Category Archives: The Lobby

The Holocaust and its Deniers

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, some Jewish intellectuals and humanists expressed the thought that ‘after Auschwitz Jews have to locate themselves at the forefront of the battle for humanity and against all forms of oppression.’

This is a principled and heroic ideal, but the reality on the ground has been somewhat different. Just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the Jewish state ethnically cleansed the vast majority of indigenous Palestinians. Two years later, in 1950, Israel’s Knesset passed the Law of Return, a racist law that distinguishes between Jews who have the right to ‘return’ to someone else’s land and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees that were expelled by force from their villages and cities.

In the seven decades since, the Jewish State has committed every possible human rights abuse. It made Gaza into the biggest open-air prison in human history and has repeatedly dropped bombs on the most overpopulated place on earth. Recently the Jewish State deployed hundreds of snipers against unarmed Gazans who were protesting at the border. Israel killed dozens and wounded more than 13,000 Palestinians, the majority severely, with over 1,400 struck by three to five bullets.

If the Holocaust left Jews with a mission to fix the world, the Jewish State has done the opposite. Its crimes against humanity can be seen as a complete denial of the Holocaust’s message.

Some Jews who survived the Holocaust did dedicate their lives to a universal battle for a better world. Among these heroes was Hajo Meyer, a Dutch Auschwitz survivor who, for the obvious reasons, saw the similarities between his own suffering and the Palestinian plight.

In 2003 Meyer wrote The End of Judaism, accusing Israel of usurping the Holocaust to justify crimes against the Arabs. He participated in the 2011 “Never Again – For Anyone” tour. He correctly argued that Zionism predated fascism, and he also reiterated that Zionists and Fascists had a history of collaboration.

Meyer exemplified the Jewish post-Shoah humanist promise. After Auschwitz he located himself at the forefront of the fight against oppression. He fought Israel.

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2010, Meyer was invited to an event at the British Parliament which included MP Jeremy Corbyn. At the event Meyer compared Israeli racial policy to the Nuremberg laws. At the same event, Haidar Eid, a Palestinian academic from Gaza, pointed out that “the world was absolutely wrong to think that Nazism was defeated in 1945. Nazism has won because it has finally managed to Nazify the consciousness of its own victims.”

Eid didn’t ‘compare’ Zionism with Nazism, he described an ideological continuum between Nazi ideology and Israeli policy. He maintained that the racial discriminatory ideology of the Nazis was picked up by the Jewish state and has been rife in the Jewish State since then.

The other day MP Jeremy Corbyn was attacked by the Jewish lobby for being present at that meeting that explored these universal ethical positions. Our Labour candidate for prime minister anemically recalled that at the event in question views were expressed which he did not “accept or condone.” Corbyn even apologized “for the concerns and anxiety that this has caused.” I wonder why my preferred candidate has to express regret for being in the presence of a humanist exchange. I wonder why our next PM feels the need to disassociate himself from people who advocate ‘for the many, not the few.’

The message for the rest of us is devastating. The battle for a better world can’t be left to Corbyn alone. Needless to say, the Jewish State and its Lobby haven’t located themselves at the forefront of humanity. It is actually the Palestinians who have been pushed to the front of that frustrating struggle. Not to see that is to deny their holocaust.

For the Few, Not the Many

The relationship between Zionism and the Jews has been the source of confusion for many years. Both Zionists and the so called ‘anti’ have preached to us that ‘not all Jews are Zionists’ and ‘Judaism is not Zionism.’

But we are confused no more. Two weeks ago,  the chief rabbi of Britain together with 68 other rabbis mounted  pressure on the Labour party to change its ‘anti-semitsm code.’ The British rabbis were upset because, although Labour generally adopted  the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism, left out of Labour’s definition were four examples from the IHRA that restrict criticism of Israel1  The Labour party seems to believe that it is kosher to criticise an ethnic cleansing state that deploys snipers against unarmed protestors. Chief Rabbi Mirvis couldn’t agree less. He told the BBC that it is “astonishing that the Labour Party presumes it is more qualified to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.” The clear message is that, at least from a rabbinical perspective, the distinction between Zionism and Judaism is nebulous to nonexistent.

Last Friday the so-called British Jewish ‘establishment’ went a dangerous step further.  Britain’s three main Jewish newspapers were emblazoned with identical front pages. Under the headline “United We Stand”, they all claimed that a Jeremy Corbyn-led government would be an “existential threat to Jewish life” in the UK. The British Jewish leadership insists that Britain’s No.1 anti-racist is a Hitler type. I would like to believe that this is just the latest phase in Jewish humour. But the Jewish papers appeared damn serious.  Stephen Pollard, Editor of the JC, said in a Sky interview, that while a teeny tiny minority of British Jews  are fine with what is going on with the Labour party, “we are saying to the Jewish community, we’re united, the media is united behind you, the community is united.” It seems that the Jewish media establishment also sees the alleged ‘dichotomy’ between Jews and Zionists as a false dichotomy.

Since the British Jewish leadership seems to be united more than ever, we are left with no other option but to dig into the belly of the beast in order to grasp what seems an unprecedented outburst of collective Jewish Corbyn phobia.

I admit that, like the British Jewish leadership, I am upset by Corbyn and Labour’s attitude to the IHRA definition. My reasons though are very different. I would expect the Labour party to adhere to its universal values and reject the IHRA definition altogether. This is an anti universalist definition. It prefers one people over all the rest.

Racism and bigotry, I hope we all agree, are bad. But racism and bigotry are not that difficult to define. We are dealing with an expression of hatred or discrimination against X for being X  (X might be Black, a Woman, a Jew, a Gay person, or a member of any other such group). This definition is universal and sufficient to tackle any form of racism including anti Jewish bigotry. In contrast, the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism suggests that Jews are actually not people like all other people. We have yet to see an international working definition of racism against Blacks or a working definition that addresses anti Muslim bigotry. The IHRA’s working definition confirms that Jews, at least in their eyes, are somehow chosen. The fact that British institutions have adopted such an exclusivist definition may suggest that Britain is drifting away from its universal heritage. This is, obviously,  an alarming news for everyone including Jews.

That the IHRA’s working definition is treated as an ‘international’ definition and is pushed globally by different pro-Israeli pressure groups also suggests that, at least in the eyes of leading Jewish bodies, Jews are once again hated globally. I do not believe that this is the case, but the Jews who buy into this tormenting line of thought should ask themselves how this is happening again just 70 years after the Holocaust. After all, this is exactly what Zionism and Israel vowed to prevent.

Zionism promised to make Jews people like all other people. Early Zionists thinkers diagnosed some very problematic traits in Jewish diaspora culture. The Labour Zionists were upset by what they saw as the ‘non-proletarian’ nature of Jewish diaspora society. They were disturbed by the proximity between Jews and capital. They were also troubled by a lack of proletarian spirit amongst their brethren. Some early Zionists including Herzl were worried about the concept of the ‘court Jew,’ the Jew who bought political influence through financial support of monarchs and royals. In that regard, early Zionism promised to take the Jews away – to relieve the Goyim of Jewish political lobbying and pressure groups.

If we examine the IHRA’s working definition within a Zionist ideological framework we find that the definition may provide the most anti-Zionist statement in Zionist history. The definition highlights the notion that Jews aren’t people like all other people but are in need of special and particular treatment. The definition treats the Zionist’s promise to make the Jews respected and loved as a complete failure, and it contemplates that anti-semitsm is back. The IHRA’s definition also confirms that the Jewish State is not a state like all other states; no other state bothers to restrict criticism of its politics by others.

As things stand, the only genuine principled Zionist left in the world of politics is Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy, like the early Zionists, insists that Jews are indeed people like all other people. Jeremy believes that Israel is a state like all other states and is, accordingly, subject to criticism.

Jeremy’s blunt anti racism is at the core of the Jewish leadership’s feud with him. Jeremy preaches to the Brits a simple unifying message namely, ‘For the Many Not the Few.’ The Jewish leadership and their embarrassing IHRA definition seem to push the opposite – For the few, not the many.

  1. Examples of anti-semitsm’ rejected by the Labour Party:

    1. Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
    2. Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
    3. Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
    4. Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis

An Offer from Palestine, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez

Following is the text of an invitation from Amal Wahdan, on behalf of herself and the rest of the Steering Committee of the Free Palestine Movement, for congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to visit Palestine.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortes won the Democratic primary election for New York State’s 14th congressional district on June 26, 2018. Two things were surprising and encouraging about her victory.  First, she won against the heavily favored incumbent, the Chair of the New York Democratic Caucus, Joseph Crowley.

Second, she called the actions of the state of Israel “a massacre” for its shooting of more than 3000 unarmed Palestinians in Gaza during the nonviolent demonstrations that were happening during her campaign. It is exceptionally unusual for a congressional candidate to win even a primary election after criticizing Israel in this way.

Following her victory, The Israel Lobby went to work, most visibly in a letter from Rabbi Andy Bachman, an admitted Zionist, inviting Ocasio-Cortez to come to Israel with him.

Historically, the Lobby has dominated this issue in Congress, with a relatively weak response from Palestinians and their supporters. This time, however, the Free Palestine Movement (FPM), a small, tax-exempt nonprofit in California, decided that the candidate deserved an invitation from the Palestinian side.

The result is the letter below, which is being hand delivered to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez by one of the FPM Steering Committee members. The FPM advocates a state that is neither Jewish nor any other religion or race, but which welcomes them all. They oppose any state defined by a particular race or religion, especially when it requires expulsion and marginalization of one population in order to replace it with another.

The FPM recognizes the realities of political life in the US but hopes to contribute to changing those realities in creative and meaningful ways, as do many other groups working for justice in Palestine.

*****

July 10, 2018

Dear Ms. Ocasio-Cortez,

Congratulations on your victory that has inspired so many throughout the US and the world and which encourages us to believe that people and communities can come together to stand for justice and dignity for all, and achieve victory through movement-building. 

I write to you as a Palestinian and an American seeking a US policy based on those principles, not on continued support for intervention, occupation and aggression. You have made statements that give us hope for justice, and we want to work with you to build a new U.S. foreign policy that puts an end to the denial of Palestinian rights and the support for a state that expelled more than half the Palestinian population during the past 70 years. Today, there are more than 5 million Palestinian refugees. Israel is still denying them their right to return to their homes and unify their families.

We ask the US only to support our rights under international law, and to recover what has been taken from us. Although the Zionists came as invaders and oppressors, we do not ask that they leave, only that they end the oppression, so that we all may live with dignity, justice and equality rather than as conqueror and conquered.  This is the only way to stop the bloodshed and achieve peace and security in this part of the world.

We have already seen the attacks on you for speaking out in support of Palestinian human rights and attempts to pressure you into changing your opinion or accepting sponsored tours of the Israeli state and its military-industrial complex. On the other hand, I would like to invite you to a people’s tour of Palestine, including what many consider to be Israel. You will meet with community leaders representing a wide spectrum of the population and many different points of view, from various faith traditions and social sectors, including Muslims, Christians and Jews who are community organizers, workers, farmers, teachers, university professors, labor activists and human rights defenders.

We are known for our hospitality and promise an unforgettable experience worth a lifetime of memories.  Please call and let’s talk about it.

With best wishes for your continued success in the November election and beyond,

Amal Wahdan, for the Free Palestine Movement

Pro-Israeli Groups Weaponize Jewish Cultural Initiatives to Amplify Their Anti-Palestinianism

Should “Jewish Heritage Month” be used as a cover for Israeli nationalism and to suppress Palestinian protest?

A recent incident at a Toronto high school demonstrates the depravity of the pro-Israel lobby. It also illustrates their use of Canadian cultural and “diversity” initiatives to promote a country that declares itself to be the exact opposite of diverse.

Amidst the recent slaughter of nonviolent protesters in Gaza, a half-century illegal occupation of the West Bank and weekly bombings in Syria, an Israeli flag marked with “Jewish Heritage Month” was hoisted in the main foyer of Forest Hill Collegiate Institute. After a couple days the flag created by Israeli nationalist students was moved – possibly due to complaints from other students – to a less prominent location where Jewish Heritage Month events were taking place. In response B’nai Brith, Hasbara Fellowships, Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies and Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) all claimed persecution. “Discrimination has absolutely no place in our schools”, noted a CIJA spokesperson with regards to moving the Israeli flag to a less prominent location in the school. For their part, the Wiesenthal Center said our “objective is to ensure that TDSB [Toronto District School Board] adheres to its own values of equity and inclusivity for all students” while B’nai Brith’s press release decried the “Jewish students who have had their heritage denigrated.” That group then published a story titled “Forest Hill Collegiate Has History of Alienating Jewish Students, Former Pupil Says.”

After the uproar the flag was returned to the Forest Hill Collegiate Institute’s main foyer and the TDSB apologized. At an assembly to discuss the matter, in which the principal and TDSB representative spoke standing behind a podium adorned with an Israeli flag, a student apparently yelled “Free Palestine”. B’nai Brith immediately denounced the brave, internationalist-minded high schooler, tweeting: “This morning, before an assembly about the removal of a #JewishHeritageMonth banner at Forest Hill Collegiate, a student yelled ‘Free Palestine’ during the morning announcements. We have been assured that this was not approved by the school and that an investigation is underway.”

In another Twitter post B’nai Brith claimed the Israeli flag flap made a “mockery of Canada’s first Jewish Heritage Month.” Their statement highlights a mindset that views gaining official sanction of cultural initiatives as a way to strengthen their campaign to support a violent, European colonial outpost in the Middle East.

Earlier this year the House of Commons unanimously adopted May as “Jewish Heritage Month”. The motion was sponsored by York Centre MP Michael Levitt who is chair of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group and a former board member of the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund. Two weeks ago the Liberal MP issued a statement, partly rebutting the prime minister, that blamed “Hamas incitement” for Israeli forces shooting thousands of peaceful protesters, including Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani.

The bill’s other sponsor was Linda Frum. Last year the Conservative Party senator called Iran “one of the most malign nations in the world” and labeled a Palestinian-Canadian’s 2014 art exhibit at Ottawa’s city hall “a taxpayer-funded tribute to a Palestinian terrorist” and “the murder of innocent civilians.”

Leaving aside the background of those driving the initiative, the likely political effect of creating Jewish Heritage Month should have been obvious. The Canadian Jewish News report on the House of Commons resolution noted that May was chosen to celebrate Jewish Heritage Month because of the “various events on the Jewish calendar, including the UJA Walk for Israel, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Jewish Music Week and Israel’s Independence Day.” Similarly, when Ontario adopted May as Jewish Heritage Month in 2012 United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto president Ted Sokolsky linked it to the group’s Israel campaigning. He said, “this announcement will call for an extra celebration at this year’s UJA Walk with Israel, which for 45 years has taken place in May.”

Despite the initiative being steeped in colonialist politics, the NDP voted in favour of the bill creating Jewish Heritage Month. During discussion of the motion NDP MPs Jenny Kwan and Randall Garrisson claimed it would enhance cultural/religious understanding. Garrisson said, “Jewish heritage month will help contribute to better understanding of just how diverse we Canadians are, and in doing so contribute to building a Canada free from hatred and division.”

Of course, this would be a laudable goal, but putting up an Israeli flag in a public high school while that country is murdering unarmed Palestinian demonstrators can only cause hatred and division. And it is an affront to thousands of Jewish-Canadians who do not support Israel.

The flag flap at Forest Hill Collegiate illustrates how pro-Israel groups have weaponized Jewish cultural initiatives to amplify their anti-Palestinianism. Those who seek justice for Palestinians need to recognize this fact and figure out way

Under Trump, the Israel Lobby is a Hydra with Many Heads

The Trump administration’s recent steps in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should surely lay to rest any doubts about the enormous, and dangerous, power of the Israel lobby in Washington.

Under Trump, the lobby has shown it can wield unprecedented influence – even by its usual standards – in flagrant disregard for all apparent US interests.

First, there was the move this month of the US embassy to Jerusalem, not quietly but on the 70th anniversary of the most sensitive day in the Palestinian calendar, Nakba Day. That is when Palestinians commemorate their mass expulsion from their homeland in 1948.

By relocating the embassy, Trump gave official US blessing to tearing up the 25-year-old peace process – and in choosing Nakba Day for the move, he rubbed the noses of Palestinians, and by extension the Arab world, in their defeat.

Then, the White House compounded the offence by lauding Israeli snipers who massacred dozens of unarmed Palestinians protesting at the perimeter fence around Gaza the same day. A series of statements issued by the White House could have been written by Israel’s far-right prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, himself.

At the United Nations, the US blocked a Security Council resolution calling for the massacre to be investigated, while Nikki Haley, Trump’s UN envoy, observed to fellow delegates: “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”

None of these moves served any obvious US national interest, nor did Trump’s decision the previous week to tear up the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran that has long been reviled by the Israeli government.

In fact, quite the contrary: These actions risk inflaming tensions to the point of a regional war that could quickly drag in the major powers, or provoke terror attacks on US soil.

Wall of silence

It should be recalled that two decades ago, it was impossible even to mention the existence of an Israel lobby in Washington without being labelled an anti-Semite.

Paradoxically, Israel’s supporters exercised the very power they denied existed, bullying critics into submission by insisting that any talk of an Israel lobby relied on anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish power.

The wall of silence was broken only with the publication in 2006 of a seminal essay – later turned into a book – by two prominent US academics, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.

But in a sign of the immense weight of the lobby even as it was being dragged into the light, the pair were unable to find a publisher in the US. Instead, the essay found a home across the Atlantic in the prestigious, if obscure, London Review of Books. One of the pair, Stephen Walt, has publicly admitted that his career suffered as a result.

Since then, a little leeway has opened up on the subject. Even New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a staunch advocate for Israel, has conceded the lobby’s existence.

In 2011, he explained a well-established, if astounding, ritual of US politics: that the Congress greets every visiting Israeli prime minister more rapturously than the American president himself.

Friedman observed: “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

Intimidating Congress

Friedman was alluding to the network of Jewish leadership organisations and political action committees in the US, all of them hawkishly pro-Israel, that at election time can channel large sums of money for or against Congressional candidates.

It is not that these pro-Israel organisations control the Congress. It is that they have mastered the techniques of political intimidation. They understand and exploit a flawed American system that has allowed lobbies and their money to dictate the agendas of most US lawmakers. Congresspeople are vulnerable as individuals – not only to the loss of donations, but to a generously funded opponent.

In Trump’s case, the follow-the-money principle could not have been clearer. In the early stages of his battle to become the Republican party candidate for president, when most assumed he stood no chance and he was funding the campaign himself, he was relatively critical of Israel.

Hard as it is to believe now, he promised to be “neutral” on the Israel-Palestine issue; expressed doubts about whether it made sense to hand Israel billions of dollars annually in military aid; backed a two-state solution; and refused to commit to recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

All of that got ditched the moment he needed big funders for his presidential bid. The kingmaker in the Republican party is Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire and champion of the kind of Israeli ultra-nationalist, anti-Arab politics in which Netanyahu excels. Adelson likes Netanyahu so much he even bought him a newspaper, Israel Hayom, which Adelson has grown into the largest-circulation daily in Israel.

In the end, Adelson backed Trump’s election campaign to the tune of $35m. It was the need for Adelson’s support that ensured Trump appointed David Friedman, a long-time benefactor of the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, in the supposedly non-partisan position of US ambassador to Israel. And it was Adelson who was among the honoured guests at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem this month.

The anti-Semitism canard

Those who accuse anyone raising the issue of the Israel lobby of anti-Semitism either misunderstand or intentionally misrepresent what is being claimed.

No one apart from easily identifiable Jew haters is updating the century-old Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious forgery by supporters of the Russian czar supposedly proving that “the Jews” sought world domination through control of the banks and the media.

For starters, the argument for the existence of an Israel lobby does not refer to Jews at all. It is about a country, Israel, and its outsize influence over the policies of the US.

Other countries or groups of US citizens try to exercise such influence, either through similar lobbies or through subterfuge.

No one would deny there is a Cuba lobby that helped influence US policy in seeking to oust revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. And most US lawmakers are currently frothing at the mouth about what they see as covert Russian efforts to influence US politics to Moscow’s advantage.

Why would we expect Israel to be any different? The question isn’t whether the lobby exists, but why the US political system is doing nothing to protect itself from its interference.

If Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s supposed hidden hand in the US is such a threat, why isn’t Israel’s?

Five lobbies in one

Rather than exposing and confronting the Israel lobby, however, US presidents have more typically bent to its will. That was only too obvious, for example, when Barack Obama folded in his early battle with Netanyahu to limit the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

But under Trump, the Israel lobby has come to exercise unrivalled power, because it is now far more than just one lobby. It is a five-headed Hydra worthy of Greek mythology, and only one of its heads relates directly to Israel or organised American Jewry.

In fact, the lobby’s power now derives not chiefly from Israel. Since Trump’s election, the Israel lobby has managed to absorb and mobilise an additional four powerful lobbies – and to a degree not seen before. They are: the Christian evangelicals, the alt-right, the military-industrial complex, and the Saudi Arabia lobby.

Domestically, Trump’s election victory depended on his ability to rally to his side two groups that are profoundly committed to Israel, even though they are largely indifferent, or actively hostile, to the Jews who live there.

Leaders of the US alt-right – a loose coalition of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups – are infatuated with Israel but typically dislike Jews. That sentiment has been encapsulated by alt-right leader Richard Spencer, who describes himself as a “white Zionist”.

In short, the alt-right treasures Israel because it has preserved a long-discredited model of a fortress-like, belligerent racial homeland. They want the US reserved exclusively for an imagined “white” community, just as Israel defines itself as representing an exclusive Jewish community.

Trump’s reliance on the alt-right vote was highlighted by the early appointment to his administration of several leading figures associated with the movement, including Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Michael Flynn, Julia Hahn and Sebastian Gorka.

Fulfilling God’s prophecy

But more significant still has been the role of evangelicals. That is why Mike Pence, a devout Christian, was chosen as Trump’s running mate. Trump’s team understood that the votes of tens of millions of Americans were assured if Trump pandered to their prejudices.

And happily for Netanyahu, their keenest prejudice is fanatical support for Israel – and not just for Israel inside its internationally recognised borders, but also for Greater Israel, which includes many dozens of illegal Jewish settlements built on Palestinian land.

The Christian Zionists believe that Jews must be corralled into their biblical homeland to fulfill divine prophecy and bring about the Second Coming of the Messiah.

It was primarily for the sake of these Christian Zionists that Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. And it was why two evangelical pastors with a history of anti-Semitic remarks, John Hagee and Robert Jeffress, were called on to offer their blessings at the opening ceremony.

Trump’s indebtedness to the evangelicals is one reason to be worried about his policies in the region. The Christian Zionists have no interest in fairness, justice or international law. Rather, they are prepared to inflame tensions in the Middle East – and even trigger Armageddon itself – if they think it might benefit Israel and further God’s prophecy.

Eisenhower’s warning

The military-industrial complex has enjoyed a much longer, if more veiled, influence on US politics. A former US army general who became president, Dwight Eisenhower, warned of the looming threat posed by an increasingly dominant corporate sector dependent on war profits back in 1961.

Since then, the power of these corporations has accreted and expanded in precisely the ways Eisenhower feared. And that has only helped Israel.

In the early 1980s, Noam Chomsky, the dissident US intellectual, observed in his book The Fateful Triangle that Israel and the US had different conceptions of the Middle East.

The US was then what Chomsky termed a “status quo power” that was mostly interested in preserving the existing regional order. Israel, on the other hand, was committed to destabilisation of the region – its Balkanisation – as a strategy to extend its hegemony over feuding, internally divided neighbouring states.

Today, it is not hard to see which vision of the Middle East prevailed. The US-headquartered war industries lobbied for – and have profited enormously from – an endless, global “war on terror” that needs their expensive killing toys. The West has even been able to market its wars of aggression against other sovereign states as “humanitarian” in nature.

The benefits to the military industries can be gauged by examining the ever-surging profits of large US arms manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon over the past decade.

Cultivation of fear

Israel has not only benefited from the sanctioning and dismemberment of regional rivals, such as Syria, Iraq and Iran, but it has exploited the opportunity to make itself indispensable to these war-profiting industries.

It has, for example, been the linchpin in developing and refining new ways to exploit the cultivation of fear – most significantly, the ever-expanding “homeland security” industry.

Using the occupied Palestinian territories for experimentation, Israel has specialised in developing surveillance and biometric technologies, lethal and non-lethal crowd control methods, complex incarceration systems, psychological profiling of subjugated populations, and highly dubious redefinitions of international law to lift existing restraints on war crimes and wars of aggression.

That has proved invaluable to the military industries that have sought to profit from new wars and occupations across the Middle East. But it has also meant Israel’s expertise is much sought-after by US political and security elites who wish to pacify and control restless domestic populations.

Israel’s encouragement of the Middle East’s destabilisation has raised new threats in the US – of protest, immigration and terrorism – for which Israel has then supplied readymade solutions.

Israel has helped to rationalise the militarisation of police forces in the US and elsewhere, and provided the training. It has also gradually introduced to the US and other Western countries the kind of racial and political profiling that has long been standard in Israel.

That is the reason why Israeli academic Jeff Halper has warned of the danger that the “war on terror” could ultimately turn all of us into Palestinians.

Alliance with Saudi Arabia

But perhaps the most significant additional boost to Israel’s power in Washington has been its newfound and barely concealed alliance with Saudi Arabia.

For decades, the oil lobby in the US was seen as a counterweight to the Israel lobby. That was why Israel’s supporters traditionally reviled the US State Department, which was viewed as an Arabist outpost.

No longer. Trump, ever the businessman, has cultivated even stronger ties to the Saudis, hoping that arms and technology sales will revive the US economy and his political fortunes.

During a visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to the US in March, Trump noted: “Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”

But Washington’s close ties to the Saudis are increasingly a boon to Israel rather than an impediment. The two have found common cause in their feverish opposition to Iran, and its Shia allies in Syria and Lebanon, and their determination to prevent them from gaining more power in the region.

Israel wants a military hegemony over the Middle East that Iran could undermine, while Riyadh needs an ideological and financial hegemony that Iran might be able to disrupt.

And the Palestinians – the only issue that continues formally to divide Israel and Saudi Arabia – are increasingly viewed by bin Salman as a chess piece he is ready to sacrifice in exchange for Iran’s destruction.

Trump tore up the nuclear accord agreed by Obama with Iran with such incendiary abandon this month because his two Middle East allies jointly demanded he do so.

And the indications are that he may do worse – even attacking Iran – if the pressure from Israel and the Saudis reaches a critical mass.

Time for a little humility

All of these various lobbies have long wielded significant power in Washington, but remained largely separate. In recent years, their interests have come to overlap considerably, making Israel ever more unassailable in US politics.

Under Trump, their agendas have aligned so completely that this multi-headed lobby has as good as collectively captured the presidency on matters that concern it most.

That is not to say that the Israel lobby will not face future challenges. Other pressures are emerging in reaction to the unaccountable power of the Israel lobby, including progressive voices in US politics that are, for the first time, breaking with the long-standing bipartisan nature of the debate about Israel.

Bernie Sanders’s unexpected surge in the Democratic nomination race for the presidency, the rise of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the growing alienation of young US Jews from Israel, and the US public’s ever-greater exposure on social media to Israel’s crimes are signs of trends it will be difficult for Israel to counter or reverse.

Israel is getting its way at the moment. But hubris is a fault we have been warned about since the time of the ancient Greeks. Israel may yet come to learn a little humility – the hard way.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Anti-semitism: Israel’s get-out-of-jail-free card

The silencing of critics of Israel using anti-semitism as the pretext is far from restricted to the current wave of attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party. It is now used to intimidate anyone who steps out of line on Israel. Once we raged against the conflation of anti-semitism and anti-Zionism. We have so lost that battle that it is now standard operating procedure for Israel’s apologists to conflate anti-semitism with simple criticisms of the current ultra-nationalist Israeli government.

Here is an illustration of our defeat, reported in the Israeli daily Haaretz. It concerns what would in other circumstances be a fairly standard satirical cartoon: this one published by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung about Israel winning the Eurovision song contest last week. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shown on stage dressed as Israel’s winning singer, Netta, and proclaiming “Next year in Jerusalem!”.

After the usual outcry, the cartoonist, Dieter Hanitzsch, was sacked. No Charlie Hebdo-style concerns about free speech on this occasion, it seems.

As has become familiar in these cases, Wolfgang Krach, editor-in-chief of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, seemed unsure himself whether the cartoon was actually anti-semitic. But presumably he thought it better to fire the cartoonist just to be on the safe side. Let’s hope Hanitzsch can take Krach and his newspaper to the cleaners at a labour tribunal.

One critic, Jonas Mueller-Töwe, who sounds like Germany’s version of Jonathan Freedland, has claimed that “a Jewish star” – that would be Israel’s emblem of the Star of David – on a rocket held by Netanyahu suggests that “behind every war, Jewish interests are hiding”. Instead we could simply trust our eyes, which provide a different meaning: that Israel, a highly militarised state, won the Eurovision song contest at the same time as it was devastating Gaza – again – and will now be able to use its hosting of a popular cultural event in Jerusalem next year to whitewash its war crimes.

Before we get too exercised about the significance of every detail, we should remember that political cartoons, by their very nature, need to use symbols as shorthand for more complex ideas. We demand the impossible from a cartoonist if we expect them to offer us political satire while denying them the possibility of using symbols.

So what is anti-semitic about the cartoon? It’s not about Jews, it’s about the Israeli prime minister and his war agenda. And Netanyahu’s purportedly “oversized nose, ears and lips” are surely well within the normal bounds of a caricature. Do we really want to impose a unique demand on cartoonists when dealing with Israel’s leaders of drawing anatomically precise images?

The problem here, as with the anti-semitism “crisis” debate about the Labour party, is that it is totally divorced from any sense of proportion or reality. The question we ought to be asking in a case like this is: what kind of satirical cartoon lambasting Israel could ever satisfy the criteria being demanded by the current anti-semitism watchdogs?

And in consequence, what cartoonist is going to dare to deploy their satirical skills against Israel when the response is invariably going to lead to their being accused of anti-semitism and possibly losing their career and their reputation?

That is precisely what weaponising anti-semitism means. It hands Israel a get-out-of-jail-free card. It intimidates opinion formers – journalists, cartoonists, comedians, politicians, civil society leaders, human rights activists – by making the issue of Israel so toxic that none dare touch it. One need only look to the BBC to see the result: a mix of anaemic fence-sitting and outright censorship when covering Israel.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously reminded us: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” A submission to those who abuse anti-semitism to make Israel unassailable entails terrifying consequences for the Palestinians. It requires that, after decades of betraying them, we in the west once again turn a blind to their suffering. And, as was highlighted last week in Israel’s slaughter of Gaza’s unarmed protesters, it clears the path to a future in which Israel can and will commit ever graver outrages against the Palestinians.

Jewish Federations Act as Israel Lobbyists

Is it a charity or political fundraiser for a right-wing foreign government?

People need to take a look at Canada’s Jewish Federations.

Together the United Jewish Appeal/Combined Jewish Appeal of Toronto, Montréal, Winnipeg, Windsor, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Vancouver and Atlantic Canada raise over $100 million annually. The largest in the network, UJA Toronto’s endowment and planned giving arm has $500 million in assets and planned gifts. CJA Montréal has over $300 million on hand.

In a recent letter to the Canadian Jewish News Morris Sosnovitch asked why UJA Toronto gives a quarter of its budget to a country with a $360 billion national budget. All Canadian taxpayers should ask why tax deductions are given for the $13.7 million UJA Toronto, $3.8 million CJA Montréal, $1.2 million CJA Vancouver, etc. donated last year to Israel, among the world’s 25 wealthiest countries, run for the past decade by one of the most right wing, openly racist governments in the world. The Jewish Federations also oversee the United Israel Appeal Federations Canada. In 2016 that registered charity raised $80 million.

Beyond annual allotments, the Federations have repeatedly topped up their annual donations to Israel. In a particularly disturbing comment on Israel’s supporters, aggression has been good for fundraising. In support of the IDF killing 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014, UJA Toronto launched an emergency appeal. Led by Fred Waks, the staunch advocate of late billionaires Bernie and Honey Sherman, the special appeal raised over $5.6 million.

Alongside its fundraising support, UJA Toronto has organized an annual Walk with Israel for 46 years. Additionally, UJA Toronto cosponsored a celebration of Israel’s 2014 military onslaught on Gaza under the title “We Will Not be Silent: A March Against Global Anti-Semitism.” The Times of Israel reported: “The purpose of the march was passionately summed up in Bill Glied’s closing remarks: ‘Thank God for the IDF. Thank God for Israel. And remember together we must stand. Never again!’”

The cross-country UJAs are the source of most Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ funding. While it refuses to reveal details, CIJA’s budget is between $8 and $11 million a year. To get a sense of its politics, CIJA backed moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, getting rid of the Iran nuclear accord and Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza. Recently CIJA called on Canadian Jews to write the government to request Canada take more Eritrean, Sudanese and other African refugees that Israel is seeking to expel. Apparently, CIJA wants an as ‘Jewish and white as possible’ state in the Middle East but supports multiculturalism in Canada.

The CJAs also fund a variety of other pro-Israel institutions. The Federations give millions of dollars every year to campus Hillels, which refuse to associate with Jews (or others) who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the state of Israel.”

The Federations also provide millions of dollars to Jewish day schools that promote the Israeli nationalist narrative. A March Canadian Jewish News cover story titled “What to teach Jewish students about Israel?” detailed the growing importance given to classes on Israel at Jewish day schools. While students have long been “taught from a young age to see Israel as the land of milk and honey”, in recent years Jewish day schools have ramped up their indoctrination in reaction to “anti-Israel student groups on campuses throughout North America.”

One of the five “Faces of Success” in a CJA booklet promoting Montréal Jewish schools is a man named Oliver Moore, a graduate of McGill Law who works with the notoriously right wing NGO Monitor in Jerusalem. Moore is quoted stating:

My experience attending Jewish high school imprinted me with a Zionist ethic and a profound appreciation for Israel’s importance. It troubles me that Israel is under constant political threat and that its legitimacy is questioned. What I find especially disturbing is that the language of human rights has been distorted to dispute its right to exist. That is why I’ve decided to go to Israel and examine this issue in depth, and when I return to Canada, to contribute to Israel advocacy.

Simultaneously, the Federations suppress Jewish advocates of Palestinian rights. They largely refuse to let Independent Jewish Voices book rooms at Federation community centres. In 2009 CJA canceled an IJV room rental at the Gelber Conference Centre in Montréal for a talk by Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. The Jewish Community Centre of Ottawa openly refuses to rent space to IJV because it “advocates for positions that run counter to the objectives of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.” In 2011 UJA Toronto threatened to “sever ties” with the Morris Winchevsky Centre over a United Jewish Peoples’ Order talk by Auschwitz survivor Dr. Hajo Meyer titled “Never Again for Anyone”.

Incredibly, there has been little public criticism of UJA’s anti-Palestinianism. Despite delivering tens of millions of dollars a year to Israel and spending a comparable sum on Israel advocacy in Canada, the organization presents itself as an apolitical “charity”.

It’s past time to bring some pressure to bear on these morally odious institutions. Taxpayers should tell political leaders they don’t want to subsidize a wealthy country in the Middle East and the Canada Revenue Agency should be pushed to investigate whether Federation funding to CIJA and other politically engaged organizations contravene their rules about charities spending no more than 10% of their budget on politics.

It’s time for those who care about peace and international justice to treat the Federations the same way they treat Palestinians.

France and the Antisemitism Canard

There is real antisemitism and there is ersatz antisemitism. The latter has of late been getting more press than the former. The coinage has been debased.

Israeli academic Neve Gordon, a sometime target, notes:1

There is an irony here. Historically, the fight against anti-Semitism has sought to advance the equal rights and emancipation of Jews. Those who denounce the ‘new anti-Semitism’ seek to legitimate the discrimination against and subjugation of Palestinians. In the first case, someone who wishes to oppress, dominate and exterminate Jews is branded an anti-Semite; in the second, someone who wishes to take part in the struggle for liberation from colonial rule is branded an anti-Semite. …

Conventionally, to call someone ‘anti-Semitic’ is to expose and condemn their racism; in the new case, the charge ‘anti-Semite’ is used to defend racism, and to sustain a regime that implements racist policies.

The imbalance is best reflected in the craven catering by the European Parliament2 and by Britain3 and Austria to the pastiche of ersatz antisemitism pushed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – the bulk of which detail concerns quarantining Israel from criticism.

In opposition, the French organisation Union Juive Française pour la Paix noted, in June 2017:

It’s necessary to highlight that there is no officially condoned antisemitism in Europe, and that this vote is clearly intended to prevent not genuine antisemitism but the legitimate political criticism of a state, of its policies and of its character. The vote on this resolution brings home to us that, here in Europe, the right to criticize Israel is based on the general freedom of political expression – an asset so precious and fragile that it is necessary to defend it at all costs.

Ersatz anti-Semitism and the Pascal Boniface affair

The French academic Pascal Boniface has just published another book on the subject – L’Antisémite ((Pascal Boniface, L’Antisémite, Max Milo, December 2017.)) – for good personal reasons.

In his training, Boniface developed an expertise in international affairs, especially regarding defense and disarmament. The Parti Socialiste candidate François Mitterand is elected President in 1981. There is a void within PS personnel in these arenas. Boniface joins the PS, and becomes part of an ‘international’ secretariat of thinking heads. In this capacity, Boniface has interaction with PS heavies, especially those elected responsible for his fields.

In 2000, Alain Chenal, heading the Middle East/Mediterranean sector of the PS’ secretariat, establishes a small group to reflect on what the position of the PS should be regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was not expected to make waves.

In this context, Boniface wrote an internal 1300 word note in April 2001 regarding the PS’ de facto position on the Israel-Palestinian question. He suggested that the position – tacit support for Israeli governments (Ariel Sharon had become Prime Minister in March) that continue to flout international law – was driven by realpolitik rather than principle. The position deserved re-examination. The note is reproduced in L’Antisémite.4

The note was disseminated by supporters of Israel within the PS.  He was flooded with messages of criticism and abuse (including from Israel). There were some supportive responses.

He decided to write an article for Le Monde, which appeared on 3 August 2001. The abuse went public and continued – indefinitely. Select instances of abuse are recounted below.

In 1990 Boniface had created a research centre – the Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques (IRIS). He now found IRIS under attack as well, with his opponents contacting Council members (typically significant public figures) to resign and thus discredit the organization.

The long term campaign against Boniface

On 6 August, Clement Weill-Raynal, president of the Association of Jewish Journalists of France (Boniface: the membership being countable on the fingers of one hand), and lawyer/columnist Gilles-William Goldnagel wrote to Serge Weinberg, then president of the IRIS Council (familiarly, as a member of the Jewish community). They assert, inter alia (p.59):

[The note] has aroused a keen agitation in the breast of the Jewish community which finds itself implicated and sees itself denied the legitimate right to support Israel in the framework of democratic debate. … Alignment with these peremptory arguments, these faux pas, outrageous in tone, can only be prejudicial to the reputation of IRIS and to the heart of its Council over which you preside. We know equally that we have always been able to count you amongst the friends of Israel in France.

On 8 August, Le Monde published a riposte, vicious, to Boniface by the then Israeli ambassador, Élie Barnavi. The article implicitly carried extra weight because Barnavi was a significant figure on the ‘Left’ of Israeli politics – historian, partisan of peace with the Palestinians, etc. He had been appointed by Prime Minister Barak, but a Sharon-led government was now in place, and Barnavi appeared to be acting under instructions from the new government. There followed further abuse, even death threats.

Boniface found the event arresting. Here was a representative of a foreign government in a French daily of reference, threatening free speech in France, and accusing a Frenchman of racism. This should have been cause for public concern, but no.

In September, the L’Arche journal, a Jewish institutional outlet, in a long accusatory article under the title ‘Dr Pascal and Mr Boniface’, presents Boniface as being dangerous for French Jewry.

In December, in the conservative weekly Valeurs actuelles, Michel Gurfinkiel attributes recent presumed antisemitic incidents to the tolerance of such amongst the Left and the Greens, a tolerance that he claims has now infiltrated the PS courtesy of Boniface.

Simultaneously, Éric Conan in the conservative weekly L’Express accompanies figures and photos of antisemitic incidents, attributed to the Arab-Muslim community, with the claim that Boniface’s note induces the PS to opportunistically orient itself to this community because of its electorally greater weight than that possessed by the Jewish community. It is a lie that will be repeated endlessly, including by Conan into 2002. Boniface infers that the near identical articles by Gurfinkiel and Conan were fed by the fiercely pro-Israel peak Jewish organisation, Conseil représentative des institutions Juives de France (CRIF).

In early 2002, the US Neo-con pro-Israel Weekly Standard interviews Boniface on French foreign policy in the context of the Presidential election campaign. Although the interview is cordial, the published article is titled ‘Liberty, Equality, Judeophobia’, and Boniface’s purported views referred to as ‘bonifascisme’. The label is later reprised by the extreme pro-Israel Right.

In April, the first round of the Presidential election puts the PS candidate Lionel Jospin (then Prime Minister) into third place behind the National Front’s Jean-Marie Le Pen – a disaster for the Party. Boniface is blamed for his defeat. Boniface is accused of scaring Jewish voters en masse to desert the PS.

In September, Raynal, writing under a nom-de-plume in Actualité juive, accuses Boniface of subjecting the Jewish community to violent attack through his insinuations.

In 2003, the pro-Israel forces within the PS set up the Cercle Léon Blum under the direction of lawyer Laurent Azoulaï, formally to fight antisemitism but in reality to shore up the PS as a pro-Israel bastion. Some prominent anti-zionist (my label) Jews were in the meantime accused of antisemitism, but there was no peep out of Le Cercle Léon Blum.

Also in 2003, Élisabeth Schemla, former journalist of L’Express and Nouvel Observateur, creates the site Proche-Orient.info, to shore up Israel’s image in the face of the country’s deteriorating reputation globally. Schemla accuses Boniface of assimilating Israel with Middle-Eastern dictatorships and of incorporating Israel in an ‘axis of evil’. A new campaign is launched against Boniface. Some PS members move to have Boniface expelled from the PS.

In March 2003, Proche-Orient.info claimed that Boniface had been running around the Middle East (in 2002) furiously trying to drum up financial support for IRIS in fear of the Right coming to power. The site refers to the pursuit of ‘black gold’, claiming that such links will fuel arms sales to Israel’s neighbours and subject Israel to attack. Through this chain of ‘reasoning’ Boniface, claims the site, will end up before the International Criminal Court.

In June, a grand meeting of the pro-Israeli ‘ultras’ takes place, with Benjamin Netanyahu as honoured guest. Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) is reported as reclaiming the momentum (p.96):

As a Jew I have a natural sympathy for Israel. As a socialist I have a political sympathy. The Left has deceived you. There have been some unauthorised notes [allusion to the text written by Boniface …]. They were contemptible. … I’m telling you that the Left is back on board.

In spite of some internal support, Boniface surrenders his membership of the PS soon after this affair. For Boniface, debate has been rendered impossible. He notes that, during the 2012 Presidential campaign, François Hollande had proposed the recognition of Palestine. CRIF had led a battle against Hollande in favour of (the incumbent) Nicolas Sarkozy. By August 2012, Hollande as President had renounced the idea.

In May 2004, Malek Boutih, then PS functionary, in an interview claimed that it was a good thing that Boniface had resigned from the PS as he did not want the Party associated with this sectarian discourse. Boniface wrote to Boutih to correct him, but received no response.

In August, regular media interviewee Frédéric Encel variously claims that Boniface was in the pay of Saddam Hussein (because Boniface was opposed to the invasion of Iraq) and in the pay of Qatar because Boniface (as a football tragic) hadn’t objected to Qatar being handed the 2022 World Cup.

Boniface, finding irony as one of the few means of responding to the onslaught, noted that Qatar was throwing money around with abandon, but none had gone in his direction.

In December, Boutih repeated his lie of May. On advice, Boniface decided to sue for slander. The lower court decided for Boniface in October 2006 and again in the court of appeal in July 2007. The repeated claims that his April 2001 note recommended electoral opportunism to the PS were judged contrary to its contents. That should have ended the polemic, but no – on the contrary.

In March 2006, media commentator Philippe Val and Bernard-Henri Lévy (BHL) in a radio exchange repeat the libel. BHL is the omnipresent celeb ‘public intellectual’ which fortunately has few rivals elsewhere.

In 2008, Raynal has Boniface meeting Hezbollah officials in Lebanon, photos as ‘proof’. Boniface highlights that at the time he was in a group visit to Lebanon where they met everybody, and he had pretty much been around the world multiple times – a product of his professional orientation.

In November 2015, BHL questions on air ‘what is the state, especially the Foreign Ministry, doing subsidizing Boniface’s IRIS’. ‘Questions should be asked’, he says. BHL continues to lobby IRIS Council members against its director.

A perennial antagonist has been Frédéric Haziza, presenter on the Parliamentary television network LCP-AN and on radio. According to Boniface, Haziza has regularly placed loaded statements before his invitees, inducing them to share his prejudices. Boniface claims that at one stage Haziza even held him responsible for the horrendous murders at the kosher supermarket on the Paris perimeter in January 2015.

In January 2017, Haziza put loaded statements to Manuel Valls who was standing in the PS Primary for selection of the Presidential election candidate. The same lies are repeated regarding Boniface’s note. It is suggested that Boniface, because he finds an ear of people in power, has fostered national division, fractures, parcellization, etc. Valls, once on friendly terms with Boniface (a 2003 letter of support from Valls is included in Boniface’s book), had since gone over to the ultras.

In November 2017, in an article in the ‘Left-wing’ weekly Marianne, Valls repeats the mantra. “What Boniface has written over the years poses a real problem. I have besides taken issue with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Armed Forces which finance IRIS …” Freedom of expression, a là Je suis Charlie, is to be selectively applied. Valls claims that Boniface, in league with other ne’er-do-wells, is engaged in intellectual terrorism against right-thinking people. Valls reproaches the ‘complaisance’ of Boniface and his crowd regarding the Islamic threat, his current obsession.

Not enough to attack the man, Boniface’s three sons were all, at various times, tarred with the same brush.

Boniface notes that what has happened to him is hardly credible. For 16 years, the same accusations, whereas 15 minutes reflection in examination of the April 2001 note (or any other public statement) could have cleared up the inanity.

The atmosphere

A charged atmosphere has thus enveloped Pascal Boniface since 2001. A note on the L’Antisémite book on the Left-wing site Le Grand Soir provides an instructive clue – reference to don Brasilio’s la calunnia aria in Beaumarchais’ libretto for Rossini’s Barber of Seville, devoted to advice for the disarming of a stronger adversary: Here’s part of it:

The calumny is a little wind,
a very gentle little breeze
which numbly, softly,
lightly, kindly,
begins to whisper.
Little by little, mildly,
in a low voice, hissing,
it goes flowing, it goes buzzing;
in people’s ears
it enters deftly
and makes heads and brains
stun and blow.
Getting out from the mouth
the clamour grows …

Such is the means by which Boniface has been turned into a pariah.

Notes Boniface, how many times have I heard: ‘Your reputation precedes you.’ Or ‘I’ve not read but I’ve heard speak …’

With respect to Conan’s articles in L’Express in late 2001 and 2002, Boniface had a telephone exchange. “You’ve distorted my views”, said Boniface. According to Boniface, Conan replied thus: “Yes, but that’s not how the note is interpreted in the breast of the community.”

The manager of a Jewish radio station claims to Boniface: “I haven’t read your note but I take [Elisabeth Schemla’s] word for it.” Boniface finds it astounding that for an affair which this media commentator finds so important he cannot be bothered to check the facts.

Notes Boniface, “gradually the rumor becomes a certainty and the accusation undeniable”. Including even for Boniface’s doctor. Thus is Boniface subject to “accusation without proof and without grounds; culpable without crime and condemned without right of appeal”.

Three of Boniface’s most strident detractors, all with regular use of the media, have been Frédéric Encel, Frédéric Haziza and Bernard-Henri Lévy. Boniface reports that Encel has claimed on Jewish radio that when he goes on the media he does so above all to defend Israel. That Haziza has said ‘as a journalist, he has always worked for Israel’. And that BHL, at a CRIF convention, had pushed for war in Libya in thinking ‘above all of Israel’.

President Emmanuel Macron is currently concerned with the supposed prevalence of “fake news” reaching vulnerable French citizens and is canvassing measures to stamp it out. Predictably, he is looking in the wrong places.

Pascal Boniface, the moderate

Of relevance is that Boniface is a moderate regarding the Israel-Palestine ‘question’.

He is scrupulous in his language and approach. This mentality has been embodied in IRIS itself.

Boniface was 12 years old during May ’68 and he confronted, via the strong views of his stepfather and father, two diametrically opposed interpretations of the same events. The experience stuck with him. He has sought dialogue with even his most vituperative critics, and has even been involved in some joint projects as a consequence.

He has been a consistent advocate of the ‘two-state solution’. He doesn’t criticize Israel qua state, but Israeli governments. Many Israelis are fiercer and more fundamental critics of Israel than is this man accused non-stop of upending the security of French Jewry.

His object of criticism is ‘the pro-Israel lobby’, which divides not Jews and non-Jews but sectarianism5 and universalism. Many of his collaborators and supporters are Jewish who face their own marginalization by the ‘ultras’ claiming to represent French Jewry in toto.

Boniface cites a telling article by Clement Weill-Raynal (by this time, following dialogue, supportive), in L’Obs of February 2009, titled ‘Who wants the skin of Pascal Boniface’ (p.174):

For if Boniface is the key man to silence, it is precisely on account of the moderate character of his positions on the Middle East conflict, which renders him more dangerous for extremists of every hue.

A natural trajectory

Pascal Boniface is everyman. As a youngster, from the evidence he was exposed to and devoured, he was naturally sympathetic to Jewish suffering and then also to Israel.

As a child he was strongly affected by a 1963 song by Jean Ferrat, Nuit et brouillard (night and fog), which evoked the Nazi death camp trains. In school, he participated in the showing of Resnais’ 1956 Nuit et brouillard (the common title taken from a 1941 directive of the German occupier), the previously unseen shocking images of which had a powerful impact.

Still young, he was moved by reading The Diary of Anne Frank and Koestler’s novel La Tour d’Ezra (English title, the 1946 Thieves in the Night), the latter on early Jewish settlement in Palestine.

In the 1970s, the crimes of Vichy are belatedly allowed into the light in France. A documentary on the Dreyfus affair exposes the antisemitism of France’s late 19th Century and the nobility of the struggle against it. The path-breaking 1969 documentary Le Chagrin et la Pitié, censored in France for a period because of its exposure of collaboration, added to his education.

Thus was Boniface “strongly sensitized to the cause of the struggle against antisemitism” – engendered by the horrors of the concentration camps, the deportations under Vichy, the intolerable injustice of Dreyfus and a general admiration for the great Jewish writers.

Then, as everyman (p.39):

My appreciation of the Israel-Palestine conflict has evolved in the course of the years in a manner, it seems to me, rather representative of the general and global evolution of public opinion in France: from strong support for Israel to the taking of conscience on the lot of the Palestinians.

The high point of support in France was in the immediate aftermath of the six-day war. It was David against Goliath, those plucky Jewish settlers who had made the desert bloom, surrounded by aggressive Arab neighbors, etc. The mainstream media – before, then and later – was universally pro-Israel.

The turning point comes with de Gaulle, ‘acting as a man of state’. In late 1967, de Gaulle puts an end to the long time strategic Franco-Israeli alliance – that which had produced the 1956 Suez fiasco and which had seen France as Israel’s top supplier of armaments and facilitator of its nuclear arms capacity. Later, Mitterand, ignoring the PS Party barons, declares in 1982 that the Palestinians must have a state of their own and in 1988 accommodates a visit of Arafat to France. Later still, Chirac also pursues a detached line.

To CRIF’s protests in 1988, labeling Arafat a terrorist, Mitterand replied (p.112):

[I intend to] determine the policy of France and not that of a particular community. … You come to see me as French citizens. Well, the Jews will vote as they want. I have clearly seen that there has been an unfavorable reaction to me and the policies I enact. You will do as you must. Let me say to you that that is of no importance – France is on another plane. It includes many parties other than the Jewish community.

For Boniface, a succession of events leads to a reconsideration of his earlier views. The Israeli intervention and actions in the Lebanese civil war after 1982 exposed Israel as an aggressor, no longer a David against more powerful neighbors. The violent repression of the non-violent first Intifada after 1987 was a key moment. And, of course, the ongoing settlements in the Occupied Territories – contrary to international law.

The everyman Boniface happens to be of the genus homo academicus. His particular specialty demanded that he confront Middle Eastern affairs, as elsewhere, with the professional skills acquired in his training. Boniface had to learn that, when it comes to Israel, other criteria apply.

Implications of l’affaire Boniface and comparable

The Israel lobby operates on the presumption that reason and evidence, after which humanity itself, has to be jettisoned.

Boniface notes wryly that the accusations that he is in receipt of petro monarchy funds follows naturally from the axiom that one can’t acknowledge that criticism of an Israeli government is a product of reasoning and analysis.

Boniface is a slow learner (p.167):

What has happened to me is hardly credible. … The same received ideas [over 16 years] that could not withstand examination seem engraved in marble. I find it difficult to believe that, in a world where knowledge, individual and/or collective reflection and the means to know and understand augment daily, that people can still affirm that to criticize the government of a country is synonymous with hatred, as well as of its people. The consistent strategy to appropriate ‘antisemitism’ in the service of the protection of a government, an alliance of hard Right and extreme Right, has been long successful.

Boniface looks for explanations behind cathartic events. The latter don’t come from nowhere. He surmised that the July 2005 London assassinations requires an examination of contemporary chaos in the Middle East, not least the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He is vilified for this attempt.

By contrast, Boniface could strongly criticize the incoming Chirac government after 1986 over its moves to re-integrate France into NATO and to re-start nuclear testing. He did so, and with no adverse impact on IRIS funding.

There are multiple tyrannies globally. One is permitted to analyze and criticize them, indeed in some cases (those of ‘our enemies’) one is feted. But for one country, the freedom of expression does not apply.

More, detractors regarding Israel and related matters should not be permitted to expound on anything else. They have to be shut down totally. When Boniface was invited to an outer Parisian suburban library in autumn 2014 to talk on ‘conflicts in the world’, the mayor, seeking election to a higher post and being warned off by the lobby, cancelled the event. Boniface notes that Ukraine would have been the top subject of conversation.

As a (Jewish) friend noted, in a supportive letter reproduced in the book, Boniface has been ruled offside even before the match has started.

Beyond Boniface as a specific instance, the implications are profound. Education, intelligence, learning is a dangerous no no. What is the point then of the whole edifice of scholarly and educational institutions. Catechisms are preferred. Yet the West rails against Islamist madrassas devoted to churning out fundamentalists and possible jihadis.

Boniface defers to the outburst by the mad dog falangist and Franco lieutenant José Millán Astray in response to the principled stance of Miguel de Unamuno at a meeting in October 1936: “¡Muera la inteligencia! ¡Viva la Muerte!” – ‘Death to intelligence! Long live death!’

The more do successive Israeli governments fail the morality smell test the greater the reliance on the ‘death to intelligence’ catchcry. It’s called the hasbara.

The pro-Israel lobby operates openly in France as a fifth column. One can criticize Putin, no worries (it is obligatory to do so); Netanyahu, no way.

Boniface’s status within the PS was always marginal, but his 2001 note was seen as a potential virus. The PS had to be immunized against the Boniface effect, and immunized it was.

From 2016, the latest pretender to the throne and his novice En Marche troops had to be brought into line, and the ambition was readily effected. En Marche candidates for the June 2017 Legislative elections were vetted by CRIF and LICRA (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’Antisémitisme) and suspect candidates weeded out. President Macron knows where his bread is buttered.

A note at the end: the Badinter speeches

Robert Badinter is a French elder statesman. A doctorate in law and barrister, he was for a decade an unstinting champion of the abolition of capital punishment in France. As Justice Minister under the Mitterand Presidency, he personally oversaw the implementation of his ambition in October 1981 (as well as other path-breaking progressive legislation). He was fiercely attacked for his role and, I am advised, suffered antisemitic slurs from certain quarters in the process. He has since long been active in human rights activism at a global level.

However, two speeches of Badinter’s constitute ‘Exhibit A’ for the ambiguity of the antisemitism label and rebuke.

In February 2015, Badinter spoke at a gathering in Lyon to commemorate the local roundup of Jews under the Vichy regime in February 1943.6 His father was in the roundup.

The pathos of the occasion is well captured in his words:

I have come many times in the past to Lyon to commemorate the roundup of Jews on February 9, 1943, in the rue Sainte-Catherine, a place that is still so charged with painful memories. I’ve come alone and I’ve come with members of my family. I’ve watched the ceremonies. But I myself have never chosen to speak. The children of those deported, who saw their loved ones vanish into the night of the death camps, were, so to speak, amputees. Life heals the wound, scars form. But there are times when the unspeakable pain returns, when there is nothing but an empty void. I dreaded that sense of emptiness and chose instead to come among you all, in an act of filial piety and faithfulness to memory. Today, however, the time has come to break my silence.

But then this:

There seemed good reason to believe that violent anti-Semitism had been drowned in the torrents of blood spilled in the Holocaust. It was a fool’s paradise, we know that now. … in the twenty-first century, a new breed of anti-Semitism sprang up, masquerading under the name of anti-Zionism, and fomented by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, two thousand miles away from France.

Then follows a listing of recent horrific crimes carried out in France – against Jews, as well as others. Badinter calls the perpetrators of these murders barbarians, as indeed they are.

There is an implicit guilt attributed to the anti-zionist camp, whereas I have no doubt that its members would concur in Badinter’s designation of barbarity. More, the statement ‘the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, two thousand miles away from France’ puts Israel and Palestine on another planet, where the happenings there can thus be of no consequence whatsoever with respect to mindsets and events in France.

Back in the space- and time-eradicating world of late modern media, it has been reported that the Kouachi brothers, the Charlie Hebdo murderers, ‘would sit in apartments watching footage of the US-led invasion [of Iraq in 2003]’, evidently part of their ‘re-education’.

The 2003 Iraq invasion had Israel’s interests at or near the top of the list – c/f New York Times, 27 February 2003, and (a recent insider disclosure) Mondoweiss, 7 February 2018. Remember the clique that engineered the invasion, personnel centred on the Project for New American Century and the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, notably Wolfowitz and Feith, and including Bolton, Libby, Abrams, Wurmser, Perle, Kristol and Kagan – with Rumsfeld and Cheney giving the putsch formal ‘legitimacy’.

One might not want to too readily draw conclusions from wisps of information. But if researchers want to pursue possible links and join dots, not least professionals whose job it is to do just that, one should not try to prevent such activity if it threatens conceived wisdom or decline to peer into the material to ascertain whether there might be a soupçon of plausibility to it.

Robert Badinter gave a formal presentation to a UNESCO round table devoted to ‘the prevention of antisemitism’ in December 2016.7 It is here confronted circuitously that what’s going on in Israel and Palestine has something to do with it, if only to generate unwarranted heinous reactions in unstable minds.

The Toulouse multiple murderer Mohammed Merah is referred to (unnamed) in both Badinter speeches as representative of depravity in his clinical murder of Jewish schoolchildren. Unquestionably. Yet, in spite of the two thousand miles distance, the deranged Merah (before his convenient death in a massive shootout) saw fit to refer to the killing of Palestinian children by the Israeli forces. The attribution of the ‘barbarity’ epithet is selective.

Is it not conceivable that what we have in the deranged Merah and others turned fanatic is a response to the decades-long carnage of Israel against Palestinians (the Gaza butchery exemplary), and of the ‘West’ under American tutelage against (secular) Arab regimes which countries just happened to be not subsumed within the Western-Israeli alliance?

Chalmers Johnson called it ‘blowback’.8 Johnson was a principled Conservative, with an impeccable establishment background. He had his several ‘road to Damascus’ moments. Alas, he is dead, and his significant scholarship and insights have been almost immediately consigned to the margin.

Badinter claims ‘I am not going to discuss the legitimacy of the rights of the various parties here, nor the best solution to end this conflict’. However his preceding paragraphs imply indubitably that legitimacy is entirely with the state of Israel (qua Jewish state). Badinter’s short statement on the origins of the state of Israel are a shocking, if conventional, caricature.

A speech to a UNESCO gathering is no place for the battles over history, but it is also no place for fairy tales. Out of which comes, in noir et blanc:

What is certain is that in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, anti-Semitism has once again spread widely under the name of anti-Zionism. We must have the lucidity to recognize that under this label that refers to Zionism, it is indeed the Jews, and Jews everywhere, who are targeted. And I would say that anti-Zionism under the surface is nothing but the contemporary expression of anti-Semitism, namely, hatred of the Jews.

This statement is wrong, unacceptable, and inexplicably misplaced from a man of Badinter’s personal and professional experience.

To maintain the dignity of any commemoration of Jewish victimization – of the Holocaust or the roundup under Vichy or of crimes against individuals – it would seem essential that Israel (and the antisemitism accusations derived therefrom) be absent from the narrative.

I would surmise that a significant percentage of anti-zionists are themselves Jewish, possibly even the majority – certainly amongst the activist core. Simply, they don’t want their personal integrity compromised by this criminal rogue state and its vast support and disinformation propaganda network.

Behind ersatz antisemitism is the claim that questioning Israel’s unsavoury behavior involves ‘the Jews, and Jews everywhere, who are targeted’. It is a lie. Rather, the incorporation of ‘Jews everywhere’ with the imperatives of the state of Israel, and thus collective responsibility for its crimes, is the responsibility of the Israel lobby. Thus is the security (and integrity) of Jewish communities everywhere, and each individual, endangered.

Real antisemitism has been instrumentalized by the ersatz antisemitism bandwagon. The state of Israel is the beneficiary. The Palestinians remain the immediate victims. International Jewish communities also become victims – victims of their unsolicited inclusion in Israel’s criminality and its instutionalized protectorate hiding behind the ersatz antisemitism canard.

Pascal Boniface and others of his ilk are scapegoats in this ongoing travesty.

  1. Neve Gordon, ‘The New “Anti-Semitism”’, London Review of Books, 4 January 2018.
  2. Union Juive Française pour la Paix, ‘An Intolerable Europeanization of ‘Antisemitism’ Blackmail’, Counterpunch, 7 June 2017.
  3. Stephen Sedley, Letter in response to Gordon, London Review of Books, 8 February 2018.
  4. The note is also reproduced in Boniface’s 2014 La France malade du conflit israélo-palestinien, Éditions Salvator, February 2014. I outline the contents and the context of La France malade in ‘The Israel Lobby and French Politics’, Counterpunch, 9 July 2014.
  5. In the French, communautaire and communautarisme, which have negative connotations. It would be misleading to use the close English equivalent, so ‘sectarian’ and ‘sectarianism’ is chosen here.
  6. Robert Badinter, ‘France: The Return of Anti-Semitism’, New York Review of Books, 13 August 2015.
  7. Robert Badinter, ‘Antisémitisme: tirer les enseignements de l’histoire’, UNESCO, 6 December 2016, reproduced to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January. The speech in English, ‘Anti-Semitism: Learning the lessons of history’, is reproduced here.
  8. Chalmers Johnson,  Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, Time Warner, 2000, 2002.

Jewish Power and Free Speech

Remember the days of poking fun at Pravda, the Russian government-owned press? We asked: how could anyone rely on the truthfulness of reports that were filtered by agenda-driven government agents? Aren’t we Americans lucky to live in a land where our news isn’t filtered, where we — unlike our Russian counterparts — enjoy a “free” press?

We have witnessed how Jewish Power persuaded at least a half dozen billboard companies to refuse our attempts to run billboards with the simple message:

America First Not Israel (latest example here). Careful readers will remember how an Ann Arbor Jew convinced publisher Patricia Garcia to refuse our ad request in the Ann Arbor Observer last year.

Pressing on, WfP initiated contact with the local MLive Media Group, publisher of a resurrected Ann Arbor News, to run a display ad with the text:

America First Not Israel
Paid for by Deir Yassin Remembered
Saturday Protests 9:30-10:45 AM at 2000 Washtenaw Ave
Ann Arbor
All Welcome (moc.liamtohnull@robrannaligiv for more info)

After MLive received the desired text, and after we received the print ad specs and discount page, marketing executive Hannah Gellis then inquired: “Thanks, Henry. After looking at the discount sheet, how many ads are you interested in running? ”

We responded “We are looking at placing six ads, two per month if the marketing program allows. Sunday editions Eighth-page ads (6 @ $240/ad = $1440). We would then be looking at two ads in December, two in January and two in February.”

She then asked for “Name of advertiser’s business/group funding these ads (I see on the billboard creative that it states ‘paid for by Deir Yassin Remembered,’ but please confirm) Advertiser’s billing address”

We confirmed Deir Yassin Remembered and provided MLive Media Group with my local address for billing purposes. Five hours later, however, Hannah dropped the ax:

Henry,
MLive has sole discretion to reject any ad, and after review, we will not be accepting this ad placement.
I’m sorry I could not assist you in your marketing needs. Please let me know if you need anything else.
Best wishes,
Hannah Gellis |MLive Media Group
Marketing Executive

We asked MLive how and by whom this decision was made? “Were there reasons given for the ad’s rejection? Could Mlive suggest another wording that would pass muster?”

Hannah’s terse response: “We won’t be answering these questions. It’s in MLive’s discretion to reject ads, and we do from time to time. Thank you for your inquiry…”

Seems like this is deja vu all over again, and we report these events not because we’re complaining, but to document evidence of Jewish Power and its corrosive impact on speech.

Walls and Militarized Police: How Israel Is Exporting Its Occupation to the United States

Israeli footprints are becoming more apparent in the US security apparatus. Such a fact does not bode well for ordinary Americans.

US Senate Bill S.720 should have been a wake-up call. The Bill, drafted by the Israel lobby group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), as part of its “2017 Lobbying Agenda” is set to punish any individual or company that boycotts Israel for its violation of Palestinian human rights.

The severe punishment could reach a million dollars in fines, and up to 20 years in jail. Although political boycott has been sanctioned by the US Supreme Court, the Congress wants to make a boycott of Israel the exception, even if it means the subversion of US democracy.

Still, protests are largely muted. The mainstream US media is yet to take US lawmakers to task, as hundreds of those elected representatives have already endorsed the unacceptable initiative.

Criticizing Israel is still a taboo in the US, where the Congress is beholden to lobby pressures and kickbacks, and where the media’s script on the illegal Israeli military occupation of Palestine is even less critical than Israel’s own media.

However, the infiltration of the US government is not new. It is only becoming more emboldened, due to the absence of enough critical voices that are capable of creating a semblance of balance or a serious debate on the issue.

For years, ordinary US citizens have been far-removed from the entire discussion on Israel and Palestine. The subject felt alien, marred by Hollywood propaganda, religious misconception and the lack of any understanding of history.

But in recent years, Israel has become an integral part of American life, even if most people do not spot the Israeli influence.

“In the aftermath of 9/11, Israel seized on its decades-long experience as an occupying force to brand itself as a world leader in counter-terrorism,” reported Alice Speri in the Intercept.

The successful branding has earned Israeli security firms billions of dollars. The massive payouts are the result of the exploitation of American fear of terrorism, while presenting Israel as a successful model of fighting terror.

In the last two decades, hundreds of top federal agents and thousands of police officers have, thus far, received training in Israel or through seminars and workshops organized on Israel’s behalf.

Groups like AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs are, to various degrees, involved in turning the US police force into militarized units similar to the structure of the Israeli police.

As an occupying power, Israel has blurred the lines between the police and the army. In areas like occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, both apparatus behave in a similar pattern. They ‘shoot to kill’ as a result of the slightest provocation or suspicion. Sometimes, for no reason at all.

Alex Vitale, an author and a Brooklyn College professor of sociology, described the nature of the regular trips made by federal agents and police officers to Israel.

“A lot of the policing that folks are observing and being talked to about on these trips is policing that happens in a non-democratic context.”

This ‘non-democratic context’ involves the policing, humiliating and often outright murdering of occupied Palestinians. Instead of pressuring Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinians, the US government is bringing Israeli ‘expertise’ to its own cities.

Indeed, the US military-like police phenomena has made local cops look more like “an occupying force” than individuals sworn to protect the public.

Israel is exporting its occupation tactics to the US, with Israeli military contractors opening subsidiaries across the country, promoting their surveillance technologies, walls, border monitoring equipment and violent tactics.

Americans should be worried, but most are oblivious to the disturbing pattern because the media rarely sheds a light on the growing Israeli military influence on American life.

An Israeli company, Elta North America, (a subsidiary of the Israel Aerospace Industry) was one of eight companies awarded a massive sum to produce a prototype for the wall that the US intends to build along the US-Mexico border.

The wall was one of the main pledges made by Trump during his campaign for the White House. Israel was the first country to rush in support of Trump’s divisive words.

“President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea,” tweeted Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the time.

Although his support of Trump angered Mexico and many Americans, Netanyahu knew of the lucrative investments in the years ahead only too well.

Indeed, US border security has been a major source of revenue for Israeli companies.

One such generous contract was the one granted by the Obama Administration to the Israeli company Elbit Systems. Valued at $145-million, the company provided surveillance equipment and built towers along the Arizona/Sonora US-Mexico border.

Elbit also cashed in handsomely from Boeing in 2006 for its part in the “DHS’ Strategic Border Initiative.”

Magal Security System, the Israeli firm that has helped the Israeli military in tightening the siege on Gaza, is actively involved in the burgeoning US security industry, and was one of the first companies to pitch building the wall to cut off Mexico from the US.

Israel’s illegal tactics are now the model through which the US plans to police its cities, monitor its borders and define its relationship with its neighbors.

But the fact is that Israeli walls are not meant for defense, but rather to annex Palestinian and Arab land, while feeding its own national phobias of threats lurking all around.

While the US’s imprudent and violent response to September 11, 2001 attacks has contributed to existing American fears of the rest of the world, Trump’s isolationist policies pave the perfect ground for further Israeli infiltration of American government and society.

The evidence of all of this can now be found in major US cities, its various borders and the surveillance system that has the potential to monitor every US citizen.