Aletho News


Military court convicts anti-wall leader

Ma’an – 24/08/2010

BETHLEHEM — An Israeli military court on Tuesday found the leader of a West Bank protest movement guilty of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations.

Abdallah Abu Rahmah of Bil’in, near Ramallah, could face jail time for his leadership in the popular campaign against Israel’s wall, which severs the West Bank village for to protect nearby settlements.

The verdict was read in a military courtroom packed with friends, supporters, and family members, concluding an eight-month trial. Diplomats from Europe including a representative of the European Union attended.

According to his supporters, Abu Rahmah’s conviction was based only on testimonies of minors who were arrested in the middle of the night and denied legal counsel despite significant ills in their questioning.

The court threw out two charges, stone-throwing and arms possession, activists said. The arms charge was over Abu Rahmah’s collection of used tear-gas projectiles and bullet cases, the indictment said.

“This absurd charge is a clear example of how eager the military prosecution is to use legal procedures as a tool to silence and smear unarmed dissent,” the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said in a statement.

Abu Rahmah’s case was the first time the prosecution had used the organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations since the First Intifada, the committee said.

Military law defines illegal assembly in a much stricter way than does Israeli civilian law, in practice forbidding more than 10 people from assembling without receiving a permit from the military.

Abu Rahmah was detained in December during a night raid, but he “did not find himself behind bars because he is a dangerous man,” the committee insisted.

“Abdallah, who is amongst the leaders of the Palestinian village of Bil’in, is viewed as a threat for his work in the five-year unarmed struggle to save the village’s land from Israel’s wall and expanding settlements.”

Abdallah is the recipient of the the Carl Von Ossietzky Medal for Outstanding Service in the Realization of Basic Human Rights, which awarded by the International League for Human Rights in Berlin.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Illegal Occupation | 1 Comment

Global boycott movement claims victories, arrests

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 24 August 2010
New York City activists have kept the pressure on settlement financier Lev Leviev. (Flickr)

This week, the Norwegian government announced that it has divested from two major Israeli companies involved in settlement construction and land theft in the occupied West Bank. Both companies, Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus, are owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, and have been at the center of a widespread boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign since 2009.

Along with solidarity groups, Palestinians from the villages of Bilin and Jayyous — where land has been confiscated for ongoing settlement construction by another Leviev-owned company — steadily pressured the Norwegian government to divest from the two Israeli companies.

In a press release from Adalah-NY, the solidarity group that has been instrumental in organizing boycott campaigns against Leviev companies, Sharif Omar of the Palestinian village of Jayyous’ Land Defense Committee stated: “we welcome this decision by the Norwegian government to divest from some of Leviev’s companies. But another Leviev company, Leader Management and Development, continues today to build settlements on Jayyous’ land. We call for additional international action to pressure these companies and the Israeli government to end construction and return our stolen farmland.”

The Norwegian government’s landmark decision comes as the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is gaining ground. In recent months, internationally-renowned musicians, including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and Carlos Santana, have canceled their scheduled shows in Israel in protest of the state’s ongoing violations of human rights and international law. Last month a food co-operative in Olympia, Washington, became the first US grocery store to refuse to shelve Israeli products.

Earlier this month, Irish artists signed onto a broad-based boycott initiative, pledging to refuse to perform or exhibit their work in Israel and to refuse to accept donations or grant funding from Israeli institutions, becoming participants in the first nation-wide cultural boycott campaign.

Localized direct actions related to the global boycott movement are making an impact as well.

Chicago activist arrested

In a demonstration organized by the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago on 23 August, more than two dozen activists converged on downtown Millennium Park to call on city leaders to sever ties with Israel and drop Petach Tikva, Israel from the Chicago Sister Cities program. During the annual Chicago Sister Cities’ International Festival, protesters rallied outside — and later, inside — the venue. One activist was arrested and released later that day.

“Petach Tikva — an officially segregated city, the first Jewish-only settlement in historic Palestine and the site of the primary detention center where Israeli forces abuse and torture Palestinian political prisoners — has been dubbed by rights group Amnesty International as ‘Israel’s Guantanamo,'” PSG stated in a press release (“Chicago arrested calling for boycott of Israel’s Guantanamo,” 23 August 2010).

“Upholding the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions measures on apartheid Israel, PSG and its allies object to business-as-usual with Israel. Under the false premise of promoting culture and education, Petach Tikva’s inclusion in Chicago Sister Cities promotes Israel-US business ties while it whitewashes Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses,” the statement added.

During the protest activists entered the festival venue and chanted “Drop Petach Tikva!” Activists reported that a pianist who was performing in the hall at the time “stood at attention out of respect once he heard the protesters’ message.”

“The PSG and allies were compelled to bring the message directly into the festival because for the last year and a half, the Chicago Sister Cities International has refused to meet with PSG and members of the community to hear about Petach Tikva’s special role in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people,” PSG stated.

The group said it plans to keep up the pressure on city officials until the Chicago’s Sister Cities program drops its partnership with Petach Tikva.

Charges dropped against British activists

In related news, four British activists were recently acquitted of all charges related to their direct action protests against the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava. On 10 August, a British court ruled the activists not guilty of “aggravated trespass” for their involvement in two separate actions inside an Ahava store in London’s Covent Gardens neighborhood in September and December 2009.

In the actions, the four campaigners rolled barrels inside an Ahava beauty products store, locked themselves inside and forced the store to close “while police came to cut open the barrels and arrest the activists,” as reported by the International Middle East Media Center (“Four British Activists Acquitted In Anti-Ahava Action,” 22 August 2010).

All cosmetics on sale at the Ahava store originate from Mitzpe Shalem, an Israeli settlement colony in the occupied West Bank. IMEMC added that Ahava’s products are also unlawfully labeled “made in Israel” despite being manufactured in the settlement. The products are also made with Palestinian natural resources without the permission of, or compensation for, Palestinians on whose land the settlements occupy.

Using the court ruling as a precedent, activists say that they intend to continue the campaign against Ahava. Speaking to the International Solidarity Movement, the acquitted activists said that they will “continue to challenge corporate complicity in the occupation and Israel’s impunity on the international stage” (“,” 11 August 2010).

One of the campaigners added: “The message is clear. If your company is involved in apartheid and war crimes and occupying Palestinian land, people will occupy your shop.”

Additionally, in Ireland this week, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) announced they will stage a demonstration to protest the Ireland-Israel match during a FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifier on 25 August.

“In line with the wishes of Palestinian civil society, the protest will call for a sporting boycott of Israel due to the racist and apartheid nature of the Israeli state,” IPSC stated in a press release (“Protest at Ireland v Israel women’s football match …“). “This is in support of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) who have confirmed this match falls under their boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) guidelines.”

Organizers say the theme of the protest will be “Love Football, Hate Apartheid.” IPSC national chairwoman Freda Hughes said: “While some may suggest that sports and politics shouldn’t mix, we believe there is no place in sport for racism or teams who act as ambassadors for racist or apartheid states.”

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Global boycott movement claims victories, arrests

US fires on civilian Bagram protest

By Tom Mellen | Morning Star | 24 August 2010

US troops fired on thousands of Afghan civilians as they protested outside the massive US military base at Bagram on Monday.

A provincial police official said that at least one civilian was killed in the incident, but Nato asserted that no civilians had been killed or injured.

The Western military alliance claimed that soldiers had only fired “warning shots” to disperse residents after they surrounded a military patrol and attacked vehicles outside the sprawling facility with rocks and iron bars.

But Parwan province deputy police chief General Faqir Ahmad was adamant that one civilian had been killed – although he said he could not be sure who fired the fatal bullet.

Gen Ahmad said that the Nato shooting had served to enrage the crowd, which he put at about 2,000 people.

He said that some responded by using rocks and sticks to attack police and the head of the district government, Kabir Ahmad, who had tried to calm the situation.

He reported that Mr Ahmad and a police officer had sustained serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Gen Ahmad went on to say that the rally had been triggered by the arrest of a religious teacher suspected of taking part in a rocket attack on occupation forces.

Also on Monday, officials and residents of Baghlan province in the north of the country accused Nato troops of killing eight civilians during a pre-dawn raid.

Mohammed Ismail, the governor of the Talah wa Barfak District, said that foreign troops broke into a district house at 2am and killed eight civilians, injured 12 and took nine prisoners.

The province’s governor Munchi Abdul Majid confirmed the attack but could not provide details.

Nato spokesman Major Michael Johnson said that he was unaware of any such attack.

Meanwhile the Taliban has reportedly attacked and torched a Nato convoy carrying fuel and materiel to US troops in the south.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack on the lorries destined for Helmand and alleged that the assault prompted US forces to evacuate their military base in Sangin.

Nato denied the Taliban’s claims and boasted that US-led troops had killed 40 militants in offensives this week in eastern Afghanistan.

Monday’s clash between locals and occupation forces outside the Bagram base is the second such incident in 10 days.

On August 15 hundreds of residents participated in a militant demonstration in protest at the construction of military facilities on land owned by villagers.

Protesters threw “baseball-size rocks” at troops as they escorted a mercenary to the base, according to Nato.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | 3 Comments

Amnesty slams Canada for rights abuse

Press TV – August 24, 2010

Amnesty International’s new secretary general has sharply criticized the Canadian government for its “serious” human rights violations.

Salil Shetty told the CIVICUS World Assembly on Citizen Participation on Monday that Amnesty International is increasingly concerned “about the serious worsening” of Canada’s human rights approach.

“There is a real shrinking of democratic spaces in this country… Many organizations have lost their funding for raising inconvenient questions,” AFP quoted Shetty as saying. He also pressed Ottawa to seek the repatriation of a Canadian detainee, Omar Khadr, held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Shetty said that the prisoner’s detention was “unlawful” and that his trial, held this month before a US military tribunal, was “unjust.”

Khadr was only 15 years old when he was captured by US troops in Afghanistan eight years ago. He is accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier during a gun battle in 2002.

Khadr, who has spent one-third of his life in Guantanamo, says he was tortured while being interrogated and forced to provide false confessions.

In a sworn statement, the traumatized Canadian said he was beaten, subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, doused in freezing water, spat on, chained in painful positions, terrorized by barking dogs and subjected to sleep deprivation and threats of rape.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Amnesty slams Canada for rights abuse

Settlers raid house, burn crops

Ma’an – 24/08/2010

TULKAREM — Settlers raided a house and torched five dunums of farmland in the northern West Bank Monday evening, witnesses said.

Locals said two buses of Israeli citizens living in Hebron in the southern West Bank arrived at the illegal Mevo Dotan settlement in Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, where they harassed locals and caused damage.

Settlers raided the house of Muhammad Al-Haloul and remained for three hours banning the family from leaving, family members said. They destroyed the house and burnt the family’s wheat crops, locals said.

Settlers set 20 dunums of farmland on fire south of Nablus on Sunday, Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Doughlas said.

Dozens of residents of the illegal Ihya outpost torched the area of Sahel Khalet Abu Shreka, near Jalud village, he said.

Doughlas accused settlers in the area of repeatedly provoking locals by expanding settlements, constructing outposts, and burning land.

The same day, medics said Israeli troops entered the village and fired tear gas grenades toward residents.

An Israeli army spokesman said the military was not familiar with such an incident.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Settlers raid house, burn crops

On Vaïsse’s ‘Neoconservatism’ and Taboo

Review of Justin Vaïsse, Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010), 366 p.

By Stephen J. Sniegoski | Pulse Media | August 24, 2010

The mainstream media acclaim Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement as the best book on neoconservatism—the definitive account—and portray its author, Justin Vaïsse, a French specialist on American foreign policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, as a veritable Alexis de Tocqueville for his masterly insights. The mainstream’s high praise of this book, however, would seem to be due in large part to its minimization of two taboo issues—neoconservatism’s Jewish nature and its focus on Israel.  Where the book breaks through what  was heretofore largely blacked-out in the mainstream media is its discussion of the major role played by the neoconservatives in bringing about the war on Iraq.

The black-out had essentially placed the entire idea that the neoconservatives played a central role in bringing about the US attack on Iraq in 2003 beyond the pale of public discussion.  In its most extreme form, this approach denied the very existence of neoconservatives.  More moderate variants accepted the neocons’ existence  but denied their influence on US policy.  Instead the war on Iraq was alleged to have been essentially planned by President George W. Bush and/or  Dick Cheney; or, for the anti-war Left, the  war was brought on by the greedy oil interests or by unnamed nebulous corporatists (presumably gentile). Even to dwell on the neoconservatives could be taken as a sign of being “anti-Semitic.”

Vaïsse, however, candidly writes “that neoconservatism played an important role in launching the war in Iraq,” pointing out that the “neoconservatives  had been advocating the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, though not necessarily through direct American intervention, since 1997.” (p. 13)  He goes on to show how the neocons, both inside and outside the Bush administration, promoted the bogus intelligence that was able to generate public support for the war.

Vaïsse does offer a faux qualification to his emphasis on the neocons’ role by observing that “the decision to intervene militarily in Iraq cannot be ascribed solely to the influence of neoconservatives.  This book seeks to put the intellectual history of the neoconservative movement in perspective so as to avoid errors of distortion.” (p. 13) Vaïsse presumably wants to differentiate his book from those still taboo ones, perhaps like mine, which mentioned the role of the neocons some time ago.  But Vaïsse essentially slays a strawman since he does not cite any works that actually attribute the attack on Iraq “solely to the influence of neoconservatives,” and I am not aware of any  works making such a claim.  I should add here that although reviewers praise Vaïsse’s book as “definitive,” he refrains from mentioning (much less refuting)  those works (again mine being one of these) that provided an account of the neocons’ primary role in shaping the Bush II foreign policy on Iraq (which Vaïsse duplicates in a briefer form) and offered substantial proof for the truth of the still tabooed topics.

Vaïsse downplays the significance of Israel and the overall Jewish nature of neoconservatism.  At least, that is how the mainstream readers interpret his writing, and that would seem to be the author’s intent since his general interpretations of neoconservatism reflect this minimization.  However, if read closely, one can find that interspersed within this book is considerable information, including the author’s direct statements, indicating otherwise.

In minimizing the Jewish nature of neoconservatism, Vaïsse  writes that the idea that “neoconservatism is ‘in essence’ a Jewish movement” is “unconvincing,” though acknowledging that the perception that neoconservatism is Jewish is “based on the observation that a majority of neoconservatives are Jews.” (p. 273)  He maintains, however,  that “many of the most prominent neoconservatives are not Jewish, and the overwhelming majority of American Jews are not neoconservatives.” (p. 273)  Now it is obviously true that most American Jews are not neoconservatives, but that no more proves that neoconservatism is not fundamentally Jewish than the fact that most Muslims are not members of Al-Qaida would prove that Al-Qaida is not Islamic, or that most Poles and  Polish Americans are not members of the Polish National Catholic Church would prove the latter is not essentially Polish.

Now although there are gentile neocons, it is not apparent that Vaïsse  has actually  demonstrated that “many of the most prominent neoconservatives are not Jewish.”   For example, Vaïsse  places  Patrick Moynihan into this category.  In neoconservatism’s early years, Moynihan did espouse ideas held by the neocons, but he was a significant individual before the neocons supported him, and their backing would simply reflect, in large part,  their need to attach themselves to influential allies who held views consonant with their own.  Moynihan’s positions would diverge from those of the neocons in the 1980s.

Henry Jackson, whom Vaïsse  describes at length, was an unreconstructed  hard-line Cold War warrior and devotee of Israel, who certainly staffed his office with younger neoconservatives, but cannot be called a bona fide neoconservative any more than Dick Cheney, whom Vaïsse explicitly describes as a neoconservative ally as opposed to an actual neoconservative (p. 149), but who likewise served as a neocon patron.  And it would seem that Cheney was more deserving of the neocon designation since he actually adopted the neocon agenda, whereas Jackson’s already existing positions converged  with those of the neocons.

Vaïsse  refers to Admiral Zumwalt as “yet another example of a non-Jewish neoconservative” (p. 108)  because of his support for both hard-line Cold War policies and for Israel.  But Zumwalt is not conventionally known as a neoconservative.  He did not have long-term intimate connections with the neoconservative network, and was simply a significant person in his own right whose views converged with those of the neoconservatives.  Zumwalt  was associated with the neocons far less than Dick Cheney, who, as just pointed out, is described by Vaïsse as a neoconservative ally, rather than a true neoconservative. (p. 149)

It is quite apparent that most major figures in the neoconservative movement such as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, and Bill Kristol have been Jewish along with most of their associates.  And those generally identified as  neoconservatives are distinguished by more than just their ideas; they have formed and sustained close working and personal connections between themselves over a long period of time. Neoconservatism essentially involves a network of people which has been perpetuated by becoming institutionalized in a number of influential think tanks and organizations. These close ties help to explain the neocons’ great power, which far exceeds their rather limited numbers.

Social anthropologist Janine R. Wedel, the author of  Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market,  describes the successful neocon network as a “flex group,” which she defines as an informal faction adept at “playing multiple and overlapping roles and conflating state and private interests. These players keep appearing in different incarnations, ensuring continuity even as their operating environments change.” (Quoted in The Transparent Cabal, p. 29)  Vaïsse  makes reference to this network when he writes of “a definite clannishness to the neoconservative movement” (p. 206),  but nonetheless when looking for prominent gentile neocons includes people outside of this network who simply have collaborated with the neocons, though in a few places he does make a distinction–for example,  when he differentiates  “hard-core neoconservatives” from  “pragmatic hawks such as Nitze and Kampelman.” (p. 195)

While claiming the existence of important gentile neoconservatives, Vaïsse  acknowledges that  Jews make up the majority of its membership, but then goes on to downplay the significance of this fact, maintaining  that there is nothing extraordinary about such Jewish overrepresentation because “Jews are disproportionately represented in almost all left and liberal political movements in the United States, as well as among intellectuals.” (p. 273)   Although Jews may be represented in many groups in numbers exceeding their proportion of the American population,  it is not apparent that most intellectual movements have been, or are, so overwhelmingly Jewish as neoconservatism. Moreover, it should be pointed out that if anyone unsympathetic to Jewish interests were to allege such extensive Jewish predominance, he or she would almost certainly be branded as an “anti-Semite,” not only by the Jewish establishment but by the same mainstream liberals who now applaud Vaïsse’s work.

But it is not solely the numbers involved that leads one to consider neoconservatism a Jewish movement, but rather the fact that it promotes Jewish interests, though the very fact that the group is predominately Jewish would seem to indicate that it would be biased toward Jewish interests.  Certainly, it is unlikely that groups dominated by Arabs or African-Americans would have such a deep commitment to the  Jewish state (which will be discussed next).  In fact, the conventional view in contemporary America is that the  composition of a group does affect its outlook and thus provides the rationale for demanding diversity in all governmental organizations in the United States.  One wonders why Jewish dominance would be any different than white dominance or male dominance?

But more than this prima facie presumption, however,  there is definite evidence of the Jewish orientation of the neoconservative agenda.  For example, the original flagship of the neoconservative movement was Commentary magazine, which was put out by the American Jewish Committee, and was edited for many years by Norman Podhoretz.  The American Jewish Committee pronounced as its mission: “To safeguard the welfare and security of Jews in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world.” (Quoted in The Transparent Cabal, p. 26). And as Murray Friedman, the author of  The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy,  notes:  “A central element in Podhoretz’s evolving views, which would soon become his and many of the neocons’ governing principle was the question, ‘Is It Good for the Jews,’ the title of a February 1972 ‘Commentary’ piece.” (Quoted in  The Transparent Cabal, p. 27)

Another significant component of the neocon nexus is the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which was set up in 1976 to put “the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship first.” In the late 1980s, JINSA widened its focus to U.S. defense and foreign policy in general, without dropping its focus on Israel. JINSA’s advisory board has included such notable neocons and neocon allies as Stephen Bryen, Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, Joshua Muravchik, Richard Perle, Kenneth Timmerman, John Bolton,  R. James Woolsey and Dick Cheney. While the existence of Bolton, Cheney, Woolsey would show the support of some gentiles for Jewish interests, the very name of the organization indicates its ethno-religious orientation.

The origins of neoconservatism sprang from American Jews dismayed about the turn of American liberalism  and the world Left, with which most Jewish intellectuals historically had been aligned, to positions perceived as contrary to Jewish interests—support for racial quotas (which might threaten Jewish predominance in many important fields), animosity to Israel (as a racist, colonialist state), and growing anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and other Communist Eastern European states.  Vaïsse goes over these Jewish concerns (pp. 58-64), without, in the end, giving them much importance in his overall assessment of neoconservative motivation.

It would seem that Vaïsse attempts to denigrate the idea of a connection between neoconservatism and Jews by writing that “only the white-supremacist extremist right (Kevin McDonald [sic] in Occidental Quarterly, for example) pushes this ethnic logic to its conclusion by considering neoconservatism as one possible expression of Jewishness.” (p. 273).  Designating MacDonald (correct spelling) a “white supremacist” would presumably serve to make this type of thinking anathema in the mainstream, and it neatly  avoids dealing with the very extensive data  showing very strong Jewish identities and commitment to Israel of the key neocons.  Considering the alacrity with which Vaïsse makes his racial supremacy charge, it is ironic—but understandable given the requisite intellectual double standards in the American mainstream—that he fails to make any effort to show how  the neoconservatives’ preachment of global democracy meshes with support for the ethnically-based state of Israel, which could be classified as a Jewish-supremacist state.

Also, considering the mainstream hosannas about Vaïsse’s alleged definitive account of  neoconservatism, it is ironic that he fails to mention the Jews who have pointed out the Jewish nature of neoconservatism, which would militate against the observation’s stigma of anti-Semitism.  For example, Vaïsse  does not refer to the aforementioned Murray Friedman or Gal Beckerman, who wrote in the noted Jewish newspaper Forward in January 2006: “[I]t is a fact that as a political philosophy, neoconservatism was born among the children of Jewish immigrants and is now largely the intellectual domain of those immigrants’ grandchildren.”  In fact, Beckerman went so far as to maintain that “[i]f there is an intellectual movement in America to whose invention Jews can lay sole claim, neoconservatism is it.” (Quoted in The Transparent Cabal, p. 26)

Vaïsse also neglects the work of Jewish-American historian Paul Gottfried who has written extensively on the neoconservatives for three decades in numerous books and articles, and who clearly recognizes the Jewish nature of the movement.  Gottfried, who wrote the introduction for my book, The Transparent Cabal, states that “the term ‘neoconservative’ is now too closely identified with the personal and ethnic concerns of its Jewish celebrities. . . . It is increasingly useless to depend on out-group surrogates to repackage a movement so clearly rooted in a particular ethnicity – and even subethnicity (Eastern European Jews).” (Quoted in Transparent Cabal, pp. 28-29)

It should be added that none of these three Jewish authors can in any sense be called “self-hating” Jews, the derogatory moniker used by pro-Zionists to delegitimize any criticism by Jews of Israel or other Jewish interests.  Even Gottfried, who is highly critical of neoconservatives, is friendly towards Israel.

And now the issue of Israel, the significance of which to the neocons Vaïsse  explicitly plays down.  However,  while maintaining that  “Zionism is not the right key to understanding them [neoconservatives],” he acknowledges that “The Jewish state . . . had been important to neoconservatives as far back as the 1960s.  As the Middle East became central to America’s geopolitical concerns, unconditional support for Israel became increasingly decisive in their approach to international affairs.  Seeing the Middle East through ‘Israeli lenses’ led to a distortion of perspective that caused them to underestimate the importance of the Palestinian quest for nationhood in the region’s troubles and to mistake the nature of America’s enemies.” ( pp. 264-65)  And he would also write that “in their intellectual and political approach to the Middle East, the close alliance with Israel often led them to identify the Jewish’s [sic] state’s struggle with that of the United States:  the same enemy (Islamic terrorists), the same tactics (preventative war, unilateralism, ‘show of force’) and the same cause (‘they hate us for what we are’).  This perspective was not analytically sound.  Although it was normal for America to worry about the fate of a close ally, this undue identification with Israel and the tendency to see things through an Israeli prism undoubtedly helped to create an inaccurate picture of the region and led to unrealistic policy recommendations.”  (p. 265)

Vaïsse’s  references to the neocons’ “unconditional support” for Israel, identifying Israel’s “struggle with that of the United States,”  “seeing the Middle East through   ‘Israeli lenses’,” are about identical to what I maintain in my book.  In fact, I had a sense of déjà vu when he referred to “Israeli lenses,” since I had used the term “lens” in the same way a number of times in my book, pointing out, for example, that “the neoconservatives viewed American foreign policy in the Middle East through the lens of Israeli interest.” (The Transparent Cabal, p. 7)

Vaïsse, however, does not illustrate to any degree the neocons’ extensive personal connections to Israel, though he acknowledges that some were strong Zionists, writing that “It is of course true that many third-age neoconservatives (such as Richard Perle, David Wurmser, Douglas Feith, and Elliott Abrams) were close to Israel’s Likud party, but their hard Zionist positions, which were not shared by all neoconservatives, cannot by themselves explain the neoconservative worldview.”  (p. 274)  Now the individuals he cites have been quite significant in neoconservatism since the 1990s—with Perle and Abrams being so even earlier—so their “hard Zionist positions” would certainly imply the significance of this allegiance in neoconservatism.  In fact, Vaïsse  fails to bring out their close connections to rightwing Israeli government officials with  Perle, Wurmser, and Feith being involved in the 1996 “Clean Break” report, which advised then-incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pursue pre-emptive attacks on Israel’s enemies in ways quite analogous to what the neocons would later propose for the Bush II administration.

It should also be added that Perle, Feith, Bryen, Wolfowitz,  and Ledeen have been suspected and sometimes investigated for allegedly providing classified material to agents of the Israeli government.  Whether or not they were actually breaking United States laws (and the laws seem to be more relaxed if the foreign state involved is Israel), these episodes clearly illustrated their close connections to the government of Israel.

And the former are not the only neocons to evince “hard Zionist positions.”  For example, as I point out in The Transparent Cabal,  Norman Podhoretz, who as the long-time editor of  Commentary had the power to determine what issues and individuals would be placed in the neoconservative spotlight, identified with the Jewish state to such an extent that, as Murray Friedman writes in The Neoconservative Revolution, “Commentary articles now [1970s] came to emphasize threats to Jews and the safety and security of the Jewish state. By the 1980s, nearly half of Podhoretz’s writings on international affairs centered on Israel and these dangers.”  (Quoted in The Transparent Cabal, p. 27)  Moreover, at the onset of the Gulf War of 1991,  Podhoretz “went  to live with his daughter in her home in Jerusalem in order to show his solidarity with Israel, which Saddam had threatened to attack by missiles, and did so to a limited extent.” (The Transparent Cabal, pp. 27-28)

Moreover, Vaïsse neglects to show that the neocons, once they were able to gain dominance in conservative organizations,  purged those traditional conservatives who were critical of Israel and American policies that seemed to be guided by Israeli interests.  Though referring to the neocon “takeover of the American Enterprise Institute” (p. 206), Vaïsse, with more than a modicum of understatement, writes of “increasing neoconservative influence over  a number of key institutions in the new [conservative] establishment . . . in other words, a competition for money” and alludes to how this “fueled this bitterness” of some traditional conservatives (p. 208), but fails to mention that the neocons were able to totally marginalize any conservatives who opposed their Israelocentric Middle East agenda—opposition which they branded as “anti-Semitic” —by depriving them of their former sources of institutional support.

It should be noted that there had been a fairly sizeable number of Jewish individuals in the conservative movement for years without arousing the ire of their conservative brethren.  What incensed the traditional conservatives therefore was not the neoconservatives’ Jewishness, but rather the latter’s successful efforts to make support for Israel and a pro-Israel Middle East agenda for the United States a litmus test for  acceptance by the now neocon-dominated conservative institutions.  Vaïsse, however, distorts this episode by implying that the neocons’ traditional conservative opponents were the aggressors and that “a hint of anti-Semitism lay behind these attacks,” and cites long-time conservative icon Russell Kirk, one of the mildest of men, as one of these attackers.  (p. 208)

Another factor ignored by Vaïsse is the connection of Israel to the US attack on Iraq.  Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu,  promoted war on Iraq during the period of the war’s build-up.  And the Israeli government provided some of the bogus intelligence trumpeted by the neocons to generate support for the war.  Furthermore, the very idea of using military force to eliminate Saddam Hussein’s regime would seem to have originated in Israel with Likudnik Oded Yinon’s 1982 work, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” which called for an overall Israeli war agenda of fragmenting its enemies into small, ethno-sectarian statelets for the purpose of enhancing its own national security.  Iraq was designated as the first target.

In short, support for Israel looms very large in neoconservative thinking, but if  Vaïsse  simply means that the neocons’ identification with Israel does not explain the  “neoconservative worldview” in its entirety, this is something with which I concur in my book, The Transparent Cabal.  For example, I write: “Undoubtedly, the overall neoconservative viewpoint does not revolve solely around the security needs of Israel, and the same is true even of the neocons’ positions on foreign policy and national-security policy.  To state that neoconservatives viewed American foreign policy in the Middle East through the lens of Israeli interest – and that this was the basis of the neocon Middle East war agenda – is not to say that their support for Israel has been the be-all and end-all of their foreign policy ideas, which encompass the entire world.” (The Transparent Cabal, p. 7)

But the neocons have had their greatest impact on American policy in regard to the Middle East, and this is the fundamental concern at the present time.  Consequently, what Vaïsse refers to as the neoconservatives’ “unconditional support” for Israel that has led to  “unrealistic policy recommendations” is currently far more significant than their positions on Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs or arms limitations agreements with the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s.

However, Vaïsse’s points about the neoconservatives’ “unconditional support” for Israel occupy but a small portion of the book and are thus overwhelmed by a lengthy discussion of the earlier years of neoconservatism, where concern for Israel, though existent, did not loom paramount.  Only  50 pages of  the book’s narrative of 279 pages cover the neoconservatives’ activities from the post-Cold War 1990s to the present—the time in which their focus on Israel becomes most apparent.

Vaïsse also obfuscates the focus on Israel in his “Epilogue:  Interpreting Neoconservatism”—a part that, being at the end of the book, most readers will likely remember and that most reviewers are apt to actually read closely rather than skim.  There he portrays the neocons in the area of foreign policy as fundamentally motivated by a mixture of nationalism and universalist democratic ideals, as opposed to an attachment to Israel. “One can see neoconservatism,” he contends, “as a avatar of American messianism, as the expression of an underlying nationalism that has been present since the country was born, a reincarnation of Wilsonianism in a new, more martial form.  Owing to American exceptionalism (‘a city on a hill’), the United States has swung from protection to projection, from isolationism (synonymous with preserving the American model) to imperialism (synonymous with extending the model around the world).  See [sic] in this light, neoconservatism is above all a sign of the resurgence of this nationalist—but also universalist—faith, on the model of French Jacobin nationalism, an off-shoot of the French Revolution of 1789, which was mixed with a universalist credo.” (p. 278)

Undoubtedly, this type of nationalistic, democratic messianism has existed and still exists in United States, but there would seem to be no reason for this attitude to be connected with what Vaïsse  describes earlier in the book as the neocons’ “unconditional support” for Israel.  True nationalists—who would be focused solely on what is good for their own country—would not be in favor of “unconditional support” for  any foreign country since changing circumstances would mean that such support would not always be in the national interest.  In his famous Farewell Address, George Washington expressed this nationalist belief in his admonition to his fellow citizens to eschew a “passionate attachment” to a foreign country, which is exactly what “unconditional support” for Israel constitutes. And as has been widely recognized by Middle East experts in the United States government since the time of Israel’s creation, American support for the Jewish state makes positive relations with the Arab world, which are of crucial importance to the United States because of the region’s oil resources, more difficult.

In regard to exporting democracy, it is not apparent that some major neocon prescriptions, such as bombing Iran, even have that intent.  As most experts contend, any United States attack on Iran would unify that country behind the Islamic regime and perhaps lead to revolts by radical Islamic groups throughout the Gulf against pro-Western governments.  Moreover, America’s war on Iraq and identification with Israel have made it less popular in the Middle East and the rest the world—the effect of which is to increase the difficulty of extending the American democratic model.  It would seem quite obvious that if the goal were to export America’s form of democracy elsewhere in the world, supporting the policies of the Jewish state and making war against its enemies would not be the way to achieve it.

Regarding Israel itself, it would seem that if democracy were the neoconservatives’ watchword, they would work to eliminate Israel’s undemocratic control over the Palestinians on the West Bank and try to make the country itself more inclusive—and not a state explicitly privileging Jews over non-Jews.  The neoconservatives would either promote a one-state democratic solution for what had once been the British Palestine Mandate (Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank) or else demand that Israel allow the Palestinians to have a fully sovereign, viable state on all of the West Bank and Gaza.  Israeli governments, in contrast, have regarded a one-state solution as anathema and have never offered the Palestinians more than a faux state of non-contiguous bantustans within which Israel would maintain security zones and control vital resources such as water.  Similarly, instead of taking anything approaching a  pro-democracy stance, the neoconservatives do just the opposite, backing the Israeli Likudnik Right, which takes an especially hostile position toward the Palestinians with its fundamental goal being the maintenance of the exclusivist Jewish nature of the state of Israel.

In making these criticisms, I do not want to leave the impression that there is nothing of value in this book.  Vaïsse does a good job of describing some intricacies of the earlier years of neoconservatism (1960s, 1970s and 1980s).  Although he does not seem to provide anything to change the broad outlines of the conventional history of neoconservatism, he does add a number of poignant details.  For students of neoconology, he must be credited for puncturing as mythical the widespread claim that socialist Michael Harrington coined the term “neoconservative.” (p. 71-76)  Vaïsse also makes an interesting point as to how some neocons were still trying to shape the Democratic Party after most migrated to Reagan at the beginning of the 1980s.  And he notes that ultimately, after the end of the Cold War, one segment of the Democratic Party, the “neoliberals,” would adopt much of the neoconservatives’ interventionist foreign policy agenda.

As mentioned earlier, Vaïsse must be credited for accurately pointing out that the neoconservatives were the major factor in bringing about the United States’ attack on Iraq in 2003.  He notes that the neoconservatives laid the plans for attacking Iraq prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that those attacks created a climate of fear and anger which enabled the neocons, with their war agenda, to gain the upper hand in the Bush administration.  He observes that the neocons, both within and outside the Bush administration, provided the propaganda that generated the public and elite support for the war and that even President George W. Bush was persuaded by them.  And he shows that Bush, despite his neoconservative rhetoric, generally moved away from the neoconservative war policy during his second term, though adopting the neocons’ “surge” policy as opposed to the establishment-oriented Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq.  Finally, despite America’s failure in Iraq and the nonexistence of actual neoconservatives in the Obama administration, Vaïsse makes the cogent observation that neoconservatism itself has not died, but remains “a potent force in Washington, only waiting for a more favorable political environment in which to exert its influence on American foreign policy again.” (p. 266)

While Vaïsse deserves credit for showing the neocons’ influence during the Bush administration, he only encapsulates what is often said about the neoconservatives outside the restrictive confines of the mainstream media.  And I should add that my extensive documentation of this subject in The Transparent Cabal far exceeds what Vaïsse provides in a small portion of his book.

Where Vaïsse achieves some degree of originality is in his typology—his classification of neoconservatism according to somewhat overlapping chronological periods, which he terms “ages,” with each having a distinct agenda, political activities, and people (though he is not the first to make such distinctions).  The neoconservatives of the first age, which began in 1965, were concerned about the rise of the New Left, campus violence, the counterculture, affirmative action and the overall leftward drift of American liberalism.  Their focus was largely on domestic policy.  They criticized the unintended negative consequences of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, and while they opposed the radical state-imposed egalitarianism sought by the New Left, they were supporters of the traditional liberal welfare state and remained loyal to the Democratic Party.

I should add that in my view this first age, which consisted of many individuals who did not hold the hard-line foreign policy views that would come to characterize neoconservatism, did not represent full-fledged neoconservatism.  Thus, I would describe the individuals of this early period as proto-neoconservatives, with actual neoconservatism not really emerging until the start of the 1970s, as foreign policy became a fundamental concern.

Vaïsse dates 1972 as the beginning of the second age, which he views as a reaction to the nomination of George McGovern as candidate of the Democratic Party.  The McGovern movement embodied the anti-war, especially anti-Cold War, ethos that took hold of American liberalism during the Vietnam era.  The primary focus of the  second age would be on foreign policy, as the neocons supported hard-line Cold War policies against the Soviet Union, in opposition to both what they considered to be the “isolationism” and “appeasement” of the McGovernite Democrats, as well as the Kissingerian détente of the Nixon-Ford administrations.  They made strenuous efforts to reclaim the Democratic party for Cold War liberalism, but when President Jimmy Carter seemed to be continuing in the path of the McGovernites, the neocons reluctantly gravitated to Reagan in 1980, gaining positions in his administration, where they helped to craft his hard-line Cold War positions.

Like the second age, the third age, which Vaïsse has beginning in 1995, would also focus on foreign policy.  With the Cold War over, the neocons would emphasize the need for global democracy and focus on the transformation of the Middle East.  Their more expansive global ambitions reflected the fact that the United States had become the world’s sole superpower.  It was during this age that the neocons would achieve their greatest impact, gaining influential positions in the Bush II administration, where they would act as the driving force for the war on Iraq.

Although an interesting typology, I don’t think the ages are as separate as Vaïsse  often makes them appear, or at least as how his mainstream reviewers seem to interpret his position.  In many respects the ages blend together.  Vaïsse sometimes acknowledges this blending when he writes of the convergence between the first and second ages (p. 207 ), and when he acknowledges strong similarities between the second and third ages. (p. 221)  Moreover, full-fledged neoconservatives from one age, such as Norman Podhoretz, supported  the issues that loomed largest in the succeeding ages. (Norman Podhoretz was involved in all three ages.)  The change in ages, therefore, did not represent so  much a change in the neoconservative core membership, but rather the change represented the need to address new issues as a result of different circumstances, which did lead to changes in the neocons’ allies.

What Vaïsse fails to bring out clearly is the fact that Jewish interests loomed large in all of his three ages.  In the first age, New Left demands for group equality and their efforts to bring chaos to the universities seemed to threaten the higher status of Jews.  In the second age, neocons were concerned about liberal Democrats identifying with Third World attacks on Israel, seeking retrenchment of US military involvement that might weaken support for Israel, and advocating a friendlier policy toward the Soviet Union, which was now seen as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.  In the third age, the neoconservatives’ promotion of a “democratic” reconfiguration of the Middle East would involve the weakening of Israel’s enemies.

What is one to make of Vaïsse’s work?  A positive way of looking at it would be to describe it as the best type of work that can be produced and still receive mainstream attention.  For Vaïsse does point out that the neocons were the driving force for the war on Iraq.  And he certainly does criticize their war-oriented activities.  That he plays down the Jewish nature of neoconservatism and the movement’s focus on Israel could be interpreted as the necessary price to pay for this positive reception; in fact, as  a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, it is questionable if Vaïsse could have produced a work with an accurate discussion of the taboo subjects.  For Brookings includes the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, which was created in 2002 largely by the funding ($13 million) of Haim Saban, who has pledged additional financial support.  Saban happens to be a staunch Zionist, who has been quoted as saying: “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel.”

Another way of looking at Vaïsse’s book would be to classify it in the genre of damage control or what Harry Elmer Barnes, a leading revisionist of the history of World War I and World War II, referred to as a “smother-out.”  This approach would allow a partial revelation of the truth, as the complete black-out lost credibility, in order to stave off more extensive revelations.

By downplaying the significance of Jewish ethnicity and the centrality of Israel, however, Vaïsse’s work fails to provide much help in understanding the current push by the overall Israel lobby and the government of Israel for war on Iran, which the neoconservatives intended to have as the next major target for the US after the invasion of Iraq.  More than serving as a guide for understanding the present, however, truth is good for its own sake since presumably the purpose of history is to best describe what actually happened in the past.  What Vaïsse has provided is simply a partial truth that leaves out key elements, which should be recognized by anyone who truly investigates the issue.  It would be hoped that the mainstream would open up sufficiently so that this fuller, unadulterated truth would not be shunted to the margins of society.  This, however, would appear to be but a forlorn hope.  As the 19th century New England poet James Russell Lowell put it:  “Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne.”

Stephen J. Sniegoski, Ph.D. is an American historian, with a focus on American foreign policy, and the neoconservative involvement in it. His first major work on the subject, “The War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel” was published February 10, 2003, more than a month before the American attack.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

Afghan base expansion aimed at Iran?

Press TV – August 24, 2010

The US Congress has given a preliminary approval to a major expansion of US airbases in Afghanistan, reflecting Washington’s wish to establish permanent bases there. US President Barack Obama has asked for $300 million to continue building three multimillion-dollar facilities in northern and southern Afghanistan.

One of the airbases is situated just north of the Afghan capital Kabul, while another airfield and a US marine base is to be set up in the southern province of Helmand. A third base is also being constructed at Mazar-e Sharif to supply US forces in the north.

The three bases — which are being built strictly for US forces rather than their Afghan counterparts — are expected to be completed in the latter half of 2011. This is despite President Barack Obama’s promise of withdrawal by July 2011.

The long-term construction indicates that Pentagon plans to be staying in Afghanistan well into the future.

“These bases are intended for long term operations that have little to do with the current insurgency inside the country,” Carl Osgood from the Executive Intelligence Review told Press TV.

“Think about the possibility of a US or Israeli strike on Iran, which seems to be temporarily off the table, but over the long term there are still people pushing for this strategy,” he added.

Despite loud objections from some anti-war lawmakers in Congress — which is now increasingly reluctant to deepen the US involvement in Afghanistan — the money for the construction of the bases is coming. The US House has already approved the funds, as has the Senate Appropriations Committee. The full Senate is also expected to pass the measure when it returns from its summer break in September.

To persuade Congress to approve the money, the Pentagon has said that it needs the capital to expand air support for NATO forces fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan. These measures are all considered part of a multi-year US plan to rule the skies of Afghanistan with overwhelming air power, despite the growing unhappiness of the American public with the Afghan war.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment