Archive for February 2012
Dennis House, the presenter of Connecticut’s “Face the State” TV show, describes his recent interview with a refreshingly candid candidate for Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat:
In her first television interview of the campaign, Lee Whitnum came out swinging against two of her fellow Democrats seeking the nomination for the seat currently held by Joe Lieberman. During a taping of Face the State, the lawyer and author from Greenwich was highly critical of Susan Bysiewicz and Chris Murphy.
On Bysiewicz, here is an excerpt of what Whitnum had to say: “I don’t like her at all. I think she is a card-carrying Israelist.” Is she running to make sure this Congress remains pro-Israel?”
As for Murphy:
“Chris Murphy pledged $30M to Israel over the next ten years……..We elected a young maverick kid and he just hasn’t done very much. He needs to be taken out of office.”
Whitnum hasn’t made many friends in the Connecticut Democratic Party. She is currently suing Governor Malloy, alleging he called her an anti-semite. She called Senator Lieberman a traitor, and demanded Senator Richard Blumenthal to resign, both because of their support of Israel.
Whitnum’s opposition to the United States policy on its ally Israel, has led to those anti-semitism charges. She also filed a lawsuit against the town of Greenwich, for allowing a menorah on town property. On Face the State Sunday, you’ll hear Whitnum talk about what she believes needs to be done when it comes to Israel.
Watch this amazing interview here.
Carl Gershman, the former ADL researcher and longtime president of the National Endowment for Democracy, recently told a memorial meeting for Václav Havel held at NED’s Washington HQ:
In keeping with Havel’s vision, let’s hope that China will be given back to the people, and Burma, Cuba, Iran, Belarus, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Tibet, East Turkestan, even North Korea,” said Gershman. “There is much work to do to help bring happiness and glory to the dark corners of the world, as Havel did for his and other nations.
By Sharmine Narwani
February 28, 2012
“Perception is 100 percent of politics,” the old adage goes. Say something three, five, seven times, and you start to believe it in the same way you “know” aspirin is good for the heart.
Sometimes though, perception is a dangerous thing. In the dirty game of politics, it is the perception – not the facts of an issue – that invariably wins the day.
In the case of the raging conflict over Syria, the one fundamental issue that motors the entire international debate on the crisis is the death toll and its corollary: the Syrian casualty list.
The “list” has become widely recognized – if not specifically, then certainly when the numbers are bandied about: 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 – sometimes more. These are not mere numbers; they represent dead Syrians.
But this is where the dangers of perception begin. There are many competing Syrian casualty lists with different counts – how does one, for instance gauge if X is an accurate number of deaths? How have the deaths been verified? Who verifies them and do they have a vested interest? Are the dead all civilians? Are they pro-regime or anti-regime civilians? Do these lists include the approximately 2,000 dead Syrian security forces? Do they include members of armed groups? How does the list-aggregator tell the difference between a civilian and a plain-clothes militia member?
Even the logistics baffle. How do they make accurate counts across Syria every single day? A member of the Lebanese fact-finding team investigating the 15 May 2011 shooting deaths of Palestinian protesters by Israelis at the Lebanese border told me that it took them three weeks to discover there were only six fatalities, and not the 11 counted on the day of the incident. And in that case, the entire confrontation lasted a mere few hours.
How then does one count 20, 40, or 200 casualties in a few hours while conflict continues to rage around them?
By Grant Smith
February 28, 2012
AIPAC’s Washington policy conference next month is drawing intense scrutiny and unprecedented resistance. AIPAC has worked quietly for years to tripwire the United States into war with Iran. Soon it will “ask” Congress and the president to define “nuclear weapons capability” as the threshold for war, essentially demanding an immediate attack. Because Iran presents no military threat to the United States, many Americans wonder exactly where such costly and potentially disastrous policies are formulated. Recently declassified FBI files reveal how Israeli government officials first orchestrated public relations and policies through the U.S. lobby. Counter-espionage investigations of proto-AIPAC’s first coordinating meetings with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the head of Mossad provide a timely and useful framework for understanding how AIPAC continues to localize and market Israeli government policies in America.
Although AIPAC claims it rose “from a small pro-Israel public affairs boutique in the 1950s,” its true origin can be traced to Oct. 16, 1948. This is the date AIPAC’s founder Isaiah L. Kenen and four others established the Israel Office of Information under Israel’s U.N. mission. It was later moved under the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The IOI opened offices in New York City, Washington, and Los Angeles, which became testbeds for working out how Israeli government leaders would promote lobbying initiatives through public relations harnessing the power and financial support of American organizations and supporters. Although the FBI nervously noted IOI founder Kenen had become a member of the Communist Party in 1937 while working as a newspaperman at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, he was never the subject of a criminal investigation. Only because Kenen interacted with so many U.S. and foreign nationals who were targets of espionage, foreign counter-intelligence, and domestic security investigations (such as super-lobbyist Abraham Feinberg, Israeli diplomats, and assorted Mossad officers) did Kenen’s movements appear as cross-references in hundreds of pages of recently declassified FBI documents [.pdf].
In his Haaretz blog, Chemi Shalev concludes sadly that not everyone can be relied upon to put Israeli interests before their own:
China or Russia or India will pursue their own self-interest, something that definitely cannot be said of the United States but also – gasp, shock, horror – of Western Europe.
Alexey Pilko, Associate Professor at Moscow State University, describes what he learned on a recent visit to Syria:
Syrian officials, including Vice President Najah al-Attar and Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, with whom a group of Russian experts (and the author of this article) met recently, mention Turkey, Qatar and Israel among the main instigators of international pressure on Syria, along with the United States standing behind them. The American factor in the Syrian crisis (and, to a lesser extent, the Israeli factor) is one of the main topics of discussion in Damascus at the moment. Syrians emphasize that the main target of the United States and Israel is not Syria but rather Iran, and that they are interested in destabilizing Syria for the sole purpose of depriving Tehran of a “counter play” in the Middle East in the event of a military operation against Iran. In general, the Syrian political elite is convinced that there is an international conspiracy against Damascus.
Israel’s role in the Syrian events is a sensitive issue for Syrians, considering Israel’s continued occupation of the Golan Heights. Indeed, even high-ranking Syrian officials claim they possess evidence showing that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has direct links to the Israeli government.
Senator James Abourezk, who represented South Dakota in Congress from 1971 to 1979, tells the Council for the National Interest about his experiences with the Israel lobby:
Letters of 76 Senators
When Gerald Ford was President and Henry Kissinger was his Secretary of State, the two decided, during U.S. backed peace talks to bring Israel around to U.S. thinking by withholding American aid to Israel. That effort ended quickly when 76 U.S. Senators signed an AIPAC drafted letter to President Ford containing a thinly veiled threat to Mr. Ford if he continued to withhold military aid to Israel. The letter prompted President Ford to give in to the Lobby’s demand and to resume aid to Israel.
What happened leading up to the publication of the letter in the U.S. press is an interesting story. I had dinner with one Senator—who shall go unnamed here—the night before the letter was released to the press. He told me that he had no intention of signing it.
The next day, when the letter appeared in the Washington Post, I asked my friend what had happened.
“Jim, I received phone call after phone call all during the day yesterday, calls from people who had gone beyond just supporting me in my election, but people—lawyers, doctors, professional people and businessmen—who had interrupted their careers to work in my campaign. I couldn’t say no to them, which is why you saw my name on the letter.”
Later, in the Senate cloakroom, a number of us were standing together, talking about the letter. Ted Kennedy spoke first. “I knew that’s what would happen when I was approached to sign the letter, and I don’t like it at all. We should, next time, get together before signing such a letter, and all of us say no at the same time.” What Kennedy was referring to was the Israeli Lobby’s practice of picking off the Senators by going to one Senator, saying, “Senator So- and-so has signed, and you’d better not be the only potential presidential candidate not on the letter.” They would then go to Senator So-and-so and say the same thing. Ultimately, all of the leading Senators—especially those who wanted to run from President—would put their signature on the letter.
Kennedy’s statement was what spurred me to say something, during a mini-debate I had with Hyman Bookbinder before a section of the D.C. Bar Association’s meeting in D.C. We were promoting a book we had written together as a debate on the Middle East—Through Different Eyes—and I mentioned that Senators would cheer on Israel in public but would bad mouth both Israel and the Lobby in private. One lawyer raised his hand and asked, “name just one U.S. Senator who would do that.”
I said, simply, “Ted Kennedy,” hoping he was politically strong enough to resist the Lobby’s counter-attack.
Two or three days later, Ted Kennedy called me and said, “Abourezk, what the hell have you done to me?” I guess Ted had underestimated his own political strength, or at least, did not want any of it diluted in a tiff over the Middle East. And he for sure did not want to spend his time defending himself from the Israeli Lobby.
Emails said to reveal dismay among Al-Jazeera staff over its “biased and unprofessional” coverage of Syria have been leaked by pro-Assad hackers.
By Wissam Kanaan
February 24, 2012
Damascus – On Wednesday, the entire staff of the Al Jazeera network allegedly received an email instructing them to change their computer and email passwords.
Earlier in the week, the network’s server had been hacked by the self-styled Syrian Electronic Army, and some of its secrets were released to the media.
The major find to be made public was an email exchange between anchorwoman Rula Ibrahim and Beirut-based reporter Ali Hashem. The emails seemed to indicate widespread disaffection within the channel, especially over its coverage of the crisis in Syria.
Ibrahim wrote to her colleague saying that she had “turned against the revolution” in Syria after realizing that the protests would “destroy the country and lead to a civil war.” She went on to deride the opposition Free Syrian Army, which she described as “a branch of al-Qaeda.”
Ibrahim also complained about the attitudes of various colleagues at the channel’s Doha headquarters, saying some of them “have refused to greet me ever since the outbreak of events in Syria because they hold a grudge against my sect.”
Al Jazeera staffers were relieved that the email exchange had been leaked, “because it exposed the station’s biased and unprofessional coverage Syria.”Hashem responded sympathetically, saying he had opted to sit on the fence after sending the channel footage of armed men clashing with the army which he had witnessed while reporting from northeastern Lebanon. He said that after he submitted the video, he was told to return to Beirut on the grounds that he was exhausted.
In her response, Ibrahim once again protested that she had “been utterly humiliated. They wiped the floor with me because I embarrassed Zuheir Salem, spokesperson for Syria’s Muslim Brothers. As a result, I was prevented from doing any Syrian interviews, and threatened with [a] transfer to the night shift on the pretext that I was making the channel imbalanced.”
Ibrahim also spoke of how Syrian activists invited onto Al Jazeera use terms of sectarian incitement on air, “which Syrians understand very well.”
Hashem wondered in response where the channel’s head of news, Ibrahim Hilal, stood in all this. Ibrahim answered that he was “stuck between a rock and a hard place: the agenda and professionalism…”