Archive | August 6th, 2011

Antisemitism and Political Blogging: Personal Reflections



My 5-year involvement with this site has been somewhat intermittent. Although

I love to blog, there is still this other pesky thing called “life” that often tends to

take precedence. At other times, despair about my main blogging subject (Israel

-Palestine, hereafter I-P), and the apparent futility of the I-P scene here, had kept

me away for weeks or even months.

So it was nearly 2 weeks late that I received the meta “headline news”: an Antisem-

itism epidemic was diagnosed at Daily Kos. The list of symptoms was detailed in

a public letter, with dozens of examples from diaries and comments.

The good citizens of this progressive-liberal community were called upon to take

action, to eradicate the disease from among us – because at other times when

good citizens looked the other way, such talk had “led to expulsions and mass

murders of Jews” (direct quote). This time around, the damage from Antisemitism

so far has been limited to “many Jewish bloggers” feeling “unwelcome” and leaving;

but as the diary’s title exhorts us, we must not “turn away” lest things might get far

worse. This urgent call was eventually signed by dozens and dozens of members, and –

needless to say – made a strong showing on the rec list.

That show of solidarity was apparently insufficient for the letter authors, since they

have continued to issue diaries exhorting site admins and the general community to

show more vigilance, implement aggressive enforcement and eradicate the disease.

The admins, it seems, are heeding the call. The violators called out by these diaries

are banned swiftly and with little deliberation.

As you might guess, being Jewish myself I have an opinion on the matter, and I respe-

ctfully – but totally – disagree with the “Antisemitism epidemic” diagnosis. I do symp-

athize with the heartfelt distress with which it was presented. In general I am not a fan

of site meta. Moreover, I have avoided to voice my opinions about the trials and

tribulations of present-day Diaspora Jews, since even though I am Jewish and live in

the Diaspora I consider myself mostly Israeli, and was not raised in a Jewish minority

surrounded by a non-Jewish culture – which is the setting in which genuine Antisemit-

ism and Antisemitism-fears develop.

But I think it is high time to break my silence, at least to the 3.5 Kossacks venturing to

read this diary in its entirety.

I would like to offer my view of what’s actually going on. This will take (I think) 2-3

diaries, so don’t say you haven’t been warned. If you are a headlines-only person,

then please take home the 2 messages that:

1. The issue of Antisemitic and Antisemitic-sounding expressions on Daily Kos is a

problem almost exclusively confined to Israel-Palestine debates, and therefore any

attempt to deal with it without addressing the entire I-P thread culture, which is exa-

ctly what is being done now (e.g., the “Antisemitism letter” and its sequels were

published without the “Israel”, “Palestine” tags) – any such attempt is narrow-

minded, tainted and eventually doomed to failure in the broader scheme of things.

This will be the theme of the 3rd diary. And

2. That this is not a simple uni-directional problem of “more enforcement is good,

less enformcement is bad”. There is more here than meets the unitiated eye. Some-

times ovezealous enforcement can turn into persecution. Or even worse: sometimes

bigots can use a “pro-enforcement” atmosphere to further their twisted agenda.

I know this from my own, real (not meta, not virtual) experience, and will talk about

it right now.

So I begin with a side trip down my personal, tortured memory lane. The intersection,

if you will, between virtual life and real life. Please follow me…

In the spring of 2009 I submitted a formal application for a tenure-track job at the

Department of Industrial Engineering, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel.

I had some prior informal back-and-forths with that department, and in fall 2008

was snubbed by them, became frustated and thought it’s better for me not to deal

with them anymore. But now the opening was public and official. So to shut up my

own conscience about trying my best to return to Israel (we’ve been living in Seattle

since fall 2002), while remaining in the profession I had just spent years to acquire –

I submitted a formal application, expecting a formal repeat of the informal snub.

It was therefore a bit of a surprise, when in summer 2009 BGU replied expressing

strong interest. In fact, the senior statistician in the department told me in no unce-

rtain terms that I am their leading candidate; they have no other viable candidate.

By that time I had accepted a full-time job offer at UW (my current job). It is not

tenure-track, but professionally very promising and challenging, and paying a living

wage; not something to scoff at during the Great Recession. I informed the BGU stati-

stician of that, but still expressed my interest in proceeding. When can I come give a

job talk? She asked. Our next family visit to Israel was scheduled for spring 2010;

but if BGU is interested, they can buy me a ticket and I can perhaps come around

Thanksgiving without missing too much work time. “No”, she said, “We don’t have

the budget for this; we’ll wait.”

Her demeanor was strange; on one hand, she was very clear about their dire need

for another stat professor ASAP, and of my clear position as the sole adequate can-

didate for their post. On the other hand, she sounded as “enthusiastic”, as we say

in Hebrew, as someone who had just swallowed a whole herring. Anyone even vag-

uely familiar with academia knows that the accepted practice is for inviting depart-

ments to pay a faculty candidate on their shortlist her/his travel expenses, and that

there are budgets set aside for this when an official search is opened.

About the same time, a department colleague of hers, an applied mathematician,

sounded far more friendly when he called my home. He was visiting the East Coast,

and took advantage of the opportunity to introduce himself and have a lengthy phone

chat with me. I decided there was something unclear in the whole affair, and started

poking around with friends and acquaintances at BGU, to see whether if someone can

help me figure out what the heck is up. There was no clear explanation to the departm-

ent’s ambivalence; all my BGU sources agreed it seems strange. So I put the matter

aside and concentrated on summer and on starting my job.

In September 2009, a couple of weeks into my new job, I get a call from my friend

Yigal, a high-school buddy and fellow activist. “Haven’t you read the article?”,

he asks.

“What article?” He sent me the link. It was an article on Globes, (Hebrew link),

Israel’s analogue to the Wall Street Journal – but without the national-politics angle.

Well, almost without. Here are excerpts from the opening passage (translation mine

with my comments in brackets and italics):

Israeli Lecturer Supporting the Comparison of Territories Policies to

Nazis to Arrive in Israel?

by Ro’ee Goldenberg

Only two weeks ago, BGU was scandalized by a faculty member

[Neve Gordon] publishing a LA Times editorial condemning Israel,

and now a new scandal is about to erupt….

In recent months, BGU is considering bringing Dr. Assaf Oron, a statistics

lecturer at the University of Washington, who has published in recent years

several articles calling for organized refusal to serve in the IDF, and criticizing

Israel’s policies in the Territories. Oron even edited, wrote and translated

articles for the website of “Courage to Refuse” (where writings by Dr. Gordon

were also published – RG)… among Oron’s writings, linked to his personal

webpage on the UW site, he expresses support in comparing Israel’s activities

in the Territories to the Nazis (“Does Israel have a monopoly on labeling its

enemies and Nazis, while everyone else must shut up even when reality

speaks for itself?”)…

During discussions at the search committee, some members alerted the

department chair and the dean regarding the problematic nature of emplo-

ying Oron in view of his opinions. One of them even declared he will work

vigorously to convince his colleagues to vote, when the day comes, against

granting Oron tenure at BGU. The chair and dean refused to address this issue,

and even begged the committee member to resign because he places political

considerations above academic ones…

My brain turned into a giant flashing red WTF? sign. I mean, beyond anything else,

what the fuck kind ofcrap journalism is that? Where’s the story here? The public


Some idiot tries to bring politics into an appointment committee and is promptly

told off, and everyone involved has zero name recognition, simply private citizens

who happen to work in academia and perhaps blog their opinions from time to time.

What about basic confidentiality of personnel matters? And this, in a paper that

deals almost strictly with business. Since when has this become “business news”?

Well, if they made the story about politization of academia, maybe. But they did

the opposite: the “big scandal” was the university’s apparent refusal to politicize

a purely scientific appointment. And what about contacting the article’s victim –

that would be yours truly? They contacted the university, this crapload of a reporter

looked up my UW website – where, incidentally, my email address is posted in plain

sight – but he could not bring himself to write me an email before publishing this on

Israel’s most widely-read business paper. Where’s the editor in this story? Is there

an editor in the house?

So my first impulse was to send a cease-and-desist style email to the editors. Relax,

said Yigal, and said also Neve Gordon, who felt quite guilty about this story coming

out as it was clearly related to his above-mentioned op-ed. Neve had good evidence

to back his advice: he himself had spent a good few years fighting a libel suit against

a far-right American-born jerk of a professor, Steven Plaut, who called him a“kapo”

(Neve, btw, is a decorated IDF veteran wounded in combat stopping a terrorist boat

on the Lebanese border). Neve won the “kapo” libel suit, then part of it got reversed

on appeal, then he re-appealed… who knows how it ends? It wasn’t worth it.

The best thing for me right now, they said, is to lie low. Besides, they know how it all

started, because the idiot who started it is already bragging about it on listservs.

He is one Professor Israel David, the very member from the appointment committee

who protested my imminent appointment. Apparently he had some insider connection

to Globes, and that’s how he got the story in there. “You are right”, they told me.

“There is no genuine story or media interest in this, so just let it blow.” Unless – that

is – unless I am interested in this particular BGU job and want to fight for it.

Well, I’d be a complete idiot on insisting to get into that position now, wouldn’t I? I

know enough about academia, and what chances has a beginning assistant prof whose

arrival has already caused such hostility and conflict among tenured faculty, and who

has no real ally in there? Not to mention that from a professional standpoint, this part-

icular department has the smallest and least-established stat team among all Israeli

university. Moreover, I had to consider to fallout onto my brand-new job, if I get embr-

oiled in a highly visible political scandal back home.

So I lied low. And indeed, the story wasn’t picked up anywhere else. Which caused the

said Israel David some frustration, as well. So he went to a Matt-Drudge-style online

news site, and penned a story spilling it all out, titled “About Satan-Talkers and

Transparency in Academia”

(Hebrew link, translation mine).

He starts by mentioning Neve Gordon, and continues…

…and now, Globes published an article about another “Tsorer” [a term used

traditionally for someone persecuting Jews with a genocidal intent, quotes in the

original] who is a candidate… Dr. Assaf Oron, a statistics lecturer…

whose Sitna [literally “Satan-talk”, meaning rabid incitement] against Israel is

even worse than [Gordon]: he calls for an organized refusal to serve in the IDF (a criminal charge that in some societies might carry the death penalty under certain circumtances, a mutiny), he systematically compares IDF soldiers and commanders to Nazis, and other “gems” anyone can read on his personal university website.

…Dear readers, … I myself is “that member” [of the appointment committee]…during the specific debate about Oron’s appointment on July 1, after indeed one member mentioned Oron’s activity against Israel and the IDF… the Chair went online to look at the texts himself. Then various opinions were voiced, with the Chair at first arguing that Oron might be an asset to the department because of his “social sensitivity” demonstrated when “helping the children of Nablus”. The Chair summarized that Dr. Oron might be adequate for our professional needs, but he suffers from “personality problems”; this appears in the official meeting protocol! The committee decided to ask a senior professor who was about to visit the US in the summer, to talk with Dr. Oron and ask whether he’d agree to keep his activism out of sight in case he is accepted at our department [that explains that phone call mentioned above; to his credit, that other professor did not mention politics in one word during our talk].

The article ends with Prof. David arguing against the confidentiality of committee protocols, trying to cast himself as a Wikileaks-style hero, rather than a wingnug McCarthyist jerk. This article made me mad at BGU. Sure, David is not the perfect reliable witness about the committee’s discussion, but he sounded pretty confident about the shameful direction that discussion took. In any case, the least they could do at that point was contact me and apologize, or something. I never heard from them.

A few months pass, and David went on to submit… a libel suit against the department Chair, because removing him from the committee hurt his good name! The suit ( .doc link, Hebrew) is one long libellous incitement against… me of course. I contacted Advocate Michael Sfard, asking whether I could/should join as a side in the suit or make a counter-libel suit. Just like Neve, he strongly advised against. I lied low again.

Only on the next round of Assaf-bashing did I finally break my silence. This happened in June 2010; I suddenly got several emails from people, some of whom I barely knew. One demanded to know if I supported academic boycott of Israel. Another (a former fellow activist) alerted me that David is again slandering me, this time on a social-sciences listserv whose messages reach the inbox of 3000 Israeli academics. Soon the listserv manager himself contacted me and suggested that I reply. Yigal and Neve were still opposed; they thought I might burn all my chances for an academic career in Israel. But I made the opposite calculation: when someone repeats the same lie about you with enough volume and conviction, it sticks. David was about to etch my image in the minds of Israeli academia, and not in a flattering manner. On the other hand, if I intervene I would not only foil his efforts, but also have a chance to become someone other academics might identify with and want to help. Moreover, I have to think of others who might find myself in my situation. Speaking out – when I have so little to lose now – will help them.

So I wrote the listserv ending with the message that this is not really about politics, but about whether or not society lets bullies dictate the rules. It was generally well received, and a couple of junior academics who encountered similar treatment wrote to thank me personally. Meanwhile, I interested the Seattle blogger Richard Silverstein (who just shortly before that became world-famous with the Anat Kam scoop) in the affair and he wrote a story, followed by Ha’aretz; so you can read all about it in English.

Whew !

Now I know why I’ve never blogged about this sorry story before. It is too long.

Make no mistake: I was not a random victim for some deranged head-case. Yes, Prof. David is a strange figure with some sad personal story. After I finally spoke out, he sent me a couple of direct emails – something he’d never done before – treating me almost as a friend, the way only a bully fully attached to his faovrite victim does, I guess – and sharing more insider information and observations from the department.

But as I wrote to the listserv, this is not about politics, but about bully-victim dynamics. In particular, it is about group patterns of bullying, or in other words bigotry and prejudice. Because without the prejudice, without the rest of society (including, say, the department faculty) accepting that I deserved to be treated as less than human, Prof. David could not have gotten that far. So what kind of bigotry is this? It is thebigotry by mainstream Jews against dissident Jews who challenge the “Israel good, Arabs bad” dogma. In the mainstream Israeli (and older generation Disapora-Jewish) psyche there is a red line, usually referred to in Israel as a social-mental “Fence”, separating, supposedly, “legitimate” criticism and activism – but really demarcating tribal solidarity – from crossing over to become one of “them”.

Anyone who walks outside the Fence becomes immediately guilty until otherwise proven. You are disloyal, you are not a “true Israeli”, your mind is sick, your soul is sick, and you are fair game. You are a “Hamas fan” who “supports terrorism”, even if you have dedicated all your adult life to nonviolence (except for military service, unfortunately). The most lenient verdict on you is probably that you have fallen prey to your naive kindness and ignorance. Several times over the past few years, other Israelis have called me a“fanatic disciple” (disciple of what? Of whom?) or “brainwash victim”.

But wait;

Maybe I am guilty as charged? Maybe I am this dangerous monster described in the Globes article, maybe according to the facts I did do these things? Here are the main wedge issues Prof. David used against me, as he lays them bare in his op-ed.

A. Supporting organized refusal to serve in the IDF, to the point of a mutiny: in January 2002 I was part of a group of combat reserve IDF soldiers who placed an ad in Haaretz declaring that the government’s actions and instructions to the military are not for defense, but for perpetuating the Occupation and settlement project. We pledged to stop serving that Occupation, or in our words (here’s the original link; the posted English translation is mine):

We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel’s defense.

The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them.

Pretty darn clear, no? This erstwhile group known as “Courage to Refuse” pledged selective refusal, not a total one. I neither judge nor condemn youngsters who now, for similar reasons to ours, decide to refuse to even enlist. I was fortunate to enlist in 1985, perhaps a more naive stage in Israeli history. But the fact of the matter is that I have never pledged nor organized outright refusal. Moreover, all the Israeli CO-support groups I’ve been in have never actively tried to recruit objectors. Conscientious objection and its consequences is a decision one has to actively choose, not be sold upon like a toothpaste. This is a matter of principle and despite some voices calling for it on the fringes, no Israeli CO-support group has ever tried to call for a mutiny.

What about that other, more prominent charge featured in the original Globes story headline? Do I
B. “systematically compare IDF soldiers and commanders to the Nazis”? Well, from early 2002 through the present I have written countless articles, blogposts, comments, etc. etc. Barely a handful of times, maybe even less, did I make any sort of reference, direct or indirect, that might be interpreted as saying that the Israelis are present-day Nazis. The lighting-rod passage David has built his entire thesis upon, was in fact a meta discussion of the game which I will now define as …. (drumroll….)

Nazi Gotcha.

Americans are probably well aware of a related, but much simpler, game called “N-Word Gotcha”: non-Black people can never say any variant of the word “Nigger” lest they immediately be labeled as racists. On the other hand, African-Americans can usually get away with it, especially when they say it in an ironic manner.

[ an aside: I don’t object to the “N-Word Gotcha” game itself; even though it often seems to me that this rhetorical abstention white Americans have undertaken is really a cheap lip-service; that even African-Americans would actually much, much prefer if they did hear the N-word once in a while, but in return would also see Whites once and forall dismantle the racist policies and socioeconomic structures that still systematically send Black men to the jailhouse and Black families to the poorhouse. ]

In any case, as we Jews are smarter than anyone else, we have created our own far more sophisticated version of the game. Here are the rules of “Nazi Gotcha”, as far as I’ve managed to understand them:

1. Anyone, at any time, can compare Israel’s current and past enemies to the Nazis – and we are even encouraged to do so.

2. No one, at no time, can compare Israel’s current or past actions to the Nazis. This is an immediate red card.

3. It is completely okay for Jews criticizing other Jews from the right to the left (e.g., the right criticizing the center, the center criticizing the left, etc.), to compare their criticism’s target to the Nazis. For example, in 1995 during the Oslo process a center-right commentator said to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to his face on prime-time live broadcast, that he is a member of a “Judenrat Government”. That commentator, Tommy Lapid, later became a political star and even served under Sharon as a senior cabinet minister alongsidePeres.

4. It is completely not okay, for Jews criticizing other Jews from the left towards the right, to use similar imagery. Never. Barring highly exceptional circumstances, this offense also carries an immediate and irrevocable red card.

5. In other cases, we will send the “jury” (composed always of center and right nationalist Jews) out to deliberation, but in general if you are Jewish and not suspected of “anti-Israelism”, it is okay. For example, I don’t think Jerry Seinfeld paid any penalty for introducing the term “Soup Nazi” to English language and American pop-culture.

6. The meaning of a red card. If you were unfortunate to be issued a red card under rules 2, 4 and possibly 5 – then you are forever marked as someone “beyond the pale”, an “Antisemite”, a “self-hater”, or even worse. Pretty much nothing you will do can undo this verdict.

7. (almost) Finally…. any nationalist Jew is authorized to issue the red card to Jews on his left, or to non-Jews, upon witnessing an offense.

We are almost done. The last and trickiest rule will be demonstrated via the way in which I had fallen prey to “Nazi Gotcha”, and was issued – by the unquestioned authority of Professor Israel David – the red card. It is all due to an email I sent in March 2002 called “an open letter to Jewish Americans and other friends of Israel”. Why did I write it?

Our Courage To Refuse ad a couple of months earlier, well-timed with media articles about us, generated a political storm in Israel. The initial gut response of then-IDF chief of staff was to condemn and persecute us. But our numbers mushroomed from 50 to 100 to 200 over two weeks, and a lot of public voices expressed support either for our stand, or at least for our right to take it. So for a while, we were affecting the mainstream Israeli debate. Meanwhile, among Disapora Jews we were met with stony hostile silence. The only existing group finally coming out in our support was Tikkun. They published an ad in the New York Times, including a cartoon of a soldier with a statement like “Don’t say you were only following orders.”

Ha! Automatic Red Card by Rule #2. “Following Orders” can be read as an allusion to Nazi times. Tikkun were caught in “Nazi Gotcha”, and were verbally lynched across the American-Jewish world. Their board members were resigning one by one. Frantically, Rabbi Lerner emailed those among Courage to Refuse he could find their email addresses, an urgent plea along the lines “We helped you out, can you give us a hand here?” I was a direct recipient, but I was also not in Courage to Refuse’s inner circle. In that circle they decided to turn a cold shoulder towards Lerner. Their target was the mainstream Israeli audience, and the last thing they wanted was a “Nazi Gotcha” red card. Because, you see, the last and strongest rule of the game is:

8. If you happen to address a case when someone else was issued a red card, the only permissible response is to further condemn, denigrate, ostracize, denounce, renounce and cut all contact from the red-cardee. Any other response will make you automatically liable to being issued a red card yourself.

I, naive and idiotic that I am and ever have been, felt anger at the raw hate and rank hypocrisy that Tikkun had been served by their fellow American Jews in return for supporting us. So I sat down to write about it, and immediately sent it as an email to the Tikkun board members (whose addresses Rabbi Lerner had provided). In so doing, I violated Rule #8 and have been forever branded.

Want to hear something funny? Rabbi Lerner thanked me profusely, and then Tikkun went on to circulate my text. But not before they watered it down and removed the passage discussing Nazi references and allusions. See, they had already learned their lessons; while I who was stupid enough to try and save them from “Nazi Gotcha”, had my words return to bite me in the ass on national Israeli media some 7.5 years later.


Even though to me the connection is very clear between my story and the “Antisemitism eradication festival” currently raging on Daily Kos site pages, I have learned from experience that it is better to visibly connect the dots.

The question whether charges of Antisemitism and Nazi allusions are used to police and shut down I-P debate and/or inflame emotions on all sides, is a well-trodden often-debated one. But this is not what I’m talking about here.

I am talking about the use of this charged atmosphere, in order to isolate, demonize, dehumanize and persecute individuals. All of us write all kinds of stuff over the years, and we produce a range of expressions, reactions, contexts, etc. Hardly anyone would approve of every single thing someone else has written. Hardly any political blogger, esp. in I-P, has managed to avoid stepping on some verbal landmines, while still writing texts worth reading.

Calling people out when they overstep red lines, helping them understand what’s wrong with what they wrote, is one thing. But by letting games like “Nazi Gotcha” set the tone, we are allowing bigots to fish for expressions they can take out of context, and then aid and abet them in persecuting whoever made these expressions. So the community ends up engaging in de-facto bigotry, while feeling very self-righteous and morally justified.

I wrote about my experience, as an Israeli dissident, of having a mention of Nazism taken out of context and used as a rhetorical hatchet to persecute me. Nazi allusions are a favorite tool against people on the Left in intra-Jewish politics.
For non-Jewish targets, it might be easier to just smear them as “Antisemites”; exhibit A for this tactic would probably be what has been done over the years to poor Jimmy Carter – who, ironically enough, during his time in office has arguably contributed to Israel’s long-term strategic standing more than any other President.


Unfortunately, there is a direct path leading from the “Nazi Gotcha” games to physical violence.Accusing someone, like was done to me, of comparing Israel to the Nazis is bad enough. But even worse is the free-for-all license this game hands over to the Right to do the exact same thing that the Left is forbidden to do: namely, to use Nazi terms to slander their opponents, whether Arabs, Jews or other. It is a very dangerous license, and practically no one is standing guard against it.

In 1995, a few months after Tommy Lapid called then-foreign minister Peres “Judenrat” to his face, a heated demonstration against the Oslo process took place in downtown Jerusalem. In the crowd circulated flyers with Prime Minister Rabin wearing an SS uniform. A few weeks later, Rabin was almost mobbed by right-wingers as he attended a public ceremony. His bodyguards barely saved him. Another week passed, and he was murdered by a Jewish wingnut.

[btw, for years my own image appeared on the Kahanist “masada2000” website, holding a sign whose original inscription was photoshopped to read “Judenrat”]

Bringing it closer in time and space: Rabbi Lerner, the very same Tikkun leader I tried to help and cost me my job prospects at an Israeli university, had his home vandalized 3 times this past year by right-wing Jewish hate groups.

Vandals plastered posters on the garage door of Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Cragmont Avenue home Tuesday night, according to Berkeley police. The posters depicted pictures of a Nazi carrying away a Jew….Lerner’s name is put on one of the Nazis and ‘Islamic extremists’ is written on the other Nazi…

Inventing Nazi slurs for people is a very dangerous game, indeed. Especially among Jews.

But this is precisely what is happening right now, right here at Daily Kos. And it is happening under the banner of “fighting Antisemitism”.

There is a site called Mondoweiss, started by progressive, Anti-Zionist Jewish journalist Phil Weiss and dealing primarily with Israel-Palestine and related Diaspora-Jewish politics. In the latest move of “enforcement”, this site was banned from being a source for Daily Kos diaries. I am not discussing the ban here. For those not in the know, Weiss was accused of occasionally entertaining Antisemites on his site, but – more centrally – of irritatingly engaging in chronic “Jew Counting”. There are legitimate reasons for other Jews to feel offended and angry by some of the stuff posted on the Mondoweiss site. I will not delve further into details here.


The banning was preceded via a series of diaries attacking that site, with the diarist inventing a nickname for Mondoweiss: “Mondofront”. This is a (very tasteless, needless to say) pun on the Stormfront site, the English blogsphere’s premier Neo-Nazi, white-supremacist outlet. All these diaries were tipped and recc’ed by pretty much everyone involved in the present Antisemitism-eradication effort.

Whatever might be said about Weiss, I am well-informed enough to confidently state that he is neither a Nazi nor an ally of neo-Nazis. This “clever” invention of a Nazi slur-nickname for him is a slippery slope. If here on a liberal site people call Weiss “Mondofront” and it becomes accepted and condoned, then next week on a right-wing site someone will call him Goebbels, and in the not-so-far future, some other bigoted idiot might physically attack him or his co-editor Adam Horowitz.

This stuff does happen. And it often begins in this way, too. Violence on the fringes is often egged on by extreme and violent rhetoric coming from the Center.

Please. If you preach highly to a large audience about bigotry and Antisemitism and their dangers, if you stake a claim to moral authority, please also make sure to clean up your own act. This behavior is disgraceful to our site. And yes, I am honestly afraid that you might be placing your target in physical danger.

Besides, if I am not mistaken the site I-P rules (if they are still in effect) in fact forbid anyone from using Nazi slurs.

So please stop.

ok, Enough with this inside-Jewish-Baseball !

The Elephant in the Meta Room we’re in is of course anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bigotry.As I hinted in the intro, a quick check of the “Antisemitism letter” diary’s links reveals that most examples there come from I-P related threads and arguments (you are welcome to check yourselves). Alongside the problematic comments about Jews occasionally appearing on I-P threads, those other types of racism have a strong presence as well (to put it mildly).

As a dissident Jew I personally have encountered over the years a handful of hate-speech anti-dissident diaries and comments here on Daily Kos, from people considering themselves “better Jews” (i.e., “more pro-Israel”) than myself. More often, it was “dog whistles” insinuating that I am not a genuine Israeli or don’t show enough empathy to my compatriots; or innocently asking me how come 95% of the Israelis they know think I’m a nutcase; so maybe they are right and what do I have to say for myself?

But relatively speaking, I’ve been treated with kid gloves. Most of the pie-fights I’ve gotten into happened while trying to help out other members – usually Arab – who were being attacked far more savagely. Or while calling out ugly bigoted comments about Arabs in general or Palestinians in particular.

So the two problems are intimately interlinked. It is totally counterproductive to jump all over one, demanding constant attention from site admins, while completely ignoring the other. Anti-Muslim/Arab/Palestinian racism didn’t even make it into the list of “other types of racism” mentioned in the “Antisemitism letter” diary. I voiced this concern as soon as I’d heard about the “Antisemitism letter”, and the letter’s formal lead author quickly replied to me – along the lines of “this is none of our business, it is totally unrelated, if Arab diarists want to write a similar letter about anti-Arab bigotry they should go do it themselves”.

Excuse me, but this is an extremely childish, disingenious and irresponsible response. You call a community of over 100,000 bloggers up in arms against one type of bigotry, and conveniently neglect to even mention that other type of bigotry, its present-day mirror image that goes hand-in-hand, tit-for-tat with it? Why? Where’s the good faith? What’s the goal?

Final Words:

If we are to eradicate bigotry, we should approach the task with an open heart, an open mind and a generous dose of humility.

With a willingness to be educated while educating others.

With a readiness to acknowledge faults while finding them in others.

With a sensitivity to others’ vulnerabilities and fears, even as we share our own.

With a broad and inclusive perspective, rather than a narrow and self-serving one.

With a willingness to forgive and engage, rather than to demonize and persecute.

All this is sorely missing from the present campaign against Antisemitism on the site.

The strategy chosen might be great for scoring some meaningless meta points in the short term. But it harms the fabric of this community, and threatens the good name of those leading the campaign as true liberals and progressives. I implore them to change the approach they have taken thus far.

And I ask site administration to show better judgment, rather than be suckered into playing twisted Gotcha games that do not befit a progressive, reality-based community, and that could themselves easily turn into shameful displays of bigotry.

Thank you.

(crossposted from Daily Kos)

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on Antisemitism and Political Blogging: Personal Reflections

Young woman recounts her escape from Zionist cult


In mid-May, a young woman called the Israel Center for Cult Victims, asking that her identity be kept secret. “I live in a Jerusalem collective,” she told center director Rachel Lichtenstein. “I’m not certain, but I think it’s a cult.”

That call led to the exposure of the Jerusalem cult whose ringleader, D., was indicted yesterday along with two other members.

In several meetings with center staffers, the caller, in her early twenties, revealed the story of her life in D.’s house. She later agreed to complain to the police. Her detailed testimony about the physical, sexual and emotional abuse inflicted on the household’s women and children led to an investigation that ended with the police and welfare authorities raiding the house. The women and children were sent to shelters; D. and two others were arrested.

Now, according to her lawyer, Ami Savir, the complainant will be the key prosecution witness in the trial.

The complainant’s courage is impressive. She was the youngest of the household’s women, and apparently the only one who ever escaped from the cult.

She arrived in D.’s Jerusalem home at age 18, after growing up in a religious household in the center of the country, and lived there for a year and a half as his intended wife (he already had six ).

“Even a normative person can fall into the net of manipulative people who speak about truth,” Savir said. “But she was an 18-year-old girl who, after her parents’ divorce, was seeking her way in life. She was fertile ground for persuasion.”

On a trip to Jerusalem, near the Calatrava Bridge where D.’s wives and children begged for alms and expounded on his teachings, one of the women approached her, having apparently been ordered by D. to recruit more women.

“Initially, she knew only the woman who approached her, not the other members of the group,” Lichtenstein said. “The woman exposed her to Bratslav [Hasidic] teachings, to the writings disseminated by group members, and she slowly warmed to the idea. Then she was told about the leader, whom the women viewed as a kind of tzaddik [righteous man] and prophet. At this stage, she hadn’t yet met him and didn’t know he was married to several women.”

She began visiting the house, but “only once she was ensnared was she brought to live in it,” Lichtenstein said.

Yet even though she was under D.’s spell, “she had some kind of critical sense that caused her not to marry him, even though he constantly raised the issue,” Lichtenstein added.

Savir said the gap in their ages – D. was 55 to her 18 – made him realize that persuading her would take time. D. didn’t even sleep with her, differentiating her from the other women, Savir added.

It took the complainant, whom Savir described as utterly normative and quite impressive, hours to tell him about her experiences in D.’s house.

“It was shocking,” he said.

First, she was cut off from her job and family, then came a “lengthy process of brainwashing and deification” of D. by his wives, who portrayed him as the direct heir of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of Bratslav Hasidism. Eventually, aided by what the complainant described as D.’s charisma, she came to believe this, “and by virtue of this faith, he was able to control, dominate, administer beatings, threaten, humiliate, demand confessions, and rape,” Savir said.

What finally caused her to leave, Savir continued, is that “she started being beaten. But even before then, she had witnessed acts of abuse and sexual licentiousness.

“One day, she was subjected to half an hour of [D.’s] blows. She saw him whip one of the women with a rod, and also witnessed incidents like a woman who dared to nod off while he was speaking being put into an ice-cold shower and then sent outside to dry off in the freezing cold. For a lengthy period, one girl went around with a shaven head as a punishment and was permanently barred from participating in meals, because she was ostracized.”

D. imposed strict rules, and all the women and children were required to confess to him about their acts and thoughts, Savir continued. “Punishments were handed down even on account of thoughts. In one case, a boy was punished for having a sexual fantasy.”

The result was blind obedience to D.’s every wish – making the complainant’s decision to escape even more remarkable.

Everyone in the household was convinced that D. was a prophet, Savir continued. That enabled him to threaten that dire things would befall anyone who disobeyed him, and to claim obedience would bring spiritual enlightenment. The complete absence of all contact with other people, especially family, bolstered his rule, as did collective participation in punishments: “If the punishment was a beating, they would all join in.”

The complainant’s escape was not an all at once happening: She made several attempts that ended with her return, after D. sent his women to entice her back.

“The enticements were spiritual,” Lichtenstein said. “He would tell her, ‘don’t forfeit your salvation. Salvation will be here any minute.’ That’s something that happens in all cults.”

After her family tried to remove her from the cult, D. also threatened that terrible things would happen to them, Savir said.

About six months ago, she finally managed to escape for good. Now she is starting to rebuild her life: She is in counseling and has already begun to work. D.’s arrest and indictment have encouraged her.

But she’s still afraid to reveal her name.

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Zio-Nazi sources: Arab Spring let Palestinians ramp up Gaza arms smuggling


In the past months, Hamas has acquired improved rockets, ready-made explosive devices, anti-tank missiles and possibly anti-aircraft missiles, say Israeli defense officials.

ed note–it has been the position of this webmaster and others who have watched the ‘revolutions’ taking place in the Middle East that these have been zionist/western backed false uprisings meant to destabilize the region and to usher in new leaders who will continue the status quo. The other position we have maintained is that part of Israel’s long term goal in all of this is the recapturing of the Sinai peninsula she lost in the pece deal with Egypt back in 1979. The following news story from Haaretz is part of that process in ‘preparing the mind’ for military confrontation between Israel and Egypt, the justification for which will be Israel’s need to “protect herself” from Hamas rockets.


The revolutions in the Arab world, especially the Egyptian security forces’ diminished control in the Sinai, have allowed the Palestinians to exponentially increase their weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip, senior defense officials say.

In the past few months, Hamas has acquired improved high-trajectory rockets, ready-made explosive devices, anti-tank missiles and possibly anti-aircraft missiles, the sources told Haaretz.

Anti-aircraft missiles could impinge on the unchallenged freedom of Israeli planes and helicopters over Gaza’s skies. For years, the air force has been assuming that Gaza militants might have such missiles, but there has been no evidence that such weapons have been fired.

In recent years much of the weapons smuggling into Gaza has been coordinated by Iran, rising steeply after the Israeli withdrawal from the Strip in 2005. The Iranians have operated on two main routes. One has been by sea, from the Persian Gulf to Sudan and from there in convoys to Egypt and the Strip. The other has been by air, from Tehran to Damascus via Turkey, and then to the Syrian port of Latakia, to Alexandria and on to Gaza.

Israel has responded by taking over cargo ships on the open sea, and, according to foreign reports, by attacking weapons convoys in Sudan from the air. Such operations have forced Iran to reconsider its moves.

But the civil war in Libya opened new opportunities for weapons smugglers after the Libyan army lost control of vast weapons stores in the east of the country. Local arms dealers made contact with Gaza smugglers, and new weapons began to flow by a much shorter and easier route than the ones originating in Iran.

The situation has been exacerbated by the anarchy in the Sinai, former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter told Haaretz. “The Sinai went from being an area through which they smuggle weapons to an area through which they simply transfer weapons,” he said. “No Egyptian security official dares to confront the Bedouin anymore.”

Dichter said the construction of the steel fence on the Rafah border, which Egypt began in the last year of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, had been stopped, and parts of it were already being dismantled by the Bedouin.

He said Iran and Hamas want to concentrate large stores of weapons in Gaza and, when the opportunity arises, to deliver them to the West Bank.

Posted in GazaComments Off on Zio-Nazi sources: Arab Spring let Palestinians ramp up Gaza arms smuggling

New U.S. envoy in IsraHell to clear obstacles for Obama’s second term


Ambassador Dan Shapiro, submitted his credentials to President Shimon Peres on Wednesday.

Dan Shapiro, the new American ambassador to Israel, submitted his credentials to President Shimon Peres on Wednesday. That same day, he submitted a declaration of support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: In an interview with Channel 2 television, he downplayed the lack of trust between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama and the latter’s rage and sense of insult over Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress in May, treating their serial disputes as routine disagreements between friends. Shapiro noted that he was present at all the many meetings between Obama and Netanyahu. So who are we to cast doubt on a videotaped affidavit by an eyewitness?

The newly-arrived diplomat’s decision to jump immediately into the media water and the friendly, almost fawning, content of his interview show that Shapiro was not sent here to promote peace between the Israeli leader and his Palestinian counterpart. Rather, his goal is to promote peace between the American president and American Jewish leaders. His main job will be to dismantle every Israeli land mine on his boss’ road to a second term.

Obama didn’t choose Shapiro because of the diplomatic experience the latter gained during his tenure as senior director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council; the diplomatic process has been presided over by Dennis Ross, who has no equal in his ability to tread water in the Israeli-Palestinian channel. Shapiro isn’t here to try his luck in proximity talks between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: He accompanied George Mitchell on all the latter’s shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Ramallah and knows quite well why that veteran mediator quit and returned his letter of appointment to Obama.

Rather, the qualifications that brought this energetic and likable young man to Tel Aviv 15 months before the American elections are his personal loyalty to Obama, his political experience, his deep Jewish roots (he comes from a traditional Jewish family ) and his fluent Hebrew (he also speaks some Arabic ).

Shapiro bet on Obama from the earliest days of the Democratic presidential primary race that began in 2007, at a time when most of his then-colleagues in the lobbying industry were predicting that Hillary Clinton would win. Supporting a black senator from Illinois was a natural choice for a young Jew raised (in Champaign, Illinois ) by liberal parents. And Obama’s subsequent elevation of Shapiro to the top ranks of his Middle East team was also a natural choice: The Jewish adviser devoted a significant portion of his time and energy to countering the Jewish and Christian right’s indefatigable attempts to portray Obama’s peace efforts as proof of his alleged Muslim roots.

In 1993, after finishing his master’s degree in Middle Eastern politics at Harvard University, Shapiro served on the staff of Lee Hamilton, then the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a leading Democratic congressman. He cheered when Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords and was a fervent admirer of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

After the Republicans captured both houses of Congress in 1994, Shapiro became Jewish senator Dianne Feinstein’s senior foreign policy advisor. A year later, Feinstein refused to cosponsor a bill to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – one of the provocative initiatives the Israeli right and its supporters in Congress dreamed up in an effort to kill the nascent peace process.

Shapiro’s first reports from the embassy on Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Street will presumably deal with the tent protests. Barring any surprises, next month he will report on the demise of the peace process, and perhaps also on a third intifada. When that happens, will Obama’s campaign strategists still be asking him to tell us that the U.S-Israeli relationship is just as wonderful as it always was, and that the settlements are just a disagreement between friends?

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Russia welcomes UN stand against foreign involvement in Syria


MOSCOW, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) — Russia welcomed a UN Security Council call to refrain from external interference in Syria’s internal strife, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

“Moscow is convinced that the settlement of the situation in Syria must be conducted by the Syrians themselves without any interference from the outside and be based on the all-Syrian dialogue, which is the only way to resolve the crisis,” a statement on the ministry’s official website said.

The UN’s statement Wednesday was important backing for this approach, the ministry said.

“Russia insists on speeding up the political and social-economic reforms in Syria, announced by this country’s government, based on non-acceptance of violence, on the search for national accord and an all-inclusive political process,” the ministry said.

Moscow also welcomed the calls for an immediate end to violence and demanded all sides show maximum restraint, including ceasing the attacks on the government’s establishments.

On Wednesday, the Security Council also adopted a presidential statement on condemning the use of force against civilians in Syria.

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IsraHell Announces 930 Homes in East Jerusalem Settlement Expansion


Officials Couch Settlement as Effort at ‘Affordable Housing’

In a move condemned by peace groups as a cynical attempt to distract attention from the housing protests, the Israeli Interior Ministry today announced another expansion of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, with 930 new homes being planned in Har Homa.

The move was clearly linked to the housing crisis by Interior Minister Eli Yashal, who said that the settlement expansion was crucial in providing “small, affordable housing units” inside Jerusalem.

Except, of course, that the settlement units are not in Jerusalem, but are rather southern East Jerusalem, territory annexed by the Israeli military in 1967. Israel claims the settlement is within the “city limits” but its claim to the territory is not recognized internationally.

And the expansion of the settlement is likely to provide yet more tension with the Palestinian Authority, at a time when Israel was only two days ago pushing for new peace talks. The call for peace talks was offered if the Palestinians promised not to attempt to be recognized as an independent state by the United Nations.

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Zio-Nazi troops shot at journalists covering W. Bank protest’



Photojournalist files complaint alleging Zio-Nazi intentionally fired at him; Zio-Nazi says it cannot investigate incident in depth without full details.

An American-Israeli photojournalist on Thursday lodged a complaint with the IDF Spokesman’s Office, the Government Press Office and the Foreign Press Association, alleging that IDF soldiers intentionally fired anti-riot projectiles at him and a fellow journalist while they were covering a protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Salih last Friday.

“At the start of the weekly Palestinian protest in Nabi Salih, Alexandroni Brigade reservists and Border Police officers opened fire with riot-control weapons on a group of some 10 press photographers,” Mati Milstein, 36, and originally from New Mexico, said in his complaint letter.

“At the time the attack took place, the troops had already repelled Palestinian protesters with tear gas canisters, and the only people left on the street in view of the Israeli force were accredited press photographers,” wrote Milstein.

“The photographers were clearly identified; carrying still and video cameras and tripods and wearing unique blue flak jackets and helmets marked with ‘PRESS’ or ‘TV.’ The distance between the journalists and soldiers was approximately 100m. and visibility was clear,” he wrote.

Milstein said that the tear gas canisters and rifle-fired gas grenades shot at the Israeli, Palestinian and foreign journalists were not fired in an arc, indicating to Milstein that the soldiers were not trying to fire over him and his colleagues, rather, directly at them.

He said the barrage lasted three to five minutes and included at least 12 rounds fired at the journalists, none of whom were wounded.

When he went to the soldiers to complain, officers from the Alexandroni Brigade threatened him with arrest and demanded that he stand against a wall, which prevented him from performing his job, Milstein said.

“Other television and still photographers in the area were also sequestered – under threat of arrest – to a location behind military lines from which it was virtually impossible to photograph the events,” he said.

Milstein, who first reported the incident in a post he wrote for the blog “972mag,” told The Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Thursday that in the years that he has worked at the protests, “previous Israeli military commanders serving in this sector had generally taken a more tolerant and sophisticated approach to dealing with the weekly protests, not infrequently seeking negotiation or coordination with Palestinian village leaders aimed at diffusing potentially violent situations. However, since early 2001, army and Border Police units operating in Nabi Salih have taken an increasingly heavy-handed approach to the protests.”

He said a similar escalation has been carried out toward the press, an escalation he says is “the product of a military environment that increasingly sees the media as an enemy or a fifth column rather than as one of the key elements required for the maintenance of a democratic, transparent state.”

Milstein said that he knows of other journalists who have suffered abuse from one side or another in covering the conflict, but have kept quiet to avoid damaging their credibility or out of professional interests.

He said that he is seeking no personal damages following the incident, and that he decided to file the complaint because of a situation in the West Bank where “abuse of journalists and draconian limitations on press freedoms are now largely seen as acceptable. And perhaps, in some cases and in some units, are even encouraged.”

None of the other journalists filed a complaint with the Foreign Press Association, but the FPA referred the case to the International News Safety Institute and forwarded his entry on “972mag” to Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, Milstein said.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office responded that “the IDF respects journalistic freedom of expression and understands its importance. As proof of this, every week there are dozens of journalists present covering the disturbances [in the West Bank] in a free manner, as long as they do not interfere with the work of [IDF] forces.

“Every complaint that is issued will be thoroughly examined by the IDF and any deviation from command, if discovered, will be dealt with accordingly. It should be noted that journalists who enter territories in which there are disturbances and illegal activities on a regular basis – such as Nabi Salih – do bear responsibility. Since full information on this incident was not submitted, it will not be possible to examine it in depth,” the IDF spokesman said.

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U.S. Moves Closer to Call for Regime Change in Syria

Jim Lobe

Amidst growing calls in Congress for stronger measures to effect “regime   change” in Syria, the administration of President Barack Obama is escalating   its rhetoric against President Bashar Al-Assad.

“We do not want to see him remain in Syria for stability’s sake, and rather,  we view him as the cause of instability in Syria,” White House spokesman  Jay Carney told  reporters Wednesday.

“And we think, frankly, that it’s safe to say that Syria would be a better   place without President Assad,” he added in what was widely considered   the closest Washington has yet come to calling for the Syrian leader’s ouster.

But the administration’s failure so far to call explicitly for Assad’s departure,   as it did with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and as it has done repeatedly   with Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, is clearly frustrating neoconservatives   and other hawks in the U.S. Congress who favour sweeping sanctions imposed against   the regime, if not stronger action to force it out.

“The United States should impose crippling sanctions in response to the   murder of civilians by troops under the orders of Syrian President Assad,”   said Republican Mark   Kirk, one of three senators who Tuesday introduced a bill that would require   Obama to block access to the U.S. financial system and contracts for U.S. and   foreign companies that do business with Syria’s energy sector.

“The Arab Spring will sweep away this dictatorship, hopefully with the   help of American sanctions similar to those levelled against the Iranian regime,”   he added.

But some independent analysts argued for caution, particularly with respect   to sanctions, such as those proposed by Kirk and his colleagues, that would   create new hardships on the Syrian people.

“Beyond condemning the killing of civilians by the regime, the U.S. should   stay as far away as possible from the Syrian situation,” said Bassam Haddad,   a Levant expert at George Mason University. “Even in its rhetoric of the   past few days, the administration is moving into dangerous territory that could   actually strengthen the regime’s position.”

The debate over U.S. policy toward Damascus has sharply intensified since   the weekend as Syrian troops and security forces moved into Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest   city and the site of a brutal repression of an uprising in 1982 in which at   least 10,000 people were killed, on the eve of Ramadan.

More   than 150 people have reportedly been killed in the city over the last several   days in perhaps the bloodiest crackdown against anti- government protesters   since the ongoing rolling revolt began almost five months ago. At least 1,700   people have been killed since March, according to human rights groups.

In reaction to the most recent bloodshed, Obama Sunday issued his toughest   statement   to date, saying that he was “appalled” by the government’s use of   “violence and brutality” and calling reports out of Hama “horrifying.”

“Through his own actions, Bashar Al-Assad is ensuring that he and his   regime will be left in the past…” Obama said, pledging to “increase   our pressure on the Syrian regime, and work with others around the world to   isolate the Assad government and stand with the Syrian people.”

In another significant   move, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Washington Tuesday with   Syrian and Syrian-American activists in a show of support for the opposition,   which, however, remains largely diffuse and leaderless.

At the same time, the U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford, who infuriated Damascus   when he visited Hama in solidarity with the protesters two weeks ago, told a   Senate   confirmation hearing that the regime “is unwilling or unable to lead   the democratic transition the Syrian people are demanding,” although he   declined to call for Assad’s departure.

In light of the violence in Hama, Washington and its European allies this   week also renewed their push, which has been resisted by Russia and China, among   others, for a U.N. Security Council resolution denouncing the regime’s methods.   That effort culminated Wednesday when they settled for astatement   by the Council’s president that “condemn[ed] the widespread violations   of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.”

Meanwhile, U.S. officials, including Clinton and Ford, said that new sanctions,   coordinated with the European Union (EU), against the regime and its supporters   are being prepared and will be announced soon. It is not yet clear, however,   whether these will consist, as in the past, of sanctions targeted at specific   individuals around Al-Assad and key regime figures or more general measures   designed to affect the entire economy.

In his testimony Tuesday, Ford claimed that existing sanctions were having   an impact, particularly on targeted members of the business community but warned   against any broad sanctions that could seriously damage the economy that would   make it harder for a post-Assad regime to govern.

But that message  –  as well as Ford’s insistence that his continued presence   in Damascus is important  –  is one that the hawks, including Kirk, do not want   to hear.

They have been calling for some time for recalling Ford from his post and   imposing “sweeping sanctions”  –  particularly against exports of   Syria’s heavy crude oil which account for about a third of the country’s export   earnings – that would grind the country’s already-battered economy to a halt   in hopes of precipitating the government’s collapse.

Such a strategy has been repeatedly advanced by Andrew   Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near Policy (WINEP), an offshoot   of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and hard-line neoconservative   figures and institutions closely associated with Israel’s Likud Party, such   as the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD) and the American Enterprise   Institute (AEI).

Some of the administration’s interventionist critics have gone further, endorsing   crippling economic sanctions for the economy and arguing in favour of Washington’s   working with other interested powers, such as Turkey and France, to convene   a “contact group” that would work to transform the now-diffuse opposition   into “the nucleus of a transition government,” much as it has done   in Libya.

That strategy was laid out last week in an article in The   American Interest coauthored Michael Doran, a top Mideast aide under   former President George W. Bush, and Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings   Doha Centre, who also urged Washington to promote defections in Damascus’ security   services, among other measures.

“It sounds like Iraq redux,” said one Syria expert, Joshua Landis   of the University of Oklahoma, who noted the scheme’s similarities to the economic   sanctions imposed against Iraq and failed schemes by Ahmad Chalabi and his neoconservative   backers here to spark mass defections in the Iraqi Army in the decade before   the U.S. invasion.

“The trouble is, the West has convinced itself the regime is on its last   legs, and we don’t really know that,” Landis told IPS. “The regime   is tough; it hasn’t ruled Syria for 40 years just to be blown away by peaceful   demonstrations. And, while there have been defections at lower levels, there’s   nothing so far that presents a real threat. This is going to be a long and brutal   struggle.”

“And for America to step in the middle of this and believe it can short-circuit   the process and organise and take control of the Syrian opposition, and pick   the winners is the height of presumption,” he said. “We’ve been there   in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at

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US Hands Libya Embassy Over to Rebels



The Libyan Transnational Council has now taken official control over the Libyan Embassy in Washington D.C. after the United States recognized the Council as the rightful government of Libya on July 15th. Ali Aujali, who resigned in February after siding with the opposition, will remain the ambassador from Libya.

All that is between Aujali and his ambassadorship is some bureaucratic wrangling. According to a state department official, all diplomats will have to go through this process, but the other perk of reviving relations with Libya is that $13 million in Libyan funds will be unfrozen.

The money trail throughout the Libyan conflict has been rather interest to follow. During the infancy of the civil war in March, the Transnational Council established the Benghazi Central Bank (BCB). The BCB was immediately recognized by NATO members as Libya’s representatives for monetary policy. Additionally, the Transnational Council is first in line to receive frozen assets of the Gaddafi regime, said to be worth around $100 billion. France just recently announced that it would be giving 181 million Euros to the TNC.

All of this tends to look like just another Western effort to maintain its imperial status, which happens to be slowly diminishing.

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The Hama Affair–How 10,000 Protestors Multiply Overnight to be 500,000


By Pierre Piccinin

August 04, 2011 “Counterpunch” – -This July, I travelled to Syria, with the purpose of finding out for myself the origins of the present political conflict.

I was able to roam the country at liberty, from Dera, Damascus, Homs, Hama, Maraat-an-Numan, Jisr-al-Shigur, on the Turkish border, even Deir-ez-Sor, all places where the media had signalled outbursts of violence.

I was able to witness the different internal struggles, some of which were violent and had completely different objectives from those of the democratic pacifists. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, seeks to bring about an Islamic republic, which in turn terrifies the Christians and most other minorities.

Yet, outside the scope of my research, I was surprised that the image of Syria, portrayed by the Western media as a country undergoing full scale revolution, does not correspond in any way whatsoever to the reality of the situation.

Indeed, the large-scale protest movements have run out of steam, this due in part to the repression, so that these days the protests only number a few hundred at most, usually focused around mosques, bearing the mark of Islamist influence.

Therefore, it is only in the city of Hama, cultural stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, under a state of siege, that full scale protests are to be found.

Centre of a violent revolt, in 1982, which was crushed by Hafez al-Assad, father of the incumbent President, Hama is today surrounded by heavy armor. This said, the government have decided against a bloodbath, for fear of repercussions from the international community.

On Friday 15 July, I entered Hama. Very quickly I found myself surrounded by the youths in control. Upon presenting my Belgian passport the situation calmed down: ‘Belgicaa! Belgicaa!’; as the only foreign observer on the ground, they escorted me through the protestors. The highlight of which was reaching the top of a high rise, from which I took a series of snapshots, revealing the extent of the debacle.

On Asidi square, at the bottom of the large El-Alamein Avenue, prayer had finished, to the sound of thousands of people appearing from all across the city, uniting under a shout of defiance ‘Allah Akbar!’

That same night on July 15, I received news feeds from the AFP announcing a million protestors all over Syria, of which 500,000 in Hama alone.

In Hama however, they could not have been more than 10,000.

This ‘information’ was even more absurd due to the fact that the city of Hama counts only 370,000 inhabitants.

Of course, there will always be a margin of error and numbers do vary with sources, estimations are never quite so straightforward.

Yet, in this case, it was not a simple estimation: this is blatant disinformation, propaganda at its finest. 500,000 protestors can shake the very foundations of a regime, 10,000 however are of no consequence.

Furthermore, all the ‘information’ regarding the Syrian situation has been twisted similarly for months now.

So what sources does AgenceFrancePresse (AFP) cite?

The same which crops up systematically throughout the media and has now become a monopoly in its own right, regarding the Syrian protests: the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Behind this superficial veneer of respectability and professionalism, hides a political organisation based in London, its president none other than Rami Abdel Raman, a man who has consistently sided against the Baath regime, who is loosely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Therefore, for many months now, the Western media have diffused an edited reality, corrected by a single source which nobody has deemed it necessary, it seems, to question.

This portrayal of a Syria in full scale revolution and of a Baath party on the brink do not correspond in any way whatsoever to the reality of the situation; that the government hold control and what is left of the protests have in effect splintered and become considerably marginalized.

However, the consequences of this latest case of disinformation regarding Syria are far reaching: the lessons of Timisoara, the Gulf War or events in Yugoslavia haven’t been learned. Still, European media continue to be lured into basing reports on loosely assembled news reports and risk depicting a virtual reality for their readers/viewers.

Yet, when the media fail their duty of assembling genuine information, it is democracy itself which is in danger.

Pierre Piccinin is a professor of history and political science in Brussels.

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