Monday, February 20, 2017

Trump-Netanyahu meeting lays ground for one-state solution

electric intifada
Ali Abunimah

15 February 2017

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference at the White House on 15 February. Michael Reynolds EPA
US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a joint press conference at the White House on Wednesday morning, before going into their much-anticipated bilateral meeting.

Asked about whether the US was still wedded to a two-state solution, Trump broke with longstanding orthodoxy.

“I am looking at two states or one state, and I like the one that both parties like,” the president said. On settlements, Trump reaffirmed to Netanyahu, “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

Advocates of a two-state solution, including the previous US administration and European governments, see it as the only way to rescue Israel as a racist state that ensures its Jewish demographic majority through a battery of racist laws – a situation they refer to as “peace.”

Netanyahu stuck to his usual script. He attacked the Iran nuclear deal and blamed Palestinians for the absence of peace, repeating tired allegations about “incitement” in schools. Capitalizing as he always does on Islamophobia, the Israeli leader declared that the US and Israel were “under attack by one malevolent force, radical Islamic terror.”

Netanyahu would not commit to a two-state solution, saying he didn’t want to focus on “labels.” But the Israeli leader reaffirmed two conditions for “peace”: Palestinians must recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” and Israel “must retain overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.”

This formula amounts, at best, to a Palestinian bantustan under continued Israeli supremacy.

“Shared values”
For most of his opening remarks, Trump appeared to be reading from notes – which may explain why the words he spoke could have been uttered verbatim by his predecessor President Barack Obama.

Trump reaffirmed the “shared values” and “unbreakable bond” of Israel and the US and vowed to oppose “unfair actions” against Israel at the United Nations, “as well as boycotts that target Israel.”

Trump noted that “our security assistance to Israel is currently at an all-time high,” though he did not acknowledge that this was thanks to Obama’s record-breaking $38 billion military aid package.

Trump and Netanyahu also spoke about a vague new concept for a regional approach – Trump called it a “big deal” that would involve Arab states in making peace. This so-called “outside-in” approach is being heavily promoted by Israel lobby groups.

No one should get excited. It’s simply another way to consolidate Israel’s alliance with so-called “Sunni Arab” states led by Saudi Arabia, while generating diplomatic activity to buy time and distract from the core issue: Israel’s adamant refusal to voluntarily end its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid over Palestinians.

One state
Conventional opinion views any Trump abandonment of the two-state solution as capitulation to Israel’s far right wing that is pressuring Netanyahu from within his coalition to annex the West Bank outright.

The annexationists may hope that the Palestinians could eventually be pushed out, or forced to live under some form of Jordanian jurisdiction – the so-called Jordanian option.

That may even be the motivation of the anti-Palestinian extremists in the Trump administration, but the analysis fails to take into account the growing support amongst Palestinians for a democratic one-state solution.

Trump has at least acknowledged that Palestinians must agree to the terms of any agreement. And Palestinians will not submit voluntarily to Netanyahu’s conditions.

Israel could not just annex the West Bank on its own terms. Pressure would escalate – as it did on South Africa – to end openly declared apartheid. Indeed there could be no greater boost to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Even the Israeli president recognizes this. Speaking at a conference on Monday, Reuven Rivlin argued for annexation of the West Bank, but said it must mean full citizenship for Palestinians.

“Applying sovereignty to an area gives citizenship to all those living there,” Rivlin said. “There is no [separate] law for Israelis and for non-Israelis.”

“It must be clear: If we extend sovereignty, the law must apply equally to all,” Rivlin added.

PA needs status quo
On Tuesday night, an unnamed senior US official previewed the shift away from the two-state solution, causing alarm in the Palestinian Authority.

The Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported that CIA director Mike Pompeo met with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank earlier on Tuesday.

“The Palestinians heard reassuring messages about the two-state solution at the meeting,” Haaretz reported, citing an unnamed Palestinian Authority source. These messages “were not in line with the statement later made by an anonymous White House official,” the paper added.

The Palestinian Authority also reportedly used the occasion to argue for its continued existence as a subcontractor for Israeli and American interests.

“The Americans needed to understand that the collapse of the PA – in such a manner that there will be no way to implement the two-state solution, as quite a few elements in the Netanyahu government are striving for – will lead to the entry of extremist elements, perhaps associated with Iran,” the Palestinian Authority source told Haaretz, recounting arguments used to try to impress the CIA director.

The PA is willing to invoke sectarian conflict in the region for its own self-preservation, placing itself squarely on the side of the burgeoning Israeli-Saudi alliance that aims for greater confrontation with Iran.

No more fig leaf for apartheid
Preserving the illusion of the two-state solution is key to the PA justifying its existence.

But even more so it is a way for Israel’s liberal Zionist supporters to avoid confronting the inherent racism of Israel as a “Jewish state.”

Ironically, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman – a die-hard supporter of the two-state solution – expressed this with the greatest clarity in his column on Tuesday.

“As long as the two-state solution was on the table, the debate among Jews on Israel was ‘right versus left’ and ‘more security versus less security,’” Friedman writes. While there were differences, “we could mostly all agree that for Israel to remain a Jewish democratic state, it had to securely separate from most of the 2.7 million West Bank Palestinians.”

Friedman makes no mention of the two million Palestinians caged in Gaza, let alone those living in refugee camps in the diaspora. But he warns that if the two-state solution is off the table, then the debate “within the Jewish community will move from ‘left versus right’ to ‘right versus wrong.’”

It would become a debate about “whether the state is worth defending in moral terms” – a debate that Friedman must know cannot be won without abandoning any pretense of supporting universal human rights.

This debate is already happening within the Jewish community, albeit along generational lines.

What Friedman surely fears is that the end of the two-state delusion brings into focus the reality that the price of a “Jewish state” is the perpetual violation, frequently in horrific ways, of the rights of millions of Palestinians.

The way out now cannot be clearer: rights for everyone in a unified country.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

This Isn't Just Trump. This Is Who the Republicans Are.

by Dave Johnaon
OpEdNews Op Eds 2/17/2017 at 23:40:18

So far President Donald Trump has signed very few bills. One lets coal companies dump waste into streams. Another lets oil companies bribe foreign dictators in secret. Now he is moving to block a Labor Department "fiduciary rule" that requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients when advising on retirement accounts.
Here's the thing: this isn't just Trump doing this. The Republican-controlled House and Senate passed those two bills, and the Republicans have been fighting that fiduciary rule tooth and nail.
It's not just Trump, Republicans as a party are using Trump to engage in a general assault on protections from corruption, pollution, corporate fraud and financial scams.
This is who they are.
"We Just Need A President To Sign This Stuff"
This is not just Trump. What we are seeing happening to our government is the end result of a decades-long effort by the corporate-and-billionaire-funded "conservative movement" to capture the Republican party, and through them to capture the country -- for profit. And here we are.
Are Republicans dismayed that they have put a loathsome, deranged, misogynistic, racist, psychopathic, uninformed, self-promoting, corrupt, insulting, genital-grabbing, conspiracy-theory-peddling, Jew-baiting, narcissistic-behaving, country-destroying, Putin-loving, generally disgusting, fascist, loofa-faced sh*t-gibbon into power in our White House?
No, they are not. They like it that he's squatting in the Oval Offic.
Grover Norquist, one of the key leaders and strategists of the conservative movement, worded it clearly and succinctly, "We just need a President to sign this stuff." "Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become President of the United States."
Stream Protection Rule
After waiting eight years, (yes, they waited that long), the Obama administration finally put a rule in place to protect "streams, fish, wildlife, and related environmental values from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations."
"The stream protection rule requires the restoration of the physical form, hydrologic function, and ecological function of the segment of a perennial or intermittent stream that a permittee mines through. Additionally, it requires that the postmining surface configuration of the reclaimed mine site include a drainage pattern, including ephemeral streams, similar to the premining drainage pattern, with exceptions for stability, topographical changes, fish and wildlife habitat, etc. The rule also, requires the establishment of a 100-foot-wide streamside vegetative corridor of native species (including riparian species, when appropriate) along each bank of any restored or permanently-diverted perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral stream."
Sounds great right? Well, protecting the environment and protecting people costs money that would otherwise go into the pockets of executives of and investors in coal companies, so...uh uh.
By the way, the rule would have created at least as many jobs as it might have "cost."
Oil Company Transparency Rule Repeal
Saying, "We're bringing back jobs big league," Trump signed a bill repealing a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule written under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The rule required oil companies to disclose if they are bribing dictators who steal form their country.
The Hill reports on this, in Trump signs repeal of transparency rule for oil companies...
"The legislation is the first time in 16 years that the Congressional Review Act (CRA) has been used to repeal a regulation, and only the second time in the two decades that act has been law.
"[The CRA] was meant to fight corruption in resource-rich countries by mandating that companies on United States stock exchanges disclose the royalties and other payments that oil, natural gas, coal and mineral companies make to governments."
THIS was the priority of the Republican congress.
Retirement Advice Fiduciary Rule
When people ask financial advisers and brokers for retirement advice they get sold high-priced "products" that do not benefit them, but benefit the financial advisers and brokers a lot. (For more on this phenomenon, read Motley Fool's Where are all the customer's yachts?)

These scams siphon an estimated $17 billion a year from the retirement accounts of working people.
So Obama's Labor Department staff (after waiting years and years) wrote a rule requiring these advisers and brokers to act in their clients' best interest. The Washington Post explained the new rule last year, in Labor Department rule sets new standards for retirement advice,
"The Labor Department announced sweeping rules Wednesday that could transform the financial advice given to people saving for retirement by requiring brokers and advisers to put their clients' interests first.
"The long-awaited 'fiduciary rule' would create a new standard for brokers and advisers that is stricter than current regulations, which only require that brokers recommend products that are 'suitable,' even if it may not be the investor's best option."
For obvious reasons ($17 billion swiped from working people each year) Wall Streeters didn't like the new rule one bit. They put a ton of money into killing it. And now Trump is gutting the rule.
This is the classic way people get fucked by a rigged system. Trump is giving Wall Street the freedom to go back to screwing people.
Here is the Google link to a fact sheet on the rule. Click it to see how your government works for you in the Trump era: Fact Sheet: DOL Finalizes Rule to Address Conflicts of Interest...
This Is Who They Are
Up next on the agenda is gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The government agency's name sort of says it all, doesn't it? Of course Wall Street and the Republican Party want it gone.
The New York Times explains, in Consumer Watchdog Faces Attack by House Republicans...
"The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee will move forward on legislation to neuter the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its power to crack down on predatory business practices, according to a leaked memo that emerged on Thursday and infuriated Democratic defenders of the bureau."
THIS is a top priority of the Republican-dominated Congress and the Republican president. It's not just Trump.
What else is there to say? This is who they are.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Campaign to Crush Muslim Civil Society Organizations in the U.S. Escalates

Posted on Feb 15, 2017

By Sarah Lazare / AlterNet

President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz reportedly are in alignment when it comes to targeting Muslim groups in the United States. Fox Business

A new initiative advanced by right-wing Republicans in Congress and reportedly backed by the Trump administration puts American Muslim civil society groups in the government’s crosshairs. Without the same outraged protests or condemnatory press conferences inspired by Trump’s travel ban targeting visitors and dual citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, the lesser-known effort is aimed at crushing robust Muslim civil society organizing in the United States, using the framework of the war on terror.

The initiative aims to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, a designation that in practice, is likely to provide a vehicle for a network of anti-Muslim crusaders to hound unaffiliated, mainstream Muslim organizations and potentially criminalize their leadership.

The effort emanates from fringe conspiracy theorists who, backed by a well-heeled Islamophobia industry, espouse the unfounded claim that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the far reaches of the U.S. government. These fringe figures charge that prominent political players, from Huma Abedin to Grover Norquist to Keith Ellison, are operating as secret agents of the organization.

Arjun Singh Sethi, a civil rights lawyer and professor at Georgetown University Law Center, told AlterNet that this effort represents “version 2.0 of the Muslim ban and will be used as a vehicle to attack and smear Muslim civic and political organizations in the United States. The $57 million Islamophobia industry will do anything in its power to arbitrarily and erroneously link groups in the United States to the Muslim Brotherhood. These accusations alone can destroy reputations and tarnish organizations forever.”

Today, this fringe theory has a direct line to the White House.

This January, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Sen. Ted Cruz introduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act in both congressional chambers. The bill also demands the designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, a longstanding goal of neoconservative and pro-Israel elements in Washington.

In a press release championing the legislation, Cruz invoked a supposed clash of civilizations. “I am proud to reintroduce these bills that would codify needed reforms in America’s war against radical Islamic terrorism,” he said. “This potent threat to our civilization has intensified under the Obama administration due to the willful blindness of politically correct policies that hamper our safety and security.”

Alongside this legislative push, advisers to Trump are reportedly weighing an executive order to declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization.

Conspiracy theory backed by Islamophobia industry

“One of the favorite smear tactics of the Islamophobia industry for years has been to accuse individuals and institutions in the U.S. of supporting the mythical Muslim Brotherhood bogeyman,” said Sethi, the civil rights lawyer. “If the Muslim Brotherhood is designated a foreign terrorist organization, this industry will double down on the tactic. This designation could spark a witch hunt similar to what we saw during the red scare. Innocent institutions and individuals could be tarnished and impugned. In addition, the government could invoke expansive material support laws and seek to prosecute individuals and institutions, forfeiting their assets.”

Sethi underscored that this political campaign comes despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood does not have a known presence in the United States.

In a report released in 2011, the Center for American Progress determined that seven foundations shelled out $42.6 million between 2001 and 2009 to think tanks advancing anti-Muslim policies. In a separate study published in 2015, CAP identified what it called a $57 million industry that is predicated on the spreading of anti-Muslim sentiment. This industry directly supports concrete policy measures targeting Muslim communities in the United States, including the NYPD’s invasive surveillance system and the more than 100 anti-Sharia bills that have been introduced at the state level across the country.

The unfounded claim that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government plays a key role in this industry and is espoused by major figureheads. Among them is Frank Gaffney Jr., who founded the Center for Security Policy, the think tank that produced the shoddy research behind Trump’s campaign pledge to ban Muslims. A prominent anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist, Gaffney served as an adviser to Cruz’s failed presidential campaign and is close colleagues with many in Trump’s cabinet, including Steve Bannon.

Without producing any evidence, Gaffney has repeatedly claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government, levying accusations that numerous officials are agents of the organization, including Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin. In 2011, Gaffney was temporarily barred from the Conservative Political Action Conference for accusing the right-wing activist Grover Norquist of being an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. Citing the supposed Muslim Brotherhood takeover, Gaffney has repeatedly called for McCarthy-ite investigations targeting Muslim-Americans. “So pervasive now is the MB’s [Muslim Brotherhood’s] ‘civilization jihad’ within the U.S. government and civil institutions that a serious, sustained and rigorous investigation of the phenomenon by the legislative branch is in order,” he argued at the Center for Security Policy in October 2011.

Notably, this is not the only conspiracy theory Gaffney clings to. He has also argued that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim who was not born in the United States and that Saddam Hussein was likely behind the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings.

Gaffney is not alone. Steven Emerson, a notoriously Islamophobic author and pundit, has played a key role in perpetuating the notion that the Obama administration was infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Emerson has spread baseless propaganda for years, alleging in 1995, for instance, that the Oklahoma City Federal Building had been bombed by Arab “terrorists.” Moments later, the bomber was revealed as white nationalist Timothy McVeigh. Two decades later, Emerson appeared on Fox News to make bogus claims about the existence of Muslim no-go zones in the U.K. Fox was forced to issue numerous corrections and apologies for Emerson’s statements, which then-London Mayor Boris Johnson dismissed as “total nonsense.”

While both Gaffney and Emerson are designated anti-Muslim extremists by the Southern Poverty Law Center, their views have been espoused by those in the highest echelons of power. A decade ago, Bannon proposed a documentary-style movie blaming a coalition of liberal Jewish groups and Muslim civil rights organizations for importing terror into America, The Washington Post recently revealed.

Two other former contributors to the white nationalist publication Breitbart—Sebastian Gorka and Katharine Gorka—have recently joined Trump’s cabinet. The pair have built their careers fear-mongering over Muslims. Gorka, who now serves as deputy national security assistant, has previously argued that the United States is a Christian nation. “We don’t know where the refugees from war zones are living in America,” he said in a July 15 appearance on Fox News. “We’re a Christian nation; we should be charitable to those in need. But charity is not an excuse for suicide.” Katharine Gorka has previously supported far-reaching legislation to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

“You have these right-wing fringe theorists who think every Muslim has links to the Muslim Brotherhood, and that’s reason to distrust them,” Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, told AlterNet. “But now they are close to the center of power and able to push conspiracy theories out there. This could be really used as a way to clamp down on Muslim groups as well as prominent activists.”

Brant Rosen, the founder of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, told AlterNet, “As a Jew, I would say this is the targeting of people because of their religion and identity. Jews know all about that. This would be the Muslim registry. This would give the government the opportunity to carry through formally on what it’s threatened to do.”

Muslim civil society is the real target

Anti-Muslim extremists have repeatedly and without evidence targeted Muslim civil society organizations as supposed agents of the Muslim Brotherhood, with Breitbart providing a key mouthpiece. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a major target of this campaign, with Breitbart running articles titled, “FBI Chart and Documents Portray CAIR as Hamas-Related Organization” and “10 Reasons to Be Suspicious of CAIR.” Breitbart has also repeatedly targeted the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Muslim Students Association. Breitbart has even accused the New York Times of generating Muslim Brotherhood propaganda.

In 2014, Rep. Michele Bachmann introduced legislation to “impose sanctions against persons who knowingly provide material support or resources to the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliates, associated groups, or agents, and for other purposes.” The legislation named key Muslim civil society organizations, including ISNA and CAIR.

Fear-mongering over the Muslim Brotherhood has also provided fodder for targeting Palestinian human rights organizations. “Israel advocacy groups in the U.S. have been at the forefront of efforts to label Muslim, Arab and other groups that advocate for Palestinian rights as ‘terrorist’ with the scantest of evidence and the thinnest threads of association,” Dima Khalidi, the director of Palestine Legal, told AlterNet over email. “David Horowitz, for example, has gone after the student groups the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) together for alleged association with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

“Notably, Black Lives Matter, which was severely attacked by Israel advocacy groups for its expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian freedom movement, has also been called ‘terrorist,’ with calls to designate it as a terrorist organization,” Khalidi continued. “The slope is ever steeper and more slippery with an administration that has a blatantly anti-Muslim and anti-black agenda.”

Despite previous political efforts to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, both the Bush and Obama administrations declined. As journalist Waqas Mirza recently noted, the “British government had also rebuked such calls and a report published by the U.K. House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee last year concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood did not engage in ‘terrorism.’”

Yet, authoritarian governments have continued to exert pressure on the United States to impose the designation, among them the UAE and Egypt. In 2013, Egypt’s determination that the Muslim Brotherhood was a terrorist organization was used to justify a violent and large-scale crackdown on dissent, including mass torture, disappearances and the unfounded arrests of tens of thousands of people. The crackdown followed the massacres of over 2,000 protesters in the Cairo suburb of Rabaa.

Human Rights Watch cited this Egyptian precedent in condemning the political campaign in the U.S. “If the U.S. government designates the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist group, then not only its members, but anyone either in the United States or abroad suspected of providing support or resources to the group would be at risk of removal from the U.S. if they are non-citizens and having their assets frozen,” the organization stated. “They would also risk unfairly being targeted for prosecution under various laws, including those banning material support for terrorism.”

Arun Kundnani is the author of “The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror” and an adjunct professor at New York University. He told AlterNet, “We can have a debate about the Muslim Brotherhood and what the nature of the organization is, but the proposed designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s a paranoid fantasy.”

“The effect would be to criminalize many of the leading figures leading the protests against Trump,” Kundnani continued. “It would effectively criminalize Muslim organizations that constitute the main opposition to the wider Trump agenda, in terms of the Muslim ban and civil rights. Primarily, it would remove opposition to the wider Islamophobic agenda.”

“This is more terrifying than the Muslim ban,” said Hoda Katebi, an organizer and artist with For The People Artists Collective and communications coordinator for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “When you add the word ‘terrorist’ to anything, you have been branded by the state and everyone is too afraid to help. Unlike a blanket ban on Muslims that is easy to identify as wrong and rally support against, being called a terrorist as a Muslim essentially erases you and alienates you from support.”

“This is particularly important to be rallying against, particularly important to show up as allies, because this is where most allies will drop off. This is the point where allies will be too afraid and unsure about what to do. Let me tell you now: You must show up and do everything in your power to support Muslims and Muslim civil rights organizations who will be isolated and shut down unjustly by this racialized designation. Never let the state define your enemies.”

Israel interferes in our politics all the time, and it’s never a scandal

from mondoweiss

Israel interferes in our politics all the time, and it’s never a scandal
Philip Weiss on February 15, 2017

I completely believe that Donald Trump was in bed with the Russians before the election and the campaign may well have intrigued with Vladimir Putin with respect to Wikileaks and that helped defeat Hillary Clinton. I believe that because that’s how the world works; because a lot of very smart people in the liberal establishment believe it; and because the New York Times and Washington Post are documenting some of it, with the fervor of Watergate.

Maybe it will bring the liar in chief down some day and end this short national nightmare. I certainly hope so.

But there are two large exceptions to the Russian conspiracy. The first is that it is good policy for the United States to be talking to Russia. If Clinton were president today, there might be dogfights over Damascus. Her gang was all for regime change in Syria, and for confrontation over the Ukraine. That’s bad policy. I’m glad they’re not running the show– though they are certainly running this story. Before you get too upset about Russia winking at the sanctions, the scandal that brought down Michael Flynn, please recall that in 2012, President Obama sent secret signals to Iran to ignore congressional sanctions, we’ll be talking to you once I’m reelected. Obama got reelected; and his deal with Iran is one of the greatest achievements of a very good presidency. Again, this is how the world works.

Which brings up the second exception. Israel tried to interfere in that 2012 election, as Chris Matthews sensibly reminded his audience recently: Benjamin Netanyahu tried to help Mitt Romney beat Obama. Sheldon Adelson held a fundraiser in Jerusalem for Romney.

Netanyahu didn’t stop there. After Romney lost, Netanyahu came to Congress to tell the Congress to reject President Obama’s nuclear deal. That was an unprecedented interference of a foreign leader in our policy-making, enabled by the Israel lobby; but there were never any investigations about that. Subsequently Chuck Schumer said he was torn between a Jewish interest and the American interest, before voting against the president, and he paid no political/reputational price for it; while President Obama said that it would be an “abrogation” of his constitutional duty if he considered Israel’s interest ahead of the U.S.; for which Obama was called an anti-semite.

Throughout those negotiations, Obama could never address the fact that Israel has nukes. This lie is honored by the press, in a way that it would never honor Trump’s lies. And the manner in which Israel got nukes, including thefts from an American company with the complicity of the White House, is only investigated by peripheral figures.

The Israeli interference in our politics is the conspiracy in plain sight that no one in the media talks about because they’re too implicated themselves. The two top executives at the largest media company, Comcast, are pro-Israel; one of them, David Cohen, raised money for the Israeli army. Netanyahu’s speeches to Congress were written by Gary Ginsberg, an executive at another media company, Time Warner, but hey, that’s not an issue. Four New York Times reporters have had children serve in the Israeli army. One of them is columnist David Brooks, who says that he gets gooey-eyed when he visits Israel. He is one of several Zionists with columns at the Times. Tom Friedman justified the Iraq War because suicide bombers were going into Tel Aviv pizza parlors. (Huh?) Yesterday Martin Indyk said on National Public Radio that Jared Kushner’s strong Jewish background was an asset for his being a Middle East mediator, a job that Aaron David Miller, who also has a strong Jewish background, defined as being Israel’s lawyer. Indyk, himself a mediator, started a pro-Israel thinktank with Haim Saban, an Israeli-American who was Clinton’s biggest funder and who lately smeared Keith Ellison at a giant gathering at Brookings, which he also helps fund, as “clearly an anti-semite” and “anti-Israel;” and Jake Tapper of CNN moved on to the next question, presumably because smearing a public official in that manner is not news. Saban is also chummy with Jeffrey Goldberg, one of whose qualifications for being the best journalist in his generation, according to the Atlantic’s publisher, is that he served in the Israeli Defense Forces, because he felt that America was unsafe for Jews. One of Goldberg’s first hires as editor at the Atlantic is Julia Ioffe, who hates Russia, and who told a synagogue audience last year after she was attacked as a Jew by Trump supporters: “Personally I was kind of glad to see the outpouring of antisemitism” because people had forgotten that Jews and Israel are the “underdog.” At another NY synagogue, believing that he was speaking off the record, Dennis Ross, the longtime White House “mediator” of the peace process, said that American Jews must be “advocates” for Israel, not for Palestinians. Again, not a scandal. But when Rashid Khalidi, who wrote a book about the U.S. being imbalanced in the peace process, warned that neoconservatives would “infest” the Trump administration, he was smeared up and down as an anti-semite.

I could go on and on. I can’t because Netanyahu is in the White House today, and I need to get on the news. Netanyahu who President Obama met with countless times, Netanyahu who John Kerry talked to as secretary of state four times as often as he spoke to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Which is hardly surprising, because as Kerry complained to Jeffrey Goldberg, we give Israel more military aid than we give the rest of the world combined, and meantime they ignore our warnings. They can ignore us because of the Israel lobby, including AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which doesn’t have to register as a foreign agent because of sleight-of-hand they pulled back in the 60s, defying Senator Fulbright. AIPAC never gets called for this because the two countries are viewed to have completely congruent interests– when we don’t. So Phil Gordon leaves the State Department and goes to a conference in Israel just like Super Bowl winners going to Disneyland; all the Israeli ambassadors grew up in the States; and Benjamin Netanyahu came of age here, a subject that is never considered problematic; because we have a political discourse in which a leading liberal journalist, Eric Alterman, brags: “I was raised dually loyal my whole life.”

Alterman told a Jewish audience in New York he was alright with that because the U.S. can take a hit but Israel can’t. He then conceded that “bin Laden and 9/11 were to some degree inspired by U.S. support of Israel,” and so are the “pool of potential terrorists who want to attack the United States.” Though: “Dammit, if that’s the price we have to pay, then I’m willing to pay it.”

Other Americans may make a different calculation of U.S. interests. But let’s talk about Russia.

Thanks to Annie Robbins for guidance on this story, particularly the 2012 Iran/Obama detail.

- See more at:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The ACLU Explains Why They're Supporting The Rights Of Milo Yiannopoulos

February 12, 20177:45 AM ET
Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday
The American Civil Liberties Union defends free speech, even if it's hateful. That has some of their supporters upset. Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU.


Now we're going to turn to another issue on a lot of people's minds, free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union has raised a lot of money, $24 million in donations in just one weekend in fact, after President Trump announced his executive order on immigration. Hundreds of thousands of people were motivated by the organization's work to defend people who were detained at airports. And then this week, the ACLU expressed support for a free speech case. This one involves Milo Yiannopoulos. He's the divisive editor of the far-right website Breitbart News, and he's said things like feminism is a cancer.

He was recently supposed to speak at UC Berkeley, but intense protests led the school to cancel the event last minute. The ACLU says no matter how much you might dislike what he has to say, it's protected free speech, and that makes some of its newest supporters upset. Joining me now to talk about this is Lee Rowland. She's a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

Welcome to the program.

LEE ROWLAND: Hi. Thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what's the case for defending Mr. Yiannopoulos in your view?

ROWLAND: Well, the case for Mr. Yiannopoulos is the same as it would be for any speaker, no matter how despicable or offensive we might find them, which is the First Amendment protects our right to speak out on matters of public concern, to talk about things that are as offensive as the things that Mr. Yiannopoulos says without censorship by the government. And ideally, as in his case, without people physically preventing him from speaking at a place where he had every right to speak.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the ACLU and you specifically, actually, have received criticism on social media about this. Does the ACLU need to do a better job explaining why it's defending him and other cases like this, where someone is committing what some would consider hate speech?

ROWLAND: Well, look, I certainly understand that, especially for many of our new members, they may be surprised by the ACLU's robust First Amendment positions, but it's certainly not new. Indeed, one of our most high-profile and controversial moments in the ACLU's history was defending the rights of literal self-proclaimed Nazis to march through the streets of Skokie, a town made up largely of Holocaust survivors. What's amazing about the First Amendment is it protects us, regardless of our viewpoints, regardless of the causes we hold dear.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But isn't hate speech different?

ROWLAND: There's no question that the things that Mr. Yiannopoulos says are unbelievably hateful in nature. But the phrase hate speech is a form of free speech. Again, in defending the rights of others to speak, whether or not we agree with them, we must all reach out and protect the speech that we most disagree with or else the First Amendment is just reduced to a popularity contest and has no meaning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: At a time like this, when the country's so divided, many see the ACLU as a check on the Trump administration. You've been at the forefront of several important battles. Are you worried that taking controversial positions like this will erode your support, especially among new members?

ROWLAND: Well, I certainly hope not. I mean, as our - as my colleagues' incredible work as of late has shown, we at the ACLU consider ourselves the first responders for the Constitution. That's a core part of our identity here at the ACLU. And look, we often say - if you disagree with us 20 percent of the time, it means you're a thinking person. If you disagree with us 50 percent of the time, you should consider coming to work for us.

So we respect diversity. No one has to fall in line with all of the ACLU's positions. But I do believe that our defense of the First Amendment is an integral part of our fight for civil rights, for equality and liberty for all.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, thanks so much for being with us.

ROWLAND: Thank you very much.

Israel fumbles goodwill visit of NFL players

Feb. 15, 2017 11:37 AM EST

JERUSALEM (AP) — It was supposed to be a feel-good visit by a group of professional football players to give a boost to image-conscious Israel.

But in an embarrassing fumble by the Israeli government, only five of 11 NFL players in the delegation showed up after being blitzed by Palestinian activists opposed to the visit.

Israel's ministry for strategic affairs and public diplomacy issued a press release after the Super Bowl boasting that the visit would bring "influencers" who would serve as "goodwill ambassadors" when they returned home.

The announcement led Seattle Seahawks defense lineman Michael Bennett to pull out. In a lengthy Twitter post, he accused the government of trying to use him for PR purposes and cited sympathy for the Palestinians.

"I will not be used in such a manner," he wrote, adding that he still intends to visit Israel, but only on a trip that includes stops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to meet Palestinians.

Citing the example of Muhammad Ali, and the late boxing legend's support for the Palestinians, Bennett said he too wants to be a "voice for the voiceless."

"I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel," he said.

Several others players followed suit, and at the delegation's first official stop on Tuesday at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, only five players were present, said hospital spokesman David Ratner. He said the players were given a tour of the hospital and shown a presentation of a device developed by one of Rambam's researchers that detects concussions in real time.

Among those who also dropped out were Bennett's brother Martellus, of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills, Seahawks' Cliff Avril, San Francisco 49er Carlos Hyde and Justin Forsett of the Denver Broncos.

Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan, whose office spearheaded the visit, had enthusiastically promoted it, saying the NFL players would help boost Israel's image and counter the influence of an international boycott movement.

"I hope that, through their visit, they will get a balanced picture of Israel, the opposite from the false incitement campaign that is being waged against Israel around the world," he said. "I hope that the players will present the beautiful face of Israel to their tens of millions of fans in the United States."

But since Bennett's post on Saturday, the ministry has gone silent. After promising various updates on the delegation, Revital Yakin-Karkovsky, the executive director for communications and strategy in the ministry, said Wednesday it would not comment on the visit. The Tourism Ministry and the nonprofit America's Voices in Israel organization, which were also involved in the planning, have also distanced themselves.

The five players who did make the trip — Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans, Mychal Kendricks of the Philadelphia Eagles, Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints, Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals and Dan Williams of the Oakland Raiders — have also noticeably kept quiet on social media.

The only evidence of the visit is an Instagram video of Kendricks from a local restaurant, where he sings along to Marvin Gaye's "Let's get it on" and asks locals to say hello to the camera in Hebrew.

An open letter published in The Nation that was signed by pro-Palestinian activists and supporters such as Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and Alice Walker had urged the players to skip the trip.

"The Israeli government sought to use these NFL players, who have tremendous platforms due to their popularity, in an effort to whitewash Israel's ongoing denial of Palestinian rights," said Yousef Munayyer, director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, who initiated the open letter. "It was heartening to see so many players choose not to sit on the sidelines but instead to stand on the right side of history."


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Israel's masters of war set their sights on Gaza - again

Gaza cries out, but the warmongers don't listen. For them, the Strip is just an opportunity to advance their careers.

By Gideon Levy | Feb. 12, 2017 | 12:30 PM | 3

“Come you masters of war, … I can see through your masks… You lie and deceive, a world war can be won, you want me to believe, but I see through your eyes, and I see through your brain. … You’ve thrown the worst fear that can ever be hurled, fear to bring children in to the world.” (From Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War”)
And look, they’re back, our masters of war. Here they come, those warmongers. They don’t pass up a single chance to grab a microphone and threaten to push toward another war. Yet no one asks them: Why? What for? The north is quiet, as is the south, relatively speaking.
But it’s been two and a half years since the last war in Gaza and the Israeli DNA demands another round of bloodshed. And their current jobs – construction minister or education minister – are also boring for those with a mind for it. Encouraging high school students to take advanced math or building new public housing is deadly dull. They need another war, after which they may get the positions they covet.
The Gaza Strip is dying. Its inhabitants have just three years to live, according to a United Nations report that predicted that in 2020, Gaza will cease to be a place fit for human life. It has long ago become a cage unfit for life. But when they’re not shooting at Israel from Gaza, no one takes an interest in its fate. Hamas is holding its fire, but it’s enough for two rebel rockets to be fired to prompt 19 (!) Israeli aerial attacks and to extract all of our warmongers from their holes.
Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant’s eyes lit up and the color seemed to return to his face when he talked about Gaza. “I believe we should be prepared by spring,” determines this master of war, who dreams of returning to Gaza and killing more, as he did so well in Operation Cast Lead eight year ago. Why in the spring? Don’t ask. There’s a reason you don’t know. Maybe it’s because Charles Aznavour sang about returning in the spring.
Last week, Galant didn’t pass up a single media opportunity anywhere but on the Kol Hamusica classical music station to fan the flames and push for a war. And who would bother interviewing this failing, boring construction minister whose party colleague Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also detests him if it were not about Gaza? Since he has not chalked up accomplishments in building, Galant, a former military man is trying to get back to destroying. The Likud party is waiting for him.
The Defense Ministry is also coveted by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Getting there, however, requires fanning the flames. No official report about the failure to deal with Hamas tunnels in Gaza will suffice, so Bennett is also dreaming about another war. “The next round of war is approaching,” he said, making a prediction that always comes true in Israel. He hasn’t concealed the extent to which he is in a hurry to return to the killing fields of Shujaiyeh and the confidential briefings with army officers.
And then, of course, there is the current defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who even in his new temporary role as a moderate, also won’t pass up a chance. “Until the other side cries gevalt, we’re not stopping,” said the minister of arrogance. Again came the hollow promises of decisive victory that will never come about and yet again everyone is willing to buy the argument. Again everyone is waiting for the next war, as if it were fate handed down by the almighty when it isn’t even handed down from Gaza.
Gaza actually is crying gevalt, but none of the warmongers are listening. Gaza for them is an opportunity to advance their careers, to get the forces moving and to conceptualize a war against an enemy that is nothing but an army of hooligans, nothing but an assault on the powerless. Gaza would bring the warmongers back into the headlines, back into their glory, the return of the good old days of combat jackets. Otherwise, there would be no reason to embark on another attack on Gaza.
The deterioration could be quick. Just another few declarations of war, another few disproportionate responses by the Israel Defense Forces for every cap gun or kite fired from Gaza and we’re there. Israel also pushed for the wars in Gaza in 2008 and 2014 more than Gaza did. Before you can say “cigars and champagne,” the IDF is in Gaza.
And there is no one to yell “stop,” no one to say that those who don’t want war in Gaza should open it rather than destroy it a third, fourth and fifth time. But saying so requires courage, which is the quality most lacking among our masters of war, whom, as Dylan’s lyrics state, will never be forgiven.