Tag Archives: Likud

Israel’s remaining friends rally around flag outside of UN

This article originally appeared in Mondoweiss.



Israel may be increasingly isolated globally, but you wouldn’t know it from the scene in New York today.  A right-wing crowd of thousands rallied earlier today at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza against the ongoing Durban III conference and the Palestinian Authority bid for United Nations recognition of statehood.

The demonstration was organized by a group called the Jerusalem Institute of Justice.  But by far the largest contingent of participants came from the evangelical Christian community.  The Eagles’ Wings, an evangelical Christian group, brought droves of Christian Zionists out to wave the Israeli flag, hold signs to insist that Israel will “stay on the map” and cheer against the division of Jerusalem.

“It’s important for the Christian community to stand up for Israel,” twenty-year old Rutgers University student Hannah Johnson told me.  “We’re from the same roots, we both hold a lot of the same ideals and beliefs, and their God’s chosen people, so we choose to stand with them.”

The rally took aim at the Durban III conference, which marks ten years since the first UN conference against racism in Durban, South Africa.  Many hard-line supporters of Israel have advocated against the Durban conferences because of what they see as an unfair focus on Israel.

“The whole Durban conference…is appalling to us, and we don’t want our children to be taught [anti-Zionism] and we don’t want it spread in the United States via the UN,” said Sheree Krause, a Christian Zionist from Virginia, as her and her son passed out free Israeli flags.

It wasn’t only Christian evangelicals that came out to the rally, though.  Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI), a pro-settler organization whose executive director spoke at a memorial event for the far-right extremist Meir Kahane last year, was also present.  One member of Americans for a Safe Israel carried a sign that read “Jews Want Peace, Arabs Want Pieces.”

“The whole land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people,” said Helen Freedman, the executive director of AFSI.

“The unilateral declaration of independence is very, very dangerous, because what it does is signal to the Arabs that they now have a state…There’s no legitimacy to their claim for a state, but the population will get the message that they do have entitlement and the whole situation will really spiral out of control.”

And of course, the Israeli government’s point man on outreach to Christian Zionists–Likud Party member Danny Danon–was there.  Danon recently appeared with Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry at a press conference where Perry blasted President Obama’s record on Israel.

At the rally, Danon told Obama to loud cheers to “wake up” and focus on the threat of Iran.

The rally came just after President Obama finished up his remarks at the UN General Assembly for which he was praised by Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman. 

Despite that praise, though, the rally served as a reminder that Obama will spend a good portion of his re-election campaign defending his record on Israel, especially against the likes of Perry.  But no matter how deferential Obama is to Israeli wishes, winning over the crowd at a rally like this isn’t going to happen.

‘This is Stolen Land’: Activists Confront Jerusalem City Council Member as Wing of Historic Hotel is Demolished

Caterpillar and Volvo bulldozers demolish a part of a historic hotel in occupied East Jerusalem. Photo: Alex Kane

Ramallah, West Bank–I was a witness to the destruction of a historic hotel in occupied East Jerusalem today, but activists bearing witness didn’t let the incident go on without making some noise.

After meeting with members of the Rifka Al-Kurd family, who now live steps away from illegal settlers who evicted members of the family to take over their home in Sheikh Jarrah, the delegation I am with received news of the hotel demolition.

Up the street from the Rifka Al-Kurd family residence is the Shepherd Hotel.  Al Jazeera reports:

The Shepherd Hotel was razed by three Israeli bulldozers, early on Sunday, as part of a plan to build a new settlement of 20 units in the heart of the occupied city.

The hotel is located on the demarcation line between two Arab neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Wadi al-Joz. The site will not only divide the two neighbourhoods but it will also change the aspects of occupied Jerusalem.

According to official documents, the hotel was owned by al-Quds Mufti, Haj Amin al-Hussaini, who was deported by the British rule in 1937. He later died in Lebanon in 1974.

The settlement project is funded by Irving Moskowitz, a wealthy Jewish-American gambling magnate.

Mammoth Caterpillar and Volvo bulldozers were working on razing a wing of the hotel.

Defending the demolition in front of the press was Elisha Peleg, a Jerusalem City Council member who is part of the right-wing Likud Party.  Peleg insisted that “Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel,” while international activists and Palestinian women yelled “this is stolen land,” “shame on you” and disrupted his interviews with the media.  In front of the gates to the hotel stood Israeli police and private security guards carrying rifles.

I told Peleg that he was a shame to Jews around the world.  He turned around and told me that journalists shouldn’t voice their own opinions and that there was nothing wrong with building for Jews.

“They want to continue to take more land,” said Nasser Ghawi, a Palestinian resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah who has also seen his home taken away and given to Israeli settlers.

Israeli activists hastily organized a protest against the hotel demolition.

Right-wing Zionism and Islamophobia Meet Up in Tennessee

Case in point to my contention that Islamophobia in the United States and the right-wing, Likudnik strain of Zionism are inextricably linked:  a Christian Zionist group is helping to fund a lawsuit against the construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Rachel Slajda of Talking Points Memo reports:

The lawsuit to stop the construction of a mosque in middle Tennessee is getting expensive. The preliminary hearing has dragged on, with several days of testimony stretching over more than a month. The county has added $50,000 to its litigation budget to cover expected defense costs and is warning that that number could go up.

So who’s funding the plaintiffs — three local residents who don’t have access to taxpayer money?

Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, a Christian Zionist group, hired and is paying the fees for one of the two lawyers on the case.

The lawsuit alleges that officials in Rutherford County violated its open meeting laws when approving an expansion of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. The plaintiffs, however, have spent much of their time in court arguing that Islam is not a religion.

Christian Zionism is a toxic ideology that supports the State of Israel because they believe having a Jewish State will hasten the return of Jesus Christ and bring the end-times upon us.  They actively support and fund illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank.  And they are incredibly hostile to Islam and Muslims, and profess to believe in religious war between Islam and the West.  Consider their attempt to stop the construction of a mosque in Tennessee as one more salvo in their war against Islam.

The Democratic-Likud Party

Ynetnews.com today publishes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “list of millionaires,” a group of people Netanyahu identified as potential donors to him ahead of the 2007 primary elections in Israel.

What’s important about the list of donors that Netanyahu identified is what it says about the Israel lobby and the Democratic Party in the United States.  It goes a long way in explaining why hard-right Zionist views can be found among Democratic politicians. 

There is little to no difference between how Democrats and Republicans in the United States act towards Israel; criticizing Israel is a “third rail” in American politics, and some of the donors included on this list show why.

It makes sense why this is the case with the Republican Party, as the ideology of neoconservatism and military interventionism is a core part of the party, and matches up nicely with Likud’s way of looking at the world and, in particular, the Palestinians.  But with the slightly more rational and liberal Democratic Party, which captured the House and Senate in 2006 in part because of growing opposition to the Iraq War, it makes less sense.

That is, until you look at some of the donors who Netanyahu reasonably thought may give him money and notice that at least a couple are heavy contributors to the Democratic Party.

Among the potential donors listed are Haim Saban and Mortimer Zuckerman.

Saban is a wealthy “entertainment mogul” whose “greatest concern is to protect Israel” and who is “one of the largest individual donors to the Democratic Party,” according to a May 2010 profile of him in the New Yorker.  The profile notes that “in 2002, he contributed seven million dollars toward the cost of a new building for the Democratic National Committee—one of the largest known donations ever made to an American political party.”  But his political views match up with the Israeli right-wing, a decidedly illiberal set of viewpoints. 

From Marwan Bishara’s blog on Al Jazeera, here’s Saban in his own words, taken from a 2006 interview with Ha’aretz:

On his worries for Israel:

“… Israel does not worry me. Israel’s neighbours worry me … History proved that Sharon was right and I was wrong. In matters relating to security, that moved me to the right. Very far to the right.”

On Iran:

“The Iranians are serious. They mean business. Ahmadinejad is not a madman.

“When I see Ahmadinejad, I see Hitler. They speak the same language. His motivation is also clear: the return of the Mahdi is a supreme goal. And for a religious person of deep self-persuasion, that supreme goal is worth the liquidation of five-and-a-half million Jews. We cannot allow ourselves that.

“Nuclear weapons in the hands of a religious leadership that is convinced that the annihilation of Israel will bring about the emergence of a new Muslim caliphate? Israel cannot allow that. This is no game. It’s truly an existential danger.”

On the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran:

“Is there a higher price than two nuclear bombs on Israel? So they will fire missiles, all right then. Iran is not Lebanon, where you pinpoint specific targets: this bridge here, that building, half of that courtyard over there. In Iran you go in and wipe out their infrastructure completely. Plunge them into darkness. Cut off their water.”

“Would I prefer a defence minister who is capable of looking at a map and saying, ‘Half a division here, two divisions there, send the commandos from the north and let the navy hit from the south’? Yes, I would prefer that. Because to negotiate with management on behalf of the unions is a skill, but it’s a different skill from planning a war. In our situation, for all time, at least in our lifetime, we need a defence minister who has a thorough understanding of these subjects.”

Zuckerman is a media mogul who owns the New York Daily News and is the editor-in-chief of U.S. News and World Report, and is a major contributor to the Democratic Party, according to the Center for Reponsive Politics’ Open Secrets website.  He is a former head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and espouses hawkish views when it comes to the Palestinians.  For instance, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Zuckerman calls Jerusalem “its capital” and refers to the illegal settlement of Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem as a “Jewish suburb.”     

The Democratic Party is beholden to people like Zuckerman and Saban, who were listed as potential donors to a right-wing Israeli political party whose official platform states that Likud “rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.” 

No wonder Likudnik views get play within the supposedly liberal party in American politics.

Hamas and ‘Israel’s Destruction’

The following article was originally published in the July 2010 issue of Extra! magazine, the monthly publication put out by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.  It’s still quite relevant:

This article was originally published as a sidebar with “Reporting Israeli Assault Through Israel’s Eyes.”

In the aftermath of the deadly Israeli assault on the international flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, the establishment press has repeatedly distorted the political positions of Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs Gaza.

The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner (6/5/10) reported that Hamas “rejects Israel’s existence.” USA Today’s Oren Dorell (6/7/10) wrote that “Hamas has been designated a terrorist group by the United States and European Union and seeks the destruction of Israel.” A New York Daily News editorial (6/5/10) referred to Hamas as “an internationally branded terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.”

But the truth about Hamas is much more nuanced than what corporate media repeat. While it is true that the 1988 founding charter of Hamas includes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and calls for the establishment of an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, Hamas’ leadership has largely abandoned that rhetoric. In the run-up to the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Hamas dropped its call for the destruction of Israel from its manifesto (Guardian, 1/12/06).

In recent years, leaders of the Islamist movement have stated that Hamas is ready to make peace with Israel as long as a settlement is based on full sovereignty in the 1967 borders, East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and the right of return for Palestinian refugees—positions that have their basis in international law and United Nations resolutions. Israeli daily Ha’aretz (11/9/08) reported that “the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said…his government was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.” And Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political wing, recently said (Charlie Rose Show, 5/28/10) that “Hamas accepts a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967 with its capital Jerusalem and with the right of return.”

Since Palestinians went to the polls and gave Hamas an electoral victory, the U.S. corporate media have followed Israel’s official line on Hamas, painting it as a monolithic and violent entity in order to reduce international pressure on Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians (Extra!, 9/06).

The double standard of the U.S. press can be seen in the treatment of Israel’s stance toward a Palestinian state. The party platform of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party states: “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state.” But how often do you see Likud described as “rejecting the existence of Palestine”?