Tag Archives: Washington Post

U.S. media buys Israel’s Naksa spin, ignores contary evidence

Variations on the line the Israeli government fed to Israeli media yesterday about the killings of demonstrators in the Golan Heights Sunday have made its way to the U.S. media, despite there being little evidence produced to support their claims.

The New York Times report is representative of how U.S. corporate media is covering the killings:

Israeli military officials on Monday disputed the casualty figures announced by Syria a day earlier, after Israeli forces fired on protesters who had tried to breach the Syrian frontier border with the Israeli-held Golan Heights. The discrepancy in numbers underlined the messages being conveyed by each side…

Israel said the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria was exploiting the Palestinian issue by sending unarmed protesters to the frontier in order to divert attention from its own antigovernment uprising and the bloody attempts to put it down.

Israel could not provide an exact number of how many protesters had been killed. But the Israeli military said Monday that 10 protesters were killed after they threw makeshift firebombs and started a fire that set off land mines near the border town of Quneitra, on the Syrian side of the lines.

“There were also a lot of shows being put on for the cameras,” said Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military. “If somebody was shot in the toe, 30 people would crowd around with a stretcher. At night, when there was no shooting, the ambulances kept running up and down, their lights flashing in the dark.”

The Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor reports have similar bents.  On CNN, Eliot Spitzer interviewed Aaron David Miller, and they both agreed that the protests had been “orchestrated” by the Assad regime, which is in the middle of suppressing its own uprising for democracy.

It very well may be that the Syrian regime decided not to block protesters from approaching the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.  But that is a far cry from saying that Syria deliberately orchestrated unarmed protests by, perhaps, paying demonstrators, implying that Palestinian refugees demanding their rights can’t protest on their own initiative.  Max Blumenthal does a good job of casting doubt on the “demonstrators-for-hire” claim here.

More evidence and analysis point in the opposite direction of the Israeli military’s justifications that are printed in U.S. media.  The Israeli government has not produced a shred of evidence in support of their claims (and if they have, do point them out to me).  Yet there’s plenty of evidence to support claims of Israeli troops firing on protesters and killing them.

Before getting into the evidence and analysis, though, it’s worth asking:  why were there only hundreds of people marching to the Golan Heights on Naksa Day, if the Assad regime really wanted to divert attention from their own oppressive tactics?  Couldn’t they have brought out thousands if that were true?  And why would they be blocking people from reaching the Golan again if they wanted to provoke Israel more?

Over at the Electronic Intifada, Jillian Kestler D’Amours, a journalist based in Jerusalem, interviews Salman Fakhreddin, an activist who protested in the Golan.  His response testifies to reports that Israeli snipers killed unarmed demonstrators:

Yesterday, hundreds of refugees from Syria — Palestinians and Syrians — marched to the ceasefire line near Majdal Shams in a place called the Valley of Tears. We usually use this place for families [living opposite of the ceasefire line] to meet each other and to speak to each other with loudspeaker on all days of the year. Yesterday, it was a demonstration in memory of the war of ‘67 and the occupation of the Golan, West Bank and Gaza and Sinai. When these people reached the ceasefire line, the Israeli forces were well prepared with snipers. They were there already and they began firing live bullets and they killed and injured hundreds of people. Twenty-three people were killed yesterday.

It is a blood harvest of the Israeli army. I think first they began shooting to kill and during the afternoon and at beginning of the night, they began firing tear gas and rubber bullets. It means that the Israeli army yesterday was standing on its head and thinking with its feet. They dealt with the issue in the opposite of a humanitarian way. They decided to kill people in order to frighten them not to continue with this demonstration because they are afraid of the delegitimization of the state of Israel and the Israeli policy in the international community.

On the other hand, the demonstration yesterday and the demonstration of Nakba Day [on 15 May] is trying to develop a culture of nonviolence in the area, in the struggle against the Israelis, or what’s called the popular resistance. In Israel, they want to stop that because they are afraid it will reach the knowledge of the international community and the internal Israeli community will join this struggle as a peaceful struggle against colonialism and apartheid in this place of the world.

I think the idea was to stop that and because of that, they chose this way: to kill people first and then to shoot them with tear gas.

An eyewitness account for Amnesty International reported on by the Ma’an News Agency deal further blows to Israeli claims:

The global rights group said they had spoken to a human rights activist in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights who “contradicts IDF [Israeli army] claims that all possible non-lethal means were used to disperse the protesters before lethal force was used.”

The march, marking Naksa day which commemorates the 1967 war, saw thousands of demonstrators calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands rush the ceasefire line. Syria’s state media say 23 were killed by Israeli army fire, while the Israeli military say 10 died throwing Molotov cocktails toward landmines.

A human rights activist who was 10 meters from the army told Amnesty he saw Israeli soldiers sheltering behind multiple barbed wire fences and periodically firing live ammunition at protesters some 60 meters away between 11am to 9pm.

The activist said soldiers had initially warned protesters in Arabic before opening fire, as Israeli army statements had said, but that troops did not fire tear gas or sound bombs to disperse the protesters until around dusk, in contradiction to army assurances that all non-lethal means were used, Amnesty said in a statement.

The rights organization also noted that while military spokespeople said Israeli troops aimed at the lower half of protesters’ bodies, Syrian health authorities reported that the majority of injuries were to the upper body.

Amnesty said it was “seriously concerned that Israeli troops used excessive force by firing live ammunition against protesters who were not endangering the lives of Israeli military personnel or others.”

The Israeli disinformation about the Naksa Day killings are similar to what happened after the flotilla raid and the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah.  But the U.S. media continues to print Israeli spin without investigating what really happened.

Human Rights Watch: Israel and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes in latest fighting

Judge Richard Goldstone’s article in the Washington Post continues to attract attention from many different quarters, and has put the question of war crimes committed in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009 back in the spotlight.  But what hasn’t received nearly enough attention is that the latest round of fighting in the Gaza Strip has resulted in more war crimes, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

Hamas’ attack on an Israeli school bus “appeared to have deliberately fired at the school bus, a protected civilian object under the laws of war, in an act that amounts to a war crime,” the report reads.

The release from Human Rights Watch also includes details of four investigations they carried out into Israeli violations of the laws of war.  Here’s an excerpt dealing with one investigation:

In the first incident, on April 7, an apparent Israeli missile attack injured an ambulance crew member and damaged an ambulance marked as such while the crew was evacuating two men who had been wounded in an Israeli strike. The attacks occurred near the non-operational Gaza Airport, in the southeastern corner of Gaza, east of the city of Rafah and close to the Egyptian border. Reliable independent security reports said that an Israeli tank had previously fired at the area, wounding two men, and that a helicopter later fired missiles at the area.

The ambulance driver, Musa Obayyed, 35, told Human Rights Watch that the crew received a call at around 5:45 p.m. to evacuate several wounded men from the area. Obayyed said that the area was not in the “buffer zone” near the perimeter fence, where medical crews need to coordinate access in advance by contacting the International Committee of the Red Cross, which then coordinates with the Israeli military.

“The sky was full of different kinds of military aircraft at the time, but we didn’t hesitate, and the area was full of civilians when we arrived,” he said. “We were several meters from an injured man and were just about to get out of the ambulance when an explosion hit next to us.”

The attack injured Hassan al-Hela, 41, a member of the medical crew, in his right forearm, and blew out two of the ambulance’s windows. The crew did not observe what fired at them, but the only Israeli fire reported in the area that afternoon and evening was from tanks and aircraft. There were no reports of Palestinian rocket or mortar fire in the area at the time. Human Rights Watch observed numerous small holes of between three and five millimeters in diameter in the side of the ambulance at the Red Crescent Center in Khirbat al-Adas, where the crew had taken it. The damage appeared consistent with shrapnel from a small missile. Human Rights Watch was not able to examine shrapnel from the strike, but the damage was consistent with small, cubic shrapnel from the aerial drone-launched missiles that Human Rights Watch examined during the 2008-09 Gaza conflict.

Customary laws of war provide that medical units, including paramedics and ambulances, must be respected and protected in all circumstances. Medical workers engaging exclusively in medical work in the presence of combatants do not forfeit their protected status, and only lose their protection if they commit, outside their humanitarian function, acts harmful to the enemy. A deliberate attack on a medical crew or an ambulance being used solely for medical transport would constitute a serious violation of the laws of war, amounting to a war crime.

“The laws of war have protected medical personnel from attack for nearly 150 years,” Whitson said. “Israeli responses to Palestinian attacks cannot show reckless indifference to civilians.”

Read the full release here.

U.S. Congress gets the facts wrong on Goldstone (the sequel)

A Congressional resolution being circulated in response to Judge Richard Goldstone’s Op-Ed in the Washington Post distorts the reality of the report and Goldstone’s article.  That’s no surprise, considering the resolution the House of Representatives passed in 2009 in response to publication of the report.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has the story:

A Senate resolution, introduced April 8 by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and James Risch (R-Idaho), calls on the U.N. Human Rights Council to “reflect the author’s repudiation of the Goldstone report’s central findings, rescind the report, and reconsider further Council actions with respect to the report’s findings…”

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is circulating a letter asking colleagues to join her in sponsoring a U.N. accountability act to include language demanding the revocation of the Goldstone report, and withhold the U.S. portion of funds spent on Goldstone’s investigation and its follow-on consequences.

Goldstone’s article did not “repudiate” the report’s “central findings.”  The only change was Goldstone’s claim that, after reviewing “investigations published by the Israeli military,” Israel did not intentionally target civilians, which was only one finding of many made in the U.N. report.  As Goldstone himself told the Associated Press recently, besides the change enunciated in the Post Op-Ed, he has “no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time.”  The other authors of the report have also insisted that the report still stands.

There were similar half-truths propagated in response to the publication of the report in November 2009.  In response to the numerous factual errors in the resolution, Judge Goldstone rightly denounced the legislation as “sweeping,” “unfair” and “devoid of truth.”  Congress, though, will only listen to Goldstone when his words confirm their Israel lobby dictated worldview.  The facts matter little.

 

Israeli spin on Goldstone Op-Ed doesn’t hold up

It is dizzying to watch the Israeli government and its supporters spin the substance of Judge Richard Goldstone’s column in the Washington Post yesterday.  A closer look at the column, and the Goldstone report itself, shows that the propaganda being churned out by the Netanyahu government is self-serving, misleading and patently false.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, thinks that Goldstone should retract the entire report.  Likewise, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to launch an “international campaign to persuade the United Nations to retract the Goldstone Commission’s damning report,” according to Haaretz. Noah Pollak, the executive director of the neoconservative Emergency Committee for Israel, writes on Twitter that Goldstone has “retracted much of his report.”  Jonathan Tobin at Commentary comments that “the former judge admitted that his report was wrong.”

These claims don’t come anywhere close to what Judge Goldstone actually wrote in his column.  The main point of recantation occurs when Goldstone writes (my emphasis):

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

The Israeli military investigations have led Goldstone to say that “if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

So yes, Goldstone’s Op-Ed in the Post recants a central, and damning, claim that his report made:  that “Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians” in incidents examined in detail by his team.  But nowhere in his column does he imply that his entire report should be refuted–exactly the claim Israel’s propagandists are now making.

The full scope of his report is no less damning then the “intentionality” allegation Goldstone is now backtracking on.  Here are some of the most important findings in the U.N. report that Goldstone did not recant:

-The aim of the destruction of the el-Bader flour mill was to “destroy the local capacity to produce flour…From the facts ascertained by it, the Mission finds that the destruction of the mill was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population, which is a violation of customary international law as reflected in article 54 (2) of Additional Protocol I and may constitute a war crime” (page 199).

-The “Israeli armed forces launched direct attacks against residential houses, destroying them,” and “the conduct of the Israeli armed forces in these cases amounted to the grave breach of ‘extensive destruction… of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly’ under article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention” (pages 212, 214).

-“The systematic destruction of food production, water services and construction industries was related to the overall policy of disproportionate destruction of a significant part of Gaza’s infrastructure” (page 218).

-“The Mission finds that Messrs. Majdi Abd Rabbo, Abbas Ahmad Ibrahim Halawa, Mahmoud Abd Rabbo al-Ajrami and AD/03 were captured by the Israeli armed forces while they were in their homes, in some cases together with their families, and were then forced at gunpoint to search houses together with the Israeli armed forces. The Mission also finds on the basis of those facts that they were all subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during their captivity…The Mission also finds that the intentional use as human shields of those whose accounts are presented above qualifies as inhuman treatment of and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention. As such, the Mission considers the conduct of the Israeli armed forces in relation to such persons to amount to grave breaches of the
said Convention. The use of human shields is also a war crime under article 8 (2) (b) (xxiii) of the Rome Statute” (pages 229, 232).

-“The Mission considers that the severe beatings, constant humiliating and degrading treatment and detention in foul conditions allegedly suffered by individuals in the Gaza Strip under the control of the Israelis and in detention in Israel, would constitute torture, and a grave breach under article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Such violations also constitute war crimes” (page 249).

-“The restrictions imposed by Israel on the imports to and exports from the Gaza Strip through the border crossings as well as the naval and airspace blockade have had a severe impact on the availability and accessibility of a whole range of goods and services necessary for the people of Gaza to enjoy their human rights. Their already eroded ability to access and buy basic goods was compounded by the effects of the four-week Israeli military campaign, which further restricted access to those essential items and destroyed goods, land, facilities and infrastructure vital for the enjoyment of their fundamental rights. In conjunction, the blockade and the military hostilities have created a situation in which most people are destitute. Women and children have been particularly affected. The current situation has been described as a crisis of human dignity…

The facts ascertained by the Mission, the conditions resulting from the deliberate actions of the Israeli armed forces and the declared policies of the Israeli Government – as they were presented by its authorized representatives – with regard to the Gaza Strip before, during and after the military operation, cumulatively indicate the intention to inflict collective punishment on the people of the Gaza Strip. The Mission, therefore, finds a violation of the provisions of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention” (pages 259, 283).

Goldstone’s entire report matters deeply, and represents a thorough documentation of Israeli, and Palestinian, war crimes and the context in which they occurred.  That is why there is a desperate attempt to use Goldstone’s article as an full exoneration of the Israeli military’s conduct during the war.

For those crowing about a “refutation” of the entire report and the need for the judge to retract it, a full reading of the document is in order.

The documented record still stands: Israel intentionally targets civilians and civilian infrastructure

Judge Richard Goldstone’s mea culpa in the Washington Post today is indeed “confusing and potentially damaging,” as Adam Horowitz writes.

Key findings in the U.N. fact-finding report–that “Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians” in eleven incidents examined in detail and that Israel destroyed civilian infrastructure like the Sawafeary chicken farm in a systematic and deliberate fashion–is muddied up by Goldstone’s claim that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

Even granting the claim that the incidents his team investigated, now with the circumstances “explained” through Israeli military investigations,  do not indicate that civilians were targeted, there is a documented history of Israel doing just that.  And it wasn’t just during the Gaza assault.

The so-called “Dahiya doctrine” was used during the 2006 war on Lebanon.  In a February 2009 report, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel explained:

In the beginning of October 2008, the Commanding Officer of the IDF’s Northern Command, Maj. General Gadi Eisenkott, gave an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, in which he unveiled what he called the “Dahiye Doctrine”:  ‘What happened in the Dahiye Quarter of Beirut in 2006, will happen in every village from which shots are fired on Israel. We will use disproportionate force against it and we will cause immense damage and destruction. From our point of view these are not civilian villages but military bases.

This is not a recommendation, this is the plan, and it has already been authorized.’

According the Dahiye Doctrine, Israel will achieve deterrence not by attacking individual rocket launchers, but rather by using disproportionate force which will influence the behaviour of its opponents…

According to the doctrine, massive destruction is a necessary element for creating deterrence. The damage must be done not only to military installations, or explained by concrete military necessity, but must include civilian infrastructure so that reconstruction will be expensive and time consuming

This deliberate doctrine leads to the deaths of civilians and civilian infrastructure.  The Lebanon war “resulted in at least 1,109 Lebanese deaths, the vast majority of whom were civilians, 4,399 injured, and an estimated 1 million displaced,” according to a Human Rights Watch report. Various other reports–this Human Rights Watch report, testimonies from Breaking the Silence and many others–document Israel’s policy of targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

In the Gaza Strip, civilians are routinely shot at and sometimes killed if they step into the so-called “buffer zone,” which constitutes some 35 percent of the Strip’s arable land.  An October 2010 report by Defense of Children International states:

Between 26 March and 14 October 2010, DCI-Palestine documented 14 cases of children shot whilst collecting building gravel near the border fence between Gaza Strip and Israel. Due to a severe lack of job opportunities and a shortage of construction material entering Gaza from Israel, hundreds of men and boys scavenge for building gravel amongst the destroyed buildings close to the border fence. The gravel is collected into sacks, loaded onto donkey drawn carts and sold to builders for use in concrete. Children can earn up to 50 shekels (US $13) per day which is used to help support their families. Reports indicate that Israeli soldiers on duty in the observation towers which line the border between Gaza and Israel frequently fire warning shots to scare workers away from the border region. Reports also indicate that these soldiers sometimes shoot and kill the donkeys used by the workers, and also target the workers, usually, but not always, shooting at their legs. In the cases documented by DCI-Palestine, the children report being shot whilst working between 50 to 800 metres from the border fence.

A separate U.N. study on the “buffer zone” reports:

Since the end of the “Cast Lead” offensive in January 2009, the Israeli army has also killed a total of 22 civilians and injured another 146 in these circumstances.

The examples are endless, but what they make clear is that the Israeli persecution of Palestinians documented in the Goldstone report and numerous other sources was not confined to “Operation Cast Lead.”  Goldstone’s “reconsideration” in the Post today doesn’t change the documented history.

 

 

How the U.S. Government Promotes Islamophobia

I often focus on organizations and individual right-wing activists outside the U.S. government that have stoked anti-Muslim sentiment here.  But the U.S. government itself is just as culpable in promoting a McCarthyist climate of fear where every Muslim-American is considered a “terror threat” and Islam is turned into the new bogeyman of the day.

The latest installment in the Washington Post‘s investigative series by Dana Priest and William Arkin, “Top Secret America,” provides a look into how the U.S. government is mired in the deep swamp that is Islamophobia in America (emphasis mine):

Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies…

Ramon Montijo has taught classes on terrorism and Islam to law enforcement officers all over the country.

“Alabama, Colorado, Vermont,” said Montijo, a former Army Special Forces sergeant and Los Angeles Police Department investigator who is now a private security consultant. “California, Texas and Missouri,” he continued.

What he tells them is always the same, he said: Most Muslims in the United States want to impose sharia law here.

“They want to make this world Islamic. The Islamic flag will fly over the White House – not on my watch!” he said. “My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders.”

With so many local agencies around the country being asked to help catch terrorists, it often falls to sheriffs or state troopers to try to understand the world of terrorism. They aren’t FBI agents, who have years of on-the-job and classroom training…

Amazingly, the Center for Security Policy, a neoconservative think tank, is also being listened to by the U.S. homeland security apparatus:

A book expanding on what Shoebat and Montijo believe has just been published by the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based neoconservative think tank. “Shariah: The Threat to America” describes what its authors call a “stealth jihad” that must be thwarted before it’s too late.

The book’s co-authors include such notables as former CIA director R. James Woolsey and former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, along with the center’s director, a longtime activist. They write that most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized, that most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists and that Muslims who practice sharia law seek to impose it in this country.

Frank Gaffney Jr., director of the center, said his team has spoken widely, including to many law enforcement forums.

“Members of our team have been involved in training programs for several years now, many of which have been focused on local law enforcement intelligence, homeland security, state police, National Guard units and the like,” Gaffney said. “We’re seeing a considerable ramping-up of interest in getting this kind of training.”

The fact that Gaffney speaks with law enforcement on how to combat “terrorism” is disturbing.  Matt Duss of Think Progress explains that Gaffney is a person who thinks that “Obama is a Muslim, question[s] whether Obama is an American citizen, [and] believe[s] that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s new logo is a sign of the president’s ‘submission to sharia.’”  Gaffney is not an expert on Islam.  In fact, Gaffney did not consult a single Islamic scholar on his “report” on shariah law, and only started studying the religion three years ago.

What’s more, as I explained here, the Center for Security Policy’s general counsel is David Yerushalmi, an advocate for criminalizing Islam and who once wrote that “blacks [are]…the most murderous of peoples.”

Another recent instance of the U.S. government promoting Islamophobia was the arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud in Oregon, which in reality was, as Glenn Greenwald put it, the FBI successfully thwarting its own plot.

The next day, this happened:

U.S. investigators said a fire at an Islamic center in Oregon on Sunday was arson and warned they would tolerate no retribution for an attempt by a Somali-born teenager to detonate what he thought was a car bomb.

WikiLeaks Revelations About Israel/Palestine Counters Conventional Media Narrative

As Peter Hart of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting notes, “WikiLeaks document dumps are largely what media want to make of them,” and the major U.S. newspapers have so far played up the WikiLeaks revelations about Iran and various Israeli and Arab officials’ alarm over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

The headlines on two New York Times articles read:  “Around the World, Distress Over Iran,” and “Iran Is Fortified With North Korean Aid.”  The Washington Post, whose overall coverage of the classified diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks has been lacking, has a piece titled, “Netanyahu says WikiLeaks cables show Arab states share Israeli concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”

But that’s not all the latest documents from WikiLeaks show about politics in the Middle East.  Other leaked cables that have so far been ignored by mainstream media concern Israel’s perception of the Palestinian Authority (PA)–perceptions that undermine the conventional narrative on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and relations.

The conventional narrative, which closely follows establishment discourse on Israel-Palestine, is that Israel and the Palestinians are engaged or have been engaged in “peace talks” with the goal of bringing about a Palestinian state in the near future.  The Palestinian Authority and Israel are in conflict with each other over issues such as building settlements in the West Bank.  While these talks go on, the West Bank is enjoying an unprecedented period of economic prosperity and a stable governing entity that can bring about a Palestinian state.  Articles about this diplomatic tango dominate U.S. media coverage of the region because that’s what elites in the U.S., Israel and Palestine are engaged in (see, for example, here, here, and here from the New York Times).  In sum, mainstream media coverage is much more about the “process” than the “peace” when it comes to discussing the so-called “peace process.”

If media would report on them, the diplomatic discussions that have been revealed by WikiLeaks add much needed context to understanding the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

You wouldn’t know it from reading major U.S. papers, but the Palestinian Authority essentially functions as a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation, and WikiLeaks confirms this fact further.  For instance, the PA’s security forces have been used to drive Hamas, the Islamist movement that was democratically elected in 2006 and controls the Gaza Strip, underground, as Hamas opposes (violently in some cases) engaging Israel in “peace talks.”  In the immediate run-up to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the PA cracked down harshly on Palestinian dissidents who opposed the resumption of negotiations with Israel.

From a number of WikiLeaks documents, we learn that Israel is quite happy with the PA, though worried about its long-term political viability, and even attempted to coordinate the brutal 2008-09 assault on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip with the PA.

In one cable from 2009, Amos Gilad, an Israeli defense ministry official, is quoted as saying “that Israeli-PA security and economic cooperation in the West Bank continues to improve as Jenin and Nablus flourish, and described Palestinian security forces as the ‘good guys.’”  Another cable from 2007 quotes Netanyahu as candidly saying that the “entire Palestinian economy [is] based on graft and patronage,” which runs contrary to the rosy descriptions of the West Bank economy Americans routinely hear from the likes of Thomas Friedman.

But don’t expect media to report on this.  It would prove that “peace talks” and the diplomatic tango that accompanies them, which is all the media reports on, is a facade.

Jonathan Cook: Israel Has to Manage, Control Narrators of Conflict

Jonathan Cook, an independent British journalist living in Nazareth, Israel, has a must read piece here on journalism, censorship, the Israel lobby and attacks on the press in Israel/Palestine.

I would recommend reading the whole piece, but here’s the money quote:

Since the visible collapse of the peace process a decade ago at Camp David, Israel has been in the increasingly uncomfortable position of not only being but, more importantly, looking like the rejectionist party to the conflict. The impression that Israel has no interest in engaging in meaningful peace talks to create any kind of viable Palestinian state has grown with the almost complete cessation of Palestinian attacks, both the suicide bombers who were once dispatched from the West Bank and the Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza.

In order to justify continuing military assaults on the Palestinians in the occupied territories and its studious avoidance of real negotiations, Israel has had to invest an ever larger share of its energies in managing and controlling the narrators of the conflict—chiefly the Western news organizations and, especially, those in the United States.

Israel needs to maintain its credibility in the U.S. because that is the source of its strength. It depends on billions of dollars in aid and military hardware, almost blanket political support from Congress, the White House’s veto of critical resolutions at the United Nations, and Washington’s role as a dishonest broker in sponsoring intermittent talks propping up a peace process that in reality offers no hope of a just resolution. The occupation would end in short order without U.S. financial, diplomatic and military support. For that reason Israel makes significant efforts, as we shall see, to put pressure on the journalists themselves. It also targets their news editors “back home” because they make appointments to the region, set the tone of the coverage, approve or veto story ideas, and edit and package the reports coming in from the field.

One other thing worth highlighting:  I’ve spent some time on this blog documenting the distortions and falsehoods in most Western reporting on Israel/Palestine.  Cook’s piece is a great tool for understanding why it is that the press continues to be so tone deaf and blind on the conflict.

I have criticized Joel Greenberg, a correspondent for the Washington Post who writes on Israel/Palestine, and his shoddy reporting in a couple of places (here and here.)  Apparently, Greenberg used to the work for the New York Times, and before that, the Israeli army.

Cook writes this on Greenberg, partially explaining why, perhaps, Greenberg’s reporting is so skewed in Israel’s favor (emphasis mine):

The NYT’s other Jerusalem correspondent, Isabel Kershner, is an Israeli citizen and is married to an Israeli. A recent predecessor of Bronner’s, Joel Greenberg, did reserve duty in the Israeli army while he was reporting for the paper, apparently a fact known by the editors but also not considered a conflict of interest. Most of the NYT’s correspondents in the past two decades appear to have been Jewish.

Jackson Diehl’s Settlement Delusion

Weeks after an awful October 18 column in the Washington Post which argued that it was President Barack Obama’s fault that the “peace process” is faltering because “insisting on an Israeli freeze” created a “near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process,” neoconservative Jackson Diehl is at it again.  This time, he penned a column that similarly claimed that it was “Obama who first turned the settlement issue from a minor to a major one.”

The settlement issue is a minor one?

Is it minor that the matrix of Israeli settlements controls 42 percent of the land in the occupied West Bank, land that is supposedly meant for a future Palestinian state?

Is it minor that Israel steals land from Palestinians to build settlements and confiscates more land to build a separation barrier that, de facto, annexes some 60 settlements?

Is it minor that in occupied Hebron, hundreds of extremist Jewish settlers have been inserted into the heart of a city with a population of about 150,000 Palestinians and wreak terror and havoc on the Palestinian residents there, with the full support of the Israeli army?

Is it minor that raw sewage from settlements flood Palestinian areas and destroy crops and contaminate drinking water?

Is it minor that the International Court of Justice, in a 2004 advisory opinion on the separation barrier, declared that “settlements have been established in breach of international law”?

Only in a world where delusions about Israel/Palestine are routinely published in the one of the nation’s top newspapers are the settlements a “minor” issue.

What the Washington Post Doesn’t Tell You About Dennis Ross

Dennis Ross, at right, with current Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. PHOTO: Wikipedia

The Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler has a piece today looking at the prominent role that Dennis Ross has played in the Obama administration’s dealings with Israel, and reports that Ross “primarily worked” on a “package of incentives that the Obama administration is offering Netanyahu to extend a settlement moratorium by 60 days to keep nascent peace talks with the Palestinians on track.”

But there’s a whole lot of crucial history and context about Ross that goes unmentioned which would show that Ross is an unabashed pro-Israel partisan.

Here’s some of the ways Kessler describes Ross:  he is a “crucial, behind-the-scenes conduit between the White House and the Israeli government…[he] has provided an element that had been missing from the bilateral relationship, which has been rocky since Obama took office.”

What’s missing?

In his memoir about the “peace process,” Ross wrote that Israel is a “dynamic” place, “with an intellectual vibrancy and an impulse to debate every issue.  I identified with its people, and my own Jewish identity became more important to me as a result.”

Ross co-founded the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee-sponsored think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a major player in the Israel lobby.

Before joining the Obama administration, he was the chairman of the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, which opposes Jews marrying non-Jews.

He supported the Iraq War and signed onto Project for a New American Century letters on Iraq (PNAC was a major player in pushing the U.S. to war with Iraq.)

In Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace, a book by Daniel Kurtzer (former U.S. ambassador to Israel) and Scott Lasensky (a former adviser to the Obama presidential campaign), one Arab negotiator is quoted as saying that “the perception always was that Dennis [Ross] started from the Israeli bottom line, that he listened to what Israel wanted and then tried to sell it to the Arabs .… He was never looked at … as a trusted world figure or as an honest broker.”

There’s a lot more where that came from.  Simply put, Ross is Israel’s man in the White House.

Now why can’t Kessler spell it out like that?