Bibi Tells It Like It Is (Not)

 

(The five statements in this piece come from Dale Sprusansky, “Netanyahu’s AIPAC Speech: 5 Lies,” Washington Report On Middle East Affairs, May 2014, pp. 36-37.)

 

On March 4 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu gave a speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel’s powerful lobbying organization. One certainly does not expect an Israeli politician speaking to AIPAC to present a completely objective view, but Bibi’s total disregard for facts is breathtaking. The sad fact of course is how many members of the US Congress believe the Prime Minister’s words, which he himself clearly knows to be lies.

 
In the Middle East bludgeoned by butchery and barbarism, Israel is humane; Israel is compassionate. Israel is a force for good.”

 

"Please like me."

“Please like me.”

Bibi gives the salute to the Volksgenossen

Bibi gives the salute to the Volksgenossen

No one can deny that the Middle East is indeed awash with “butchery and barbarism,” and Syria’s Bashir Assad is setting the bar to new heights. But for any sane person to honestly describe Israel as “humane” is absolutely absurd. Can the treatment of Palestinians, especially in the vast open air prison of Gaza, be considered humane and compassionate? Her actions in operations like Cast Lead in Gaza would be described as “barbarism” by most civilized people, and the constant violation of international covenants, particularly the colonization of the West Bank, is in my opinion barbaric according to the established norms of the post-WW II world. “Butchery” is certainly not a term that can be generally associated with Israel, but the slaughter in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982, enabled and supported by the Israeli army, is aptly described by the word. And if Israel is anyway a force for good, it is only in contrast to the despicable regimes that inhabit the region.

 
“(Israel has) values that move us to treat sick Palestinians, thousands of them from Gaza. They come to our hospitals. We treat them despite the fact that terrorists from Gaza hurl thousands of rockets at our cities.”

 
Israelis may have such values, but the state of Israel manifestly does not. Some Palestinians have found help in Israeli hospitals, but because of the extreme difficulties involved in crossing into Israel, far more sick and desperate people are denied any such succor. For Netanyahu to mention “values” in the same sentence as “Gaza” is a sick joke. The world – excepting of course the US – recognizes Gaza as little more than a huge prison camp, sealed off from the world and regularly assaulted by one of the strongest militaries on the planet. Because of the Israeli blockade, people are actually suffering severe malnutrition, and Palestinian public facilities that patently have nothing to do with any ability to attack Israel are regularly destroyed. For Hamas or whoever to shoot missiles into Israel is barbaric, but consider the whole picture. In the last seven years Palestinians in Gaza have fired some 9000 usually ineffective rockets at Israel; in two years, 2005-2006, Israel fired 15,000 very effective shells into Gaza. And there are the ever wildly unequal casualties: in the period since 2008 30 Israeli civilians have been killed, as opposed to 1867 Palestinians in Gaza.

 
“Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, where the civil rights of all citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, are guaranteed.”

 
Even if Israel did not openly discriminate against non-Jewish citizens, this would still be a ludicrous statement. How is it possible for a state, 20% of whose citizens are not Jewish, to be both a “Jewish state” and a democracy? If the term is not completely meaningless, there must be discrimination: if it is a Jewish state, then the implication is that Jewish citizens are somehow more suitable than non-Jewish, that this is their state. And the fact is that Arab citizens are indeed discriminated against, both unofficially – and now with increasing violence – and officially. How could it not be? Israel is in a virtual state of war with the inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank and seizing more and more Palestinian land. How are the Palestinians of Israel, most of whom have relatives in the occupied territories, supposed to respond to these actions of “their” government? Meanwhile, Arab ghettos have become a prominent feature of the Israeli landscape. I have personally witnessed this, and that was twenty years ago.

 
There are perhaps a hundred “unregistered” Arab villages in Israel, recognized as illegal, though they have been there for centuries. The inhabitants cannot get public services or building permits, which means any repairs to a home invites the arrival of the government bulldozers. Meanwhile, their ancestral lands are being appropriated by Jewish communities, some of which openly declare “Jews only,” apparently missing the incredible irony. The legal Center for Arab Minority Rights identifies some 50 or more laws that openly discriminate against Palestinian citizens. Most damning, however, 93% of the land in Israel is owned by the state or quasi-state entities, and non-Jews cannot legally buy or lease that land. It is after all a Jewish state.

 
Consider Avigdor Lieberman, the thug who is currently Minister of Foreign Affairs. He has proposed a two state plan that would not only incorporate West Bank Jewish settlements as part of Israel, but also assign some Israeli Arab areas to the Palestinian state. So much for being a citizen. He believes that Arab members of the Knesset who even speak to Hamas are terrorists and should be executed. He would also like all Israeli citizens to swear an oath of loyalty or lose their citizenship, demonstrating, I suppose, that he is an equal opportunity fascist.

Reichsminister Lieberman

Reichsminister Lieberman

“Israel, the one country in the Middle East that protects Christians and protects the right of worship for everyone.”

 
Well, the Turks might disagree with this proposition, and the Syrian Christian community has enjoyed the protection of the Assad government, though certainly not because of any humanitarian concerns. The Palestinian Christian community, meanwhile, has been steadily declining, and it is clear that the Israeli occupation is at least partly responsible. Access to the holy sites in Jerusalem is apparently not part of Netanyahu’s definition of “right of worship,” since it is extremely difficult for non-Israeli Palestinians to obtain a permit to visit the holy city. It is also indisputable that Israeli Jews are steadily taking over the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, and there seems little concern for the religious concerns of non-Jews. The Ministry of Religious Affairs, in pursuance of 1967 law for the protection of holy sites, has designated 135 Jewish sites and not a single one for other religions. See also Ironies from Israel #1: Archeological Hypocrisy.

Welcome to Bethlehem

Welcome to Bethlehem

“(Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon) would open up a Pandora’s box of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and around the world.”

 
This is not so much a lie as an incredible exercise in hypocrisy. Leaving aside the consideration that it is not entirely clear that Iran is dead set on obtaining a weapon, the fact is that aside from Pakistan the only nuclear power in the Middle East is Israel. Everyone knows this, but the US and Israel play a stupid game of never mentioning it – or that Israel had actually cooperated with apartheid South Africa in weapons development. And while Washington is badgering everyone in the Middle East to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has, no American politician dares even bring up the subject in the case of Israel. Given Israel’s history of doing whatever she pleases, regardless of international law, it might be considered understandable if places like Iran were a bit paranoid. Admittedly there is some truth concerning proliferation: a Shiite bomb in Iran could easily drive the Sunni Gulf autocracies to start shopping around, as if the ruling elites in Teheran could possibly be stupid enough to start threatening a nuclear strike. Given the strength of its military and the unqualified support of the US, it is certainly questionable that Israel requires a nuclear arsenal, and a first step in dealing with Iran might be simply admitting that Israel actually possesses such weapons. But given the attitude of Washington, that will never happen.

 
Sprusansky ends his article with “The time is coming when lies no longer will suffice.” Given the growing detachment of the American Congress from reality, that time is likely to be very far off indeed.

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And It’s One, Two, Three, What Are We Fighting For?

Even what little information about the situation in Afghanistan that dribbles out of our increasingly coy and entertainment-oriented media suggests, at least to a reasonable and non-politically warped person, that things are not going all that well for the freedom-loving saviors from the West.  Our soldiers continue to be blown up in areas declared secure, and well organized strikes take place in Kabul itself.  More telling, the number of attacks on “NATO” troops (this is clearly an American war) by members of the Afghan military and security forces we are training is increasing.  Reports of Afghan officials departing the country with suitcases full of money abound, and the “democracy” we are building charges rape victims with adultery.  And the word is that the Pentagon and White House are annoyed with the pessimistic reports coming out of the CIA, reports which are of course classified.

Well, suspicions are confirmed by an intelligence report leaked in Germany, where Berlin is painting the same rosy picture as Washington, Chancellor Merkel having as much political capital as President Obama invested in a war that has precious little to do with American security and absolutely nothing to do with German interests.  Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, has issued a report on the situation in Afghanistan and the prognosis for the next two years, and though it is marked “classified/confidential” because it so at odds with what both the German and American governments are saying, it has been leaked.

Both governments are claiming that no more combat troops will be needed after 2014, only trainers for the Afghan army, which of course is killing Americans on a regular basis now.  According to the BNDreport, at least 35,000 troops will be required to stabilize the country, and “stabilize” hardly suggests creating a state that can stand alone.  The analysis also found no evidence that the Taliban is willing to enter serious negotiations, especially with the government in Kabul, and is just biding its time.

Afghan President Karzai is the target of particular criticism.  His main goal appears to be maintaining power, not just for himself but also his family: he is positioning his brother to succeed him as president.  His government is thoroughly corrupt, and despite assurances by himself and by Washington he has implemented no reforms, nor is there any evidence that he intends to.  He is certainly willing to deal with the Taliban in order to secure his position, which hardly sounds promising for Afghan women.  But the US must defend him as the democratic reformer, since abandoning him would be an admission of a failure that has cost us a trillion dollars and the lives of more than 2000 soldiers.

Of course none of this is surprising for anyone familiar with Afghan society, which has not changed since the British – and probably Alexander – were there.
The “country” is occupied by several ethnic groups that share a tradition of mutual hostility, and corruption and nepotism are ingrained in Afghan society.  The Afghanis are accustomed to rule by petty kings, tribal leaders and warlords, and it is questionable whether democracy could work even were the country not facing the Taliban and sundry religious whackos coming out of Waziristan.  Even a cursory knowledge of Afghan history would have strongly suggested that attempting anything more than bombing the Taliban and supporting a friendly warlord was complete folly, but the Congress and the White House, motivated by political considerations, have traditionally paid little or no attention to the actual experts in the State Department.  You would think that the British at least would know better, which they probably do, but when Washington speaks Europe must listen.

The prosecution of this war has become positively surreal.  A growing majority of Americans us want to leave immediately, and the vast majority of the citizens of our NATO allies never supported the war in the first place.  The Afghanis, while traditionally hospitable to guests, are also traditionally hostile to foreign soldiers in their land, and they practice a religion that requires conduct seemingly impossible for westerners to adhere to.  We are allied with and provide huge amounts of money to Pakistan, whose people hate us more and more and whose intelligence service is actually aiding the people we are fighting.  And as a breeding ground for international Islamic terrorism Pakistan now leads the world, although the ideological underpinning, Wahhabism, emanates from Saudi Arabia, another of our friends and one of the most oppressive countries on earth.  Finally, while the Taliban government sheltered international terrorists, for which reason we blew them away, they had no real grudge against the US.  They probably do now.

So why are we still there?  Primarily, I suspect, because no politician will ever admit the failure of a policy he is associated with, and everyone was associated with this clearly failed policy of turning Aghanistan into a democratic civilized nation.  But also because neither party, especially those wimpy Democrats, wants to look weak on terrorism (it used to be communism), even though most Americans could not care less, especially since they appear to have forgotten the war altogether.  A true leader in the government could easily make the case that not only is this war an incredible waste of lives and money, but it also actually damages our security by squandering military resources and producing new jihadis by the thousands.  But when was the last time you saw a serious leader among our political class?  Besides, our politicians are all dependent upon big money, which includes the people who make immense profits feeding Mars.

So, for two more years Americans and others will continue to die in some god-forsaken place that has nothing to do with our security and where everyone hates us.  And all because politicians in Washington are afraid of being castigated, not by the voters but by the other party.  Vietnam is beginning to seem like a sensible war:

And it’s one, two, three
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop’s Afghanistan.

President Obama and His Stone Cold Killers

Barack Obama’s fall from grace has been startling.  The laurel of the Nobel Peace Prize rests uneasy on the brow of a man who possesses and uses the power to kill anyone virtually anywhere on the planet, seemingly free from any oversight whatsoever.  Apart from a better command of the English language it is becoming difficult to discern any difference between Obama and his predecessor, as he carries on the post-9/11 crusade of increased domestic surveillance, violation of international law and the endless war against terrorism that supposedly justifies this behavior.

Of all his promises to dismantle the immoral, legally questionable and frequently counterproductive practices of the Bush security apparatus he has kept only one: to ban the use of torture in interrogations (and one wonders how thoroughly this is observed in the back rooms and undisclosed locations of our countless intelligence agencies).  Otherwise, Guantanamo remains open, detainees will receive military trials, more troops were sent to Afghanistan, none of the provisions of the Patriot Act have been rescinded, Israel continues to determine our policy in the Middle East, the “too-big-to-fail” banks are now even bigger and the military budget continues to grow.

In contrast to that of Bush his was to be the most transparent administration in history, when in fact it may be even more opaque.  At this very moment he is using the ever popular “executive privilege” to withhold information potentially damaging to his Attorney General, Eric Holder.  But much more telling are his efforts to plug leaks to the media.  In 1917 Congress passed the Espionage Act, which, as the name suggests, was designed to provide the government with the tools to prosecute those supplying American secrets to a foreign power, i.e., spies.  In the 95 years since then the Act has been used on nine occasions to prosecute Americans responsible for leaking classified information not to a potential enemy state but rather to the American media, and thus the American public.  The legality of this use of the law has been questioned and the issue is still not settled, but this is of course a quibble for any government interested in employing this very useful political weapon.  Of those nine instances of the Espionage Act being misused six fall under the Obama administration.

On the foreign front Obama is as oblivious to traditional international standards of behavior as was Bush.  Regard for national sovereignty (except our own) continues to erode, as we carry on drone strikes in Pakistan against their wishes and violate the air space of Iran and other countries.  Despite the objections of the Afghan government our military continues launching the night raids universally hated by the Afghanis.  We are threatening a sovereign nation, Iran, with military action because they might be enriching uranium which might be used for a bomb which might be used against Israel, if the Iranian government could possibly be that stupid and suicidal.  We have implemented economic and financial sanctions against them that would be considered tantamount to an act of war if done to us.  We have fully adopted the Israeli notion that if you think a state might be a threat at some time in the future, you are justified in attacking them, an understanding of international relations that Hitler would have delighted in.  And our chief legal authority, Attorney General Holder, has assured us that all this is completely in accordance with international law.

Then there is the drone, in the use of which Obama has made Bush seem a piker.  Of course, it is cheap, it is an effective killer and it puts no Americans in harm’s way.  More than 2300 individuals, including three American citizens, have been executed by drone launched missiles, requiring us to believe that over two thousand people were so threatening to our security that we had to kill them all.  Well, not all of them were that threatening, since the figure includes hundreds of men, women and children who just happened to be too near someone the US decided was a top terrorist.  How many dead innocents?  Who knows?  The government is reluctant to release that sort of information, and in any case we have only their word that the actual target was himself worth killing.

Now we know the President keeps a “to kill” list, but exactly how one manages to get on this list is of course classified.  Given the great job the military did in rounding up innocent Afghan farmers for a stay at Club Gitmo, one might justifiably wonder about some of these deaths by Hellfire.  Naturally, the Attorney General assures us that these “enemy combatants” must be “senior operational leaders,” who are planning an attack, cannot be captured easily and live in a country that has given us permission to assassinate its people.  This apparently does not apply to operations in Pakistan, which constantly objects to our strikes.  Or in Yemen, where lack of intelligence has lead the military/CIA to conclude from “patterns of behavior” – routines, places visited, associates, etc. – whether an individual is a terrorist who deserves to be exploded.  Could this be getting out of hand?

It is wonderful to think of murdering barbarian scum being vaporized by American technology, but the problem is that many, if not most of those having their body parts scattered across the countryside are not in fact murdering scum but rather the inevitable innocent bystanders, or “splats” as the military more honestly calls them in private.  This is hardly endearing us to the populations we ostensibly want to help and only contributes to the creation of martyrs.  Another problem, more disturbing, is that in three instances the murdering scum were American citizens, meaning that the President, in consultation with his generals and spooks, has acted as judge and executioner in the deaths of Americans.  The slopes do not get more slippery than this.

I fear for the Republic.  Domestic surveillance, both legal and questionable, has increased dramatically in the wake of the destruction of the Reichstag..I mean, Twin Towers.  American citizens can now be detained without charge for some indefinite period, and the constant cries of “secret” and “national security” make all terrorism trials problematic with regard to evidence.  Somehow the CIA, an intelligence agency once prohibited from assassinating people, has now acquired heavy weaponry and the authority to blow up individuals around the world.  The President, on very dubious grounds, seemingly now has the right to send American military forces virtually anywhere, never mind Congressional authorization.  Like the dictators we frequently work with he may now order the execution of anyone he, the military and the intelligence agencies decide upon.  And like the Japanese seventy years ago and the Israelis more recently we have adopted the concept of the “protective reaction strike,” which allows us to attack anyone we deem potentially threatening.  This used to be called a “war of aggression” and we prosecuted Germans for it not so long ago.

The Obama administration is demonstrating something more cynical historians have long believed: the prime directive of any government, be it a democracy, military dictatorship, absolute monarchy or whatever, is to defend and increase its power.  No government, even one momentarily controlled by a liberal speaking President, will ever willingly surrender power.  And unfortunately the American people are demonstrating no inclination to change this situation, if it is even possible, given the utter stranglehold the Democratic and Republican parties hold over our system.