Randy's Corner Deli Library

29 September 2007

'The President Has Accepted Ethnic Cleansing'

SPIEGEL ONLINE - September 28, 2007, 11:58 AM
URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,508394,00.html

'The President Has Accepted Ethnic Cleansing'

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has consistently led the way in telling the story of what's really going on in Iraq and Iran. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke to him about America's Hitler, Bush's Vietnam, and how the US press failed the First Amendment.

APSeymour Hersh began his career as a police reporter. But since then, he has risen to become one of the most important investigative journalists in the history of American journalism. Hersh first made a name for himself in 1969 by uncovering the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War, for which he won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize. Hersh has worked for the New Yorker since 1992 and in 2004 was instrumental in uncovering the US military's abuses of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Hersh was in Berlin this week to accept the Democracy Prize handed out by the political journal "Blätter für Deutsche und Internationale Politik."

For now, American troops are on the Iraq side of the border with Iran. Might that change?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was just in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Once again, he said that he is only interested in civilian nuclear power instead of atomic weapons. How much does the West really know about the nuclear program in Iran?

Seymour Hersh: A lot. And it's been underestimated how much the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) knows. If you follow what (IAEA head Mohamed) ElBaradei and the various reports have been saying, the Iranians have claimed to be enriching uranium to higher than a 4 percent purity, which is the amount you need to run a peaceful nuclear reactor. But the IAEA's best guess is that they are at 3.67 percent or something. The Iranians are not even doing what they claim to be doing. The IAEA has been saying all along that they've been making progress but basically, Iran is nowhere. Of course the US and Israel are going to say you have to look at the worst case scenario, but there isn't enough evidence to justify a bombing raid.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is this just another case of exaggerating the danger in preparation for an invasion like we saw in 2002 and 2003 prior to the Iraq War?

Hersh: We have this wonderful capacity in America to Hitlerize people. We had Hitler, and since Hitler we've had about 20 of them. Khrushchev and Mao and of course Stalin, and for a little while Gadhafi was our Hitler. And now we have this guy Ahmadinejad. The reality is, he's not nearly as powerful inside the country as we like to think he is. The Revolutionary Guards have direct control over the missile program and if there is a weapons program, they would be the ones running it. Not Ahmadinejad.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where does this feeling of urgency that the US has with Iran come from?

Hersh: Pressure from the White House. That's just their game.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What interest does the White House have in moving us to the brink with Tehran?

Hersh: You have to ask yourself what interest we had 40 years ago for going to war in Vietnam. You'd think that in this country with so many smart people, that we can't possibly do the same dumb thing again. I have this theory in life that there is no learning. There is no learning curve. Everything is tabula rasa. Everybody has to discover things for themselves.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Even after Iraq? Aren't there strategic reasons for getting so deeply involved in the Middle East?

Hersh: Oh no. We're going to build democracy. The real thing in the mind of this president is he wants to reshape the Middle East and make it a model. He absolutely believes it. I always thought Henry Kissinger was a disaster because he lies like most people breathe and you can't have that in public life. But if it were Kissinger this time around, I'd actually be relieved because I'd know that the madness would be tied to some oil deal. But in this case, what you see is what you get. This guy believes he's doing God's work.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So what are the options in Iraq?

Hersh: There are two very clear options: Option A) Get everybody out by midnight tonight. Option B) Get everybody out by midnight tomorrow. The fuel that keeps the war going is us.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: A lot of people have been saying that the US presence there is a big part of the problem. Is anyone in the White House listening?

Hersh: No. The president is still talking about the "Surge" (eds. The "Surge" refers to President Bush's commitment of 20,000 additional troops to Iraq in the spring of 2007 in an attempt to improve security in the country.) as if it's going to unite the country. But the Surge was a con game of putting additional troops in there. We've basically Balkanized the place, building walls and walling off Sunnis from Shiites. And in Anbar Province, where there has been success, all of the Shiites are gone. They've simply split.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is that why there has been a drop in violence there?

Hersh: I think that's a much better reason than the fact that there are a couple more soldiers on the ground.

SPIEGEL ONLINE:So what are the lessons of the Surge?

Hersh: The Surge means basically that, in some way, the president has accepted ethnic cleansing, whether he's talking about it or not. When he first announced the Surge in January, he described it as a way to bring the parties together. He's not saying that any more. I think he now understands that ethnic cleansing is what is going to happen. You're going to have a Kurdistan. You're going to have a Sunni area that we're going to have to support forever. And you're going to have the Shiites in the South.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the US is over four years into a war that is likely going to end in a disaster. How valid are the comparisons with Vietnam?

Hersh: The validity is that the US is fighting a guerrilla war and doesn't know the culture. But the difference is that at a certain point, because of Congressional and public opposition, the Vietnam War was no longer tenable. But these guys now don't care. They see it but they don't care.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: If the Iraq war does end up as a defeat for the US, will it leave as deep a wound as the Vietnam War did?

Hersh: Much worse. Vietnam was a tactical mistake. This is strategic. How do you repair damages with whole cultures? On the home front, though, we'll rationalize it away. Don't worry about that. Again, there's no learning curve. No learning curve at all. We'll be ready to fight another stupid war in another two decades.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Of course, preventing that is partially the job of the media. Have reporters been doing a better job recently than they did in the run-up to the Iraq War?

Hersh: Oh yeah. They've done a better job since. But back then, they blew it. When you have a guy like Bush who's going to move the infamous Doomsday Clock forward, and he's going to put everybody in jeopardy and he's secretive and he doesn't tell Congress anything and he's inured to what we write. In such a case, we (journalists) become more important. The First Amendment failed and the American press failed the Constitution. We were jingoistic. And that was a terrible failing. I'm asked the question all the time: What happened to my old paper, the New York Times? And I now say, they stink. They missed it. They missed the biggest story of the time and they're going to have to live with it.

Interview conducted by Charles Hawley and David Gordon Smith

25 September 2007

On Ahmadinnerjacket's Visit to Columbia University Yesterday

There can be only two legitimate reasons for inviting anyone to speak at a university: the first is to have honest, rational discussion and debate over world events or other issues of concern to students. The second is to have a pariah come to speak for the sole purpose of getting in his/her face. As to Ahmadinnerjacket, I think it is patently obvious that, if one reads every word he had to say yesterday and watch him while he spoke, impish, knowing smile included, that he was not engaged in honest, rational debate about the issues that face our country and Iran. He attempted to use the stage offered him to attempt to manipulate public opinion under the proffered guise of “academic discussion” (after all, he is quick to remind us, he teaches PhD level courses at a University in Iran). The manipulation is, from my vantage point, so opaque and obvious as not to leave room for serious debate about his intentions. He never answered a single question directly. His other explanations about love and kindness ring hollow in light of the evidence presented concerning human rights abuses in Iran, its role in supplying insurgents with explosive material that has killed American soldiers in Iraq, the openness of Iranian society to criticism and the existence of gays in Iran. Apparently they, according to Ahmadinnerjacket, do not even exist. So let us agree that Ahmadinnerjacket did not come with the intent to honestly and rationally discuss these and other issues.

Which leaves us with the other alternative: to allow him a place to speak, but to let him know, before he spoke that we were on to his game. And that is what Lee Bollinger did. And whether you view his actions and timing as suspect, he was correct. Because to have allowed A. to speak without contradiction or comment would have made Columbia complicit in A.’s attempt to legitimate his views. And that, in my view, would have been a worse crime than his having been perhaps a bit unwelcoming his guest to Columbia. Bollinger is to be congratulated for his words, delivery and timing. They set A.’s words in context, even if his intent was to remove context from the discussion, not to mention objective facts and historical reality.

19 September 2007

How Hitler got away with murder

How Hitler got away with murder

Saul Friedlander's The Years of Extermination traces the Nazis' insidious campaign of genocide and Europe's failure to stand up for the Jews, says Tim Gardam

Sunday September 16, 2007
The Observer

Buy The Years of Extermination at the Guardian bookshop

The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945
by Saul Friedlander
Weidenfeld & Nicolson £30, pp896

In the summer of 1941, Herman Kruk was living in Lithuania. He had fled Warsaw two years earlier to escape the German invasion. This time he decided to stay, and wrote in his diary: 'If I am going to be a victim of fascism, I shall take pen in hand and write a chronicle ... The Germans will turn the city fascist. Jews will go into the ghetto - I shall record it all. My chronicle ... must become the mirror and the conscience of the great catastrophe.'

Saul Friedlander's The Years of Extermination pieces together the shards of personal testament from thousands such as Kruk, salvaged from the ghettoes, thrown from trains, the records of victims, perpetrators and bystanders, all framed within the cold statistics of the Nazi bureaucratisation of terror. This is the second volume of his life's work. Part monument of record, part intimate anecdotal history, his account piles layer on layer of detail garnered from otherwise unremembered lives, people who themselves ended, almost invariably, as corpses piled into the death pits.
Friedlander is a world authority on the Holocaust but he is also a survivor: hidden as a Jewish child in occupied France in a Catholic convent. His intellectual discipline may be that of the historian but his writing is animated by the passion of memory that only his generation can fully express.

'The goal of historical knowledge,' he writes, 'is to domesticate disbelief.' But in the history of the extermination of a European civilisation, he believes that disbelief is the only morally coherent starting point to what happened, a visceral response that should never be domesticated.

Friedlander argues that anti-Semitic ideology lies at the heart of everything the Nazis did. He sets himself against the historiography which argues that the genocide was just a secondary consequence of the wider policies of Lebensraum, and sustaining the German war economy. In this sense, he agrees with Goebbels, who wrote in 1944: 'A long-term policy in this war is only possible if one considers it from the standpoint of the Jewish question.' Friedlander meticulously charts the formulation of the Final Solution. The rhetoric of extermination may have preceded any active planning to carry it out. The mass killings of Jews in the East were at first simply undistinguished by-products of 'the war of extermination' and the destruction of 'Judaeo-Bolshevism' but they were no different in intention from the industrial genocide that followed.

At one point Friedlander admits that 'there is something profoundly disturbing yet rapidly numbing' in his task. 'History seems to turn into a series of mass killing operations and, on the face of it, little else.' Friedlander's real purpose lies in laying bare not the administrative machinery of genocide, but the failure of nerve at every level to confront it.

The Nazi state first achieved the isolation of millions from their neighbours through the ever-increasing weight of official vindictiveness. Jews gradually were restricted in their shopping hours, their schools, their use of telephones, cars, bicycles, electrical appliances; they had to build their own air-raid shelters, use their own cobblers, were denied fruit, gingerbread, chocolate, pets, white bread, furs and tobacco. Even so, when, in the East, the exterminations had begun, Jews in the West could still live out for a time a restricted life without a sense of immediate danger amid neighbours who at a personal level were sometimes sympathetic but disengaged. The bleakness of this book comes above all from its portrait of the collective timidity of so many, with whom it is uncomfortably possible to identify. They may have been distressed at what they saw but, in the face of the state's brutality and the success of its propaganda machine on popular opinion, they feared first for themselves. Jewish persecution, argues Friedlander, could not have been taken to its genocidal extremes without the personal obsession of Adolf Hitler; yet the course it took only became possible because of endemic European anti-Semitism. 'Not one social group, not one religious community, not one scholarly institution or professional association in Germany and throughout Europe declared its solidarity with the Jews.'

Friedlander charts chronologically the undeviating path that led month by month from everyday administrative cruelties to the industrial mass murder of Auschwitz. His method allows us to share with the diarists that growing sense of disbelieving recognition as it unfolds. The relentless narrative helps to explain the paralysis of Jews unable to accept what was happening until it was too late to escape, and also to concede how difficult it was for others to decide at what point to risk their own safety by taking a stand.

Friedlander is on occasion too dismissive of the many small, often ineffective, individual acts of solidarity and courageous defiance he records. They remain the only redemptive moments in his narrative. He does not spare the Jews themselves for their lack of solidarity: the Zionists in Palestine considered the European catastrophe primarily in terms of its implications for the future establishment of a Jewish state. He does not really confront the greatest puzzle of his narrative: why, when faced with the certainty of imminent mass extermination, was there so little resistance by the victims in the killing grounds themselves?

Nonetheless, Friedlander never allows us to miss his most important point: the Nazis very nearly succeeded in the total extermination of European Jewry. One of the most eloquent diarists, Victor Klemperer, wrote in 1943, as the tide of war turned: 'The terrible end is imminent. They will perish, but, perhaps, probably, they will have time to annihilate us first.' The minority who survived lived on in the shadow of 6 million who died, one and a half million under the age of 14. As the survivors themselves now vanish, this massive work constructs a towering moral challenge to all our assumptions about the resilience of humane instincts in the face of fear and unimaginable cruelty. It leaves one cold for hours afterwards.

17 September 2007

Saving Iraq

Saving Iraq

16 September 2007

TWO realities define the range of a meaningful debate on Iraq policy: The war cannot be ended by military means alone. But neither is it possible to “end'' the war by ceding the battlefield. American decisions in the next few months will not be able to end the crises in Iraq and the Middle East before the change of American administrations. Even while the political cycle tempts a debate geared to focus groups, a bipartisan foreign policy is imperative.

The experience of Vietnam is often cited as the example for the potential debacle that awaits us in Iraq. But we will never learn from history if we keep telling ourselves myths about it. The passengers on American helicopters fleeing Saigon were not American troops but Vietnamese civilians. American forces had left two years earlier. What collapsed Vietnam was the congressional decision to reduce aid to Vietnam by two-thirds and to cut if off altogether for Cambodia in the face of a massive North Vietnamese invasion that violated every provision of the Paris Peace Accords.

Should America repeat a self-inflicted wound? An abrupt withdrawal from Iraq will not end the war; it will only redirect it. Within Iraq, the sectarian conflict could assume genocidal proportions; terrorist base areas could re-emerge.

Under the impact of American abdication, Lebanon may slip into domination by Iran's ally, Hezbollah; a Syria-Israel war or an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities may become more likely as Israel attempts to break the radical encirclement; Turkey and Iran will probably squeeze Kurdish autonomy; and the Taleban in Afghanistan will gain new impetus. Countries where the radical threat is as yet incipient, as India, will face a mounting domestic challenge. Pakistan, in the process of a delicate political transformation, will encounter more radical pressures and may even turn into a radical challenge itself.

That is what is meant by “precipitate'' withdrawal — a withdrawal in which the US loses the ability to shape events, either within Iraq, on the anti-jihadist battlefield or in the world at large.

The proper troop level in Iraq will not be discovered by political compromise at home. To be sure, no forces should be retained in Iraq that are dispensable. The definition of “dispensable'' must be based on strategic and political criteria, however. If reducing troop levels turns into the litmus test of American politics, each withdrawal will generate demands for additional ones until the political, military and psychological framework collapses. An appropriate strategy for Iraq requires political direction. But the political dimension must be the ally of military strategy, not a resignation from it.

Symbolic withdrawals, urged by such wise elder statesmen as Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., might indeed assuage the immediate public concerns. They should be understood, however, as palliatives; their utility depends on a balance between their capacity to reassure the US public and their propensity to encourage America's adversaries to believe that they are the forerunners of complete retreat.

The argument that the mission of US forces should be confined to defeating terrorism, protecting the frontiers, preventing the emergence of Taleban-like structures and staying out of the civil-war aspects is also tempting. In practice, it will be very difficult to distinguish among the various aspects of the conflict with any precision.

Some answer that the best political result is most likely to be achieved by total withdrawal. The option of basing policies on the most favourable assumptions about the future is, of course, always available. Yet, in the end, political leaders will be held responsible — often by their publics, surely by history — not only for the best imaginable outcome but for the most probable one, not only for what they hoped but for what they should have feared.

Nothing in Middle East history suggests that abdication confers influence. Those who urge this course of action need to put forward what they recommend if the dire consequences of an abrupt withdrawal foreseen by the majority of experts and diplomats occur.

The missing ingredient has not been a withdrawal schedule but a political and diplomatic design connected to a military strategy. Much time has been lost in attempting to repeat the experience of the occupations of Germany and Japan. Those examples, in my view, are not applicable. The issue is not whether Arab or Muslim societies can ever become democratic; it is whether they can become so under American military guidance in a timeframe for which the US political process will stand.

Western democracy and that of Japan developed in largely homogeneous societies. Iraq is multiethnic and multisectarian. The Sunni sect has dominated the majority Shia and subjugated the Kurdish minority for all of Iraq's history of less than a hundred years.

American exhortations for national reconciliation are based on constitutional principles drawn from the Western experience. But it is impossible to achieve this in a six-month period defined by the American troop surge in an artificially created state wracked by the legacy of a thousand years of ethnic and sectarian conflicts. Experience should teach us that trying to manipulate a fragile political structure — particularly one resulting from American-sponsored elections — is likely to play into radical hands. Nor are the present frustrations with Baghdad's performance a sufficient excuse to impose a strategic disaster on ourselves. However much Americans may disagree about the decision to intervene or about the policy afterward, the US is now in Iraq in large part to serve the American commitment to global order and not as a favour to the Baghdad government.

It is possible that the present structure in Baghdad is incapable of national reconciliation because its elected constituents were elected on a sectarian basis. A wiser course would be to concentrate on the three principal regions and promote technocratic, efficient and humane administration in each. The provision of services and personal security coupled with emphasis on economic, scientific and intellectual development may represent the best hope for fostering a sense of community. More efficient regional government leading to substantial decrease in the level of violence, to progress towards the rule of law and to functioning markets could then, over a period of time, give the Iraqi people an opportunity for national reconciliation — especially if no region is strong enough to impose its will on the others by force. Failing that, the country may well drift into de facto partition under the label of autonomy, such as already exists in the Kurdish region. That very prospect might encourage the Baghdad political forces to move towards reconciliation. Much depends on whether it is possible to create a genuine national army rather than an agglomeration of competing militias.

The second and ultimately decisive route to overcoming the Iraqi crisis is through international diplomacy. Today the United States is bearing the major burden for regional security militarily, politically and economically while countries that will also suffer the consequences remain passive. Yet many other nations know that their internal security and, in some cases, their survival will be affected by the outcome in Iraq and are bound to be concerned that they may all face unpredictable risks if the situation gets out of control. That passivity cannot last. The best way for other countries to give effect to their concerns is to participate in the construction of a civil society. The best way for us to foster it is to turn reconstruction step-by-step into a cooperative international effort under multilateral management.

Such a strategy is the best road to reduce America's military presence in the long run; an abrupt reduction of American forces will impede diplomacy and set the stage for more intense military crises further down the road.

Pursuing diplomacy inevitably raises the question of how to deal with Iran. Cooperation is possible and should be encouraged with an Iran that pursues stability and cooperation. Such an Iran has legitimate aspirations that need to be respected. But an Iran that practices subversion and seeks hegemony in the region — which appears to be the current trend — must be faced with red lines it will not be permitted to cross. The industrial nations cannot accept radical forces dominating a region on which their economies depend, and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran is incompatible with international security. These truisms need to be translated into effective policies, preferably common policies with allies and friends.

None of these objectives can be realised, however, unless two conditions are met: The United States needs to maintain a presence in the region on which its supporters can count and which its adversaries have to take seriously. Above all, the country must recognise that bipartisanship has become a necessity, not a tactic.

Henry A Kissinger, a former US secretary of state, is considered the architect of US foreign policy during the Cold War

15 September 2007

Mearsheimer and Himmler: Separated At Birth?

Israel lobby as scapegoat

Israel lobby as scapegoat

The authors of a new title see the Jewish state as the archenemy.
By Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 12, 2007

About a year ago, two distinguished scholars of American foreign policy ignited a rhetorical firestorm with a long article published in, of all places, the London Review of Books.

Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and John J. Mearsheimer, a political science professor and codirector of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, argued that an all-powerful domestic lobby -- indifferent to real American interests -- has maneuvered, cajoled and threatened successive U.S. governments into an uncritical and unwholesome support of Israel. That support, according to Mearsheimer and Walt, has undermined U.S. interests in the Middle East, subverted American values and dangerously destabilized large parts of the Muslim world.

Now they have expanded and heavily footnoted their argument in "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy."

As delineated by Mearsheimer and Walt, the Israel lobby consists of Jewish organizations (notably the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League), of American Jews generally, Christian Zionists, neoconservatives and of influential journalists and columnists at major U.S. news organizations. Together, Mersheimer and Walt allege, they not only conspire to advance Israeli interests heedless of their impact on the United States but also to stifle any substantive domestic discussion of the relationship between Washington and Jerusalem. (The authors assail the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post for employing only pro-Israel columnists.)

It's interesting that the authors chose to first float their arguments in the London Review rather than, say, in Foreign Affairs or some other American journal. While I subscribe to the review -- and, in fact, have been invited several times to contribute to it -- it's a melancholy fact that, in recent years, like so much of the European intellectual press, it has become objectively anti-Semitic in its treatment of Israel. And while it's true that the authors have had several invitations to speak about their book in the United States withdrawn, it's also true that this volume arrives under the imprint of what is arguably America's most prestigious publishing house.

Odd that the all-powerful Israel lobby let that happen.

To get a flavor of the professors' argument, here's how they described the lobby's operations inside the U.S. Congress: "Another source of the Lobby's power is its use of pro-Israel congressional staffers. As Morris Amitay, a former head of [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], once admitted, 'there are a lot of guys at the working level up here' -- on Capitol Hill -- 'who happen to be Jewish, who are willing. . . to look at certain issues in terms of their Jewishness. . . . These are all guys who are in a position to make the decision in these areas for those senators. . . . "

The quotation from an AIPAC staff member is an ingenious twist on the old dual-loyalty argument, but at the end of the day, you've still got sour old wine in new skins.

Anyone familiar with the tortured history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have a hard time recognizing the history Mearsheimer and Walt rehearse. Every hoary old Israeli atrocity tale is trotted out, and the long story of Palestinian terrorism is rendered entirely as a reaction to Israeli oppression. The failure of every peace negotiation is attributed to Israeli deviousness under the shield of the American Israel lobby. There is nothing here of Palestinian corruption, division and duplicity or even of this unhappy people's inability to provide a reliable secular partner with whom peace can be negotiated.

At times, the authors simply contradict themselves, asserting -- rather remarkably -- at one point that the United States has nothing to fear from a nuclear-armed Iran and, at another, that the dangerous prospect of a nuke-equipped Tehran is the Israel lobby's fault. Similarly, they write, Al Qaeda would hammer its swords into ploughshares and Osama bin Laden would lay down with the lamb if only the United States would come out from under Israel's thrall and create by coercion a Palestinian state.

Baloney. If -- as was long ago proposed -- the Jewish state had been established in Uganda, the Twin Towers still would be rubble.

Perhaps most malicious of all, Mearsheimer and Walt go to great lengths in the book to make what they clearly believe is the most immediate case in point -- which is their assertion that the Israel lobby, acting at the Likud's behest, drove the United States into attacking Saddam Hussein. Thus, readers are treated to an explication on the religious affiliations of various Bush administration officials that reads like it was inspired by the Nuremberg Laws. The fact of the matter is, however, that the figure most responsible for pushing the attack on Iraq -- Vice President Dick Cheney -- is not Jewish, nor even ideologically neoconservative. He is a card-carrying member of the petroleum industry elite, however, and names like Halliburton and ExxonMobil never seem to make their way onto these pages. The United States attacked Iraq because the American public -- panicked and disconsolate over the Sept. 11 atrocities -- was misled by the administration's bad and manipulated intelligence into thinking that Hussein was preparing another attack with weapons of mass destruction.

To grasp the underlying malice running through "The Israel Lobby," it's helpful to consider the domestic precipice on which the United States now teeters. The Bush administration's Iraq debacle has made it all but inevitable that the early years of the next presidency will be marked by a vicious debate over what went wrong in the Middle East, a controversy -- typical of this unhappy period in our history -- in which the parties won't even agree on what it is that's being fought over.

The left will demand to know how the country was tricked into war with Saddam Hussein. We had a taste of how that inquiry might go this week, when the loony fringe of MoveOn.org published ads denouncing Army Gen. David Petraeus, the able and honorable U.S. commander in Iraq, for "betrayal." The right is already honing its own who-lost-Iraq rhetoric. You can sample that in neoconservative patriarch Norman Podhoretz's new book -- "World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism" -- in which he describes the war's critics as a "domestic insurgency" with a "life-and-death stake" in making sure America is defeated. In other words, to be against the war is to enlist in a Fifth Column.

New Yorker editor David Remnick was the first to note that Mearsheimer and Walt have subtly pushed Israel's American admirers and supporters into this rhetorical cesspool. (You'd never guess from the Mearsheimer-Walt analysis that many people in this country support Israel precisely because they admire it as a brave, dynamic and democratic society.) In a comment published this month, Remnick shrewdly observed that the Mearsheimer and Walt book "is a phenomenon of its moment. The duplicitous and manipulative arguments for invading Iraq put forward by the Bush Administration, the general inability of the press to upend those duplicities, the triumphalist illusions, the miserable performance of the military strategists, the arrogance of the Pentagon, the stifling of dissent within the military and the government, the moral disaster of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the rise of an intractable civil war, and now an incapacity to deal with the singular winner of the war, Iran -- all of this has left Americans furious and demanding explanations. Mearsheimer and Walt provide one: the Israel lobby."

In fact, if you accept the analysis put forward in this book, it's impossible not to conclude that the United States was, in fact, tricked into a disastrous war in Iraq by a domestic Fifth Column and that the ranks of that subversive formation are filled with Jews, their friends and willing dupes.

Mearsheimer and Walt go to great pains to proclaim their disinterested benevolence toward all and to attach the word "realist" to their argument. The only adjective that comes to this reader's mind is "sinister."


12 September 2007

Israel’s Cost to the Arabs

I don't buy off on all the explanations or history of this writer, but the conclusion remains the truth and we can only hope that peace will be the ultimate result, but of course not at the cost of Israeli security. This appeared in this month's LeMonde Diplomatique.

Randy Shiner

What the saudi peace plan really means
Israel’s cost to the Arabs
President George Bush has called for an international meeting to discuss how to restart Middle East peace talks. Though chances of success are low, one of the more promising initiatives is the newly relaunched Saudi peace plan. This is a giant step for the Arabs, reversing decades of hostility to Israel.

By Ghada Karmi

After nearly 60 years, Israel is still not at peace with most of its neighbours. The Saudi peace plan, first proposed in 2002, is the latest in a series of Arab overtures aiming to end this situation. It offers Israel full normalisation of relations in return for withdrawal from the territories it conquered in 1967, and a negotiated agreement on the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Israel ignored the plan in 2002, but this year the Arabs have re-presented it more forcefully. In July two Arab League envoys visited Jerusalem to press the Arab case, and plans led by the United States are afoot for an Arab-Israeli peace conference in September. Though Israel may still not respond, this is a giant step for the Arabs, reversing decades of hostility.

The West viewed the plan as no more than a proper Arab response to Israel’s existence, revealing a profound ignorance of what the plan means for Arabs. Westerners regard Israel as a natural part of the Middle Eastern landscape and dismiss what Arabs feel about it. Yet an understanding of Israel’s impact on the Arab world has always been crucial to the search for a resolution to the conflict, and helps explain why none has yet been found.

The damage done to the Arabs by Israel’s creation is an untold story in the West. To understand it, you have to set aside the Israeli narrative and the idea of Arabs as fanatical, backward warmongers irrationally bent on destroying a modern, democratic and peaceable state.

For the Arabs, Israel’s presence in their midst has been disastrous. It has led to six major wars, forced them to militarise when they could not afford it, distorted their development, split their ranks and encouraged their fragmentation into ethnic and religious minorities, provoked the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and reared generations of young Arabs on conflict, hatred and hostility. It has forced them to host a state which dominated them and ensured continued western hegemony in their region. A disproportionate amount of damage was borne by the frontline states of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. But now Iraq and the rest of the Arab world are affected, as is Arab society in general.

On each visit to the Arab world I am struck by its immense resources and its varied geography, history and customs, from Yemen to the Levant, sweeping through Egypt and Sudan to its westernmost point in Morocco. Such diversity could have made this the wonder of the world, physically beautiful, self-sufficient and wealthy. Instead, it is backward, poor and divided. This is not all Israel’s fault, but its existence has contributed significantly to the Arabs’ decline, and ignoring Israel’s role in the story would be misleading.

New and alien
In 1948 the Arab world was confronted with the new and alien creation of Israel. Its governing ethos was European and so were most of its people. As such, Arabs could neither understand nor deal with it. They were powerless to prevent Israel’s creation and too weak to defeat it in the war that ensued. Their ill-trained, smaller armies stood little chance against the highly motivated, trained and better equipped Israeli forces. But this made no difference to the Arabs’ sense of failure, unable to protect the Palestinians from dispossession or halt Israel’s expansion in the region. “The problem is not that Israel is so great,” an Israeli friend once told me, “but rather that it’s a mirror in which the Arabs see their own weakness.”

The western powers’ implicit contempt for the Arabs’ wishes only worsened the situation. Few realised the true extent of western support for Israel, unrivalled in the region, and how, without it, the Zionist experiment might have ended before it began.

The devastating and continuing effects of Israel’s establishment on the Palestinians are well documented, but they were not alone in paying the price for Israel’s creation. The Arab world was transformed by its imposition. No other event there since world war one has been so cataclysmic. There has not been a decade since 1948 when Israel has not been in combat with its neighbours. This has damaged the political process in the Arab world, which has come to depend on its army generals for leadership and to admire military strength and violence.

The UN’s Arab Human Development Report in 2002, which revealed the extent of the Arabs’ retardation, was clear that Israel’s occupation had affected the region’s political and economic life, and that the Arab-Israeli conflict was “a major impediment to human development in the region”. This is hardly surprising. The Arab states, struggling with post-independence when Israel was established, should have focused on their own political and social development. Instead, the frontline states were dragged into wars that diverted their resources into armaments and surveillance. After each defeat, they were forced to re-arm ever more extravagantly.

Arab military spending in the late 1990s accounted for 7.4% of GNP (three times the world average of 2.4%). Since then it has grown by an annual 5%. As Israel acquired sophisticated arms from the US, Arab states were pushed into trying to keep up at increasing expense, although the arms the Arabs bought from the US and Britain needed the sellers’ technical assistance for operation. These sales were thus designed to benefit western arms industries rather than help the Arab states protect themselves against aggression.

The continuing conflict has discouraged foreign and domestic investment in Arab states and led to a migration of skilled labour, further impoverishing local economies; in particular, it has exhausted and weakened the frontline states. Their economies have been grossly distorted towards militarisation at the expense of social and economic development. In 2002 average Arab expenditure on health and education combined was only 3.7% of GNP. Yet the Arabs had no choice but to militarise against what they saw as an expansionist Israel bent on taking their land. Israel did not set its borders with Egypt until the 1979 peace treaty and has still not done so with Syria or Lebanon.

Disunity and unrest
Today’s Arab world is riven by sectarian strife and factionalisation. Disunity, unrest and breakdown on ethnic and religious lines have increased since 1967. Israel’s role in this was a logical way to weaken its enemies and enhance its regional hegemony. Prominent Israeli figures explicitly propounded this strategy from the 1950s. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, had a vision of a reorganised Middle East with Jordan divided into an east bank as far as Iraq (to accommodate Palestinian refugees) and a west bank joined to Israel. Ariel Sharon, architect of the 1982 Lebanon invasion, embellished this with his plan for a forced exodus of West Bank Palestinians into what remained of Jordan. Lebanon would be split into a Muslim south annexed to Israel; the rest would be a Maronite Christian entity.

From the 1950s Israel tried to encircle the Arab world by creating links with a network of non-Muslim, non-Arab countries, especially those opposed to pan-Arabism and in some cases, Islam. It sought to neutralise or win over non-Arab states that supported the Arab cause. It cultivated clandestine contacts with pre-Khomeini Iran, and maintained them after 1979, supplying weapons to Iran during its war with Iraq. It also established ties with Turkey, Ethiopia and the Christian south of Sudan.

Israel’s alliances with non-Muslim and non-Arab minorities within the Arab states were designed to disrupt internal cohesion. Israel cultivated the Maronites in Lebanon, for example, and its constant internal interference has destabilised the country. The long occupation of the south, 1982-2000, scarred its economic and social life. The massive Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006 was an opportunity to fragment the country further, destroy the only effective anti-Israel force, Hizbullah, and revive Israel’s aim of establishing a friendly Lebanese government.

It is not surprising that Arabs see the US-led occupation of Iraq in 2003 as a fulfilment of Israel’s wish to destroy every strong Arab state. With Egypt neutralised by the 1979 Camp David agreement, Iraq, the next potential threat to Israel, was the obvious target. There is now a real possibility of Iraq fragmenting into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish areas. Israel prepared for this by supporting Kurdish rebellions against the central government during the 1960s and 1970s. After the US/UK invasion of 2003, Israeli operatives funded and trained Kurdish fighters for intelligence gathering in Iran and Syria (next on the list of states to be destroyed or broken up). It is said that Israel used this intelligence to assassinate Shia and Sunni insurgency leaders in Iraq. In 2004 it was complicit in stirring Kurdish protests against the Syrian government, using Iraqi Kurdish operatives.

Israel was also implicated in Iraq through the neoconservative group advising President George Bush: members of this group, sympathetic to the rightwing Israeli Likud Party, had been agitating for regime change in Iraq since 1995, arguing that ousting Saddam Hussein was the key to transforming the balance of power in the Middle East in Israel’s favour. The neocons’ principal concern was to destabilise Israel’s enemies. Removing the Iraqi regime was the essential first step, with Syria and Iran to follow. They realised that only US backing for such an enterprise could ensure its success, and found a willing partner in the Bush government.

Separate deals
In Israel’s drive to disrupt the Arab front, it has worked hard to make separate deals with Arab states (Egypt in 1979, the PLO in 1993, Jordan in 1994). Contacts have also been made in the last decade with Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Qatar and Bahrain. This has widened the gap between Arab governments and their peoples, since there is no popular acceptance of Israel in any of these states.

Israeli and Saudi officials are also reported to have met to discuss the Iranian threat to both countries, though the Saudis denied it. The current division between Sunnis and Shia, and between “moderates” (Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) and “extremists” (Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas), is meant to fragment the Arab world into camps for and against Israel. In Palestine, the split between Fatah and Hamas, encouraged by Israel, is a devastating example of this.

Though not responsible for the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine in the 1940s, Israel tacitly encouraged it after 1967. By turning a blind eye to Palestinian fundamentalist movements and using them as a counterforce to the nationalist PLO, Israel allowed them to become fully established and armed. Most Palestinians were not fundamentalist, but since the second intifada in 2000, the failure of the Oslo Accords and the collapse of secular resistance, Islamists have won support for their uncompromising opposition to Israel. This accounts for the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections in 2006.

Generations of young Arabs reared on hostility towards Israel have helped the growth of radical groups opposing Israel and its backers. Recruits for al-Qaida did not spring fully armed from nowhere. Al-Qaida’s doctrine that Palestine is a sacred Muslim land has begun to find a sympathetic following among some Palestinians in Gaza, which is changing the Palestinian struggle from nationalist to Islamic: far more dangerous if it becomes a part of the shift towards political Islam sweeping the region, convulsed by anger at the US and its support for Israel.

Suicide bombing is a late and ugly manifestation of Palestinian reaction to Israel. Its Islamic aspect arose as Arab nationalism, weakened by decades of Western support for Israel, was replaced by religion as a primary intellectual motivation. That a peaceable, agrarian and family-centred people should accept the sacrifice of its young in the struggle against Israel is eloquent evidence of the way it has been damaged.

This does not mean that without Israel, the Arab world would have had an untroubled history; Israel often only aggravated or exploited what was already there. The ground for the divisions in the Arab world had been prepared by the major European powers at the end of the world war one. By creating borders and nation-states where none existed, they sowed the seeds of future discord. The imposition of Israel in this setting was just the most flagrant example of the same imperialist policy.

Israel’s powerful western sponsors are committed to its security, irrespective of the cost to the Arabs, who are hamstrung by political weakness and dependence on western favour. How can that be dealt with? Neither war nor peace has solved this predicament, and the Arabs have ended with unsatisfactory and uneven arrangements, characterised by resignation and impotence. The Saudi peace plan represents an acknowledgment of this reality, but also of Israel’s stunning success in imposing its own terms without having compromised. However the plan fares, it is a landmark in the historical evolution of the Arab world from outrage and hostility to accommodation and acceptance, even if grudging. Whether it will be the end of the story remains to be seen.

08 September 2007

The New Anti-Semitism in Britain

The New Anti-Semitism in Britain

By Joseph Puder


The anti-Israel climate in Britain evidenced by the various
boycott initiatives against Israeli academic institutions,
Israeli-made goods, and harassing law suits against Israeli
military officers visiting Britain, has unleashed a tidal-wave
of anti-Semitism in Britain fueled by a combination of radical
left-wing academicians and Muslim radicals, who in addition to
hating Jews, have no love for Britain either and are seeking to
remake Britain into a Muslim state that adheres to Sharia law.

Britain’s Labour parliamentarian Denis MacShane discussed in a
Washington Post article (9/4/07), the Blue-Ribbon Parliamentary
Committee Report on Anti-Semitism in Britain that he chaired.
The committee, which included former government ministers and
party leaders (Tory Iain Duncan Smith and Liberal Democrat and
environment spokesman Chris Huhne) made observations that are
most worrisome in a post-Holocaust age. The panel of
investigators included fourteen MP’s (none of whom are Jews)
called their finding “disturbing.”

The British parliamentary committee’s task of investigating
anti-Semitism in Britain was determined as a result of steadily
rising anti-Semitic attacks against British Jews. In 2004 there
were 530-recorded incidents of attacks against members of the
300,000 strong Jewish community – of which 100,000 are Orthodox,
and who bore the brunt of the attacks, took place. In 2006, the
number of attacks increased to 594.

The report according to MacShane revealed a pattern of fear
among many of the country’s Jews with, “Synagogues attacked.
Jewish schoolboys jolted on public transportation. Rabbis
punched and knifed.” MacShane pointed out that British Jews feel
compelled to raise millions to provide for private security for
weddings and community events. “On campus militant anti-Jewish
students fueled by Islamic or far-left hate seeking to prevent
Jewish students from expressing their opinions,” MacShane

MacShane called “worrisome” the “anti-Jewish discourse, a mood
and a tune whenever Jews are discussed whether in the media (BBC
in particular), at universities, among the liberal media elite
or at dinner parties of modish London.” MacShane added, “To
express any support for Israel or any feeling for the right of
the Jewish State to exist produced denunciation, even contempt.”

The Observer reported back on September 3, 2006 on the draft
document of the report on Anti-Semitism in Britain. The
correspondent, Ned Temko, explained, “The report voices
particular concern over a minority of Islamic extremists who are
inciting hatred towards Jews, and it criticizes recent moves by
left-wing academics to boycott links with Israel. Though
emphasizing the right of people to criticize or protest against
Israeli government actions, it says ‘rage’ over Israeli policies
has sometime ‘provided a pretext’ for anti-Semitism.” Temko
revealed, moreover, that the Report condemned calls to boycott
contacts with intellectuals and academics working in Israel as
“an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange.”

Picking up on MacShane’s interview on the BBC, Temko quoted
MacShane as saying: “British Jews were right to shudder at the
aggressive comparison of Israeli policies with the Holocaust,”
and the “witch’s brew of anti-Semitism including the far left
and ‘ultra Islamist’ extremists who reject Israel’s right to

The response of British Jewry has been one of deep concern.
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks charged,” The new
anti-Semitism is significantly different from the old. That is
why it has not been noticed as widely as it should have been.
The old anti-Semitism was a product of national cultures. One
could talk of a country like Germany, Russia, or Poland being
anti-Semitic. Today’s anti-Semitism is global. It is
communicated by satellite television, email and especially the
Internet.” Rabbi Sacks added, “What makes the new anti-Semitism
anti-Semitic, is that it is directed against Jews, not against
Israel. Its targets - synagogues, Jewish schools and community
centers, Jews in the street - often have nothing to do with

Antony Lerman, Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish
Policy Research maintained that, “Anti-Semitism today (2006) is
a serious problem: both for Jews and for society as a whole.
Some think it went away after the Holocaust. It did not.
Although it did diminish in recent decades, in the last few
years it has intensified. And there is clear evidence,
stretching back more than 20 years, that increases in the number
of anti-Jewish manifestations are linked to periods of
heightened tension and armed conflict involving Israel and the

Mitch Simmons, Campaign Director of the Union of Jewish Students
summed up the situation Jewish students face on British
campuses, “ If a Jewish student feels it necessary to wear a
baseball cap on campus to hide his skullcap for fear of physical
or verbal assault, then that campus can no longer be considered
a safe space for all students. If lecturers feel it appropriate
to decide whom they will or won’t teach based on their
nationality, then there is no longer equality in education.
Jewish students have the right to feel safe on campus like
everybody else; we all have the right to expect our universities
and student unions to provide a safe environment for all

It is apparent that on both sides of the Atlantic, Muslim
radicals and their left-wing partners have launched a
coordinated campaign to intimidate Jewish students. In Montreal,
at Berkley (California) and of course on British campuses,
pro-Israel, or Israeli speakers are greeted with violence and
prevented from addressing students. The administrations on these
campuses have succumbed to the radical haters demand at the
expense of freedom of expression - the cornerstone of academic

Europe in general and Britain in particular, caught in the
throws of political correctness and guilt over its colonialist
and imperialist past, have been willing to look away rather than
confront the intolerance, hate-mongering, and oppression
inflicted by left-wing and Islamists radicals on campuses and in
the streets, on Jewish student and adults, or anyone in support
of Israel and the U.S. The lack of reprisals (either expulsion
or arrest) against these radical perpetrators and radical
professors has created a climate of fear and discomfort for
Jews, and has encouraged, under the guise of academic freedom,
the radical Muslims and their left-wing partners, to feel that
they are untouchable.

Concluding his report on Anti-Semitism in Britain, Denis
MacShane said, “Today there is still denial about the universal
ideology of the new anti-Semitism. It has power and reach, and
it enters into the soft underbelly of the Western mind-set that
does not like Jews or what Israel does to defend its right to

MacShane recommended a counterattack. “My own House of Commons
has led the way with its report.” He added, “The 47-nation
Council of Europe, on which I sit as a British representative,
has launched a lengthy inquiry into combating anti-Semitism in
Europe. The European Union has produced a directive outlawing
Internet hate speech originating within its jurisdiction.” He
also noted, “We are at the beginning of a long intellectual and
ideological struggle. It is not about Jews or Israel. It is
about everything democrats have long fought for: the truth
without fear, no matter one’s religion or political beliefs. The
new anti-Semitism threatens all humanity. The Jew-haters must
not get a pass.”

07 September 2007

A People and a Nation

September 2, 2007
A People and a Nation
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By Ruth R. Wisse.

231 pp. Nextbook/Schocken. $19.95.

Ruth Wisse has written a book on a topic that excites a great deal of attention now, but she has written it from an unusual perspective. Her book is not about the power that Israel exercises over the Palestinians, nor is it about the power that the “Israel lobby” is commonly thought to exercise over United States foreign policy. Israel and the “lobby” now tend to be regarded in Europe and perhaps also, but to a lesser extent, in the United States, as Jewish projects inimical to the causes of justice and international security. A new book on either of these topics would be but a minor addition to a substantial industry — that Israel oppresses Palestinians by denying them a state, and oppresses Americans by denying them control over their state, has become the received wisdom of the times.

A book, on the other hand, that celebrates the Jewish return to sovereign power, in all its promise and complexity, is as unusual as it is welcome. Wisse has written just such a work. “Jews and Power,” a volume in a series that contains somewhat more pacific titles (“The Dairy Restaurant” is forthcoming), is a good, fighting book that contains much information in few pages, and offers a simple argument. Zionism is the solution to Jewish powerlessness; Israel is the guarantor of the Jews’ safety. Further, the Jewish nation’s resumption of sovereignty in 1948 created opportunities for the Jews to bring benefits to humanity as a whole.

“Jews and Power,” then, is a Jewish book, though the topic is of immense — one might say disablingly immense — interest to anti-Semites, too. What is the difference between “Jews and power” and “Jewish power”? “Jews and power” is empirical, while “Jewish power” is fantastical. “Jews and power” identifies a real, changing relationship between, on the one hand, the Jews conceived as a nation, plural but one; and on the other hand, political power conceived, at its apex, as self-government by a people in a nation-state. Jews’ relation with political power, and more particularly sovereign political power, has been very remote indeed for the longest periods of human history. This distance has rarely worked to the Jews’ advantage; too often, it has ensured catastrophe. “Jewish power,” by contrast, is an imaginary, unwavering project, malign in its intentions. None of this is apparent to the anti-Semite, for whom Jewish power has been a constant, ever working to the disadvantage of non-Jews.

Wisse begins her book, “The loss of Jewish sovereignty was the defining political event in the life of the Jewish people.” And she ends it, “In defending themselves, Jews have been turned into the fighting front line of the democratic world.” Within these boundaries, marked by loss and retrieval, Wisse offers an entire history of the Jews. What begins with a reverse for the Jews concludes with a gain for the world, or the democratic world. It is a story, then, with a provisional happy ending.

There are of course many ways to write the Jews’ history. Wisse’s way is to divide it into four exceptionally unequal periods. In the first, the Jews come into existence as a nation. In the second, very brief in duration, the Jews are organized in a state (for a while, indeed, in two states). In the third period, which extends from 70 A.D. to 1948, Jewish existence is marked by dispersion, subordination and intermittent persecution. In the last decades of this period, the Jews undertake a struggle to regain sovereignty in the land in which they last exercised it. This time coincides with the greatest calamity of dispersion, the Holocaust. But it is rapidly followed by the fourth period. With the establishment of the state of Israel, the Jews inaugurate a renewed period of sovereignty. Wisse tells the story of the third and fourth periods.

A professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard who escaped Nazi Europe as a child, Wisse writes, “I feel as if I have been writing this book all my life.” It is an experience that will resonate with many of her readers. It rehearses many of the arguments familiar to those Jews of the diaspora who have grown up in contact with the Zionist project. Certainly, the book reads as a setting-down of conclusions reached across several decades of controversy and reflection. But it also has a certain delicacy, in particular in its openness to alternative histories, alternative political arrangements. “It is worth considering how the Middle East might have evolved had Arab rulers accepted the partition of Palestine,” she writes. There would have been some voluntary shifts of population. Arab Palestine might have federated with Jordan. Regional priorities would have dictated new patterns of trade, commerce and development. Jews and Arabs who wanted to live in the other’s land could have traveled back and forth.

It is good to be reminded of such possibilities by someone who is also such a doughty defender of Israel. It has always been an aspect of Zionism’s utopianism, this vision of Jewish-Arab cooperation, a mutual flourishing in the one region. This book is both an acknowledgment of that openhearted, clearsighted desire for peace, but also — and so to speak — in the meantime, a celebration of the new Jewish ability to await its arrival. If there is not to be peace, Jews at least will be able to defend themselves against their self-declared enemies. This, in the end, is what it means for Jews to have power.

Anthony Julius is a lawyer in London and the author of “T. S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism and Literary Form.”

Anti-Semitism and the Anti-Israel Lobby

Note: This is the best summary of the "Israel Lobby" issue i have seen. Professors Mearsheimer and Walt don't seem to mind when the Saudi government pours billions of dollars into the US educational system or otherwise tries to impact the foriegn policy of our government, but when it comes to Jews speaking up, they seem to have a problem. By process of deductive elimination, the only possible explanation for the uproar about the "Israel Lobby" (read; "Jewish lobby") is the fact that these people just don't like it when Jews speak up to defend Israel or otherwise say "enough!" to double standards and hypocrisy. It's only because we are Jews that anybody has a problem with any of this. Plain and simple.


Anti-Semitism and the Anti-Israel Lobby
September 7, 2007; Page A15

A crop of Israel's critics -- most prominently Jimmy Carter and now Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" -- have managed something of a feat: They express no concerns about the massive pro-Arab effort, funded in significant measure by foreign oil money, taking American Jews to task for participating in the American political process; meanwhile, they inoculate themselves against charges of anti-Jewish bias by pre-emptively predicting that "the Jewish lobby" will accuse them of it.

Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer, in particular, have been heralded by Israel's critics for their "courage" in attacking American Jews, who have allegedly "strangled" criticism of Israel. Their case seems one part laughable, and one part eyebrow-raising.

An anecdote from my own experience with the anti-Israel lobby may shed some light on the absurdity of the Walt-Mearsheimer offensive. Not long after Sept. 11, 2001, I received a call from a major defense contractor asking for a favor. I was serving as president of the Boston chapter of the World Affairs Council, a national organization that debates foreign policy, and the defense contractor was one of the Council's principal sponsors.

The Saudi Arabian government was sponsoring a national public relations campaign to cultivate American public opinion, and was sending Saudi emissaries around the country to make the case that Saudi Arabia was a tolerant, moderate nation worthy of American support. Would the Council organize a forum of Boston's community leaders so that the Saudis could make their case?

While this was patently no more than a Saudi lobbying effort, we organized the forum, and it was well-attended by precisely the slice of Boston's political and corporate elite that the Saudis and their defense contractor benefactor had hoped for. The Saudis maintained that their Kingdom should be regarded as a promoter of Middle East peace, and that the abundant evidence that Saudi Arabia was in fact promoting a virulent brand of extremist Islam should be discounted.

Saudi Arabia paid for the trip of its emissaries to Boston, for the Washington, D.C.-based public relations and lobbying company which organized the trip, and for the Boston public relations and lobbying company that handled the Boston part of the visit. And it drew upon the resources and relationships of the defense contractor, which sells hundreds of millions of dollars of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, to support and orchestrate its public relations effort.

The billions in petrodollars Arab states spend in the U.S. for defense, construction, engineering and consulting contracts position them nicely to win friends in high places, and friends are what they have. That is true all over the world, is true in this country, and has been true for quite some time. As U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull noted 60 years ago, "The oil of Saudi Arabia constitutes one of the world's great prizes." His successor, Edward Stettinius, opposed the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East, stating "It would seriously prejudice our ability to afford protection to American interests, economic and commercial . . . throughout the area."

The Saudis and their allies have not been shy about supplementing their considerable leverage in the U.S. by targeting expenditures to affect the debate over Middle East policy by funding think tanks, Middle East studies programs, advocacy groups, community centers and other institutions.

To take one obvious example, just last year Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal donated $20 million each to Harvard and Georgetown Universities for programs in Islamic studies. Prince Alwaleed, chairman of a Riyadh-based conglomerate, is the fellow whose $10 million donation to the Twin Towers Fund following the Sept. 11 attacks was rejected by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the Saudi Prince suggested that the U.S. "re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinians."

Georgetown and Harvard had no apparent qualms about accepting Prince Alwaleed's money. The director of Georgetown's newly-renamed Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center rejected any suggestion that the Saudi magnate was attempting to use Saudi oil wealth to influence American policy in the Middle East. "There is nothing wrong with [Prince Alwaleed] expressing his opinion on American foreign policy," he said. "Clearly, it was done in a constructive way."

In other words, for those who accept the Arab line on the Israel-Arab conflict -- namely, that it is the product of Israeli intransigence in some form or another -- the increasing proliferation of Middle East-funded enterprises all across the country aimed at advancing the Arab view of the conflict constitute "nothing wrong." Nor are those hewing to the anti-Israel line troubled by the way in which the massive Islamic bloc of nations, by dint both of their number and their economic leverage over the rest of the world, are able to guarantee an incessantly anti-Israel agenda at the United Nations and other international fora.

Although the aggressive deployment of petrodollars and oil-based influence from foreign sources aimed at advancing a pro-Arab line constitutes "nothing wrong" as far as Israel's critics are concerned, a new political fashion holds that there is something very wrong indeed about American Jews and other American backers of Israel expressing their support for Israel, and urging their political leaders to join them in that support.

Our major newspapers and networks, with correspondents in Israel able to take advantage of an Israeli political system that is a free-for-all and an astonishingly vibrant and self-critical Israeli press, report daily on every twist and turn of the conflict and are very frequently critical of Israel. As for American campuses, most objective observers would have little difficulty concluding that far from being criticism-free, they are in fact dominated by critics of Israel. Clearly, as strangleholds on criticism go, whatever stranglehold the pro-Israel community has on debate in the U.S. is a very loose one indeed.

If the charge that American Jews are able to stifle criticism of Israel is simply silly, the leveling of the charge that there is something nefarious about Jews urging support for the Jewish state raises questions about whether Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer have descended into a certain ugliness. And the tactic of trying to neutralize those questions by loudly predicting that they will be asked, however clever a tactic it may be, does not neutralize them.

It is apparently the authors' position that, even in the face of the overwhelming leverage of an Arab world swimming in petrodollars, with a lock on the U.N. and an unlimited ability to pay for pro-Arab public relations, American Jews are obliged to stay silent. In essence, Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer have repackaged the "the-Jews-run-the-country" stuff which has long been the bread and butter of anti-Semites.

Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer deny that they are anti-Semitic, and that is certainly good news. But where they are apparently content with foreign oil money being used to advance a pro-Arab position on the Middle East, but devote themselves to criticizing American Jews for lobbying their public officials in support of the Jewish state, one may legitimately wonder what phrase would apply. Surely, one's denial that he is anti-Semitic, while welcome, is hardly dispositive; after all, the marked increase in anti-Semitism around the world is well-documented, and yet one rarely hears anyone actually announce that they are anti-Semitic, or that their views are anti-Semitic.

But if anti-Semitism is too harsh a term, and if the word "bigoted" is also taken off the table, perhaps one can be forgiven for concluding that "anti-Jewish bias" fits the bill here. After all, where there is nothing wrong with foreign money from Arab countries advancing a pro-Arab agenda in Messrs. Walt's and Mearsheimer's world -- but there is something very wrong with American citizens who are Jewish exercising their civic right to speak out on behalf of Israel and taking issue with the pro-Arab agenda -- even the most vehement disclaimers of any bias against Jews lack a certain credibility.

The potency of the Middle East-funded anti-Israel lobby around the world and in the U.S. is difficult to ignore. Yet, Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer and others who adhere to an anti-Israel line ignore it. In and of itself, this is not surprising. When at the same time they portray American Jews' efforts to make the case for Israel as morally suspect, however, they open themselves up to reasonable charges of something far more troublesome than mere hypocrisy, and that is anti-Jewish bias, by whatever name.

Mr. Robbins, a U.S. Delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission during the Clinton administration, is an attorney at Mintz, Levin in Boston.

Luciano Pavarotti Is Dead at 71

Go to the website and listen to the clip there of "Nessum Dorma". It will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end and tears come to your eyes. What a loss for a world that desperately needs beauty in it. RS

Luciano Pavarotti Is Dead at 71

Luciano Pavarotti at the National Theater in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 2002.
Andres Leighton/Associated Press

Published: September 6, 2007

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Slide Show
A Life in Music
An Appraisal: A Master of Italian Operatic Artistry (September 6, 2007)
Discography (September 6, 2007)
Italy Mourns ‘an Expression of Our Culture’ (September 7, 2007)
Times Topics: Luciano Pavarotti

Audio Excerpt: Nessun Dorma (Courtesy of Decca Label Group) (mp3)

A Pavarotti retrospective from WQXR (mp3)

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Luciano Pavarotti during dress rehearsal for "L'Elisir d'Amore," at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1998.

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Associated Press
Luciano Pavarotti as Arturo Talbo and Joan Sutherland as Elvira in dress rehearsal for the Metropolitan Opera's production of "I Puritani" in 1976.
Luciano Pavarotti, the Italian singer whose ringing, pristine sound set a standard for operatic tenors of the postwar era, died Thursday at his home near Modena, in northern Italy. He was 71.

His death was announced by his manager, Terri Robson. The cause was pancreatic cancer. In July 2006 he underwent surgery for the cancer in New York, and he had made no public appearances since then. He was hospitalized again this summer and released on Aug. 25.

Like Enrico Caruso and Jenny Lind before him, Mr. Pavarotti extended his presence far beyond the limits of Italian opera. He became a titan of pop culture. Millions saw him on television and found in his expansive personality, childlike charm and generous figure a link to an art form with which many had only a glancing familiarity.

Early in his career and into the 1970s he devoted himself with single-mindedness to his serious opera and recital career, quickly establishing his rich sound as the great male operatic voice of his generation — the “King of the High Cs,” as his popular nickname had it.

By the 1980s he expanded his franchise exponentially with the Three Tenors projects, in which he shared the stage with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras, first in concerts associated with the World Cup and later in world tours. Most critics agreed that it was Mr. Pavarotti’s charisma that made the collaboration such a success. The Three Tenors phenomenon only broadened his already huge audience and sold millions of recordings and videos.

And in the early 1990s he began staging Pavarotti and Friends charity concerts, performing with rock stars like Elton John, Sting and Bono and making recordings from the shows.

Throughout these years, despite his busy and vocally demanding schedule, his voice remained in unusually good condition well into middle age.

Even so, as his stadium concerts and pop collaborations brought him fame well beyond what contemporary opera stars have come to expect, Mr. Pavarotti seemed increasingly willing to accept pedestrian musical standards. By the 1980s he found it difficult to learn new opera roles or even new song repertory for his recitals.

And although he planned to spend his final years performing in a grand worldwide farewell tour, he completed only about half the tour, which began in 2004. Physical ailments limited his movement on stage and regularly forced him to cancel performances. By 1995, when he was at the Metropolitan Opera singing one of his favorite roles, Tonio in Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment” high notes sometimes failed him, and there were controversies over downward transpositions of a notoriously dangerous and high-flying part.

Yet his wholly natural stage manner and his wonderful way with the Italian language were completely intact. Mr. Pavarotti remained a darling of Met audiences until his retirement from that company’s roster in 2004, an occasion celebrated with a string of “Tosca” performances. At the last of them, on March 13, 2004, he received a 15-minute standing ovation and 10 curtain calls. All told, he sang 379 performances at the Met, of which 357 were in fully staged opera productions.

In the late 1960s and ’70s, when Mr. Pavarotti was at his best, he possessed a sound remarkable for its ability to penetrate large spaces easily. Yet he was able to encase that powerful sound in elegant, brilliant colors. His recordings of the Donizetti repertory are still models of natural grace and pristine sound. The clear Italian diction and his understanding of the emotional power of words in music were exemplary.

Mr. Pavarotti was perhaps the mirror opposite of his great rival among tenors, Mr. Domingo. Five years Mr. Domingo’s senior, Mr. Pavarotti had the natural range of a tenor, exposing him to the stress and wear that ruin so many tenors’ careers before they have barely started. Mr. Pavarotti’s confidence and naturalness in the face of these dangers made his longevity all the more noteworthy.

Mr. Domingo, on the other hand, began his musical life as a baritone and later manufactured a tenor range above it through hard work and scrupulous intelligence. Mr. Pavarotti, although he could find the heart of a character, was not an intellectual presence. His ability to read music in the true sense of the word was in question. Mr. Domingo, in contrast, is an excellent pianist with an analytical mind and the ability to learn and retain scores by quiet reading.

Yet in the late 1980s, when both Mr. Pavarotti and Mr. Domingo were pursuing superstardom, it was Mr. Pavarotti who showed the dominant gift for soliciting adoration from large numbers of people. He joked on talk shows, rode horses on parade and played, improbably, a sex symbol in the movie “Yes, Giorgio.” In a series of concerts, some held in stadiums, Mr. Pavarotti entertained tens of thousands and earned six-figure fees. Presenters, who were able to tie a Pavarotti appearance to a subscription package of less glamorous concerts, found him valuable.

The most enduring symbol of Mr. Pavarotti’s Midas touch, as a concert attraction and a recording artist, was the popular and profitable Three Tenors act created with Mr. Domingo and Mr. Carreras. Some praised these concerts and recordings as popularizers of opera for mass audiences. But most classical music critics dismissed them as unworthy of the performers’ talents.

Ailments and Accusations

Mr. Pavarotti had his uncomfortable moments in recent years. His proclivity for gaining weight became a topic of public discussion. He was caught lip-synching a recorded aria at a concert in Modena, his hometown. He was booed off the stage at La Scala during 1992 appearance. No one characterized his lapses as sinister; they were attributed, rather, to a happy-go-lucky style, a large ego and a certain carelessness.

His frequent withdrawals from prominent events at opera houses like the Met and Covent Garden in London, often from productions created with him in mind, caused administrative consternation in many places. A series of cancellations at Lyric Opera of Chicago — 26 out of 41 scheduled dates — moved Lyric’s general director in 1989, Ardis Krainik, to declare Mr. Pavarotti persona non grata at her company.

A similar banishment nearly happened at the Met in 2002. He was scheduled to sing two performances of “Tosca” — one a gala concert with prices as high as $1,875 a ticket, which led to reports that the performances may be a farewell. Mr. Pavarotti arrived in New York only a few days before the first, barely in time for the dress rehearsal. On the day of the first performance, though, he had developed a cold and withdrew. That was on a Wednesday.

From then until the second scheduled performance, on Saturday, everyone, from the Met’s managers to casual opera fans, debated the probability of his appearing. The New York Post ran the headline “Fat Man Won’t Sing.” The demand to see the performance was so great, however, that the Met set up 3,000 seats for a closed-circuit broadcast on the Lincoln Center Plaza. Still, at the last minute, Mr. Pavarotti stayed in bed.

Luciano Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy, on Oct. 12, 1935. His father was a baker and an amateur tenor; his mother worked at a cigar factory. As a child he listened to opera recordings, singing along with tenor stars of a previous era, like Beniamino Gigli and Tito Schipa. He professed an early weakness for the movies of Mario Lanza, whose image he would imitate before a mirror.

As a teenager he followed studies that led to a teaching position; during these student days he met his future wife. He taught for two years before deciding to become a singer. His first teachers were Arrigo Pola and Ettore Campogalliani, and his first breakthrough came in 1961, when he won an international competition at the Teatro Reggio Emilia. He made his debut as Rodolfo in Puccini’s “Bohème” later that year.

In 1963 Mr. Pavarotti’s international career began: first as Edgardo in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities, and then in Vienna and Zurich. His Covent Garden debut also came in 1963, when he substituted for and Giuseppe di Stefano in “La Bohème.” His reputation in Britain grew even more the next year, when he sang at the Glyndebourne Festival, taking the part of Idamante in Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”

A turning point in Mr. Pavarotti’s career was his association with the soprano Joan Sutherland. In 1965 he joined the Sutherland-Williamson company on an Australian tour during which he sang Edgardo to Ms. Sutherland’s Lucia. He credited Ms. Sutherland’s advice, encouragement and example as a major factor in the development of his technique.

Further career milestones came in 1967, with Mr. Pavarotti’s first appearances at La Scala in Milan and his participation in a performance of the Verdi Requiem under Herbert von Karajan. He came to the Metropolitan Opera a year later, singing with Mirella Freni, a childhood friend, in “La Bohème.”

A series of recordings with London Records had also begun, and these excursions through the Italian repertory remain some of Mr. Pavarotti’s lasting contributions to his generation. The recordings included “L’Elisir d’Amore,” “La Favorita,” “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “La Fille du Régiment” by Donizetti; “Madama Butterfly,” “La Bohème,” “Tosca” and “Turandot” by Puccini; “Rigoletto,” “Il Trovatore,” “La Traviata” and the Requiem by Verdi; and scattered operas by Bellini, Rossini and Mascagni. There were also solo albums of arias and songs.

In 1981 Mr. Pavarotti established a voice competition in Philadelphia and was active in its operation. Young, talented singers from around the world were auditioned in preliminary rounds before the final selections. High among the prizes for winners was an appearance in a staged opera in Philadelphia in which Mr. Pavarotti would also appear.

He also gave master classes, many of which were shown on public television in the United States. Mr. Pavarotti’s forays into teaching became stage appearances in themselves, having more to do with the teacher than the students.

An Outsize Personality

In his later years Mr. Pavarotti became as much an attraction as an opera singer. Hardly a week passed in the 1990s when his name did not surface in at least two gossip columns. He could be found unveiling postage stamps depicting old opera stars or singing in Red Square in Moscow. His outsize personality remained a strong drawing card, and even his lifelong battle with his circumference guaranteed headlines: a Pavarotti diet or a Pavarotti binge provided high-octane fuel for reporters.

In 1997 Mr. Pavarotti joined Sting for the opening of the Pavarotti Music Center in war-torn Mostar, Bosnia, and Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney on a CD tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales. In 2005 he was granted Freedom of the City of London for his fund-raising concerts for the Red Cross. He also was lauded by the Kennedy Center Honors in 2001, and he holds two spots in the Guinness Book of World Records: one for the greatest number of curtain calls (165), the other, held jointly with Mr. Domingo and Mr. Carreras, for the best-selling classical album of all time, the first Three Tenors album (“Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti: The Three Tenors in Concert”). But for all that, he knew where his true appeal was centered.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a musician,” he told the BBC Music Magazine in an April 1998 article about his efforts for Bosnia. “I care about giving people a place where they can go to enjoy themselves and to begin to live again. To the man you have to give the spirit, and when you give him the spirit, you have done everything.”

Mr. Pavarotti’s health became an issue in the late 1990s. His mobility onstage was sometimes severely limited because of leg problems, and at a 1997 “Turandot” performance at the Met, extras onstage surrounded him and helped him up and down steps. In January 1998, at a Met gala with two other singers, Mr. Pavarotti became lost in a trio from “Luisa Miller” despite having the music in front of him. He complained of dizziness and withdrew. Rumors flew alleging on one side a serious health problem and, on the other, a smoke screen for his unpreparedness.

The latter was not a new accusation during the 1990s. In a 1997 review for The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini accused Mr. Pavarotti of “shamelessly coasting” through a recital, using music instead of his memory, and still losing his place. Words were always a problem, and he cheerfully admitted to using cue cards as reminders.

A Box-Office Powerhouse

It was a tribute to Mr. Pavarotti’s box-office power that when, in 1997, he announced he could not or would not learn his part for a new “Forza del Destino” at the Met, the house substituted “Un Ballo in Maschera,” a piece he was ready to sing.

Around that time Mr. Pavarotti left his wife of more than three decades, Adua, to live with his 26-year-old assistant, Nicoletta Mantovani, and filing for divorce, which was finalized in October 2002. He married Ms. Mantovani in 2003. She survives him, as do three daughters from his marriage to the former Adua Veroni: Lorenza, Christina and Giuliana; and a daughter with Ms. Mantovani, Alice.

Mr. Pavarotti had a home in Manhattan but also maintained ties to his hometown, living when time permitted in a villa in Santa Maria del Mugnano, outside Modena.

He published two autobiographies, both written with William Wright: “Pavarotti: My Own Story” in 1981 and “Pavarotti: My World” in 1995.

In interviews Mr. Pavarotti could turn on a disarming charm, and if he invariably dismissed concerns about his pop projects, technical problems and even his health, he made a strong case for what his fame could do for opera itself.

“I remember when I began singing, in 1961,” he told Opera News in 1998, “one person said, ‘run quick, because opera is going to have at maximum 10 years of life.’ At the time it was really going down. But then, I was lucky enough to make the first ‘Live From the Met’ telecast. And the day after, people stopped me on the street. So I realized the importance of bringing opera to the masses. I think there were people who didn’t know what opera was before. And they say ‘Bohème,’ and of course ‘Bohème’ is so good.’ ”

About his own drawing power, his analysis was simple and on the mark.

“I think an important quality that I have is that if you turn on the radio and hear somebody sing, you know it’s me.” he said. “You don’t confuse my voice with another voice.”