Tag Archives: Israel

Nearly 50 Senators Want To Make It a Felony To Boycott Israel, by Aniqa Raihan

As the Supreme Court ruled in 1982, nonviolent boycotts are a form of constitutionally protected free speech. Now legislation is gathering steam to abridge this right if you boycott Israel. From Aniqa Raihan at antiwar.com:

The goal is to frighten people from engaging in the completely legal act of living out their values

In 1966, the NAACP of Claiborne County, Mississippi launched a boycott of several white-owned local businesses on the basis of racial discrimination.

It was so impactful that the local hardware store filed a lawsuit against the individuals and organizations who coordinated the boycott. After 10 long years of litigation, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in favor of the white businesses and ordered the NAACP to pay for all their lost earnings.

Years later, in 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 to overturn the lower court’s decision on the basis that nonviolent boycotts are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. In announcing the unanimous decision, Justice John Paul Stevens said, “One of the foundations of our society is the right of individuals to combine with other persons in pursuit of a common goal by lawful means.”

That should have been the end of it. But now, Americans’ right to boycott is under attack once again – thanks to a vicious anti-boycott bill making its way through the Senate.

In particular, it appears to target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS is an international movement calling on individuals, institutions, and governments to boycott Israeli products until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands. The boycott is explicitly nonviolent and is supported by activists, celebrities, faith-based groups, and political and social justice organizations around the world.

The proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act would make it a felony for Americans to support BDS, with a penalty of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison.

Unfortunately, the bill enjoys bipartisan support: 32 Republicans and 15 Democrats are currently signed on as cosponsors, including party leaders like Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). In response, the ACLU issued a letter urging members of the Senate to oppose the bill based on its “direct violation of the First Amendment.” (Following the publication of the ACLU’s letter, several members of Congress have agreed to review their sponsorship, but so far none have removed their names.)

To continue reading: Nearly 50 Senators Want To Make It a Felony To Boycott Israel

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Neocons Leverage Trump-Hate for More Wars, by Robert Parry

If you’ve been looking for a catalogue of recent neoconservative depredations, here it is. From Robert Parry at consortiumnews.com:

Exclusive: The enactment of new sanctions against Russia and Iran – with the support of nearly all Democrats and Republicans in Congress – shows how the warmongering neocons again have come out on top, reports Robert Parry.

A savvy Washington observer once told me that the political reality about the neoconservatives is that they alone couldn’t win you a single precinct in the United States. But both Republicans and Democrats still line up to gain neocon support or at least neocon acceptance.

A scene from “Dr. Strangelove,” in which the bomber pilot (played by actor Slim Pickens) rides a nuclear bomb to its target in the Soviet Union.

Part of the reason for this paradox is the degree of dominance that the neoconservatives have established in the national news media – as op-ed writers and TV commentators – and the neocon ties to the Israel Lobby that is famous for showering contributions on favored politicians and on the opponents of those not favored.

Since the neocons’ emergence as big-time foreign policy players in the Reagan administration, they also have demonstrated extraordinary resilience, receiving a steady flow of money often through U.S. government-funded grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy and through donations from military contractors to hawkish neocon think tanks.

But neocons’ most astonishing success over the past year may have been how they have pulled liberals and even some progressives into the neocon strategies for war and more war, largely by exploiting the Left’s disgust with President Trump.

People who would normally favor international cooperation toward peaceful resolution of conflicts have joined the neocons in ratcheting up global tensions and making progress toward peace far more difficult.

The provocative “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” which imposes sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea while tying President Trump’s hands in removing those penalties, passed the Congress without a single Democrat voting no.

The only dissenting votes came from three Republican House members – Justin Amash of Michigan, Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky – and from Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the Senate.

To continue reading: Neocons Leverage Trump-Hate for More Wars

 

Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syria War? by Ramzy Baroud

On present course, Israel is not going to get the Syrian regime change for which it’s always hoped. From Ramzy Baroud at antiwar.com:

Israel, which has played a precarious role in the Syrian war since 2011, is furious to learn that the future of the conflict is not to its liking.

The six-year-old Syria war is moving to a new stage, perhaps its final. The Syrian regime is consolidating its control over most of the populated centers, while ISIS is losing ground fast – and everywhere.

Areas evacuated by the rapidly disintegrated militant group are up for grabs. There are many hotly contested regions sought over by the government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and its allies, on the one hand, and the various anti-Assad opposition groups and their supporters, on the other.

With ISIS largely vanquished in Iraq – at an extremely high death toll of 40,000 people in Mosul alone – warring parties there are moving west. Shia militias, emboldened by the Iraq victory, have been pushing westward as far as the Iraq-Syria border, converging with forces loyal to the Syrian government on the other side.

Concurrently, first steps at a permanent ceasefire are bearing fruit, compared to many failed attempts in the past.

Following a ceasefire agreement between the United States and Russia on July 7 at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, three provinces in southwestern Syria – bordering Jordan and Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – are now relatively quiet. The agreement is likely to be extended elsewhere.

The Israeli government has made it clear to the US that it is displeased with the agreement, and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been leading strong efforts to undermine the ceasefire.

Netanyahu’s worst fears are, perhaps, actualizing: a solution in Syria that would allow for a permanent Iranian and Hezbollah presence in the country.

In the early phases of the war, such a possibility seemed remote; the constantly changing fortunes in Syria’s brutal combat made the discussion altogether irrelevant.

But things have now changed.

To continue reading: Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syria War?

 

Netanyahu Pushes Trump Toward Wider Wars, by Robert Parry

Israel plays the same game it and many other US allies have played for years: get America to fight your wars for you. From Robert Parry at consortiumnews.com:

Exclusive: Russia-gate is empowering Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to strong-arm President Trump into escalating the Syrian war by abandoning a recent cease-fire and challenging Iran and Russia, reports Robert Parry.

A weakened, even desperate President Donald Trump must decide whether to stand up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or to repudiate the Syrian partial ceasefire, which Trump hammered out with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 7.

Whether intentionally or not, this crossroads is where the months of Russia-gate hysteria have led the United States, making Trump even more vulnerable to Israeli and neoconservative pressure and making any cooperation with Russia more dangerous for him politically.

After meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Sunday, Netanyahu declared that Israel was totally opposed to the Trump-Putin cease-fire deal in southern Syria because it perpetuates Iranian presence in Syria in support of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Netanyahu’s position increases pressure on Trump to escalate U.S. military involvement in Syria and possibly move toward war against Iran and even Russia. The American neocons, who generally move in sync with Netanyahu’s wishes, already have as their list of current goals “regime changes” in Damascus, Tehran and Moscow – regardless of the dangers to the Middle East and indeed the world.

At the G-20 summit on July 7, Trump met for several hours with Putin coming away with an agreed-upon cease-fire for southwestern Syria, an accord that has proven more successful than previous efforts to reduce the violence that has torn the country apart since 2011.

But that limited peace could mean failure for the proxy war that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other regional players helped launch six years ago with the goal of removing Assad from power and shattering the so-called “Shiite crescent”from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut. Instead, that “crescent” appears more firmly in place, with Assad’s military bolstered by Shiite militia forces from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In other words, the “regime change” gambit against Assad’s government would have backfired, with Iranian and Hezbollah forces arrayed along Israel’s border with Syria. And instead of accepting that reversal and seeking some modus vivendi with Iran, Netanyahu and his Sunni-Arab allies (most notably the Saudi monarchy) have decided to go in the other direction (a wider war) and to bring President Trump along with them.

To continue reading: Netanyahu Pushes Trump Toward Wider Wars

Powerball, Part Two, by Robert Gore

Last month, Donald Trump may have become virtually unchallengeable.

In Powerball, Part One, it was suggested that President Trump and Attorney General Sessions may have acquired James Comey’s files, and thus significant leverage against “much of official Washington.” If that has happened, it may come to be viewed as one component of the most sweeping Washington power consolidation since FDR’s first term.

Trump’s recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe. He made magnanimous overtures to the Saudi regime he had harshly criticized during his presidential campaign. That regime has been rightfully condemned for repression, institutionalized misogyny, religious intolerance, a draconian legal system, and sponsoring global terrorism (including the 9/11 attacks), among other transgressions. Trump not only reversed his rhetoric, he signed a deal to sell the Saudis $110 billion worth of American armaments. Saudi atrocities against its southern neighbor, Yemen, had prompted Obama to hold up some arms sales; now they’ve all been green-lighted.

Nations who foolishly venture into the Middle East should pick a side—Sunni or Shia—and stick with it. For decades the US government has tried to play both ends against the middle. In Syria and Iraq, it has allied with both Sunnis and Shias and found itself played: manipulated by both sides, blood and treasure lost, in the midst of self-inflicted chaos and instability, and afflicted, with its European allies, by refugee and terrorism blowback.

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Trump’s visit made clear that game is over: the US government will back the Sunnis—Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) monarchies, Egypt, Turkey—and their tacit ally, Israel. Under Obama, relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and Israel had deteriorated, with no offsetting improvement in relations with the Shia crescent: Iran, Iraq, Alawite (a minority Syrian Shia sect—Bashar al-Assad is Alawite) Syria, and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Trump stepped up criticism of Iran while assuring the Sunni-Israel axis he wouldn’t interfere in their internal affairs . There were no criticisms of Saudi Arabia’s, Turkey’s, and Israel’s treatment of Yemenis, Kurds, and Palestinians respectively.

Commentary about Trump making nice with the Saudis has been widespread; questions about what he received in return much less so. What did the Sunni-Israel axis give up for this amplification of US allegiance? The Deep State has used Islamic guerrillas for its own geopolitical aims since the US aided the mujahideen’s war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. While Sunni ISIS is an offshoot of al Qaeda, purportedly behind the 9/11 bombings, it is the main source of opposition to Assad and the Shia regime in Iraq. Deposing both is a longstanding goal of the Sunni-Israel axis. The US has not objected to their military and financial aid to ISIS. The US itself stands accused of directly aiding ISIS. By supplying training and arms to purported moderate rebels, it has certainly indirectly aided the group. Those “moderate” rebels often fall in with ISIS or the Al-Nusra front, ISIS’s ally, supplying manpower and their US-provided weaponry.

Trump has shifted the goal from deposing Assad to defeating ISIS and allies once and for all, a sea change in American policy. He may have entirely abandoned using Islamic proxies for US ends, another sea change. For arms deals and other goodies, he probably extracted a pledge from the GCC states and Turkey to quit supporting ISIS. Tellingly, this weekend Saudi Arabia and other GCC members severed relations with member Qatar, citing, among other alleged transgressions, its funding of Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Trump’s shift recognize reality in Syria. As long as Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Hezbollah support Assad, it will be virtually impossible to depose him. Helping them defeat ISIS is the only way the US will have any post-ISIS negotiating leverage in Syria. Getting rid of Assad or giving up its Syrian port would be deal-breakers for Russia, but a de facto or de jure partitioning of Syria and perhaps Iraq: Kurdish autonomy, up to and including their own country; a pipeline through Syria to Europe for Qatari natural gas (if the current GCC spat is resolved), and other issues concerning the fate of post-ISIS Syria and Iraq would be on the table.

As Joseph Stalin recognized, controlling territory is the strongest argument in post-war negotiations. Moving decisively against ISIS will give the US coalition eastern Syrian territory and negotiating leverage. Importantly for Israel, it also breaks the transportation link and hinders the supply of arms from Iran and Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. That would make a diminished western Syrian state, albeit one still ruled by Assad and protected by Russia, easier to swallow.

If, as posited in Part One, Trump’s primary motivation is power, arguments that the US should seek better relations with Iran—leader of the Shia crescent and less repressive and more democratic than Saudi Arabia—will continue to be ignored. Sunnis are 90 percent of Islam, and in the Middle East only Iraq, Iran, and Bahrain are majority Shia. Trump will back winners; that’s the logic of power. Corrupt, repressive, and destined for the dustbin as its government may be, Saudi Arabia has the largest Middle Eastern oil reserves and is the linchpin of the petrodollar arrangement. Erdogan is an aspiring tyrant, but Turkey has the largest military in the region. Israel is the only nuclear power.

There is another factor crucial to the power calculus. Shia Islam has virtually no influence on domestic US politics. Saudi Arabia and Israel both have outsize influence, spending millions on lobbying, campaign donations, and efforts to sway US public opinion. Turkey, to a lesser extent, plays the same game. Tilting towards them will come in handy as Trump bolsters his position in Washington and seeks reelection in 2020.

Trump went to the Middle East bearing carrots and kept the sticks hidden. In Europe he did the opposite. He berated the Europeans for insufficient defense spending and signaled that he would withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. However, if he has implemented the hypothesized changes in US Middle Eastern policy and the US and Russia defeat ISIS, he will make European leaders’ life easier. For the first time official NATO forces are joining the war against ISIS, which probably means Europe’s leaders are on board with Trump’s plans. If a semblance of order is restored to Syria and Iraq, even if that means one or both are partitioned, refugee flows to Europe should diminish. Refugees already in Europe may return to their homelands. It might reduce terrorism, although that could be wishful thinking.

To answer a question posed in Part One: if Trump has consolidated power both at home and abroad, don’t hold your breath waiting for a swamp draining. The most effective power is often power of which only a few know. Those he has by the short hairs would be most helpful to him—sub rosa—if they’re still in government. If such is the case, don’t be surprised if the Russia probe fades away, Trump’s nominal opposition consigns itself to rote denunciation, the Deep State sits still for his Middle Eastern policy changes, and he gets more of his agenda through than anyone expects.

The thought of a virtually unchallengeable Trump may delight his supporters, but it should scare the hell out of them and everyone else. Saints don’t take positions in government. If in a mere four months Trump has made himself unchallengeable in a way few people recognize, he’s employed a series of ruthlessly Machiavellian calculations and strategies to do so. Imagine what he could do in four or eight years. But human nature is human nature. Consider these last words on power, which come not from Machiavelli, but nineteenth-century British noble Lord Acton: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

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Why Not a Probe of ‘Israel-gate’? by Robert Parry

Russia has never come close to attempting to influence American elections and the political process the way Israel has. From Robert Parry at consortiumnews.com:

Special Report: As Official Washington fumes about Russia-gate, Israel’s far more significant political-influence-and-propaganda campaigns are ignored. No one dares suggest a probe of Israel-gate, says Robert Parry.

The other day, I asked a longtime Democratic Party insider who is working on the Russia-gate investigation which country interfered more in U.S. politics, Russia or Israel. Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied, “Israel, of course.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Which underscores my concern about the hysteria raging across Official Washington about “Russian meddling” in the 2016 presidential campaign: There is no proportionality applied to the question of foreign interference in U.S. politics. If there were, we would have a far more substantive investigation of Israel-gate.

The problem is that if anyone mentions the truth about Israel’s clout, the person is immediately smeared as “anti-Semitic” and targeted by Israel’s extraordinarily sophisticated lobby and its many media/political allies for vilification and marginalization.

So, the open secret of Israeli influence is studiously ignored, even as presidential candidates prostrate themselves before the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both appeared before AIPAC in 2016, with Clinton promising to take the U.S.-Israeli relationship “to the next level” – whatever that meant – and Trump vowing not to “pander” and then pandering like crazy.

Congress is no different. It has given Israel’s controversial Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a record-tying three invitations to address joint sessions of Congress (matching the number of times British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared). We then witnessed the Republicans and Democrats competing to see how often their members could bounce up and down and who could cheer Netanyahu the loudest, even when the Israeli prime minister was instructing the Congress to follow his position on Iran rather than President Obama’s.

Israeli officials and AIPAC also coordinate their strategies to maximize political influence, which is derived in large part by who gets the lobby’s largesse and who doesn’t. On the rare occasion when members of Congress step out of line – and take a stand that offends Israeli leaders – they can expect a well-funded opponent in their next race, a tactic that dates back decades.

To continue reading: Why Not a Probe of ‘Israel-gate’?

Why Must Women Choose between Feminism and Zionism, but Not Other “Isms”? by Alan M. Dershowitz

If Israel is criticized by a feminist organization, perhaps justifiably, for oppressing Palestinian women, but no other nation is so criticized, is a double standard at work? From Alan M. Dershowitz at gatestoneinstitute.org:

There are many countries and movements throughout the world that treat women as second-class citizens: Israel is not among them…. There is a word for applying a double standard to Jews. That word is anti-Semitism.

If Sarsour was concerned with addressing structural causes of all female oppression, she would mention the status of women in the PA-controlled West Bank where just a few months ago the names and photos of female candidates for the municipal elections were omitted, referring to the women instead as “wife of” or “sister of.” Sarsour would also call out the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where the police are a law unto themselves who act as judge, jury and executioner of those who speak out against their oppression and misogyny. She would condemn the tolerance, if not acceptance, by so many Muslim countries of the “honor killings” and genital mutilation of women. Instead the IWS platform exploits the feminist cause in order to delegitimize and demonize only one nation: that of the Jewish people.

• The real choice to be made now by all those who care about the feminist cause is whether to allow Sarsour and her radical anti-Israel allies to hijack the movement in support of their own bigoted views. The alternative is to maintain feminism’s focus on key issues that pertain to women and to call out countries and movements according to how seriously they violate women’s rights, rather than singling out the one Jewish democracy – Israel.

On March 8, women abstained from work as part of the International Women’s Strike (IWS) – a grassroots feminist movement aimed at bringing attention “to the current social, legal, political, moral and verbal violence experienced by contemporary women at various latitudes.” But these positive goals were distorted by the inclusion of anti-Israel rhetoric in the platform of the IWS.

There are many countries and movements throughout the world that treat women as second-class citizens: Israel is not among them. Yet this platform singles out for condemnation only Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people. There is a word for applying a double standard to Jews. That word is anti-Semitism.

To continue reading: Why Must Women Choose between Feminism and Zionism, but Not Other “Isms”?