Newly Elected Progressives Face Palestine Taboo

After they won their primaries, some young progressives curbed their pro-Palestine rhetoric.  Now they are in Washington getting oriented. Next up: early test votes in the new year sponsored by the pro-Israel lobby, writes As`ad AbuKhalil.

Newly-Elected Progressives
Confront 
AIPAC Test

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

People in the pro-Palestinian community worldwide will be watching to see if any of the new left-wing progressives elected in the midterms will dare speak out—and vote against—the wishes of the Israel lobby.

The answer will likely come early next year, in test votes sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, after the 116thCongress convenes. If the past is any guide, Democratic leaders will insist on strict subservience from newcomers to the party’s foreign policy priorities, which include U.S. sponsorship and defense of the Israeli occupation and war crimes.

Some members-elect voiced remarkable criticism of Israel in the primaries. Rashida Tlaib, from Michigan, may have gone the furthest, by calling for one state in Palestine. Ilhan Omar, from Minnesota, referred to Israel’s “evil doings” and condemned apartheid in Israel.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, from New York, spoke against the occupation of Palestine.

After the primaries, however, Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez softened their rhetoric. In a post-victory interview, Tlaib said that both sides (occupiers and occupied?) have “so much more in common.” Ocasio-Cortez was quoted as favoring a two-state solution and believing “absolutely in Israel’s right to exist” (as an apartheid occupation state?). She has expressed faith in U.S. legitimacy as “a force of good” in the world and shrugged off any serious understanding of the Middle East.

Antonio Delgado, who upset a GOP incumbent in upstate New York, caught heat during the general campaign for his positions on Israel. When he rejected the “democratic” label for Israel, his comment was widely described by news media as a regrettable gaffe.   

The one Palestinian-American male candidate, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat who campaigned in San Diego, was the least critical of Israel and the only one who lost. He went to lengths to ingratiate himself with the Israel lobby, having changed his religion and name in the past. He even condemned his grandfather, Abu Yusuf An-Najjar, a PLO diplomat killed by Israeli terrorists in Beirut in 1973, as a “murderer.”

The nature of U.S. public attitude towards Israel is changing. A few decades ago, isolationist conservative Republicans were the most likely to be detractors. That role has shifted to liberals in big cities. These days, southern Baptists  and conservative Republicans in rural America are providing Israel some of the staunchest support.

Automatic Support for Israel

But this change doesn’t mean much in Congress. On Middle East issues, Democrats and Republicans remain ardent and automatic supporters of Israel.

Despite the War Powers Act of 1973, designed to check the president’s power to commit the country to an armed conflict, the president retains quasi-imperial powers of foreign policy making. Given voters’ worship of the military, representatives are often afraid to reject wars and interventions that presidents seek. To be accused of “failing to support the troops” is fatal to candidates from both parties. California Rep. Barbara Lee famously cast the lone vote against the authorization of military force following Sept. 11, 2001.

The two ruling parties, meanwhile, muzzle democratic discussion of their foreign policy agenda. Through the nominating process, the big wigs of the Democratic Party are able to sideline dissent. The Republican primaries, meanwhile, can seem like contests for the greatest show of fanaticism in supporting Israel. Even in local elections–for mayors and city council—defiance of AIPAC can kill off contenders’ chances. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, dominated by Democrats, break with AIPAC influence on votes, but the caucus leadership is closely aligned with the pro-Israel lobby.

The internal Democratic split (between its leadership and the liberal base) on Israel is comparable with that of liberal European political parties. The Socialist Party of France, for instance, pursues a traditional pro-Israeli agenda despite pro-Palestine sympathy within its ranks. The same had been true of the Labour Party in the U.K., until the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The United States has come to insist on a pro-Israeli plank from its European allies. In the 1970s, European nations often held positions on the PLO and on Palestinian self-determination that broke with U.S. doctrine. Since then, however, European disagreement with the U.S. on the Arab-Israeli question has diminished.

AIPAC, and its unofficial research arm, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, have managed to establish themselves as the moral and authoritative sources of legislation and information on all matters related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East.  The lobby has succeeded through intimidation, as detailed in “They Dare to Speak Out,” a book by former Illinois Rep. Paul Findley, a Republican. One successful method has been conflating any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. This tactic has been most effective in discouraging U.S. politicians from opposing Israel.

Not a ‘Jewish Lobby’

It must be stressed that AIPAC is not a “Jewish lobby,” but a pro-Israel lobby. Its champions are not exclusively Jewish.  Anti-Semites wish to portray the lobby in classically bigoted terms, as a Jewish conspiracy. But some of its most ardent adherents have been non-Jewish U.S. presidents, members of Congress and administration officials. 

On Palestine, Congress has changed substantially over the years.  In the early 1980s, a few lawmakers, from both parties, still dared to challenge AIPAC, which was founded in 1963. In his 1985 book, former Congressman Paul Findley, now 97, describes some of them. Back then, a wing of the Republican Party even stood for “even-handedness” in the Middle East.

By the end of the 1980s, few of these moderating voices on Israel were left. They’d either retired or lost their seats. 

Since the 1990s, dissent on Israel is virtually absent in the upper house of Congress. The late Robert Byrd, from West Virginia, who died in 2010, was the last senator who dared to vote against legislation favored by AIPAC.

Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Diane Feinstein of California, both in their 80s, are mildly critical of Israel, but still vote with AIPAC most of the time. (Feinstein only recently started criticizing Israel perhaps because support in her state is secure). “Social Democrat” Sen. Bernie Sanders gets heralded for challenging Israel. But that only shows the depth of the general silence. In fact, Sanders usually criticizes Israel in the most restricted terms: (“I am not a fan of Netanyahu.”)

In the House, in recent years the number of members who–on rare occasions–vote to defy the Israeli agenda, has risen. But unlike in previous years, little is ever said about the rights of Palestinians or directly against AIPAC.

Dennis Kucinich, former member of Congress from Cleveland, and a former presidential candidate, may have been the last member to publicly champion the Palestinians. (He once told me that he made it a point to speak about Palestine weekly.) He lost his seat after redistricting in 2012. 

The question now is whether some of those new faces in Congress, who carried the progressive torch in the campaigns, have the courage of a Kucinich on Israeli matters. Will any of them break the taboo against speaking for Palestine or against AIPAC? Their silence regarding the on-going Israeli assault on Gaza so far is deafening.  

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New “War on Terrorism” (2002), and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He also runs the popular blog The Angry Arab News Service.

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The Saudi-US Crisis Will Pass

U.S.-Saudi ties have withstood crises in the past and will withstand this one, says As’ad AbuKhalil.

Washington and Riyadh Have Had Worse

Crises and Will Survive Khashoggi Murder

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

Nobody in Washington, Republican or Democrat, welcomes the crisis in U.S.–Saudi relations prompted by the murder in Istanbul of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi defector, on October 2. Maintaining good relations with the Saudi royal family has been a high bipartisan priority since President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King  Abdul Aziz ibn Saud made their Faustian bargain in 1945:  The U.S. would shield the Saudi kingdom’s tyranny from criticism in exchange for a share of oil revenues and Riyadh’s political loyalty (and American arms sales).

The relationship has continued this way in the decades since—and will still do so. The U.S. has covered up a long history of Saudi crimes and conspiracies; during the Cold War it used the Saudis to spread extremist jihadi ideologies to counter secular Arabs that tilted towards Moscow. More recently, the Saudi regime was not freelancing when it cultivated the likes of Osama bin Laden: He was part of a Saudi-U.S.-Pakistani effort to recruit, arm, and finance fanatical Muslims from around the world to undermine the progressive secular regime in Afghanistan.

If history is any guide, it is highly likely that Washington and Riyadh are collaborating behind the scenes to cover up the truth of the Khashoggi case and preserve the relationship as it has been for the past 85 years.

Beside the current crisis, there have been other dust-ups in the history of U.S.-Saudi relations. The 1973 oil crisis was the most serious, and it nearly undermined the alliance.  Back then the Saudi regime couldn’t ignore the rising tide of Arab sentiment against U.S. intervention on the side of Israel in the 1973 war.

King Faisal was adamant in discussions with Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s secretary of state and national security adviser, that Israel should withdraw from occupied Arab territories in return for lifting the oil embargo. Contrary to his public statements, Faisal hadn’t rejected Israel’s occupation of Palestine since the 1948 war.  Reflecting in part the king’s deep anti-Semitism, Faisal only refused to recognize Jewish religious rights in Jerusalem.

When reminded of the significance of the Wailing Wall (Buraq Wall for Muslims), he recommended construction of a new wall where Jews “could weep.” But Faisal’s firm stance didn’t last long: New U.S. arms sales were enough to make him abandon his insistence that Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories was a necessary condition for the restoration of oil sales to the West.

Another crisis arose with the broadcast of the movie “Death of a Princess” in 1980. The British-made film was based on a true story about the beheading of a Saudi princess who fell in love with a commoner. After the movie was shown in Britain, the Saudi government did not want U.S. television stations to broadcast it. The American oil lobby put enormous pressure on PBS stations around the country not to air it. Very few stations did, and the bilateral relationship was secured. 

There were other crises in the relationship in the 1980s between the Saudi government and Congress: Under pressure from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Congress opposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia, even as administrations (Democratic and Republican) favored them. AIPAC dropped its objections to weapons sales after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the establishment of secret contacts between Israel and Gulf countries.

This is the background from which to view the current, relatively minor crisis in comparison. The Khasshogi killing wouldn’t have amounted to much if the U.S. mainstream media didn’t make a strong case against the Saudi royal family (while suddenly discovering the Saudis’ war on Yemen), and if the Turkish government hadn’t leaked so many gruesome details about the murder in the Saudi’s Istanbul consulate.

Trump’s Waffles

The Trump administration—in line with successive U.S. administrations–—first tried to minimize the significance of the crime.  President Donald Trump typically reminded Americans of the value of arms sales to the Saudi kingdom. But his subsequent statements were inconsistent: First he’d mention $10 billion in arms sales and then he’d promise to sanction the regime. He even uncharacteristically, for a U.S. president, pledged to let Congress decide on sanctions once an investigation is completed. (Which of several investigations he didn’t say.)

It’s not a stretch to believe the Trump administration has been working covertly with the Saudis to come up with a coverup story. The Saudi’s multiple explanations have been unconvincing from the start. The intent of CIA Director Gina Haspel’s trip to Istanbul seemed to be to shield the Saudi regime from the murder and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s involvement. Haspel may have been behind Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan’s surprising reluctance to reveal “the naked truth,” as he’d promised.

The U.S. almost certainly wanted the Turkish government’s raw intelligence to better advise the Saudis on the coverup. After Haspel’s meeting with Trump upon her return the Saudis admitted it was premeditated murder.

The U.S. likely mediated between Erdogan and MbS, given the animosity between the Turks and Saudis. Outlines of a deal are emerging. The Saudis now refer to their former occupiers as “sisterly Turkey,” though bin Salmon previously included it in the region’s “axis of evil.” Official Saudi rhetoric has also changed towards Qatar, which the Saudis and their allies have blockaded since last year. MbS and Adel Jubeir, his foreign minister, have made conciliatory statements about Doha in the last few days, something unthinkable a month ago.

Western and Turkish media keeps the Khassoghi story alive. But AIPAC, UAE and Israeli pressure has been exerted on the U.S. not to abandon bin Salman. For Israel, he is the opportunity of a lifetime: a rising Saudi prince in line to be king who is unburdened by political or religious attachment to ditch the Palestinians and continue his hostility toward Iran.

It is to Washington’s advantage that MbS has been weakened. He might now abandon his proclivity for adventurism and become a more traditional Saudi despot deferring to DC on key decisions. But that should make him also be more cautious about confronting Iran and endorsing Trump’s “deal of the century” for the Palestinians. The U.S. is still capable, though, of maneuvering to replace him if he becomes no longer useful, despite Saudi threats to align itself with China and Russia, or quit its embrace of Israel. 

The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has survived previous crises. It will survive this one.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New “War on Terrorism” (2002), and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He also runs the popular blog The Angry Arab News Service.

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Israel’s 50-Year Time Bomb

In the quest to change Israel’s very nature, the Netanyahu government is pushing Palestinians to the edge – with the support of the Trump White House, says Dan Steinbock.

By Dan Steinbock
Special to Consortium News

The Trump White House and the Netanyahu government are fostering an extraordinary time bomb between Israel and Palestine in the name of “peace and progress,” warned a recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The report unsurprisingly said that “deepening rifts between key stakeholders and surging violence in Gaza further imperil prospects for peace.”

While economic and strategic polarization is steadily deepening between the two sides, the “peace initiatives” of the Trump White House are undermining half a century of American diplomacy and pushing the region closer to an abyss.

In the past, the Netanyahu government has vehemently opposed all parallels with South African apartheid. Unfortunately, new data suggests that under apartheid South African blacks had more to hope for than Palestinians today.

Unsettling Parallels

Between 1994 and 2017, Israeli GDP per capita, adjusted to purchasing power parity, increased by 150 percent; in the West Bank and Gaza, the comparable figure was 160 percent. Yet, the Palestinian starting-point is so low that progress in living standards is largely fiction.

In 1994 – amid the peace talks in Oslo – Palestinian living standards were only 6.4 percent ($1,526) of the Israeli level ($23,693) (Figure a). At the time, the hope was that peace would bring increasing stability, which would foster prosperity and rapid catch-up growth – until the radical-right assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin triggered still another cycle of violence.

Last year, Palestinian living standards were about 7.3 percent ($2,494) of the Israeli level ($34,135). After more than two decades of new wars and friction, terrorism and restrictions, the catch-up has amounted to less than a percentage point.

Let’s set aside political debates about the causes and only focus on economic facts; i.e., changes in income polarization. And let’s compare the last two decades of apartheid South Africa with the past two decades between Israel and Palestinians. In the mid-70s, black South Africans’ annual per capita income relative to white levels was about 8.6 percent; that is, two percent higher relative to the Palestinian level vis-a-vis the Israelis.

As the apartheid came to an end in a series of steps that led to the formation of a democratic government in 1994, black South Africans’ annual per capita income relative to the whites climbed to almost 14 percent whereas the comparable Palestinian level remained only half of that figure last year (Figure b).

Ironically, South African apartheid was more conducive to economic progress in its last two decades than life in the West Bank and Gaza in the past two decades.

Moreover, the Netanyahu government’s economic policies have also dramatically increased economic polarization in Israel. In the early 1990s, the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, was around 35 in Israel, at the level of Portugal and Italy. Closer to 43 today, it is among the highest in OECD countries, and at the level of Nigeria and Zimbabwe. But there may be still worse ahead. 

Undermining Israeli Constitution

Protests in Gaza ahead of, and turbulence since Israel’s Independence Day and the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in May, mark the most serious escalation since the 2014 war. With his decision, President Trump departed from the decades-long U.S. executive branch practice not to recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, a steep decrease in Palestinian Authority and external funding to Gaza since 2017 has worsened already dangerous humanitarian conditions there. According to the World Bank, Gazans’ real per capita incomes have fallen by one-third since 1994, owing largely to the West Bank-Gaza split and to Israel’s and Egypt’s tight controls on goods and people transiting Gaza’s borders.

Instead of seeking to alleviate acute distress in the region, the White House has given de facto support to the new nation-state law, which defines Israel as a Jewish nation-state, despite a significant Arab minority. Unsurprisingly, the new law has been opposed by demonstrations and a high-profile petition by Israeli intellectuals – including Amos Oz, David Grossman, A. B. Yehoshua, Eshkol Nevo, Etgar Keret and Orly Castel-Bloom – who demand the Netanyahu government to abolish it: “The nation-state law, according to which the State of Israel is the national state of the Jews only, expressly permits racial and religious discrimination, nullifies Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew, does not mention democracy as the foundation of the country and does not mention equality as a basic value.”

In this status quo, Trump’s indiscriminate support for the Netanyahu government effectively nullifies any remaining impression about the U.S. as a “neutral arbiter” in the peace process. What makes the moment even more dangerous is Netanyahu’s inclination to ignore the warnings of Israel’s highest defense authorities, the willingness of the Trump administration to embolden these fatal shifts, and the erosion of any remaining hope on the Palestinian side.

Half Century of Missed Warnings

At the eve of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when I toured the West Bank and Gaza, what was most striking was the apparent calm on the surface and the lingering tensions behind the official façade. It was this odd mixture of hollow expectations and raw realities that accounted for the nightmares that ensued.

After the Yom Kippur War, the Labor coalition began to expand the boundaries of Jerusalem eastward, which encouraged a group of Messianic settlers to create a foothold in the West Bank, including Ma’ale Adumim by the Gush Emunim which sparked a protest by the “Peace Now” movement. I was there, as was my good friend Amos Oz, the famous Israeli author and one of the leaders of the peace movement. The concern was that if the settlers were permitted to create a substantial de facto presence, it might be legitimized over time with de jure measures, which would undermine Israel’s foundations, polarize the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, while fostering cycles of terror and conflicts.

Despite a relatively broad popular opposition against the settlements, successive Israeli governments failed to contain them, despite Egyptian President Sadat’s bold peace initiative. Once again, the writing on the wall was ignored and the ‘80s wars in Lebanon ensued, along with the first large-scale Palestinian uprising against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza at the turn of the ‘90s. That’s when the Madrid Conference in 1991 and the subsequent Oslo Accords offered a glimpse of an alternative future scenario – but one that perished after Rabin’s assassination.

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Today, half a century has passed from the Six-Day War and the Israeli conquest of the West Bank and Gaza. According to the Peace Index by the Israel Democracy Institute, last July three out of every four Israelis (74 percent) viewed the chances of Trump’s peace plan being a success as low or very low. According to the most recent survey, 89 percent of Israeli Jews do not see peace in the horizon. Almost half of Israeli Jews believe the Palestinians should have a state of their own. More think the two-state solution would be impossible to implement. After a generation of increasing bitterness, the share of the skeptics is relatively higher in younger age groups.

The message is fairly clear. Most Israelis believe that President Trump’s initiatives are undermining peace in the region. Most support a two-state plan. But since Washington is not seen as a neutral arbiter, a lasting peace plan is not enforceable.

As the U.S. provides one-third of the annual budget of the UNRWA, the vital relief agency for Palestine refugees since 1948, and has refused to make further contributions, some 5.4 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria find themselves in a new situation.

Reportedly, Israel supported only gradual reduction of the UNRWA’s funding and no reductions in Gaza until Netanyahu changed course without consulting his own security officials. Meanwhile, leading Israeli defense authorities have suggested that steep UNRWA cuts could further radicalize Gaza and destabilize the West Bank.

As the IMF data suggests, the status quo is entering an entirely new stage, in which economic agony could result in a failed state before an actual state is formed, while militarization of the crisis and the absence of hope on the Palestinian side could unleash even more desperate waves of terror internationally. 

Half a century of policy mistakes should be an adequate warning.

Dan Steinbock is the founder of Difference Group and has served as research director of international business at the India, China and America Institute (US) and a visiting fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies (China) and the EU Center (Singapore). For more, see http://www.differencegroup.net/

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The Art of No Mideast Deal

Donald Trump once advertised an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan as his greatest achievement-in-the-making, but like many of the president’s negotiations, the Kushner-Greenblatt strategy is a one-sided bargain, writes Patrick Lawrence.

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

Whatever happened to President Trump’s “Deal of the Century”—his promise to forge an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians bringing a 70-year conflict to a close?

We now have two answers.

One, whatever comes out of this undertaking will not be a deal. Since the Palestinians have refused to negotiate, it will be an imposed plan entirely to Israel’s advantage.

Two, when the White House does announce its Mideast framework, it is unlikely to do much more than consolidate the status quo. “It’ll be a cease-fire, not a peace plan, even if the United States and Israel could get Palestinians to go along,” Richard Falk, an international lawyer and longtime authority on the Mideast question, said in a recent conversation.

Wait Until Next Year

Little was made of it, but Trump took a big step back from his deal of deals during the recent General Assembly general debate at the United Nations. We’ll show the world our plan “over the next two to three to four months,” he announced.

Clearly the administration is unsurprisingly kicking its proposals well into next year. By all indications, it has so far found little buy-in from any Arab nation, let alone the Palestinians.

Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, who have led the administration effort for 20 months, have plenty on the table. While they have disclosed no details, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser on Israel appear to have structured a grand plan that takes Palestinian self-determination out of the equation in return for economic aid and the promise of prosperity. In other words, surrender your principles, and we’ll pay you for it.

I simply do not see this winning the endorsement it would need in either Gaza or the West Bank. And without that, international support will prove minimal at best. “No Palestinian who wants to keep any political influence can accept what we know so far,” said Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, who has written widely on the Mideast crisis.  

The Kushner–Greenblatt strategy seems to draw heavily from Daniel Pipes in Middle East Forum, the conservative think tank Pipes founded in 1990. The MEF’s “Victory Caucus” initiative calls on Palestinians to admit their seven-decade political struggle is lost and accept a kind of Mideast Marshall Plan. “Palestinians will have to pass through the bitter crucible of defeat, with all its deprivation, destruction, and despair,” Pipes wrote in an MEF paper last year. In a congressional hearing, Pipes later described this as “an alternative to endless negotiations nobody believes in.”

The Kushner-Greenblatt Plan

Here are the main elements of the Kushner–Greenblatt plan, according to experts such as Falk and Bennis, many months of leaks, and press reports from the region.

In Gaza, investment will center on a free-trade zone along the border with the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt, Jordan or both are to take responsibility for Gaza as a protectorate. This will legally separate Gaza and West Bank Palestinians, guarantee Israel’s status as a Jewish state, and create jobs in the Sinai and Gaza, where unemployment and discontent run high.

Two problems here. Neither Cairo nor Amman show any interest in assuming political responsibility for Gaza. Qatar and the other Gulf emirates could invest in the free-trade project, I am told, but that depends on whether they find the rest of the Kushner–Greenblatt plan at least minimally acceptable.

On the West Bank, Kushner, Greenblatt and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador in Jerusalem, propose legalizing the status quo while giving it the appearance of balance. Israeli settlement activity is to be accepted as legal, while investment and infrastructure (possibly including an international airport, Bennis tells me) will go into Palestinian-held land. The Palestinian Authority will be officially recognized and would locate its capital at Abu Dis, a small village east of Jerusalem now under Israeli control. Again, there is no indication these proposals have support among Palestinians or elsewhere in the region.

Neither would the Palestinian Authority government remain independent, if talks now underway succeed. On this point, Kushner and Greenblatt are fishing for what might plausibly work, Falk says. They are currently encouraging Jordan to accept the West Bank in a bipartite confederation. While Jordanian officials say this is out of the question, it is the one idea in which Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s head, has expressed interest.

Another proposal is to include Israel in a tripartite deal. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin recently described this as “a momentous opportunity,” according to a Times of Israel report. But what weight does this carry? Rivlin is a titular head of state, not the prime minister.

Classic Trump Strategy

I find the indifference to international law in the Kushner-Greenblatt plans not short of breathtaking. Kushner wants to redefine refugees, for example, so they are limited to those who left Israel’s borders as of 1948. This would deprive legal status to the vast majority of Palestinians, who number roughly 5 million. Crucially, they also would lose their 70-year claim to a “right of return.” But only the U.N. has the authority to alter the status of refugees or certify Israeli settlements as legal, and it is inconceivable that it would take either step.

The front end of the Kushner strategy has been clear since the administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December. The administration has since cut off $200 million in aid for West Bank and Gaza programs, eliminated the $65 million remaining in already reduced payments to UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), the U.N. agency supporting Palestinians in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and is closing the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.

This is classic Trump strategy: Achieve maximum advantage before disclosing what is on offer.

‘A Disaster Waiting to Happen’

International reaction to the Trump administration plan, whenever it is unveiled, is difficult to assess. Arab nations have long paid little more than lip service to the Palestinian cause. Many are now preoccupied with countering Iran’s regional role, and none wants to risk damaging relations with the U.S. and Israel. But they also are wary of provoking domestic opinion, especially with the Arab Spring uprisings just a few years behind them.  

Europeans appear set to seize a diplomatic opening in the Mideast (once again at the cost of worsening trans-Atlantic ties). The EU just proposed a $46 million increase in its UNRWA funding. While anti-immigrant politics in Germany and the Netherlands may weaken European unity on the Mideast question, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign is certain to continue gathering momentum (as will Israel’s concerted campaign to counter it). Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party’s leader, said in September that a Labour government “will recognize a Palestinian state as soon as we take office.” It is a symbolic gesture but not without significance.

As to Russia, President Putin has working relations with Benjamin Netanyahu and interests in Syria to think about, but Putin also is committed to opposing the U.S. plan. The logical call here: muted objections from Moscow once the plan is public.

Washington, not least, is deeply divided. Conservative politicians and think tanks line up with the Pipe’s rightwing Middle East Forum. But both Bennis and Falk told Consortium News that they’ve learned a number of officials at the State Department and Pentagon oppose the administration on two grounds: They think the plan has little chance of working and they regret the loss of U.S. legitimacy in the region for the sake of an imposed plan fundamentally one-sided in Israel’s favor.

Is there any wonder Trump is in no rush to reveal what he once advertised as his greatest achievement-in-the-making? “A disaster waiting to happen,” Foreign Policy called it a few months ago. Wait for it.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author, and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century (Yale). Follow him @thefloutist. His web site is www.patricklawrence.us. Support his work via www.patreon.com/thefloutist.

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The Trouble With ‘Preventing Palestine’

Seth Anziska’s new book on the Arab-Israeli “peace process” is a useful primer on the conflict, but it does not fully examine the paradox of the Carter administration’s solution that we are still living with, argues As’ad AbuKhalil.

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

A new book by Seth Anziska, titled “Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo” created quite a buzz before its official release a few weeks ago. The writer had mentioned it in press articles and noted that he had unearthed important documents. The book, however, is not as firm in its Palestinian advocacy as has been assumed by supporters of the cause who have praised it on social media and in reviews.  

Anziska, a lecturer in Jewish-Muslim Relations at University College London, seeks to trace the origins of the current stalemate in the American-formulated “peace process” to the Carter administration and its Camp David accords. But there are several political and scholarly problems with the book: 

  • The title “Preventing Palestine” and the book’s treatment seems to deny agency to the Palestinian people. It treats the project of establishing a Palestinian state as if it is merely a United States initiative which, alone, can determine the fate of the Palestinians. This approach is also reflected in the research where English-language sources (and some Hebrew) are consulted, but no Arabic sources are cited. Referring to the memoirs of Shafiq Al-Hout, a founder of the PLO,  and interviewing Palestinian journalist Bayan Nuwayhid al-Hut is not enough to write the Palestinian people into this narrative.
  • The author’s treatment of the Carter administration is way too charitable. It puts too much emphasis on human rights when the view of the administration was the result of a complex process.

View Inside the Carter Administration

There were different currents within the administration:

  • The Arabists believed that U.S. interests in the region were best served by responding to Gulf regimes’ appeal for U.S. intervention in the Middle East peace process in order to impose a more equitable and fair settlement than what was being dictated by Israel or the U.S. However, the views of Gulf regimes were not entirely due to their interest in Palestinian justice—they were revenge for firm opposition by the Israel lobby to arms sales to Gulf countries. As the Israel lobby reconciled with Gulf regimes and supported U.S. arms to the region by 1990, Gulf advocacy for a “fair” U.S. settlement diminished and later disappeared.  
  • Anziska also never mentions that the domestic policy advisers to Carter came up, cynically, with the idea of “the Holocaust museum” not so much as a moral remembrance of the victims of the historical crime but as a way to appease Jewish voters (which is insulting to Jewish voters and to the victims of the Holocaust).  
  • The domestic policy advisers believed that Carter’s interest in a Middle East settlement would reduce Jewish support for Carter in the re-election.  This explains the cynical statement made by Hamilton Jordan (Carter’s chief of staff) to the effect that Carter would become president of the West Bank.  
  • The national security team headed by Zbigniew Brzezinski believed that a U.S. settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict would enhance the strategic posture of the U.S. vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.
  • There was also a strong Zionist camp within the administration which lobbied on behalf of Israeli intransigence. Vice President Walter Mondale (who harbored early presidential ambition) sought to obstruct Carter’s peace efforts. 
  • Despite Carter’s human rights rhetoric, the book mentions how the same Jimmy Carter hosted and praised the likes of the Shah of Iran and Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia, among other pro-U.S. despots.

Re-Examining Arab-Israeli History

The author should have started his chronicle in the Nixon administration and the Rogers Plan.  His periodization seems to put a special humanitarian cast on Carter’s policies, when they were a continuation of previous U.S. policies that were intended to save Israel in the wake of the 1967 war. This continuity can be seen in the book in names like Dennis Ross, Mideast point man for both the Reagan and Clinton administrations and as a special assissant to Obama; Martin Indyk, a Mideast envoy for Clinton and Obama and Douglas Feith, who worked on Mideast issues in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.

One of the biggest failings of the author is his inability to transcend Zionist  sensibilities in the rendering of judgment about acts of political violence. His tone and language of outrage and revulsion against acts of Palestinian political violence contrast starkly with his lack of judgment on a long history of Israeli war crimes, massacres and invasions.  

He applies the word “terrorist” casually to Palestinian acts of political violence but does not apply it to the long record of Israeli-backed terrorism and war crimes. For example, he refers to “genuine Israeli concern over terror attacks in the 1970s.” Is the author of the opinion that the Palestinians in the refugee camps who were regularly bombarded from air, land, and sea by successive Israeli governments harbored no such concerns over Israeli acts of terror?  

Anziska lumps all acts of Palestinian armed struggle under the same rubric of terrorism, without exploring the Palestinian people’s elementary right to self-defense.    

The author only lists “at least” 5,000 victims (mostly civilians, of course) of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, when even the right-wing Lebanese newspaper, An-Nahar, gave an estimate of 20,000. Anziska lists the number of 20,000 in the endnote section but settles in the text on 5,000.  

The book is a useful and informative account of the peace process, but is rarely original. For example, the Sabra and Shatila document that he talks about in the chapter on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon is not (contrary to what he claims) the full secret classified appendix of the Kahan Commission report. My own judgment is that it is, in fact, not even the full appendix.  

What the author obtained from William Quandt, a Mideast scholar at the University of Virginia, is what the Israeli government voluntarily submitted to the defense team of Time magazine in the famous case of Sharon’s lawsuit against the publication. Israeli censorship is notoriously strict and political, and what the author obtained was a section (most likely redacted) from the unpublished classified appendix of the Kahan Commission report. But the originality of the findings in the report is less than the author assumes perhaps because he can’t read Arabic.  

In 2017, George Freiha, the former chief of staff of the late Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel, published a book titled “With Bashir” in which he published minutes of meetings between Gemayel and Ariel Sharon.

The minutes of those meetings make it clear that both sides discussed in detail a plan for the Phalanges’s henchmen to invade the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and engage in the massacres on behalf of the Israeli occupation army and its surrogate militias in Beirut. Freiha claims he was present when both leaders mentioned invading the camps. 

That was not cited in Anziska’s book.

The Contradiction With Carter’s ‘Peace Efforts’

“Preventing Palestine” is so intent on putting a positive light on Carter’s “peace efforts” that Anziska accepts the notion that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s easy surrender to Israeli conditions in the negotiations undercut U.S. efforts at promoting Palestinian interests. He cites Carter officials to show they wanted Sadat to push for meaningful Palestinian self-autonomy. But it is not believable that the superpower needed Sadat to pressure Israel on behalf of the U.S. to further Palestinian rights when the U.S. has far more leverage over Israel.  

Just as Sadat did not care about Palestinian rights, the U.S. was willing to retract statements and issue rhetorical readjustments in order to appease the Israeli government.  

This book will serve as a useful introduction for courses on the Arab-Israeli conflict on college campuses. It provides an interesting and comprehensive chronicle of the peace process since Carter’s administration.

But the paradox of the Carter administration (and of this book) is that the administration that did the most (in theory) to find a comprehensive solution (on terms that are far more agreeable to the Israeli side than to the Palestinian side) is the same administration paved the way for greater Israeli occupation and aggression by taking Egypt out of the equation so Israel could fight on one front for the first time. 

The desire to lure Egypt away from the “Arab fold” on Israel was too tempting for the Carter administration to really care about the people who have never mattered to any U.S. president. 

Camp David wound up being the single most important factor in enabling, even encouraging Israel to engage in successive invasions of Lebanon and of the Palestinian territories. The U.S. sold the Palestinians out to achieve a strategic benefit for Israeli occupation.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New “War on Terrorism” (2002), and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He also runs the popular blog The Angry Arab News Service.

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Corbyn Might Long Regret Capitulation on Anti-Semitism

The British Labour Party’s decision to adopt the IHRA’s contested anti-Semitism definition is a victory for the Israel lobby and for forces on both sides of the Atlantic seeking to stifle criticism of Mideast policy, argues Daniel Lazare.

Daniel Lazare
Special to Consortium News

After months of pummeling, Jeremy Corbyn, the besieged leader of Britain’s Labor Party, gave in to the Zionist lobby and adopted a fiercely contested definition of anti-Jewish hatred that Arab activists say essentially brands the Palestinian cause as anti-Semitic.

Opinion varies as to what the capitulation will mean.

Alexander Mercouris, editor of the pro-Russian website The Duran, wrote on Consortium News that the impact will be limited. It “will not end criticism of Israel within the Labour Party or in British society,” he said. “Corbyn himself will not change his views, nor will other supporters of the Palestinian struggle … .”  

But the redoubtable freelance journalist Jonathan Cook, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was more convincing two or three weeks earlier when he argued in a piece republished on Consortium News that adopting the new definition “will be a major victory both for Israel and its apologists in Britain, who have been seeking to silence all meaningful criticism of Israel, and for the British corporate media, which would dearly love to see the back of an old-school socialist Labour leader whose program threatens to loosen the 40-year stranglehold of neoliberalism on British society.”

A Victory for Israel 

Cook understates the case. The decision by the party’s National Executive Committee is a victory for the Israel lobby and for forces on both sides of the Atlantic seeking to stifle criticism of Mideast policy. The reason is simple. Anglo-American policy rests on unqualified support for two regional powers—Israel and Saudi Arabia—that have been granted carte blanche to wage war on their neighbors at any time they like.  All other issues—refugees, minority rights, secularism—take a second seat next to this United States-conferred license to kill.

At a time when Western powers are cutting a swath of destruction from Libya to Yemen, there is little hope of opposing Israeli-Saudi aggression without tackling Jewish chauvinism and Wahhabist sectarianism. This requires strict neutrality with regard to ethno-religious conflicts while promoting democracy, secularism, national independence and equality.

This is elementary for “an old-school socialist” like Corbyn. But the definition that Labour has adopted tips the scales in favor of the chauvinists. Instead of charting an independent course, it subordinates the party to an endlessly bellicose foreign-policy establishment at a time when America and its allies are once again threatening war over Syria’s bid to expel U.S.-backed pro-al-Qaida forces from the northeastern province of Idlib.  

The spillover will be immense in the United Kingdom and United States. In a letter to the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, Kenneth L. Marcus, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ chief of civil rights, announced in August that the Trump administration will use the new definition in reopening an investigation into charges that a pro-Palestinian meeting at Rutgers University in 2011 violated Jewish student rights. Unless challenged in the courts, the decision will force universities throughout the country to shut down pro-Palestinian forces of just about any stripe on the grounds that their activities are discriminatory.  

Critics will wind up even more marginalized than they already are, if such a thing can be believed. Farther afield, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will gain an even freer hand in Syria and the occupied territories while the Saudis will have nothing to fear from U.S. critics as they pursue their criminal war against Yemen. The fact that the definition now carries the Labour Party’s imprimatur makes it all the more difficult to resist.

The Origins of the Definition 

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the group behind the new definition, is an non-governmental organization founded by former Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson in 1998 to counter Holocaust denial. While its intentions may seem honorable, its political slant was apparent from the outset when it named the relentless self-promoter Elie Wiesel as its honorary chairman.

Wiesel, who died two years ago, was a world-class hypocrite who condemned Germans for not speaking out against Hitler while making it a point never to speak out against the Jewish state. When hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in 1982 to protest the Israeli-backed slaughter of up to 3,500 Palestinians in Lebanon’s Sabra and Shatila refugee campaigns, he thus declared: “I support Israel—period.  I identify with Israel—period. I never attack, never criticize Israel when I am not in Israel.”  

It did not augur well for the IHRA. After the alliance developed its working definition of anti-Semitism beginning in 2003, the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, an arm of the European Union, put it up on its website in early 2005, but “without formal review.” The center’s successor, the EU-sponsored Fundamental Rights Agency then took it down in 2013. After languishing for a while longer, the definition was then resurrected by the IHRA and adopted in 2016 under pressure from the conservative Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Still, it won formal approval from only six of the alliance’s 31 member nations.

The IHRA definition’s opening statement—“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews”—is a grammatical mess, as Antony Lerman, a senior fellow at Vienna’s Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue, observed on the British website openDemocracy. While five examples of anti-Semitism it offers are accurate, six others dealing with the Jewish state are nothing less than explosive. According to the IHRA, anti-Semitism includes:

  • “Claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
  • “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

How is it anti-Semitic to describe Israel as a racist endeavor when leading Zionists explicitly endorsed ethnic cleansing in the years leading up to the establishment of a Jewish state? “We cannot start the Jewish state … with half the population being Arab,” Avraham Ussishkin, the Labor Zionist in charge of the Jewish National Fund, the agency charged with buying up land exclusively for Jewish use, declared in 1938, according to Benny Morris in The Birth of the Palestinian Problem Revisited.  “… Such a state cannot survive even half an hour.”  

A JNF official named Yosef Weitz added: “There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, save perhaps for Bethlehem, Nazareth, and old Jerusalem.  Not one village must be left, not one tribe.”

Is it Anti-Semitic if it’s True?

Accusing critics of holding Israel to an unreasonably high standard is itself unreasonable. Considering the opprobrium heaped on the U.S. for its racial policies, on Britain for its colonial policies, on France for its collaborationist policies during World War II, and so forth, Israel has gotten off lightly even though its anti-Palestinian policies are no less atrocious.

Controversial comparison with the Nazis is rhetoric with a history in Israeli politics. In 1948, Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Sidney Hook, and other Jewish notables published an open letter accusing future Prime Minister Menachem Begin of heading up a political movement “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy, and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”

Does this make Einstein an anti-Semite?  

Sixty-odd years later, hundreds of ultra-orthodox Jews paraded about in Jerusalem wearing concentration-camp uniforms with yellow Stars of David pinned to their chest. It was their way of showing that secular Israeli politicians are no better than Nazis. Are Hasidim anti-Semitic as well?  

Yehuda Bauer, the Israeli historian who serves as the IHRA’s formal academic adviser, in 2003 told a group of Danish visitors that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could conceivably end in a Mideast version of the Final Solution. “What we have here between the Israelis and the Palestinians is an armed conflict—if one side becomes stronger, there is a chance of genocide,” he said. When a visitor asked, “Am I to understand that you think Israel could commit genocide on the Palestinian people?,” Bauer replied: “Yes.”

“Just two days ago,” he went on, “extremist settlers passed out flyers to rid Arabs from this land. Ethnic cleansing results in mass killing.”  

By suggesting that Israel is in danger of succumbing to Nazi methods, has the alliance’s own adviser run afoul of its own definition?

Logic like this has been brought into sharp relief in view of the Israeli government’s attitude toward resurgent anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. In Lithuania, pro-Axis prosecutors have initiated legal proceedings against aged Jewish war veterans for alleged crimes committed while serving in anti-Nazi partisan units during World War II. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government is rehabilitating interwar leader Miklos Horthy, who helped send half a million Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in 1944. In Poland, the ruling Law and Justice Party has made it a crime to say that Poles were complicit in the Holocaust—which, in fact, thousands were—while Ukraine is now seeing “an unprecedented new surge of anti-Semitism” thanks to the U.S.-backed government’s heavy reliance on ultra-right militias in its war against pro-Russian separatists.

How has Israel responded? With forthright denunciations? With ringing appeals to humanity? With denunciations of anti-semitism? Not quite. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains close diplomatic relations with Lithuania and hails Orban as “a true friend of Israel” because he “understand[s] that the threat of radical Islam is a real one.” He has whitewashed Poland’s role in the Holocaust, earning a rebuke from Jerusalem’s famous Yad Vashem Holocaust museum on the grounds that “existing documentation and decades of historical research yield a totally different picture.”

The Israeli government’s response to Ukraine has been to sell arms to the nation’s ultra-right Azov Battalion, whose members sport Nazi regalia and whose founder, Andryi Biletsky, once proclaimed: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen [a term Nazis used to describe non-Aryan people].” As a result, Azov members carry Israeli-made Tavor rifles while former Israeli army officers provide training for Ukrainian military units.

Now the Labour Party officially says it’s forbidden to suggest that Israel is in any way emulating Nazi methods. Apparently it’s not anti-Semitic unless Netanyahu says it is, and considering how well he gets along with authoritarians like Orban, his judgement is questionable. 

Corbyn is a mild-mannered man who has been under relentless attacks from the party’s right-wing Blairite faction for months. Now, he’s allowed a Pandora’s box to be opened by giving in to the Zionist lobby, something he might long regret.

Daniel Lazare is the author of The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics. He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le Monde Diplomatique, and his articles about the Middle East, terrorism, Eastern Europe, and other topics appear regularly on such websites as Jacobin and The American Conservative.

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Freedom Flotilla Missions Will Continue ‘Until Palestine Is Free’

The bold journey of the 2018 Freedom Flotilla Coalition dared Palestinians and the world to dream of peace, dignity and freedom for all. Now, we must keep working to build a culture of nonviolence, writes Elizabeth Murray.

By Elizabeth Murray
Special to Consortium News

What’s next for the 2018 Freedom Flotilla Coalition?

In August, the crew and passengers of the Freedom Flotilla ships, Al Awda and Freedom, returned to their home countries after being hijacked, interrogated and imprisoned by Israeli commandos. The outcome may have appeared anticlimactic, since many supporters had hoped for a triumphant arrival by the flotilla ships in Gaza Harbor and a  breaking of Israel’s illegal 12-year land and sea blockade of the small Palestinian enclave.

But in many ways, the 2018 Freedom Flotilla mission has achieved its goals—which were to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza, raise public awareness of the blockade and other human rights violations, and let the people of Gaza know that they are not alone.

Of course, had the flotilla ships been able to reach Gaza unhindered, it would have been a remarkable accomplishment and the first time the blockade had been breached in 10 years.  

Back then—in August 2008—two boats carrying international solidarity activists sailed into Gaza’s shores to a hero’s welcome from the locals, including children, who swam out to greet them. It was a dramatic display of people-to-people solidarity against the illegal Israeli blockade.

Their arrival in Gaza was momentous and cathartic, and served notice to the people of Gaza that their plight—and Israel’s criminal blockade—had not gone unnoticed by the world. Israel has since shown great resolve in its determination to prevent such a display of humanity and solidarity from ever recurring again—even at the cost of innocent lives.

Since then, Israel has blocked similar solidarity ships from arriving in Gaza, either by hijacking them in international waters (as took place this year) or by pressuring other governments to detain the ships, as when the Greek government compelled the Gaza-bound Audacity of Hope to return to port shortly after its departure from Athens—under threat of armed force.  

A Challenge to Israel

In 2010, heavily armed Israeli commandos boarded the Gaza-bound cruise ship Mavi Marmara, assaulting and injuring numerous passengers and killing nine of them, including a U.S. citizen. Despite the clear death threat from Israel, the Freedom Flotilla boats keep coming, including the Estelle in 2012 and the Marianne in 2015, challenging the Israeli blockade.

The Freedom Flotilla phenomenon makes it evident that the movement’s momentum, persistence and staying power have little to do with its actual physical arrival in Gaza and more to do with other less tangible aspects of the journey.

The actual act of challenging Israel’s illegal land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip is in itself a bold and even revolutionary statement of the need to hold Israel accountable under international law for its human rights violations. These repeated sea-based challenges to Israeli impunity have garnered international attention and admiration from the grassroots public—particularly in view of the unwillingness of governments to acknowledge and confront Israel’s 70-year subjugation and occupation of the Palestinian people.

The Freedom Flotilla’s international composition—with crew and delegates of numerous nationalities (including New Zealand, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, First Nations, Spain, Israel, United States, Norway, Sweden, etc.) has inspired and energized Palestinians in the diaspora and in their homeland. They realize that this small group of activists willing to undergo significant collective risk to highlight the Palestinians’ plight and break the silence represents the world’s people.

Palestinians have responded by staging bold nonviolent actions of their own, such as the recent series of seaborne flotillas Gaza fishermen initiated to challenge the sea blockade and protest Israel’s arbitrary fishing restrictions and random acts of terrorism against fishers, who are routinely harassed and shot at while they are trying to fish, and whose fishing boats are either shot up or confiscated. Diaspora Palestinians showed up in large numbers to greet, celebrate and host the Freedom Flotilla at every port of call.

United Against Inhumanity

The Freedom Flotilla’s engagement of local grassroots community organizations, media interviews, interaction with the public through boat tours and one-on-one conversations have raised the profile of Gaza’s plight, reminding the outside world that residents of Gaza have no freedom of movement, and that repeated, massive Israeli aerial bombings have disabled the electricity grid, destroyed the sewage treatment plant and rendered 98 percent of the water undrinkable.  

Meanwhile, the blockade prevents the entry of critical food, medicine and construction materials—preventing Gazans from rebuilding or repairing their destroyed homes and infrastructure.

Freedom Flotilla delegates were honored at parliamentary sessions and feted by local dignitaries and government officials in several cities along their route, raising the profile of Palestinian suffering under the Israeli blockade. As a result, the Freedom Flotilla earned explicit statements of political support for their anti-blockade mission from the Spanish municipality of Asturias-Gijon and from other grassroots political organizations.

Some Freedom Flotilla participants have provided media accounts describing abusive treatment at the hands of their Israeli captors, including this piece by United Kingdom-based Al Awda delegate and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Swee Ang. This reporting has outraged the public in their respective countries and redoubled the resolve of many organizations to promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Roger Waters, the musician of Pink Floyd fame and an active proponent of BDS, recently invited several Freedom Flotilla crew members to his August concert in Oslo and publically hailed them as his “heroes.”

Indeed, in the wake of the Freedom Flotilla action, the BDS movement has seen several notable successes. At least 15 international bands and artists have withdrawn from an Israeli music festival. Six of 11 invited speakers also have confirmed their withdrawal from a scientific forum at Ariel University, which is built on occupied Palestinian land in an Israeli settlement. Palestinian scholars had urged speakers to withdraw, citing Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinian academics. As Israeli crimes against Palestinians continue unchecked, these developments build on the international outrage.

At the same time, the Freedom Flotilla’s nonviolent challenge to Israel’s blockade coincided with the (still ongoing) weekly protest by Gazans known as the Great March of Return. During this peaceful action—in which unarmed Palestinians have been asserting their rights to liberty and freedom—Israeli snipers have been shooting and killing civilians of all ages, including children, women and medical workers. Casualties now are in the thousands. Images of the victims of Israeli violence have elicited expressions of disgust and outrage toward Israel, as well as sympathy and support for Palestinian freedom.

Giving Palestinians a Voice

These are the atrocities that have moved members of the Freedom Flotilla to risk their own lives to make a change.

First Mate Charlie Andreasson, a red-haired, blue-eyed Swede,explains: “Anything I’ve suffered at the hands of the Israelis is nothing compared to what the Palestinians suffer.”  

Asked why he was on his third Freedom Flotilla mission (he was aboard the Estelle and Marianne), Andreasson said: “I have blue eyes and white skin.  I may as well put them to good use.” The remark alluded to an awareness that because of his race and nationality, any suffering he might be subjected to would draw international media attention—unlike the suffering of ordinary Gazans, whose daily tragedies and humiliations pass largely unnoticed by most Western news services.

Andreasson noted that historically, change is not initiated by governments, but by ordinary people “who have had enough” and who are “standing united against injustice.” He cited as examples the U.S. civil rights movement, women’s rights, the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and the rights of LGBT persons.

“So I believe we are wasting our energy when time after time we demand that our governments take action instead of getting people united around the world,” he said. “That is why we have to get our asses off the sofa and start to make a change. After all, we want to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror without feeling ashamed that we didn’t do anything.”

Addressing those who might not be up for a sea journey to Gaza, Andreasson counseled: “You don’t have to sail with the Freedom Flotilla, you don’t have to risk your life or take any time off—it can be enough just to refuse to buy Israeli products.”

Divina Levrini, a passenger aboard the Al Awda who also hails from Sweden and, like Andreasson, is a veteran of previous Freedom Flotilla journeys, said she has worked on behalf of the Palestinian cause since her teenage years. It was “a natural thing” for her “to go and try to put an end to the blockade” since she has been educating others about it for so many years. “If it takes Westerners to give the Palestinians a voice, so be it,” she said.

Levrini thought the flotilla “made a difference.” In addition to the “very important” media publicity, the flotilla mission helped bring about political change, she said. “During the two-and-one-half months the flotilla journeyed from port to port, we actually compelled politicians to act,” she said—a reference in part to Navarre becoming the first Spanish state to adopt a BDS resolution.

Pointing to the dire United Nations warning that Gaza would be “uninhabitable” in two years, Levrini stated that political change “is what Gaza needs. They need that change right now. We need to take an extreme course of action to make a change.”

Asked what message she would like to send to Israel, Levrini—who briefly staged a hunger strike during her incarceration in Israel to protest prison conditions—stated: “My only message to Israel is a bold one. The ships will continue to sail until Palestine is free from Israeli terror.”

Right to a Just Future

Before we can move toward any real justice in Gaza, more people need to acknowledge the injustice that exists.

On July 29, Israeli Navy gunboats surrounded the Al Awda as it approached Gaza Harbor with 22 passengers and crew aboard (five days later, the Freedom followed with 12 aboard). Masked commandos armed with machine guns boarded the ship and violently tasered and assaulted several passengers and crew members, including the ship’s captain, Norwegian national Herman Reksten. They did this despite being repeatedly advised by Al Awda crew member Mikkel Gruener by radio that the Al Awda was in international waters and “wanted no business” with Israel.

The Israelis seemed to reserve a special contempt for the mostly Norwegian crew. Not only did they physically assault them, but they tore down the Norwegian flag and trampled it underfoot, deeply offending the crew members, who managed to salvage it.

Both the Al Awda and the boats were purchased, refurbished, and outfitted through the private donations of Freedom Flotilla supporters from around the world. They were to have been delivered to Gaza’s fishers as gifts of friendship and solidarity from the international seafarers. Instead, Israel has confiscated them and looted the personal effects of the passenger and crew on both flotilla ships—taking laptops computers, camera equipment, watches, credit cards, cell phones, clothing and cash.

“They stole everything,” said Levrini, who was reduced to tears after witnessing Israeli commandos savagely beat, head-slam and then threaten to execute Al Awda captain Reksten. First Mate Andreasson tweeted that Israel “stole our private belongings” adding: “Once again, we got to know what it’s like to be Palestinians.”

Perhaps worst of all has been the Israeli military’s failure thus far to release 114 boxes of medical supplies—including medical gauze and sutures for the Gaza health system—that had been loaded onto the Al Awda just prior to the final leg of its journey. The consignment of medical aid was to have provided needed medical supplies and equipment to a populace being bombed and shot at mercilessly, even as weekly Great March of Return demonstrations at the no-man’s land between Gaza and Israel continue. A petition is circulating to demand that the medical supplies be delivered to Gaza.

The passengers and crew of the Freedom Flotilla boats are people of privilege. We can travel freely and do not have to deal with incessant Israeli repression, violence and humiliation. We know our experience cannot hold a candle to what people living in Gaza are forced to endure under Israel’s suffocating yoke of oppression.

But the bold journey of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition dared Palestinians and the world to dream—to dream of a day when people of the world unite with such fervor for justice and human rights that barriers and obstacles will fall away, and peace, dignity, and freedom will be possible for all.

The sentiment of all those who shared in the Freedom Flotilla’s journey—passengers, crew, and the land-based support teams—perhaps can best be summed up by the words of Irish Nobel Peace Prize recipient Mairead Maguire, a veteran of many Gaza solidarity boat journeys (one of the 2018 Freedom Flotilla ships was named after her) who understands the challenge ahead.  

“I believe, with Gandhi, that we need to take an imaginative leap toward fresh and generous idealism for the sake of humanity—that we need to renew this ancient wisdom of nonviolence, to strive for a disarmed world, and to create a culture of nonviolence.”

Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). Murray was a delegate on the first leg of this year’s Freedom Flotilla.  

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Corbyn’s Labour is Being Made to Fail – by Design

Besieged for four years with charges of anti-semitism, Jeremy Corbyn’s allies in the Labour leadership have largely lost the stomach for battle, one that was never about substance or policy but about character assassination, says Jonathan Cook.
By Jonathan Cook

The Labour party, relentlessly battered by an organized campaign of smears of its leader, Jeremy Corbyn – first for being anti-semitic, and now for honoring Palestinian terrorists – is reportedly about to adopt the four additional working “examples” of anti-semitism drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Labour initially rejected these examples – stoking yet more condemnation from Israel’s lobbyists and the British corporate media – because it justifiably feared, as have prominent legal experts, that accepting them would severely curb the freedom to criticize Israel.

The media’s ever-more outlandish slurs against Corbyn and the Labour party’s imminent capitulation on the IHRA’s full definition of anti-semitism are not unrelated events. The former was designed to bring about the latter.

According to a report in The Guardian last week, senior party figures are agitating for the rapid adoption of the full IHRA definition, ideally before the party conference next month, and say Corbyn has effectively surrendered to the pressure. An MP who supports Corbyn told the paper Corbyn would “just have to take one for the team.”

In a strong indication of the way the wind is now blowing, The Guardian added:

The party said it would consult the main [Jewish] communal bodies as well as experts and academics, but groups such as the pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice for Labour have not been asked to give their views.

No Stomach for Battle

The full adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism will be a major victory both for Israel and its apologists in Britain, who who have been seeking to silence all meaningful criticism of Israel, and for the British corporate media, which would dearly love to see the back of an old-school socialist Labour leader whose programme threatens to loosen the 40-year stranglehold of neoliberalism on British society.

Besieged for four years, Corbyn’s allies in the Labour leadership have largely lost the stomach for battle, one that was never about substance or policy but about character assassination. As the stakes have been constantly upped by the media and the Blairite holdouts in the party bureaucracy, the inevitable has happened. Corbyn has been abandoned. Few respected politicians with career ambitions or a public profile want to risk being cast out into the wilderness, like Ken Livingstone, as an anti-semite.

This is why the supposed anti-semitism “crisis” in a Corbyn-led Labour party has been so much more effective than berating him for his clothes or his patriotism. Natural selection – survival of the smear fittest for the job – meant that a weaponised anti-semitism would eventually identify Corbyn as its prime target and not just his supporters – especially after his unexpectedly strong showing at the polls in last year’s election.

Worse, Corbyn himself has conceded too much ground on anti-semitism. As a lifelong anti-racism campaigner, the accusations of anti-semitism have clearly pained him. He has tried to placate rather than defy the smearers. He has tried to maintain unity with people who have no interest in finding common ground with him.

And as he has lost all sense of how to respond in good faith to allegations made in bad faith, he has begun committing the cardinal sin of sounding and looking evasive – just as those who deployed the anti-semitism charge hoped. It was his honesty, plain-speaking and compassion that won him the leadership and the love of ordinary members. Unless he can regain the political and spiritual confidence that underpinned those qualities, he risks haemorrhaging support.

A Critical Juncture

But beyond Corbyn’s personal fate, the Labour party has now reached a critical juncture in its response to the smear campaign. In adopting the full IHRA definition, the party will jettison the principle of free speech and curtail critical debate about an entire country, Israel – as well as a key foreign policy issue for those concerned about the direction the Middle East is taking.

Discussion of what kind of state Israel is, what its policy goals are, and whether they are compatible with a peace process are about to be taken off the table by Britain’s largest, supposedly progressive party.

That thought spurred me to cast an eye over my back-catalogue of journalism. I have been based in Nazareth, in Israel’s Galilee, since 2001. In that time I have written – according to my website – more than 900 articles (plus another few hundred blog posts) on Israel, as well as three peer-reviewed books and a clutch of chapters in edited collections. That’s a lot of writing. Many more than a million words about Israel over nearly two decades.

What shocked me, however, as I started to pore over these articles was that almost all of them – except for a handful dealing with internal Palestinian politics – would fall foul of at least one of these four additional IHRA examples Labour is about to adopt.

After 17 years of writing about Israel, after winning a respected journalism prize for being “one of the reliable truth-tellers in the Middle East,” the Labour party is about to declare that I, and many others like me, are irredeemable anti-semites.

Not that I am unused to such slurs. I am intimately familiar with a community of online stalkers who happily throw around the insults “Nazi” and “anti-semite” at anyone who doesn’t cheerlead the settlements of the Greater Israel project. But far more troubling is that this will be my designation not by bullying Israel partisans but by the official party of the British left.

Of course, I will not be alone. Much of my journalism has been about documenting and reporting the careful work of scholars, human rights groups, lawyers and civil society organisations – Palestinian, Israeli and international alike – that have charted the structural racism in Israel’s legal and administrative system, explaining often in exasperating detail its ethnocractic character and its apartheid policies. All of us are going to be effectively cast out, denied any chance to inform or contribute to the debates and policies of Britain’s only leftwing party with a credible shot at power.

That is a shocking realisation. The Labour party is about to slam the door shut in the faces of the Palestinian people, as well as progressive Jews and others who stand in solidarity with them.

Betrayal of Palestinians

The article in The Guardian, the newspaper that has done more to damage Corbyn than any other (by undermining him from within his own camp), described the incorporation of the full IHRA anti-semitism definition into Labour’s code of conduct as a “compromise”, as though the betrayal of an oppressed people was something over which middle ground could be found.

Remember that the man who drafted the IHRA definition and its associated examples, American Jewish lawyer Kenneth Stern, has publicly regretted their impact, saying that in practice they have severely curbed freedom of speech about Israel.

How these new examples will be misused by Corbyn’s opponents should already be clear. He made his most egregious mistake in the handling of the party’s supposed anti-semitism “crisis” precisely to avoid getting caught up in a violation of one of the IHRA examples Labour is about to adopt: comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.

He apologized for attending an anti-racism event and distanced himself from a friend, the late Hajo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor and defender of Palestinian rights, who used his speech to compare Israel’s current treatment of Palestinians to early Nazi laws that vilified and oppressed Jews.

It was a Judas-like act for which it is not necessary to berate Corbyn. He is doubtless already torturing himself over what he did. But that is the point: the adoption of the full IHRA definition will demand the constant vilification and rooting out of progressive and humane voices like Meyer’s. It will turn the Labour party into the

to the modern equivalent of Senator Joe McCarthy’s House of Un-American Activities Committee. Labour activists will find themselves, like Corbyn, either outed or required to out others as supposed anti-semites. They will have to denounce reasonable criticisms of Israel and dissociate themselves from supporters of the Palestinian cause, even Holocaust survivors.

The patent absurdity of Labour including this new anti-semitism “example” should be obvious the moment we consider that it will recast not only Meyer and other Holocaust survivors as anti-semites but leading Jewish intellectuals and scholars – even Israeli army generals.

Two years ago Yair Golan, the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli military, went public with such a comparison. Addressing an audience in Israel on Holocaust Day, he spoke of where Israel was heading:

If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.

Is it not a paradox that, were Golan a member of the Labour party, that statement – a rare moment of self-reflection by a senior Israeli figure – will soon justify his being vilified and hounded out of the Labour party?

Evidence of Israeli Apartheid

Looking at my own work, it is clear that almost all of it falls foul of two further “examples” of anti-semitism cited in the full IHRA definition that Labour is preparing to adopt:

Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

and:

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

One hardly needs to point out how preposterous it is that the Labour Party is about to outlaw from internal discussion or review any research, scholarship or journalism that violates these two “examples” weeks after Israel passed its Nation-State Basic Law. That law, which has constitutional weight, makes explicit what was always implicit in Israel as a Jewish state:

1. that Israel privileges the rights and status of Jews around the world, including those who have never even visited Israel, above the rights of the fifth of the country’s citizens who are non-Jews (the remnants of the native Palestinian population who survived the ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948).

2. that Israel, as defined in the Basic Law, is not a state bounded by internationally recognized borders but rather the “Land of Israel” – a Biblical conception of Israel whose borders encompass the occupied Palestinian territories and parts of many neighboring states.

How, one might reasonably wonder, is such a state – defined this way in the Basic Law – a normal “democratic” state? How is it not structurally racist and inherently acquisitive of other people’s territory?

Contrary to the demands of these two extra IHRA “examples”, the Basic Law alone shows that Israel is a “racist endeavor” and that we cannot judge it by the same standards we would a normal western-style democracy. Not least, it has a double “border” problem: it forces Jews everywhere to be included in its self-definition of the “nation”, whether they want to be or not; and it lays claim to the title deeds of other territories without any intention to confer on their non-Jewish inhabitants the rights it accords Jews.

Demanding that we treat Israel as a normal western-style liberal democracy – as the IHRA full definition requires – makes as much sense as having demanded the same for apartheid South Africa back in the 1980s.

Unaccountable Politics

The Labour party has become the largest in Europe as Corbyn has attracted huge numbers of newcomers into the membership, inspired by a new kind of politics. That is a terrifying development for the old politics, which preferred tiny political cliques accountable chiefly to corporate donors, leaving a slightly wider circle of activists largely powerless.

That is why the Blairite holdouts in the party bureaucracy are quite content to use any pretext not only to root out genuine progressive activists drawn to a Corbyn-led party, including anti-Zionist Jewish activists, but to alienate tens of thousands more members that had begun to transform Labour into a grassroots movement.

A party endlessly obsessing about anti-semitism, a party that has abandoned the Palestinians, a party that has begun throwing out key progressive principles, a party that has renounced free speech, and a party that no longer puts the interests of the poor and vulnerable at the centre of its concerns is a party that will fail.

That is where the anti-semitism “crisis” is leading Labour – precisely as it was designed to do.

This article originally appeared on Johnathan Cook’s blog.

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. He blogs at https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/.




Consortium News Radio— Episode 2: Joe Meadors

A USS Liberty survivor who was arrested by Israel this month trying to break the Gaza blockade joins Episode 2 of Consortium News Radio.  

Joe Meadors was a signalman on the USS Liberty surveillance ship on June 8, 1967 when Israel attacked, killing 34 U.S. sailors and injuring 173 more.

This month Meadors was arrested by Israeli soldiers onboard a boat taking part in a flotilla to break the Gaza blockade.

Meadors tells Consortium News Radio in this episode how he first became sympathetic to the Palestinians while growing up in Saudi Arabia; how he was told by his superiors not to discuss what happened on the Liberty; why he broke his silence 12 years later; who he thought was attacking the Liberty; why the U.S. covered it up; what he believes was Israel’s motive in trying to sink his ship; what it was like in Israeli custody this month and much more.




The Faulty Logic Behind the Attack on BDS

Defenders of Israel are using flawed logic in trying to tar supporters of the age-old tactic of boycotts as anti-semitic, argues Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

If you search the topic boycotts on Google you immediately realize how historically common they are. There are a lot to choose from, and one of the first listed is the 1769 boycott instituted by the First Continental Congress against Great Britain over the issue of “taxation without representation.” That makes a boycott against a perceived oppressive power an integral part of American heritage.

As you move into the modern era, a reaction against racism also becomes a noticeable motivating factor for many boycotts. The Chinese instituted a boycott against the United States over the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1892 and 1904. Then, in 1933, the American Jewish Congress declared a boycott of Nazi Germany in protest to its racially motivated oppression of the German Jewish community. In the 1940s, Ghandi would encourage Indians to boycott imperial Britain. In the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans would boycott segregated institutions in the U.S. South. In the 1960s through the 1990s, much of the world would boycott South Africa over the issue of apartheid. And this is but a short list.

In 2005, 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, including unions, refugee networks, women’s organizations, and political parties, put out a call for a boycott of Israel. This was to be a non-violent effort to pressure the Zionist state to conform to international law and cease its oppression of the Palestinians. The call was also for divestment from Israel and all entities that assisted and profited from its behavior, as well as for eventual sanctions. This is known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, or BDS for short.

Redefining Anti-Semitism

Even though Jews had suffered in the Holocaust during World War II and had used boycott as a weapon against their oppressors, the Israelis and their Zionist supporters have taken great umbrage at the call for boycott by the Palestinians. They see it as “anti-Semitic.”

For instance, in the U.S. the Zionist Anti-Defamation League has this to say about the BDS campaign on its website:

Many of the founding goals of the BDS movement, including denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination … are anti-Semitic. Many individuals involved in BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. … And, all too often, BDS advocates employ anti-Semitic rhetoric and narratives to isolate and demonize Israel.”

This statement expresses the “official” Israeli/Zionist position, and at its core is a purposeful conflation of the Jewish people and the Israeli state. By insisting on this identification of Israel and all Jews, the Zionists are able to redefine anti-Semitism. Indeed, they take a very old and well-understood phenomenon and give it a radically new, and quite suspect, definition.

The traditional definition of anti-Semitism is a dislike of or bias against Jews by virtue of their imagined inherent “Jewishness.” Note that this is very different from objecting to, say, the criminal behavior of someone or some group that just happens to be Jewish. In the first case, it is “Jewishness” that you object to. That is anti-Semitism. In the second case, it is criminal behavior that you object to, regardless of whether the criminal is Jewish. That is not anti-Semitism.

However, by arbitrarily conflating all Jews with the Israeli state, the Zionists tell us that criticism or opposition to Israeli state behavior—even if that behavior is criminal—is anti-Semitic. This is because Israel stands in for all Jews. Thus, they redefine anti-Semitism in a way that allows Israel to sidestep all moral responsibility by turning the argument around and pointing fingers at their critics. For instance, do you object to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? Well, for the Zionists the issue is no longer the criminal nature of ethnic cleansing, but the alleged anti-Semitism of those criticizing that behavior.

Let’s consider this Zionist maneuver against the following background:

  • In June, 2018, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), representing 1.5 million Americans, “voted unanimously” to support the BDS campaign.
  • In July, 2018, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA voted to support BDS by screening suspect companies that might be aiding Israel in the violation of Palestinian human rights and divest from them if this proves to be the case. The Episcopal Church USA represents 3 million Americans.
  • There are, in fact, dozens of Jewish organizations worldwide supporting the BDS campaign. These have thousands of members.
  • All together we are talking about millions of people, both Christian and Jewish, a good percentage of whom support, or at least are in sympathy with BDS. Are they all anti-Semitic? According to the Zionist’s novel definition—the one that conflates Jews with the Israeli state—the answer is yes. But clearly this assertion can’t be right.

Logical Fallacies and Erroneous Thinking

The Zionist gambit is actually an act of obfuscation using a logical fallacy called the “straw man.” It is “based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be attacking a straw man.”

Thus, as suggested above, every time someone charges that the state of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is, say, in violation of international law, the issue of the validity of this charge is replaced by “straw man,” which in this case is alleged anti-Semitism of the critic. It is to be noted that in most of these confrontations only one side has any real evidence.

The critic might point to evidence of ethnic cleansing, property destruction and land theft, and various policies that have, according to David Harel, the vice-president of the Israel Academy of Science and Humanities, turned Israel into an “apartheid” state. On the other side, however, those using the straw man fallacy often have no objective evidence at all. Their claim of anti-Semitism is based on their own idiosyncratic definition of this prejudice. Making a case in this way also involves “begging the question” or “circular reasoning,” which are also erroneous ways of arguing. This occurs when a person “assumes as evidence for their argument the very conclusion they are attempting to prove.”

The great 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume once remarked (referring to the subject of miracles) that “those with strong religious beliefs are often prepared to give evidence that they know is false, with the best intentions in the world, for the sake of promoting so holy a cause.” We can ascribe this sentiment to the true believer of just about any belief system deemed “holy” in one sense or another. Certainly those with strong Zionist beliefs would qualify—though I am pretty sure theirs are not “the best intentions in the world.”

Hume goes on to say that “people are often too credulous when faced with such witnesses, whose apparent honesty and eloquence … may overcome normal skepticism.” Thus, the faulty logic of the Zionist attack on the BDS campaign has not prevented partial success. This is particularly true in the halls of power where faulty logic is combined with Zionist lobby power that can help or hinder the politician’s reelection. Here Zionist power and influence are being used to actually outlaw BDS. To date some twenty-five U.S. states have tried to do this even though, as an infringement of free speech, their efforts are clearly unconstitutional. In this case lobby power proves more compelling than either the U.S. constitution or logic.

Let’s end by quoting George Orwell. His experiences with the pervasive propaganda used by all sides just before and during World War II gave him “the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.” Such efforts have not stopped.

This piece first appeared on Lawrence Davidson’s blog.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National InterestAmerica’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. He blogs at www.tothepointanalyses.com.