Tagged: Israel

The price of rejecting the Iran treaty


UN Security Council voting to remove Iran sanctions

The Iran nuclear deal offers a long-term solution to one of the most urgent threats of our time. Without this deal, Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, would be less than 90 days away from having enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. This deal greatly reduces the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, making Iran’s breakout time four times as long, securing unprecedented access to ensure that we will know if Iran cheats and giving us the leverage to hold it to its commitments.

Israel cheats – and that’s OK with Congress.

Those calling on Congress to scrap the deal argue that the United States could have gotten a better deal, and still could, if we unilaterally ramped up existing sanctions, enough to force Iran to dismantle its entire nuclear program or even alter the character of its regime wholesale. This assumption is a dangerous fantasy, flying in the face of economic and diplomatic reality…

In the eyes of the world, the nuclear agreement — endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and more than 90 other countries — addresses the threat of Iran’s nuclear program by constraining it for the long term and ensuring that it will be exclusively peaceful. If Congress now rejects this deal, the elements that were fundamental in establishing that international consensus will be gone.

The simple fact is that, after two years of testing Iran in negotiations, the international community does not believe that ramping up sanctions will persuade Iran to eradicate all traces of its hard-won civil nuclear program or sever its ties to its armed proxies in the region. Foreign governments will not continue to make costly sacrifices at our demand.

Indeed, they would more likely blame us for walking away from a credible solution to one of the world’s greatest security threats, and would continue to re-engage with Iran. Instead of toughening the sanctions, a decision by Congress to unilaterally reject the deal would end a decade of isolation of Iran and put the United States at odds with the rest of the world…

We must remember recent history. In 1996, in the absence of any other international support for imposing sanctions on Iran, Congress tried to force the hands of foreign companies, creating secondary sanctions that threatened to penalize them for investing in Iran’s energy sector. The idea was to force international oil companies to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States, with the expectation that all would choose us.

This outraged our foreign partners, particularly the European Union, which threatened retaliatory action and referral to the World Trade Organization and passed its own law prohibiting companies from complying. The largest oil companies of Europe and Asia stayed in Iran until, more than a decade later, we built a global consensus around the threat posed by Iran and put forward a realistic diplomatic means of addressing it.

The deal we reached last month is strong, unprecedented and good for America, with all the key elements the international community demanded to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Congress should approve this deal and ignore critics who offer no alternative.

By JACOB J. LEW, US Secretary of the treasury

The point of any negotiations is a context of agreement upon what is possible – not what is ideology. I feel equally strong about the hypocrisy of our government’s fealty to Israel – a nation which has rejected the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, has a deadly stockpile of nuclear weapons and consistently threatens all of its neighbors. I think Israel should bear the weight of sanctions equal to those applied to Iran – and I’m also perfectly aware our government will continue to be decades out-of-date – and there is no chance at present that honesty will prevail.

So, I support the premise of honoring this agreement.

Apartheid Israel closes TV station on Palestinian identity

Israel has ordered a six-month closure of Palestine 48, a new Palestinian television channel funded by the Palestinian Authority and catering to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“I will not allow for Israel’s sovereignty to be harmed or for the Palestinian Authority to gain a foothold in Israeli territory,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who on Thursday signed an order claiming that the channel did not have the authorisation to operate in Israel.

So much for freedom of thought in Israel.

Mirroring the outrage expressed by a number of Palestinian lawmakers in Israel, Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation President Riad al-Hassan said the move against the channel – which is broadcast through the Palestinian company PalSat – was “illegal” and that it would be contested in the supreme court…

Creators say the channel has been no stranger to controversy, even in the choice of its name. Palestine 48 – or P48 – refers to the some 700,000 people who fled or were forcibly evicted from their homes in the context of the 1948 war with Israel, and whose descendants in recent years have balanced their identities as Israeli citizens and Palestinian nationals.

Their stories have begun to shed light on long-suppressed national narratives. P48 director Firas Abdelrahman said he was especially proud of programmes that would have examined the ways families were, and continue to be, shaped by the protracted conflict.

“We have stories which we are just thirsting to tell, and Palestinians are also eager to discover and learn about themselves,” Abdelrahman said…

The director’s own family tree traces back to al-Shajara village. After years wandering the world, Abdelrahman ended up in Ramallah, where he envisioned the P48 channel as a way of strengthening Palestinians’ connections with their homeland. The Palestinian Authority funds the channel, though producers say it maintains political independence…

Israel is home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians, most of whom speak Hebrew and have citizenship, but who also say they are treated as second-class citizens and given inferior access to education, healthcare and job opportunities compared to their Jewish neighbours.

RTFA. Lots more information about all the processes involved.

The battle against apartheid, the fight against an imperial nation with allies that historically ranged from Boer South Africa to the United States, has more similarities than contextual differences with the American civil rights movement. Throw in a little taste of Jim Crow days in failed Confederate states and you’re getting close to culture as it is experienced by Israelis of Palestinian origins.

It’s worth $173 billion to Israel and Palestine if they stopped fighting

Researchers at the Rand Corporation’s Center for Middle East Public Policy recently mounted a study to determine the net economic costs and benefits of various alternatives in the Middle East over the next ten years. They looked at five possible scenarios: a two state solution; a coordinated unilateral withdrawal of 60,000 Israelis from much of the West Bank, with 75 percent of the cost covered by the international community and 25 percent of the bill footed by Israel; an uncoordinated unilateral withdrawal, in which only 30,000 Israeli settlers leave the West Bank and Israel bankrolls the withdrawal completely; nonviolent Palestinian resistance to Israel through boycotts of Israeli products in the region, and diplomatic efforts in the UN; and a violent Palestinian uprising beginning in Gaza, with the potential to spread to the West Bank and involve players like Hezbollah.

The study asserts that the two-state solution is most profitable, and could allow Israel to gain $123 billion by 2024. Assuming that an agreement is reached and Israel retreats to the 1967 borders (save for agreed-upon swapped territories), 100,000 Israeli settlers relocated from the West Bank to Israel, Palestinian trade and travel restrictions are lifted, and up to 600,000 refugees are returned to their homes in the West Bank and Gaza, the changes in “direct and opportunity costs”—among them a projected 20 percent increase in tourism and a 150 percent increase in Palestinian trade—would be immediate boons. The peace would bring the cessation of Arab country trade sanctions and with it, a raise of Israel’s GDP by $23 billion over what it would have been under the status quo. Palestine would pocket over $50 billion under these conditions. Palestinians would see an average per capita income increase of approximately 36 percent. Under such a peace accord, Israelis would experience a 5 percent increase in income.

The Israeli government is as likely to consider this report as is, say, the Republican Party’s platform committee considering open automatic voting rights like Oregon.

Israel spied on US-Iran nuclear talks


Why does the waiter always ask me to speak into his lapel pin?

A cybersecurity firm has traced a virus, believed to be used by Israeli spies, to hotels which hosted the Iran nuclear talks.

Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab ZAO said in a statement Wednesday “Duqu” malware was found in three unnamed hotels immediately prior to talks between the United States and Iran over a proposed nuclear deal. The firm itself was hacked by the malware, developed in Israel and used by Israeli intelligence agencies, and found the hotels’ computers were also invaded when it searched for other victims of the scheme…

Kaspersky did not identify Israel by name as responsible for placement of viruses to enable eavesdropping on conversations and theft of electronic files, but the “Duqu” virus is essentially an Israeli invention which would take years to duplicate…U.S. intelligence regards the “Duqu” infections as Israeli intelligence operations, the Kaspersky report said…

The virus was also found in computers used at an event honoring the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz, Poland, which was attended by a number of heads of state in January.

Let me be clear. This little tidbit of info about Israel spying on US negotiations with anyone – is about the maximum level of what we will see either in the popular press or from the White House. Hypocrisy rules our government and there are no clearer examples than our policies on cyber-security and economics.

Obama will blather about currency manipulation whenever the calendar pops up with a reminder it’s time to accuse the Chinese government of doing something evil with money. Uncle Sugar relies on the truly ignorant to add incorrect statements about China controlling our Treasury debt, etc. – even though the largest holder of US debt now happens to be Japan. Who practices currency manipulation as a matter of corporate/state policy for decades.

The same follows with cyber-security. There are few tools as distinctive as Duqu or Stuxnet. The rest is presumption. Those two involve both the US and Israel, though Duqu is exclusive to the Israeli government. Tracing back IP addresses is horse manure. As any script kiddy can demonstrate.

Recall any TV report on a cyber-security breach that included as sidebar the fact that we live in the land that spends more than the rest of the world combined on cyber-spying?

Yes, there are limits to German guilt


“Never Forget!” is a slogan that cuts more than one way

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. The bilateral relationship, born in the wake of the Nazis’ annihilation of European Jewry, has developed into a solid one. But fading memories of the Holocaust among younger Germans, together with Israel’s declining international standing, have lately challenged the official discourse about “special” ties between the two countries…

…Over the last half-century, the bilateral relationship has become a formidable one. Germany is Israel’s largest trading partner in Europe, and its third-largest overall, after the United States and China. Moreover, Germany has been among Israel’s most reliable allies, exemplified by its role as a major arms supplier. Chancellor Angela Merkel has emerged as a staunch defender of the country, exemplified in a 2008 address to the Knesset…in which she identified Israel’s security as an essential feature of Germany’s Staatsraison.

But Germany also appears to be increasingly uneasy about having to continue supporting Israel even when its policies are clearly reproachable. Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, can the bilateral relationship withstand the rising tide of anti-Israel sentiment in Europe?

History has its ironies. Post-war Germany could regain international legitimacy only through reconciliation with the Jewish people. Today, it is Israel’s legitimacy that is being challenged in international institutions and Western public opinion for its mistreatment of the Palestinians.

The role reversal has been remarkable. Both Jews and Germans emerged from WWII as defeated and crippled peoples, but the Jews had the moral high ground, while the Germans very much did not. Yet, in a global opinion poll conducted in 2013 by the BBC World Service, Israel ranked as one of the least popular countries – just above North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran – whereas Germany emerged as the most popular.

…The extent of this inversion is best exemplified in the increasing prevalence of obscene comparisons between Israel’s policies toward Palestine and the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. A study conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation in January showed that 35% of Germans have no problem making that connection. In what might presage a shift in the bilateral relationship, the poll also revealed that 58% of Germans believe that the past should be consigned to history, and 62% disapprove of Israel’s policies today.

RTFA for details and nuances. Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign minister. The sort of statesman that held sway in Israel before that nation’s capture by the most reactionary class of nationalist sentiment. Not unlike what has happened to the Republican Party here in the United States.

His conclusions suggest thoughtful reflection might add some sophistication in Israel – and affirmation for the change in attitudes in today’s Germany.

Israel to charge Bedouin village for the cost of its destruction


To serve and protect — Israeli style

Israel has taken the Bedouin village of al-Araqib to court to force the desert settlement to pay US$500,000 in demolition costs, despite having been razed to the ground 83 times since 2010.

The Israeli state is claiming that the southern town should fork out for the 1,000 police deployed to carry out the destruction.

Because it is “unrecognized” by the Israeli government, al-Araqib is automatically approved for demolition….

Around half of Israel’s 90,000 Arab-Palestinian herders live in such precarious localities…Never before has a whole town been ordered to pay for its own demolition.

Since occupation of Palestinian territories began in 1967, Israel has demolished more than 27,000 homes.

The dance of death has become the national anthem of Israel. Greed, racism, bigotry, aparthied – are the musicians.

Netanyahu’s Victory of Fear


What Israelis mean by “boots on the ground”

Binyamin Netanyahu is probably the most deficient prime minister in Israel’s history. His blunders and vices have been laid bare in great abundance during his nine years in power. When he embarked on his most recent campaign for re-election, even his own supporters and constituents could not hide their disgust at his egomaniacal behavior and his wife’s embarrassing public conduct.

Beyond Netanyahu’s noxious personal characteristics, Israel has consolidated its position as one of the OECD’s most unequal countries under his rule. Netanyahu…asked the country’s penurious middle class and poor to re-elect him on a record of high living costs, unaffordable housing, and a 21% poverty rate. Yet re-elect him they did.

Nor could Netanyahu find any respectable security experts to vouch for his return to power. Some 180 generals and war heroes, chief among them Meir Dagan, one of the most revered former heads of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, came together to oppose the re-election of a man they described as a threat to Israel’s security.

But one does not have to be a security icon to see how Netanyahu has burned Israel’s bridges with the international community, particularly the United States, Israel’s most indispensable ally and benefactor. Not only did he openly seek to sabotage President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran by aligning himself with Obama’s Republican opponents; two days before the election, he suddenly reneged on his commitment to the two-state solution, the cornerstone of the international community’s vision for achieving peace in the Middle East.

Given all of this, why did Israeli voters reward Netanyahu with a third consecutive term as prime minister?

At which point Shlomo Ben-Ami lays out the respectable answer, the litany accepted by what passes for news as entertainment throughout the Western World. Followed by personal commentary:

There is, however, another reason for Netanyahu’s victory. The left failed to recognize that Israeli elections are not strictly political affairs; they are an expression of an ongoing Kulturkampf in an ethnically kaleidoscopic society. Israeli elections are in some ways a tribal affair; people vote on the basis of memories, insults, religious sensibilities, and group grievances.

A sad description of what the nation of Israel has become. Read it and weep not. It is choice not accident.

If this is how you think an anti-war president acts, you’re out of touch with reality

Nothing sums up the warped foreign policy fantasy world in which Republicans live more than when House Speaker John Boehner recently called Obama an “anti-war president” under which America “is sitting on the sidelines” in the increasingly chaotic Middle East.

If Obama is an anti-war president, he’s the worst anti-war president in history. In the last six years, the Obama administration has bombed seven countries in the Middle East alone and armed countless more with tens of billions in dollars in weapons. But that’s apparently not enough for Republicans. As the Isis war continues to expand and Yemen descends into civil war, everyone is still demanding more: If only we bombed the region a little bit harder, then they’ll submit.

In between publishing a new rash of overt sociopathic “Bomb Iran” op-eds, Republicans and neocons are circulating a new talking point: Obama doesn’t have a “coherent” or “unifying” strategy in the Middle East. But you can’t have a one-size-fits-all strategy in an entire region that is almost incomprehensibly complex – which is why no one, including the Republicans criticizing Obama, actually has an answer for what that strategy should be. It’s clear that this new talking point is little more than thinly veiled code for we’re not killing enough Muslims or invading enough countries.

Nobody will say that they want US troops on the ground to fight Isis, of course, since public support for such action is crumbling…

Those clamoring for more war are detached from reality: the US is already escalating – not pulling back – its involvement across the Middle East. In Afghanistan, the president has quietly delayed pulling US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year so they can continue special forces raids and drone strikes, despite loudly celebrating the supposed “end” of combat operations during the State of the Union in January. In Iraq, US forces escalated its airstrikes in the so-called battle to re-take Tikrit, which the New York Times editorial board decried as a folly, but received scant scrutiny elsewhere. The Pentagon also confirmed last week that they expect the Isis war to last “3+ years.”

And if you think the United States is sitting on the sidelines in Yemen just because it’s not US planes physically launching the missiles (yet), you should have your head examined. The US has given Saudi Arabia an astronomical $90bn in military equipment and weapons over the past four years and, as the Washington Post reported, it will play a “huge” role in any fighting. US drones are also still patrolling Yemeni skies and even helping Saudi Arabia “decide what and where to bomb”…

This is America’s modus operandi in the Middle East: give its friends a ton of weapons and watch the weapons fall into enemy hands one way or another. In Afghanistan, the US gave the Afghanistan government nearly 500,000 weapons that are now unaccounted for (and that was a couple years ago). In Libya, shipments of arms reportedly sent by the CIA to Libyan rebels in 2011 via the Qataris ended up, in many cases, in the hands of Islamic militants… Neither stopped the Obama administration from arming rebels in Syria, where many of the weapons promptly fell into enemy hands as well…

Photographer Gregg Carlstrom succinctly summed it up last week as Saudi Arabia started to drop bombs on Yemen: “US praises US ally for bombing US-equipped militia aligned with US foe who is partnering with US to fight another US-equipped militia.”

Expecting the United States to sort out and withdraw from one or another of the factions in a centuries-old religious war is not something I’m holding my breath over. After all, that would be like expecting a White House spokesman to answer questions about Iran and nuclear research by acknowledged the only power with nuclear weapons in the region is Israel. They’ve had them for decades. It is the threat they brandish over all nations in the region. Those weapons are illegal according to all the accords we have initiated and signed. We do absolutely nothing about it.

We took over the role of imperial bully right after World War 2. The Brits were economically and ideologically over with maintaining a global empire. They had to recover from being the front line of a terrible war for most of a decade. Uncle Sugar’s condition was exceptional – mostly by virtue of oceans on either side. Use to be a helluva defense.

And Barack Obama is as likely to use military force anywhere in the world as any Republican or Democrat president since the end of that war 70 years ago.

Nixon set the policy: OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons but not Iran


Nice to see continuity in American foreign policy, eh?

Iranian officials sometimes respond to accusations that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability by replying that, not only do they not want a bomb, they’d actually like to see a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East. Yes, this is surely in part a deflection, meant to shift attention away from concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities by not-so-subtly nodding to the one country in the region that does have nuclear weapons: Israel.

But could Iran have a point? Is there something hypocritical about the world tolerating Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which the country does not officially acknowledge but has been publicly known for decades, and yet punishing Iran with severe economic sanctions just for its suspected steps toward a weapons program? Even Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as its implacable enemy and made its accommodations with Israel long ago, often joins Tehran’s calls for a “nuclear-free region.” And anyone not closely versed in Middle East issues might naturally wonder why the United States would accept Israeli warheads but not an Iranian program…

The single greatest factor explaining how Israel got the world to accept its nuclear program may be timing. The first nuclear weapon was detonated in 1945, by the United States. In 1970, most of the world agreed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which forbids any new countries from developing nuclear weapons. In that 25-year window, every major world power developed a nuclear weapon: the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and China. They were joined by exactly one other country: Israel.

The Israeli nuclear program was driven in many ways by the obsessive fear that gripped the nation’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, in which the new country fought off Egyptian and Jordanian armies, Ben-Gurion concluded that Israel could survive only if it had a massive military deterrent — nuclear weapons…

But Israel of the 1950s was a poor country. And it was not, as it is today, a close political and military ally of the United States. Israel had to find a way to keep up with the much wealthier and more advanced world powers dominating the nuclear race. How it went about doing this goes a long way to explaining both why the United States initially opposed Israel’s nuclear program and how the world came around to accepting Israeli warheads…

…First, in 1968, Israel secretly developed a nuclear weapon. Second, and perhaps more important, was a White House meeting in September 1969 between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. What happened during that meeting is secret. But the Nixon’s administration’s meticulous records show that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said to Nixon, in a later conversation about the Meir meeting, “during your private discussions with Golda Meir you emphasized that our primary concern was that Israel make no visible introduction of nuclear weapons or undertake a nuclear test program.”

That meeting between Nixon and Meir set what has been Israel’s unofficial policy ever since: one in which the country does nothing to publicly acknowledge or demonstrate its nuclear weapons program, and in exchange the United States would accept it. The Nixon administration had concluded that, while it didn’t like the Israeli weapons program, it also wasn’t prepared to stop it…

“Essentially the bargain has been that Israel keeps its nuclear deterrent deep in the basement and Washington keeps its critique locked in the closet,” Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy explained.

What do Americans do about a bankrupt policy put in place by one of the most corrupt presidents in American history? Not a damned thing.

Point out we are the world’s only military superpower, known for arrogance and hypocrisy – I think the average American would try to deflect the criticism by coming up with rationales to excuse our hypocrisy, redefine it as expediency, something done to “protect” our nation.

It ain’t a new ploy. Everyone from dictators to democrats employs the strategy. The only thing that counts is that ordinary citizens accept every lie and don’t seek to change anything.

The only difference in political parties, who sits in the White House, is the quality of the lies. Either flavor still accepts the Nixonian policy.

The push for US colleges to divest Israel investments grows and flowers

The lecture hall had filled quickly. Several students wore keffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian headscarves, while another sat draped in the Israeli flag.

It was time for a ritual that has become increasingly commonplace on many American college campuses: A student government body, in this case at the University of California, Davis, would take up Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, and decide whether to demand their school divest from companies that work with the Jewish state.

In the United States, Israel’s closest ally, the decade-old boycott-divestment-sanctions movement, or BDS, is making its strongest inroads by far on college campuses. No U.S. school has sold off stock and none is expected to do so anytime soon. Still, the current academic year is seeing an increasing number of divestment drives on campus. Since January alone, student governments at four universities have taken divestment votes…

The boycott-divestment-sanctions movement grew from a 2005 international call from Palestinian groups as an alternative to armed struggle over control of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and Palestinians seek for an independent state.

BDS advocates say the movement, based on the campaign against South African apartheid decades ago, is aimed at Israeli policy, not Jews, in response to two decades of failed peace talks and expanded Israeli settlement of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

But supporters of Israel say that boycotting the country is no way to make peace, especially since many BDS supporters do not differentiate between protesting Jewish settlements on occupied lands or Israel as a whole.

The Jewish settlements are only part of the apartheid practices of Israel and I’m not quite certain why the AP rolls this out as a straw man. Apartheid is codified bigotry allowing only second-class citizenship to Palestinians – strictly enforced throughout every part of political life in Israel and the land that nation invaded and controls by force of arms.

In the U.S., activists have pressed for boycotts of Israeli products and cultural events, and divestment by churches and others. None of these efforts has gained as much momentum as the campus divestment movement.

Pension funds in the United States, like CALPERS, representing thousands of employees in California, ranging from teachers to police, is considering divesting all Israel-based investments. They are not alone.

The campaign will continue. In the American Jewish community, the percentage of young people who believe identity with and unconditional support for Israel is necessary – is a minority. Nor will they adopt the specious argument that opposition to Israel’s policies is somehow anti-Semitic. That canard is dead and gone except among reactionary True Believers.

Just as the campaign against apartheid in South Africa was long and difficult – this, too, shall succeed.