenal.  They are deployed on tripartite launch systems on land, air and sea.  And these doomsday weapons can be delivered anywhere in the world with pin point accuracy within minutes.  It is impossible to defend against, and has the capacity to destroy all life on earth within a half hour from now!

Yet we have Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for commander-In-Chief of this doomsday arsenal, crying about the American military not being strong enough.  It is no wonder that Mitt and Bibi are old friends and business partners, both suffer from the same delusions that they can impose their will on other nations with persistent threats and prolific use of military force.  It is an arrogance characteristic of those drunk with power.

Hence it seems reasonable to the Israeli Prime Minister that while he accuses the Iranians, the ancient land of Persia, of deceiving inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency about their intention to build a nuclear weapon in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while they steadfastly refuse to sign the treaty at all!

In fact, like the US, the Israeli’s refuse to allow any nuclear weapons inspections on their soil.  And they refuse to even say whether they possess nuclear weapons…although scientists who worked in their nuclear weapons program have testified to their existence.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Iranian Prime Minister

 

A Looney Tune who occasionally hits the Mark

Hence, like a broken clock that is right twice every day, the Iranian Prime Minister was right when he made the following points in his speech to the United Nations:

Unilateralism, application of double standards, and imposition of wars, instability and occupations to ensure economic interests, and expand dominance over sensitive centers of the world have turned to be the order of the day.  Arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass-destruction by the hegemonic powers have become prevalent: Testing new generations of ultra-modern weaponry and the pledge to disclose these armaments on due time is now being used as a new language of threat against nations to coerce them into accepting a new era of hegemony.

Continued threat … to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality.A state of mistrust has cast its shadow on the international relations, whilst there is no trusted or just authority to help resolve world conflicts…No one feels secure or safe even those who have stockpiled thousands of atomic bombs and other arms in their arsenals.”
In view of these undeniable realities the highlight of Netanyahu’s presentation, a show and tell about nuclear weapons production, has been ridiculed as both a cartoonish performance and a shameless display of hypocrisy.  Bibi held up a chart with a symbolic drawing of a nuclear bomb, which has been derisively dubbed “Bibi’s bomb,” and sparked one American late night comic to suggest that if the Israeli Prime Minister really wants to know what a nuclear bomb looks like he should just go down in his basement and look at a real one!

Tracing the progress of Iran’s atomic program Bibi drew a red line, and dramatically declared if the Iranians are allowed to proceed beyond that point the international community would not be able to stop them from building an atomic bomb.  Hence they would be justified in attacking Iran to stop it!

This was a transparent attempt to build support in the United States for an American backed attack on Iran.  But Bibi’s dramatic demonstration quickly became the object of a wicked comic skit by the political satirist Steve Colbert, and the real thing would be hilarious if it were not so dangerous!

The sad and frightening truth is that nobody is even willing to talk about the real solution to this man made dilemma – where the means of our destruction from mankind’s folly is within our power to end, but nobody wants to willingly surrender what they imagine to be the security and hegemonic advantage possession of nuclear arsenals provide.

But as one who at 19 years old held a Top Secret Security Clearance and was stationed on a Strategic Air Command base with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet, I made up my mind about what to do with nuclear weapons over half a century ago.  Schmoozing with people who were sworn to blow up the planet upon orders from the High command – at the pinnacle of which was General Curtis Lemay, whose nickname among his military colleagues was “The Mad Bomber”- I was privy to our nuclear war plans.

After viewing the official strategic Air command’s secret films of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan, the only people ever subjected to attack by an atomic weapon, I have been convinced that the very possession of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity!  I have felt this way for over half a century!

Yet even as I write, instead of leading the fight to rid the world of these doomsday weapons, which our nation introduced into the world and remain the only nation to use them against another people – the US is engaging in open diplomatic hostilities toward Iran, and waging a covert war in conjunction with Israel with the objective of maintain Israel’s nuclear monopoly over the Mid-East region by preventing Iran from acquiring a single nuclear weapon.  This is short sighted folly and I believe, ultimately self-defeating.

The covert action against Iran includes assassinating five Iranian nuclear scientists, and disrupting their computers with virus attacks. Contrary to popular belief in this country, this aggression against Iran on behalf of Israel – a country where we already have a tragic history of meddling in their internal affairs – only strengthens the regime they are intended to overthrow.

And given the size and technological development of Iran, the Israeli’s know they can’t overthrow the regime alone.  That’s why they are trying to lure America into joining Israel in an all-out attack on Iran.  I am certain that this would be an even bigger blunder than the attack on Iraq, and far more costly.  It would stifle our economic recovery and reduce many people to desperation as the Republicans simultaneously shred the safety net as they spend money to destroy life rather than enhance life.

This is where the red line must be drawn, and President Obama must resist Bibi’s attempt to push the US into yet another war in the Islamic world….even at the expense of inciting the wrath of the all-powerful Israel Lobby, and even while his opponent Mitt Romney – a soulless, amoral, lying, unpatriotic opportunist – is accusing him of “throwing Israel under the Bus; blatantly interfering with the Presidents attempts to conduct foreign policy in the best interest of the nation, for no more exalted purpose than gaining a political advantage!  If this is not treason…it ought to be.

Honoring an Iranian Nuclear Scientist

 

The Iranians Honor a Martyr

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