Tag Archives: Mondoweiss

Buy Nation Books’ The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict

I am proud to announce that the book I was a researcher for has been released.  The Goldstone Report is a must-read document for all of those concerned with justice, peace and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  Now, you can read an edited version of the report in book form, alongside commentary and analysis from a list of amazing people.

I learned a ton doing work for the book, and I’m sure reading it will be even more fruitful.

Check out the book’s website.  Go here for Mondoweiss’ rundown of the book, and go here for how to purchase it.

The Hypocrisy of Fran Townsend

Fran Townsend, a former Bush administration advisor and now a CNN contributor

In the midst of the now-famous debate on CNN between Glenn Greenwald and Fran Townsend on WikiLeaks, Townsend claimed:

[The release of the State Department cables] was so vast, of what was public, whether or not it would be useful or no he made no distinctions about the harm he might be doing to foreign governments, to the U.S. government, to diplomats and soldiers around the world.

While Townsend is implying that WikiLeaks’ has caused harm to “diplomats and soldiers”–a claim that has no merit–she is at the same time an outspoken supporter of a designated terrorist group:  the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq (MEK).

Last week, according to Talking Points Memo (and pointed out by Mondoweiss):

A group of prominent Bush-era Republicans, including former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former White House adviser Frances Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, flew to Paris to speak in support of an Iranian exile group there — one that’s been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S.

TPM explains the history of MEK:

The group, known as Mujaheddin-e Khalq or MEK, is a militant group that’s been violently fighting the Iranian government since the 1960s. It has ties to the regime of Saddam Hussein, which trained and outfitted the MEK and for whom the MEK fought in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. According to the State Department, which declared the group a terrorist organization in 1997, the group’s philosophy is a combination of “Marxism, Islam, and feminism.

WikiLeaks does not have “blood on its hands,” as Townsend implied.  The MEK, on the other hand, does, according to the U.S. State Department–and has also caused harm to the very same U.S. “government, diplomats and soldiers” Townsend ostensibly looks out for:

During the 1970s, the MEK assassinated several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the violent takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Despite U.S. efforts, MEK members have never been brought to justice for the group’s role in these illegal acts.

In 1981, MEK leadership attempted to overthrow the newly installed Islamic regime; Iranian security forces subsequently initiated a crackdown on the group. The MEK instigated a bombing campaign, including an attack against the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Prime Minister’s office, which killed some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Prime Minister Mohammad-Javad Bahonar..

The MEK’s relationship with the former Iraqi regime continued through the 1990s. In 1991, the group reportedly assisted in the Iraqi Republican Guard’s bloody crackdown on Iraqi Shia and Kurds who rose up against Saddam Hussein’s regime; press reports cite MEK leader Maryam Rajavi encouraging MEK members to “take the Kurds under your tanks.”

 

 

J Street Responds To Questions Regarding BDS Meeting with Israel’s Foreign Ministry

I should have contacted J Street and asked for further information and clarification regarding their executive director’s comments to Hadassah magazine that he held “a meeting with people from Israel’s Foreign Ministry on how to address the BDS [Boycott Divestment Sanctions] movement.”  I didn’t, and wrote something up criticizing J Street before hearing what they had to say, and I apologize for that.  Writing something up fast without thinking of getting a response from the organization you’re critiquing is not good journalism, and that’s part of the perils of blogging and not having an editor every time you publish.

Adam Horowitz, the co-editor at Mondoweiss, did contact J Street after my post was published at Mondoweiss, and received a response from the lobby group:

A spokesperson said Kane was drawing the wrong conclusions about the meeting with the Israeli Foreign Ministry if he is to suggest J Street is participaiting in an Israeli-led effort to combat the BDS movement. Rather, the statement Ben-Ami brought to the meeting was that ending the occupation would be the most effective way to counter the deligimitization efforts Israel faces.

They pointed me to the following letter to the editor in the Forward from a J Street member that they said articulated their perspective:

Exclusion of Critics Gives Fodder to Foes

There can be no more striking illustration of the myopia and self-delusion of the organized Jewish leadership regarding global efforts to delegitimize Israel than the fact that no less than five separate panels on this subject at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly contained not a single critic of Israel’s policies (“Federations Find Youth Outreach Tricky Terrain at Yearly Meeting,” November 19).

They would have us believe that the gathering strength of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign — which, while ominous, is both ineffectual and totally one-sided — is purely a manifestation of anti-Semitism or misplaced anti-colonialism and has nothing to do with Israel’s behavior, such as its relentless expansion of settlements in the West Bank and encroachment on Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

Unless the new JFNA-sponsored Israel Action Network is prepared to acknowledge and confront Israelis and American Jews with this reality and work seriously, if quietly, to mitigate it, I fear that Israel will continue to provide fodder to those who seek to delegitimize and isolate her.

Gil Kulick New York, N.Y.”

My post did seem to imply that J Street may be working with the Israeli government to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and that was a fair assumption to make without hearing J Street explain it.  J Street has now explained, and if Jeremy Ben-Ami, their executive director, did tell the Israeli government that “ending the occupation would be the most effective way to counter the delegimitization efforts Israel faces,” then I say good for them.

 

Werner Cohn Smears Academic Critic of Israel Again

Werner Cohn, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of British Columbia, has been making quite a name for himself this year as someone who wants to shut down academic critics of Israel.

He was among the academics leading the smear campaign against Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi, the editor of a book highly critical of the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.  Bayoumi’s other book about Arab-Americans in Brooklyn was assigned as reading for incoming freshmen at Brooklyn College, which prompted Cohn and others to create an uproar.

Now, Cohn is attacking a self-described anti-Zionist Jew named Jennifer Peto who recently published a thesis on Jewish identity, victim hood and Israel.

Via Mondoweiss, the Canadian Jewish News reports:

The University of Toronto is coming under fire for granting its “imprimatur” to a master’s thesis that critics say is an allegation of “Jewish racism” and is of low academic standards.

In a letter to University of Toronto president David Naylor, retired sociology professor Werner Cohn said the thesis posits that “the Jews of the world, most particularly those of Canada and the United States, are racist and seek to oppress people of colour everywhere.”

The thesis, Cohen goes on, is averse to empirical data, and its author, Jennifer Peto, “makes wild… charges against her fellow Jews without a shred of evidence. . . “

Summarizing her thesis, Peto stated that it “focuses on issues of Jewish identity, whiteness and victimhood within hegemonic Holocaust education. I argue that today, Jewish people of European descent enjoy white privilege and are among the most socio-economically advantaged groups in the West. Despite this privilege, the organized Jewish community makes claims about Jewish victimhood that are widely accepted within that community and within popular discourse in the West…”

To give you an idea on where Cohn is coming from, he has written on “Jews who hate Israel,” links to documents that supposedly show Noam Chomsky’s “links to the neo-Nazis” and recently wrote a blog post that compared the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to the Nazi campaign of boycotting Jewish-owned businesses in Germany.

It appears Cohn has somewhat of an obsession with members of the Jewish community who are critical of Israeli policy.  But instead of interrogating why such members exist–the occupation, massacres in Gaza, the colonization of the West Bank–he simply denounces them as “haters” of Israel.

Jewish Establishment’s Motto: Hear No Evil, See No Evil On Israel

Nothing will change public discourse in the United States about Israel more than opening up the mainstream Jewish community’s conversation.  The establishment Jewish discourse on Israel is far removed from reality–this is why the five young Jews who interrupted Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly was so important.  It represented a small break from the delusions of the recent assembly, which was all about how Israel’s so-called enemies are “delegitimizing” the state.

Josh Nathan-Katzis (h/t Phil Weiss) of the Forward highlights this in his report from the New Orleans General Assembly (my emphasis):

And though conference leaders claimed to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from delegitimization, the panels promoted as addressing the issue contained no public critics of Israeli policy. The audience heard instead from Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz and from representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the right-leaning Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

And Joseph Dana, the excellent American-Israeli Jewish blogger and activist, makes a similar point in a must-read piece titled “Letter from America: I Long For the Days When I Can Speak to Community from Which I Came” (emphasis mine):

I am an American Jew who immigrated to Israel and is now working with the Palestinians in non-violence and solidarity. I am also completing a PhD in Jewish History at the Hebrew University. It is a testament to the openness of Palestinians and Palestinian groups in the United States that I am invited to speak as an honoured guest. It is also a reflection of the American Jewish community that they will not even listen to one of their own (American Jewish groups such as Hillel have turned down all of my invitations including at my alma mater where I graduated in the Jewish Studies program) on the issue of Israel’s occupation and non-violence.

Much work remains to be done on opening up the discourse in the U.S. Jewish community.  I like to think of myself as something of an idealist, and I admit that, so I’ll say that I think we’re getting somewhere.

Image and Reality of Barack Obama’s Israel Policy

Photo from AFP

The photo shown above of an Israeli throwing a shoe at an image of Barack Obama perfectly captures the bizarre notion emanating from right-wing Zionist circles, both in the U.S. and in Israel, that President Obama is hostile to the State of Israel.  In the U.S., neoconservative writers and commentators constantly push the meme that Obama is the most anti-Israel president the U.S. has ever seen.

Recently, journalists Edward Klein and Richard Chesnoff authored a five-part article titled “The Jewish Problem with Obama” that perfectly encapsulates the view that Obama is anti-Israel.   The main point of the article, which mostly quotes right-leaning Zionists like Bret Stephens, Ed Koch and Marty Peretz, is that Obama has lost his once overwhelming support with Jewish voters because of his supposedly tough stance on Israel.  The article cites his outreach to the Arab world, the short-lived spat over illegal settlements in East Jerusalem between Vice President Joe Biden and the Israeli government and the Obama administration’s endorsement of the “linkage” argument, which is the notion that the Israel/Palestine conflict contribues to anti-Americanism in the Middle East, bolsters terrorism and harms U.S. national security. 

The journalists even go as far to suggest that Obama’s not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic:

The White House seemed strangely indifferent to the feelings of resentment that its treatment of Netanyahu aroused in the Jewish community. For shortly after Netanyahu returned to Israel, the president risked provoking even greater Jewish outrage by insinuating that American troops were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan because Israel refused to agree to peace with the Palestinians. The Israeli-Arab conflict “is costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasures,” the president said.

A perception began to spread throughout the Jewish community that the Obama administration was not only outwardly hostile to Israel, but perhaps, without even knowing it, hostile to Jews as well. This thesis was forcefully argued by Jonathan Kellerman, the best-selling suspense novelist and a professor clinical pediatric and psychology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine…

But like the Tea Party fantasy of Obama as a socialist who wants to redistribute wealth to America’s poor, the image of Obama as anti-Israel belies the reality of how Obama has been a staunch ally of Israel while it swallows up more Palestinian land and kills and injures Palestinians daily.

Rhetoric about settlements aside, the Obama administration has continued many of the Bush administration’s staunchly pro-Israel polices, like the adoption of a “West Bank first” approach of showering the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank with aid, international backing and training for security forces in an effort to isolate Hamas, which runs Gaza.  This approach is an effort fully backed by Israel, which has had a long-time policy of separating the West Bank from Gaza in an effort to preclude the possibility of a Palestinian state and keep the Palestinians isolated in Bantustan-like arrangements. 

What’s more, the Obama administration has, in fact, bolstered U.S.-Israeli cooperation on a number of fronts.  Matt Duss, a national security blogger at Think Progress’ Wonk Room, succintly laid out why the notion that Obama is anti-Israel is just plain wrong in a post yesterday:

…There’s simply no serious argument to be made that President Obama hasn’t been, by any objective measure, an extremely pro-Israel president. He has remained committed to ensuring Israel’s qualitative military edge, raising the amount of U.S. military aid to Israel, making it the single largest expense of the 2010 foreign aid budget. Obama also authorized $205 million to enable Israel to complete its Iron Dome short-range missile defense system.

Obama has significantly increased the level of strategic dialogue and the depth of intelligence coordination between our two countries, particularly in regard to Iran. According an Israeli official I spoke to in June, that coordination is now “even better than under President Bush.”

Obama has expanded trade between Israel and the U.S., and played an extremely important behind-the-scenes role in bringing about Israel’s acceptance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Obama went before the United Nations General Assembly in September and challenged the international community to support Arab-Israeli peace, insisting before the world that “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” declaring that “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”

I would add to Duss’ list the administration’s offer of “military hardware, support for a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, help with enforcing a ban on the smuggling of weapons through a Palestinian state, a promise to veto Security Council resolutions critical of Israel during the talks and a pledge to forge a regional security agreement for the Middle East” in exchange for a measly two-month extension of the so-called “settlement freeze.”  

Some prominent supporters of Israel in the United States do appreciate Obama’s pro-Israel stance.  Phil Weiss reported earlier this month on a fund-raising letter being sent out by Mark and Nancy Gilbert, who are big-time fundraisers for the Democratic Party.  The letter thanks Obama for his support for Israel and goes on to quote a speech given by Ambassador Michael Oren touting the “brilliant accomplishments and strong support of Israel demonstrated by the Obama Administration.”

Still, Obama’s so-called “Jewish problem” has become conventional wisdom.  Part of it stems from a distrust of Obama for having a Muslim middle name and for having past relationships with Jeremiah Wright and Rashid Khalidi.  There’s also political incentives for right-wing Zionists to push the “Obama is anti-Israel” meme, as they’re hoping for a Republican sweep of Congress in November and a Republican capture of the White House in 2012.  If that happens, what rhetorical resistance the Obama administration has put up would dissapear under a Republican administration and Israel would have total free-rein. 

But even the mild criticism of Israel that Obama and his foreign policy team have engaged in has not contributed to any substantive shift in policy towards Israel. 

The gap between the right’s image of Obama and the reality of his policy on Israel is vast, and the Zionist right and the Israel lobby have tailored their misleading image of Obama as anti-Israel to successfully beat back the Obama administration and forced it to tone down what little criticism there was.

Jeffrey Goldberg Smears Goldstone, Mischaracterizes B’Tselem’s Position on Report

Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic magazine and a former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, has been pounding the center-left lobby group J Street at his blog lately.  In a Sept. 30 post, Goldberg criticizes J Street for allegedly arranging visits for Judge Richard Goldstone to Capitol Hill, smears the Goldstone report and mischaracterizes the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem’s position on the report.

Goldberg writes:

According to an article posted on The Washington Times site last night, J Street helped arrange visits by Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist appointed by the U.N. to investigate the most recent conflict in Gaza, to Capitol Hill. Goldstone’s work, heavily reliant on Hamas for uncorroborated information, has been condemned on both the left and right, here and in Israel (including by the left-wing Israeli human rights group B’Tselem), for its fairly obvious biases.

The claim that Goldstone’s report was “reliant” on Hamas for “uncorroborated information” is factually wrong.  How exactly was Goldstone “reliant” on Hamas?  Goldberg doesn’t specify.  If you read the report, it becomes clear that the information in it is, in fact, corroborated, citing Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many other human rights organizations’ reports on the conflict.  Many of the Goldstone report’s conclusions were backed up by subsequent reports that came out after Goldstone’s report.  Even Israeli military investigations further bolster the report’s findings.

The claim that the Goldstone report was “condemned” by B’Tselem is misleading.  Goldberg is most likely referring to a New York Times report by Ethan Bronner that quoted Yael Stein of B’Tselem as saying that he does “not accept the Goldstone conclusion of a systematic attack on civilian infrastructure.  It is not convincing.”

Stein certainly criticizes the report’s findings.  But B’Tselem’s position is much more complicated, and far more supportive of the report, than Goldberg lets on.

After that Times report came out, Jessica Montell of B’Tselem wrote in Mondoweiss:

The quote of Ms. Stein was the result of a two-hour conversation with the journalist, most of it focused on the inadequacy of Israel’s investigations to date. While Ms. Stein was quoted accurately, this is a very small part of our views on  the Goldstone report and Cast Lead, and not what we would chose to emphasize at this point…

B’Tselem has invested tremendous resources over the past year to research and publicize the extent of the civilian harm caused during Israel’s military operation in Gaza last winter and to hold Israel accountable. B’Tselem also provided extensive assistance to the UN fact-finding mission headed by Justice Goldstone – escorting them to meet victims in Gaza, providing all of our documentation and correspondence, and meeting the mission in Jordan. Much can be said about the very lengthy, detailed report submitted by the mission, and about the UN process it set in motion. The most important message to promote now – and one on which B’Tselem agrees whole-heartedly with the Goldstone report – is that Israel must conduct a thorough, independent inquiry into all the allegations that have been made.

Does that sound like condemnation to you?  But I guess Goldberg plays by different journalistic rules than the ones saying journalists should be accurate and tell the truth.  We all learned that in the run-up to the Iraq War.