Forget Democrats And Republicans For A Minute-- Do You Vote For Warmongers?
Israel was once a force for progressivism and I was a huge Israel booster. My parents hid my passport in 1967 because they were afraid I was going to go join the Israeli Army. Israel has changed a lot from the days when an enlightened Labor Party built the country. It's now an apartheid state and everything it was founded to escape from. Feh! When Roland somehow persuaded me to go there from Egypt a few years ago, I was miserable, only really enjoyed the West Bank, and couldn't wait to fly out of there and get to Istanbul. Racism, especially institutional, brutal, state-sponsored racism, is intolerable-- whether in Mississippi or Israel.
I think my friend Norman Solomon is Jewish. We never discussed it but the last name is a giveaway. I suspect the woman who unsubscribed from my Facebook page might be upset with an OpEd he wrote for the Daily Star this week. Pointing out that Israel is trying to sabotage peace talks with Iran is not popular in Israel-centric circles.
More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran and are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.We pointed out how Israeli political enforcers-- mobster Sheldon Adelson for the Republicans and Haim Saban for the Democrats-- keep contribution-hungry American politicians in line with cash. The White House is struggling to keep Israeli-centric (and Saban-centric) Democrats in Congress from joining with bloodthirsty Republicans to maneuver the U.S. into a war with Iran-- regardless of widespread approval of the peace process by most Americans. The Israel lobby inside Congress-- particularly the ethically-challenged little twit who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez (D-NJ)-- is hoping to help Israel derail peace talks by slapping more sanctions on Iran during the process.
While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal just reached with Iran, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill, the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.
A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), Republican lawmakers such as House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).
Netanyahu and many other Israelis-- as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics-- fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past."
This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
Looking ahead, as a practical political matter, can the U.S. government implement a major policy shift in the Middle East without at least grudging acceptance from the Israeli government? Such questions go to the core of the Israeli occupation now in its 47th year.
Israel keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; suppression of the basic human rights of Palestinian people continues every day on a large scale in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. There is no reason to expect otherwise unless Israel’s main political, military and economic patron, the United States, puts its foot down and refuses to backstop those reprehensible policies. They can end only when the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel becomes less special, in keeping with a single standard for human rights and against military aggression.
Such talk is abhorrent to those who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies. But in every way that those policies are wrong, the U.S. should stop enabling them.
The long-standing obstacles to such a halt stand a bit less tall today, but they remain huge. No less than before, as William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” This certainly applies to the history of gaining and maintaining unequivocal U.S. support for Israel.
Today’s high-impact American groups such as AIPAC (which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”), Christians United for Israel (“the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with more than 1 million members,” according to the Jerusalem Post) and similar outfits have built on 65 years of successful Israel advocacy in the U.S.
Baked into the foundation of their work was the premise of mutuality and compatibility of Israeli and American interests. Until the end of the Cold War, routine spin portrayed aid to Israel as a way to stymie Soviet power in the region. Especially since 9/11, support for Israel has been equated with support for a bulwark against terrorism.
Ever since the successful 1947 campaign to press for U.N. General Assembly approval of Palestine partition, Israel’s leaders have closely coordinated with American Jewish organizations. Israeli government representatives in the United States regularly meet with American Jewish groups to convey what Israel wants and to identify the key U.S. officials who handle relevant issues. Those meetings have included discussions about images of Israel to promote to public, with phrases familiar to us, such as “making the desert bloom” and “outpost of democracy.”
As any member of Congress is well aware, campaign donations and media messaging continue to nurture public officials cooperative and sympathetic to Israel. For the rare officeholders and office seekers who stand out as uncooperative and insufficiently sympathetic, a formulaic remedy has been applied: withholding campaign donations, backing opponents and launching of media vilification. Those political correctives have proved effective, serving as cautionary tales for politicians who might be tempted to step too far out of line.
A bipartisan juggernaut of senior senators is spending the remaining week of the Thanksgiving recess forging agreement on a new sanctions bill that the senators hope to pass before breaking again for Christmas.I want to end this discussion with an OpEd in the Missoulian from George Ochenski who noted a certain warmongering congressman preparing to retire from Congress so he can cash in as an arms company lobbyist. Yes, it's not just Inside-the-Beltway that people are paying attention to this stuff. "For many Montanans," he wrote, "it's tough to find anything upon which to agree with congressional Republicans these days. But that changed when Rep. Howard 'Buck' McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters late last week: 'You'd better hope we never have a war again.' You know what Buck, that's just exactly what the overwhelming majority of Americans are hoping. Adfter more than a decade iof Treasury-draining, protracted, useless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our war-weary citizenry is more than ready to see our nation concentrate on waging peace instead of war.
The administration believes the legislation could scuttle the interim nuclear agreement reached with Iran on Nov. 23 and derail upcoming negotiations on a permanent deal-- scheduled for completion in six months-- to ensure that Iran will never be able to build a nuclear weapon.
“If you want to hold our feet to the fire on the final deal, fine, do that,” a senior administration official said. “If people have concerns about elements of a final agreement, come in and tell us... But that is a separate discussion from passing a sanctions bill in the middle of negotiations.”
The administration contends that new sanctions not only would violate the terms of the interim agreement-- which temporarily freezes Iran’s nuclear programs and modestly eases existing sanctions-- but also could divide the United States from its international negotiating partners across the table from Iran and give the upper hand to Iranian hard-liners in upcoming talks.
“The purpose of sanctions from the outset was to create a dynamic so that you can get a change in policy from the Iranians,” David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. said in an interview. “It’s not sanctions for the sake of having sanctions.”
After a new sanctions bill passed with near-unanimity in the House this summer, 76 senators, including Democratic stalwarts such as Barbara A. Mikulski (Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), along with conservative Republicans such as Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), signed a letter urging Obama to take tougher action against Iran, even as a new Iranian president declared a willingness for serious negotiations.
The Senate had agreed to an administration request to postpone a vote until after the most recent round of negotiations, which ended with the successful interim accord.
Now, many see no reason not to move ahead. Schumer, in a statement after the accord was announced, said a new sanctions package could pass this month. Menendez said that is also his goal, adding that the measure could be appended to legislation such as the pending defense appropriations bill, making it difficult for Obama to veto.
…While various U.S. and U.N. sanctions have been in place for more than a decade, the Obama administration and allies in Congress and Western Europe imposed restrictions beginning in 2010 that dramatically increased the pain for Iran’s economy. The measures blocked Iranian banks from using international financial networks and wiped out more than half of Iran’s foreign oil exports, the country’s chief source of hard currency. The sanctions triggered soaring inflation and unemployment and a steep drop in the purchasing power of Iran’s currency, the rial.
Iranian officials have acknowledged the crippling impact of the sanctions, which were a major factor in Iran’s decision to seek a nuclear deal with the West. Still, under the preliminary agreement reached in Geneva, the harshest sanctions remain intact.
Cohen said that banking sanctions still in place will continue to make it difficult for foreign companies to receive payment from Iran, except in a handful of newly approved circumstances.
“There is no bank in the world that is going to process any transaction with Iran without our explicit consent,” Cohen said. “We’re saying to banks and business, ‘If you do business with any of the [sanctioned] entities-- of which there are 600-- you will risk losing access to U.S. financial networks and U.S. markets.’ That is a very powerful lever.”
"It's clear that McKeon's comments were intended to continue the paranoid approach to our interaction with the rest of the world championed by George W. Bush, It was Bush who brought us 'the global war on terror' in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, radically canting our nation from its path of relative peace, prosperity and global good will to one of worldwide military aggression.
"Although few today recall President Dwight D. Eisenhower's famous warning about the growth ofd the military-industrial complex and the threat it posed to our nation, it turns out that some 60 years later, his prediction turned out to be exactly correct. It seems modern-day Republicans, however, are deaf to the wisdom of their former Republican president. Instead, McKeon and his fellow military hawks in Congress try to scare Americans into believing that reductions in military spending are going to somehow create a threat to our very existence.
"It's pure baloney, and McKeon and his fellow Republicans know it. Unfortunately, there are far too many Democrats in Congress who, likewise, want us to believe that our nation can no longer be great unless we spend more than the combined budgets of all the rest of the world's nations on our misnamed 'defense'."