Archive for April 2012
George Clooney’s recent arrest during a protest outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC focused simplistic media attention on the rather more complex conflict between Khartoum and the Nuba mountain people.
Along with fellow Hollywood actors Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle, Clooney is a co-founder of Not On Our Watch, whose nice-sounding mission is “to focus global attention and resources towards putting an end to mass atrocities around the world.” The NGO’s two other co-founders — David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub — may be less well-known but most likely played a more seminal role in the pro-interventionist organization’s founding. A former special assistant to then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and currently President Obama’s Director for War Crimes Atrocities and Civilian Protection, it was Pressman who took Clooney on his first trip to Darfur in 2006. An Aish.com profile of Weintraub, subtitled “From Presley to Presidents, this Star of David has seen it all,” reveals the Hollywood producer’s government connections extend even beyond Washington:
Pick a time — any time, and you might catch him shmoozing with longtime pal George Bush Sr., Will Smith, “Bibi” Netanyahu, or George Clooney. And yes, phoning and flying around to meet world leaders, also his buddies, in support of Israel — if Israel asks him to do so.
Considering Israel’s longstanding and central role in the ongoing destabilization of Sudan, one can’t help wondering whether his pal “Bibi” might have asked Weintraub to exploit the celebrity of his presumably unsuspecting Not On Our Watch co-founders Clooney, Pitt, Damon and Cheadle “in support of Israel.”
In a potentially important piece in The Algemeiner, editor Dovid Efune wonders, “Can Sheldon Adelson be the Conservative Answer to George Soros?”
Efune, also director of the Gershon Jacobson Foundation, which describes itself as “a Media organization dedicated to fighting ignorance, apathy and divisiveness in bringing fair and honest information on Jews and Israel,” doesn’t quite live up to the foundation’s mission in his characterization of the two “behemoth givers,” however.
According to The Algemeiner editor, Soros is a “post-American globalist, patron of myriad liberal causes and anti-Israel groups” despite the fact that the billionaire financier has been revealed as a substantial donor to J Street. Although it calls itself “the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans,” the organization has been more accurately dubbed “AIPAC Lite,” in reference to its slightly more progressive positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than the hardline American Israel Public Affairs Committee. With “anti-Israel groups” like J Street, the self-described Jewish state hardly needs pro-Israel ones.
Even more startling is Efune’s description of Adelson as “an American patriot.” What kind of patriot regrets not having served in another country’s military? Speaking at a press conference on his free pro-Netanyahu Israeli newspaper in 2010, the casino magnate left little doubt where his loyalties lie:
I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform. It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF … our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back — his hobby is shooting — and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF.
Presumably, that’s not the kind of “fair and honest information on Jews and Israel” that Dovid Efune has in mind.
“The irony is that the Nazi Holocaust has now become the main ideological weapon for launching wars of aggression,” Norman Finkelstein tells Yoav Shamir in Defamation, the Israeli filmmaker’s brilliant 2009 documentary on anti-Semitism. “Every time you want to launch a war of aggression, drag in the Nazi Holocaust.”
From the POMED Wire:
On Thursday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and the Middle East Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars co-hosted a conference titled Democracy and Human Rights in Iran, in honor of Siamak Pourzand. The third panel, “Politics or Culture? Iran’s Main Obstacles to Democracy,” featured Nazila Fathi, former Iran-based correspondent for the New York Times, Arash Sobhani, an Iranian musician and founder and lead singer of “Kiosk,” and Maziar Bahari, an Iranian author and documentary filmmaker. Karim Sadjadpour, senior associate of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, moderated the panel.
Brookings’ Saban Center was founded thanks to a “generous initial grant” from Haim Saban, the Israeli-American media mogul who famously told the New York Times, “I’m a one issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”
A 2010 profile in the New Yorker explains the motive behind Saban’s generosity:
His greatest concern, he says, is to protect Israel, by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship. At a conference last fall in Israel, Saban described his formula. His ‘three ways to be influential in American politics,’ he said, were: make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.”
Clearly, overcoming the “obstacles to democracy” in Iran is part of Saban’s agenda to protect Israel.
In a Foreign Policy piece, Leon Aron, the pro-Israel director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, castigates Moscow for “tormenting” U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul:
Just as “all politics is local” so, too, is much of foreign policy domestic politics. With the Kremlin’s legitimacy badly damaged in the parliamentary and presidential elections this past December and March, it has again resorted to tried and true tactics of all authoritarian institutions: creating an alleged external danger to rally the people around the flag and to smear and marginalize opponents as agents of foreign enemies. Putin’s enemy of choice has always been the United States. And until it feels completely in control again (which does not seem to be likely anytime soon), the Kremlin’s policy will be informed largely by anti-Americanism — in order to lend as much credence as possible to the narrative of protecting the Motherland against the scheming enemies of Russia on the outside, and the fifth columnists within. That McFaul is highly respected and personally liked by those “fifth columnists” makes him a particularly dangerous man in Moscow.
Conceptually, the reset is clearly at odds with Putin’s dependence on anti-American rhetoric to galvanize his support base and to satisfy the myriad bureaucratic interest groups that, in one way or another, benefit from perceptions of Russia as a “besieged fortress.” Hence, we now see an anti-American propaganda the likes of which, in crudeness and shamelessness, we have seen since 1985. Witness a “documentary” on a state-controlled national television channel, shortly after McFaul came to Moscow, in which his writings on democracy promotion were used to bolster an accusation that, in essence, he was sent by the CIA to foment a color revolution. Thus the calling out of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a “signaler” to anti-Putin opposition. And finally, an utterly base “Anatomy of the Protest” documentary (on the same NTV network) that showed allegedly U.S. officials distributing money and cookies (yes: evil, wanton democracy cookies) to the anti-Putin protesters. Welcome to Moscow, Mr. Ambassador…
The recent collapse or likely future downfall of authoritarian regimes throughout the Middle East — some of which had (Libya) or still have (Syria) close ties with Russia — and the relatively recent color revolutions in the countries of the former Soviet Union have generated heightened sensitivity in Moscow about the stability of Putin’s managed democracy. The Kremlin knows that vast majority of Russians are aware of an apparent irony: their country has defied global trends that have been marked by leadership transitions by way of revolution, ballot box, or authoritarian succession.
No doubt the Kremlin also knows the role of the National Endowment for Democracy in advancing those “global trends” — as well as McFaul’s long association with Uncle NED.
Simon Henderson, the Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute, the think tank created by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to “do AIPAC’s work but appear independent,” opines:
Prince Salman should also be warned that hardline elements in the Bahraini ruling family all too often find support for their intransigence in Riyadh, and that this is unacceptable to the United States, as is any prospect of further Saudi military intervention on the island.