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Where to Start

Who Gave Bibi Permission to Own Palestine?

James M. Wall

Christopher Dickey currently serves as Newsweek’s Paris bureau chief and Middle East regional editor. In a recent Newsweek online column, Dickey recalled a story from 1996.

“Back when Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was elected Israel’s prime minister for the first time, in 1996, a Jordanian political scientist with a grim sense of humor said the only way to describe him was like a villain out of an old Western: “He’s a lyin’, cheatin’, deceitin’ son of a bitch!”"

This is not meant to malign Bibi, alone. Any observer of the political class knows Dickey could find any number of politicians who deserve that same description. You know who I am talking about.

Think of all those Democratic members of Congress who piously waited until the final moment to say how they would vote on the health care bill. They said they were meticulously studying the bill, all 2000 plus pages of it, to see how it would best serve their “constituents”.

The further South the member’s district, the heavier the emphasis on the second syllable of that word, “con-stit-uents”

Morris Dees, director of the Southern Law Poverty Center, called me a few years back with a request. We had met earlier during Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign. A teenage African American teen age boy had been found guilty of murder. Morris was the lawyer in the case. He was about to go before a Memphis, Tennessee, jury to argue against giving his client the death penalty.

“I need a preacher with a Southern accent who will testify against the death penality to my jury. You have to fly down to Memphis tomorrow.”

I demurred. “Morris”, I said, “I would like to help you, but I have to consider my role as a journalist. I can’t do anything that would compromise my journalist integrity”

Morris, who is from Alabama, was indignant. In his best Southern drawl, he responded, “I don’t give a damn about your journalistic in-teg-ri-ty. I just know I have to stop this jury from killing this young man.”

I agreed to fly down the next day. Turned out, Morris had worked out a plea agreement with the judge, so he didn’t need me. My in-teg-ri-ty survived.

Bibi Netanyahu is an Israeli, but his political instincts are universal. Unfortunately, in his case, what he does and how he does it, has a far greater impact on humankind than does a vote on the health care bill by an American congress member.

His persistent promise to “talk peace” is so empty of reality, so devoid of integrity, that we have to ask, who gave him permission to own Palestine?  My friends, the line forms at the left.  We are all in it.

The scary thing about Bibi is that he really does seem to have convinced himself that his drive to conquer all of Palestine is going to succeed because he has the American government entirely under his control.

In his column recounting the colorful description of Netanyahu, Christopher Dickey writes that Aluf Benn, diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, provides insights into what drives Bibi in his dogged determination to squash any future Palestinian state, or relieve any Palestinian suffering.

The Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their state, accuse the Israelis of using [their settlement building] projects to create “facts on the ground” that vastly complicate future negotiations—and, indeed, that is precisely the intent of many Israelis who support the building program.

But the problem as Benn presented it, was more complex than that: a combination of brinkmanship and blackmail in which Netanyahu’s government makes veiled threats to attack Iran, or not, depending on how much pressure it feels on the Palestinian issue.

U.S. military planners have little doubt that an Israeli air campaign against Iranian nuclear facilities would provoke Iranian retaliation against Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers allied with the United States.

American efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which border Iran, would come under threat. And there would be no way that any U.S. administration, after so many decades pledging undying support for Israel, could make a convincing claim in Muslim eyes that it was not complicit in the attack.

Netanyahu sounds suspiciously like Saddam Hussein as he continues with his dangerous game-playing. Hussein did not have any hidden WMDs in the months before George Bush launched his “shock and awe’ attack on Iraq seven years ago this past Friday (March 19, 2003).

But Hussein wanted Bush and the rest of the world to think he had the WMDs, the better to frighten them, you see, into leaving him alone, or at the very least, to negotiate with him.

It was a risky bluff that failed, at great cost to Americans and Iraqis alike. It was a bluff that Hussein thought was worth the risk. Right now, Bibi Netanyahu does not want to attack Iran, he just wants Middle America to continue to believe he might.

Middle America is sustained in its paranoia by the ever-faithful Main Stream Media, which reads all Middle Eastern developments through an Israeli perspective. Can you blame the MSM? Check the boards of directors of America’s corporate giants. Count the number of Muslim-sounding names you find there. You may find one or two, but those will be Pakistani Muslims.

Right Wing America is on Israel’s side, no matter what Bibi does, thanks to AIPAC, which holds its annual love fest with funders and its loyal Congressional syncophants, in Washington this week.

Christian Zionists have consistently demonstrated a distinct lack of interest in the human rights of  all those Palestinians who remain locked down in their Israeli-enforced prison.

AIPAC is so blatantly serving the interest of a foreign power, that at least one law suit has been filed that would force the US Attorney General to make Israel register as a foreign lobbying agent. The chances of that succeeding are not high, certainly not during the current administration.

The connection between the White House and AIPAC grew even stronger this week after the election of the new AIPAC board president, Lee “Rosy” Rosenberg, a Chicago “jazz recording industry veteran and venture capitalist”. Rosenberg has been described by the Chicago Tribune as close to President Obama, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. In Chicago that is known as knowing a guy who knows a guy.

Nor does Bibi have to worry about the MSM punditocracy, led by its genial dean, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, who American liberals, Jewish and Gentile alike, want so much to love. After all, ole Tom has written all those entertaining books about the Flat Earth which argue that countries like Israel, China and India make valuable contributions to the world’s economic elite.

This love affair of liberals for Friedman reached something of a personal boiling point for me recently when he wrote his latest screed “against’ Bibi, Driving Drunk in Jerusalem”.

Phone calls and emails from the liberal crowd sounded a single note: “Tom is making sense” No he’s not.

Friedman’s column drags out his typical half-truth approach to the land he loves dearly, Israel. He always appears to scold Israeli leaders but in this column, and in his earlier advice columns, he sounded like a kid fussing at an elderly uncle who embarassed the family (again) by getting drunk on Thanksgiving.

His sole concern was Bibl’s ill-timed announcement of those 1600 new housing units which were “embarrassing” to Joe Biden while Joe was in Israel to pay his customary homage to the country he also loves dearly.

Here are just a few of the usual Friedman–why don’t you fellows listen to me–canards, as he pretends to admonish Uncle Bibi:

Israel needs a wake-up call. Continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, and even housing in disputed East Jerusalem, is sheer madness. Yasir Arafat accepted that Jewish suburbs there would be under Israeli sovereignty in any peace deal that would also make Arab parts of East Jerusalem the Palestinian capital.

Israel's planned housing expansion now raises questions about whether Israel will ever be willing to concede a Palestinian capital in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem — a big problem.

Israel has already bitten off plenty of the West Bank. If it wants to remain a Jewish democracy, its only priority now should be striking a deal with the Palestinians that would allow it to swap those settlement blocs in the West Bank occupied by Jews for an equal amount of land from Israel for the Palestinians and then reap the benefits — economic and security — of ending the conflict.

Where should be start in deconstructing that logic. “A wake up call?” Talk to the soldiers you send to the West Bank to mistreat Palestinians trying to go to work, to school, to farm lands, or to hospitals. Those young people have information that will do more than wake Bibi up, Tom.

“Disputed” East Jerusalem? Please. It is in dispute only to Israel’s right wing government. And what is “sheer madness”, Tom, is that, along with the rest of us, you have watched the massive Israeli settlement expansion for decades.The most you can say now is, enough already?

The text in that passage from the Gospel of Thomas is, “Israel has already bitten off plenty of the West Bank”. You bet your bippy it has.

What Tom wants Uncle Bibi to do is sober up and “strike a deal” to lock in forever the  prime land, luxurious shopping malls, swimming pools, and housing complexes, in suburbs that completely surround Jerusalem, by trading them for equal land space in  less valuable parts of Israel that no one in Israel cares about.   Otherwise, why aren't they already settled or farmed?

Friedman does not say the land he wants Bibi to agree to swap was stolen, and continues to be stolen, from Palestinians in violation of and utter disregard for, international law.

So, please, liberal friends, no more praise for Friedman until he is ready to confess that he has been a crucial part of the Israeli strategy to conquer Palestine.

He is not going to confess that, short of a mid life religious conversion to the values of the Hebrew bible. Besides, he does not want to give up his precious professional access to Israel’s power elites who run the state’s “economic and security” agendas, an elite that he visits regularly and for whom he has even been known to deliver formal lectures.

Also, liberal friends, while you are at it, you can stop believing that CNN’s Wolfe Blitzer is a neutral journalist. I suspect you will, once you hear his testimony on Zionism as central to his personal philosophy which he declared during a program in 1989. His fellow panelist was a scholar, Norman Finklestein, who is also Jewish, but who is not nearly as welcome at the Tel Aviv airport as is Blitzer.

I found this clip on the ever reliable Juan Cole’s web site, Informed Consent. It is seven minutes long. If you fail to click on it, here, or below, and pay close attention to both Blitzer and Finklestein, well, I will think less of you. In fact, it is required viewing for all those who wrote or called to tell me that Friedman is now their guy.

The panel was presented as “The Intifada within the American, Israeli, Islamic Triangle University of Pennsylvania.” The event was held November 8, 1989.

The conference was sponsored by The International Student Council, and co-sponsored by: Senior VP for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, School of Communications, Middle East Studies Comittee, University Office of International Programs, Department of Political Science, Department of History.

And while we are on the subject of journalistic in-teg-ri-ty, check out this Mondoweiss piece on how the New York Times gave the Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, space to twist the history of Israel’s conflict with Lebanon. There was no rebuttal, as is customary for the Times whenever it presents a pro-Palestinian piece.

The Times has also been under fire for continuing to employ, as its Middle Eastern correspondent, Ethan Bronner, whose wife is Israeli, and whose son is also Israeli, now serving in Israeli Defense Force.

The Times‘ Ombudsman Clark Hoyt, after receiving many complaints,wrote a column praising Bronner’s professionalism, but he also suggested it was time for the paper to transfer Bronner to another foreign post where his loyalty to Israel might not have such an impact on his reporting.

A newspaper of “record”, as the Times likes to call itself, should place reporters in the Middle East who are knowledgeable, but also sensitive to all sides of the issues about which they are reporting

As the Mondoweiss piece reporting on Ambassador Oren’s twisted treatment of history, illustrates, the Times’ own New York staff needs to approach their editorial responsibilities with the professionalism readers deserve.  These readers need to hear a less biased narrative about Israel’s own modern history:

Israel repeatedly manages to alter history in its favor, resulting in common acceptance that Israel won territory in a 1967 “defensive war” and that Arafat ordered the second intifadah in 2000 to win through terror what he could not negotiate at Camp David.

On the other hand, Palestinians are often unable to gain public recognition of actual realities, such as the massacres that precipitated the Nakba and Israel's shamefully discriminatory treatment of its own non-Jewish citizens.

Oren's false comment, which I am sure passed by the paper's staff unnoticed, reflects the carefully cultivated assumption underlying mainstream discourse, that Israel is perpetually forced to defend its populace from attack.

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