American Liberal Organization Rolls Out Red Carpet for Bibi
The liberal think tank Center for American Progress recently attracted much criticism for its decision to host right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Below the back story and newly disclosed e-mails showing a concern among senior staff to avoid offending pro-Israel groups, along with a report on the uncritical reception that Netanyahu received:
Netanyahu Successfully Lobbies To Address Progressive Think Tank During DC Visit, Jessica Schulberg and Ryan Grim, Huffington Post – 27 October
After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacrificed much of his popularity with the Democratic Party by crusading against the Iran nuclear deal, and against President Barack Obama in general, he is waging a comeback effort in an upcoming trip to the United States.
As part of the tour, the Israeli government pushed hard for an invite to the Center for American Progress and landed an event at the progressive institution on Nov. 10, the day after Netanyahu has a scheduled meeting with Obama. The embassy’s push for the invite, sources familiar with the lobbying said, was joined by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which also applied pressure to CAP to allow Netanyahu to speak. […]
Some current and former CAP employees were disappointed by the news of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit, which was first floated Tuesday by the Jewish Insider, a newsletter on Jewish politics. Multiple sources confirmed the news to The Huffington Post. (Tanden declined to comment.)
“He’s looking for that progressive validation,” said a former CAP staffer, “and they’re basically validating a guy who race-baited during his election and has disavowed the two-state solution, which is CAP’s own prior work.”
Why Is the Center for American Progress Hosting Benjamin Netanyahu?, Ali Gharib, The Nation – 28 October
[…] Of course, Netanyahu’s own politics and policies alone are more than enough to raise questions about the invitation. The problem is lending, as the CAP staffer said, legitimacy to Netanyahu’s views and policies. The Israeli prime minister, for anyone not blinkered by ideology to see, has taken steps to entrench the occupation, with security policies as well as settlement expansion. His opposition to the Iran deal was waged with distortions, ignoring his own security establishment’s assessment that it was a good deal. He waged a war in Gaza against an occupied population where hundreds of civilians were killed, leading the UN to suspect war crimes had been committed. It is those positions, those policies, those acts which would justify denying Netanyahu’s request to speak at a liberal institution; instead, he’s being offered a chance for exactly the validation he seeks. […]
It’s hard to see how giving a liberal platform to Netanyahu helps advance any progressive cause at all—indeed, considering his policies and positions, Netanyahu’s appearance looks poised to do the opposite: help the right wing. That’s what makes the invitation particularly perplexing.
Leaked Emails From Pro-Clinton Group Reveal Censorship of Staff on Israel, AIPAC Pandering, Warped Militarism, Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept – 5 November
These newly published e-mails reveal AIPAC-pleasing efforts far more heavy-handed than previously known. On January 20, 2012 — at the height of the controversy over ThinkProgress’ publications on Israel — Tanden wrote an email to CAP founder John Podesta and several of her top aides, including ThinkProgress editor Judd Legum. In that email, Tanden recounted an angry call she received from Ann Lewis who, among other D.C. roles, served as the representative of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign on Jewish matters and is also a board member of Block’s hard-line group The Israel Project. The email reflects the censorship demands being imposed on CAP over Israel and how seriously Tanden was taking those demands: […]
Four days after Lewis’ angry phone call, two ThinkProgress writers, Gharib and Eli Clifton, published an investigation that exposed the funding sources behind a controversial anti-Muslim film called “The Third Jihad,” which had been used as training material by the NYPD. The film was produced by a shadowy group calling itself The Clarion Fund, about which almost nothing was known. Through outstanding shoe-leather reporting, Gharib and Clifton revealed numerous ties between that group and various Israeli settlers and other extremists.
Because it dared to discuss Israeli activists, publication of this exposé provoked serious consternation from Tanden, as this email exchange demonstrates. It begins with an email from long-time Democratic Party operative Howard Wolfson, formerly a top aide to Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, which provides a link to the piece with one simple message: “For the love of god!” Tanden’s reply expressed concern about whether Israel should have been included in the reporting:
Soon after their article was published, it was severely censored.
Democratic think tank lets Netanyahu lie unchallenged, Rania Khalek, Electronic Intifada – 11 November
As Politico aptly put it, the Israeli prime minister “stepped into a liberal lions’ den on Tuesday — and walked away with nary a scratch.” […]
As Netanyahu advanced one absurd fabrication after another, [CAP President and moderator] Tanden looked like a deer in the headlights, nodding along smiling and at times giggling.
When Tanden did get a word in, it was to pose softball questions or shower Netanyahu and Israel with fawning praise.
“There’s many areas … where we, progressives can learn lessons from Israel,” Tanden declared in one of the most pathetic displays of pandering. With a wide smile, Tanden continued: “Israel’s military has been inclusive of women for a very long time. Are there lessons in that space for us in the United States that you can share with us?” […]
Netanyahu tried to appeal to liberal sentiments with predictable hasbara — propaganda — talking points about Israel’s exemplary democracy.
“I’d like to talk to a progressive audience about progressive values,” he said in his opening remarks, boasting, against all available evidence, that the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel “are enshrined,” as are women’s and gay rights.
Netanyahu also claimed, “There have been no new settlements built in 20 years.” He even dared the audience to “Google it,” as if he was testing CAP to determine how large a lie the room would let him get away with. Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank has exploded in recent decades, though Israel claims — as if it makes a difference — that it is mostly expanding existing settlements rather than founding new ones.
He went on to deny that Israel engages in ethnic cleansing or land theft.
“What is this ethnic cleansing business?” he demanded to know, insisting that there are Arabs living “everywhere.”
“There’s massive Arab construction,” reasoned Netanyahu. Perhaps Israel’s demolition of more than 28,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 is a figment of the Palestinian imagination. Had Netanyahu said that, chances are Tanden would not have objected. […]
Tanden did at least acknowledge that “innocent Palestinians have also been killed,” citing the 31 July settler arson attack in the occupied West Bank village of Duma that burned 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha alive. His parents, Riham and Saad, died from their injuries in the following weeks, making an orphan of Ali’s severely burned 4-year-old brother Ahmad.
Israel’s defense minister admitted that authorities know who is responsible but have chosen to prevent prosecution of the killers.
“There’s a concern that the vast majority of cases of settler violence against Palestinians have not been prosecuted. What do you say to that?” asked Tanden, marking one of the only moments of adversarial questioning.
“That’s not true,” protested Netanyahu, who proceeded to minimize settler violence as practically nonexistent. “Except for Duma. Duma is real,” he conceded, adding, “There are many Dumas on the Palestinian side [against Israelis] … every four hours we have a Duma.”
“There is no symmetry in Israeli and Palestinian societies. We do not teach our children to hate. We don’t send them to suicide kindergarten camps. We do not teach them that we have to obliterate Palestine. We do not name public squares after mass murderers.”
To its credit, CAP did allow staffers to challenge and rebut Netanyahu’s false claims on its blog ThinkProgress:
10 Falsehoods That Netanyahu Told During His Appearance At CAP, Igor Volsky, Aviva Shen, Jack Jenkins, Victoria Fleischer, Tara Culp-Ressler, ThinkProgress – 10 November
Memo to Tanden
Headlines in the past few days (mainly from the Israeli press):
Israel Moves to Green Light 2,200 New Settlement Units, Recognizes Outposts, Chaim Levinson, Ha’aretz – 9 November
Regional master plan approved last week will see two outposts retroactively approved, and existing settlements get thousands of more homes.
Israeli survey reveals widening rift between Jews and Arabs, Itamar Eichner, Ynet – 11 November
The Israeli Democracy Index 2015 shows that 42% of Jews believe that Israeli Arabs support the state’s elimination; 37.5% of Jews believe the government should encourage Arab emigration from Israel [Emphasis ours].
Shin Bet: Hopelessness fueling recent Palestinian attacks, Stuart Winer, Times of Israel – 11 November
Feelings of national discrimination, as well as economic, personal and psychological problems, provide motivation for the attacks, the report said, and noted that seven of the attackers were women.
“For some terrorists, attacks allow an escape from a bleak reality which they perceive as unchangeable.”
PM confirms he’s mulling revocation of Jerusalem Arabs’ residency, Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel – 26 October
Pime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday confirmed reports that he is considering revoking the permanent residency status of tens of thousands of Arabs living in East Jerusalem […]
“We need to examine the possibility of canceling their residency. There needs to be a discussion about it,” Netanyahu reportedly said at the time.
The proposal could affect some 80,000-100,000 Palestinians.
Peres says Netanyahu was never sincere about peace, Times of Israel – 2 November
Former president Shimon Peres slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently said Israel has to accept that peace is unlikely and continue to live “by the sword.” […]
Peres says that Netanyahu’s peace overtures have never “escaped the domain of talking.”
PM: We’ll hold West Bank for ‘foreseeable future’, Times of Israel – 26 October
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that while he doesn’t want to bring about a single-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, Israel would have to maintain control of the West Bank in “the foreseeable future” in order to ensure security, according to Haaretz.
Report: Israeli Drivers Refuse to Let Palestinians Board Bus to West Bank, Ha’aretz – 30 October
Drivers on 286 line from Tel Aviv to Ariel ask passengers for Israeli ID – those who fail to produce one are sent to a different line, Channel 10 reports; bus company promises to take ‘severe’ disciplinary action.
Israelis only understand force — and it makes them angrier, polls show, Dahlia Scheindlin, +972mag – 29 October
New polls find that a majority of Jewish Israelis support the ‘voluntary transfer’ of West Bank Palestinians, a majority want to strip East Jerusalem Palestinians of Israeli residency.
Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) shared a video of a detained Palestinian child being forcefully interrogated and intimidated by Israeli officers without the presence of a lawyer:
The following leaked video shows the Israeli police interrogation and psychological torture of 13-year-old Palestinian boy Ahmad Manasra.
In the video, the interrogator shouts and curses at Ahmad. Ahmad repeatedly tells the interrogator that he ‘doesn’t remember’ what happened due to his severe head wound, and even says that he is ‘going crazy’ (at 1.09).
This is the same boy that was brutally injured last month after an alleged stabbing attempt. He was filmed and taunted in this video: http://on.fb.me/1knvpev
And, lastly, a recent video of Israeli occupation soldiers broadcasting to a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank, “We will gas you until you die.” (Source: Middle East Eye)
Hillary Clinton touts her support for Israel:
How I Would Reaffirm Unbreakable Bond With Israel — and Benjamin Netanyahu, Hillary Clinton, Forward – 4 November
[…] I have stood with Israel my entire career. As a senator, I fought to get Magen David Adom accepted to the International Red Cross when other nations tried to exclude the organization. I wrote and co-sponsored bills that isolated terror groups, and pushed to crack down on incitement in Palestinian textbooks and schools. As secretary of state, I requested more assistance for Israel every year, and supported the lifesaving Iron Dome rocket defense system. I defended Israel from isolation and attacks at the United Nations and other international settings, including opposing the biased Goldstone report. […]
As president, I will continue this fight. […]
I will do everything I can to enhance our strategic partnership and strengthen America’s security commitment to Israel, ensuring that it always has the qualitative military edge to defend itself. That includes immediately dispatching a delegation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to meet with senior Israeli commanders. I would also invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House in my first month in office. […]
I also will combat growing efforts to isolate Israel internationally and to undermine its future as a Jewish state, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. I’ve spoken out against BDS in the United States and at the U.N., and will continue to do so. […]
From Palestine to HillaryLand
Open Letter to Hillary Clinton from a Young Palestinian Feminist, Layali Awwad, Huffington Post – 9 November
As first lady, you famously declared, “Women’s rights are human rights.” That’s something I strongly believe, too.
That’s why I was surprised to read your article in The Forward. I was surprised because when you chose to speak about my homeland, not once did you mention Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinian women and children. Even worse, you described us as lurking terrorists motivated only by “incitement,” as if the Israeli military occupation does not exist.
I am not a terrorist. I do not believe in the use of violence. I am a young Palestinian woman who grew up under occupation and is trying to better my life through education. It has not been easy. Starting at the age of five, I had to pass through Israeli military checkpoints to go to school. I was searched and humiliated on a daily basis, along with my parents and sisters. One day soldiers released dogs to chase after us. They shot their guns at us. I could have been killed, as many Palestinians are, for no reason. I could have been Hadeel Salah al-Hashlamun, the 18-year-old woman and college student who Israeli soldiers killed at a checkpoint in September.
There are millions of women and girls like me. What about us? According to your article, we do not exist. We are invisible, like women have been treated throughout history.
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions
In a setback for BDS in France, the movement was dealt a strong blow by the French court system. BDS is not officially out in France, but (unless the verdict is overruled) their messaging will need to adopt to the new reality.
France now more repressive of boycott calls than Israel, Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada – 4 November
On 20 October, France’s highest court of criminal appeals upheld the conviction of a dozen Palestine solidarity activists for publicly calling for the boycott of Israeli goods. […]
It also makes France, in addition to Israel, the only country to penalize appeals not to buy Israeli goods.
But the French law, which includes criminal penalties, is arguably harsher than Israel’s which allows boycott supporters to be pursued for financial damages, but not jailed. […]
The campaign group BDS France said the court decision marked “a sad day for French democracy when a call to boycott a criminal state that violates human rights is no longer self-evident,” and the government could “distort the spirit of the law whenever it affects a political partner.”
CRIF, the leading pro-Israel lobby group in France, welcomed the ruling.
French anti-Palestinian groups have actively backed the judicial crackdown – under the guise of combating anti-Semitism – hoping it will put an end to the campaign of BDS.
In 2009 and 2010, a dozen BDS activists entered supermarkets in the eastern city of Mulhouse, where they shouted slogans, handed out leaflets and wore shirts urging the boycott of Israeli products. […]
French magistrate Ghislain Poissonnier provides background and legal analysis of the Mulhouse case in an article for AURDIP, an organization of academics who support Palestinian rights.
He writes that the 1972 law, an amendment to France’s 1881 press law, was intended to combat “discrimination against physical persons and in no case in order to prohibit peaceful calls to boycott the goods of a state whose politics [are] criticized.” […]
BDS France is demanding an end to the prosecutions of activists under Alliot-Marie’s 2010 decree and has affirmed its support for the individuals convicted for their speech.
Unbowed by government repression, BDS France “calls upon everyone, in France and all around the world, to implement the decision of the Palestinian people: to promote the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel until it respects international law and the universal principles of human rights.”
“For any citizen with a conscience who is mindful of the rights and the dignity of peoples, to promote BDS is not only a right but a moral duty.”
In the European Union-at-large, the BDS movement won a modest victory to label Israeli settlements products:
European Commission Adopts Guidelines for Labeling Products From Israeli Settlements, Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz – 11 November
The European Commission adopted Wednesday morning the Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, a senior EU official said. According to the official, the notice will contain guidelines for labeling of products from West bank settlements.
Not only are these farms and factories in occupied territory, and therefore illegal under international law and profiting from the dispossession and subjugation of an occupied people; but they also employ Palestinian children without labor protection, and – adding insult to injury – often on the very farms their families once owned prior to the settlers’ illegal expropriation.
Israel: Settlement Agriculture Harms Palestinian Children, Human Rights Watch – 13 April
Israeli settlement farms in the West Bank are using Palestinian child labor to grow, harvest, and pack agricultural produce, much of it for export, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The farms pay the children low wages and subject them to dangerous working conditions in violation of international standards.
The 74-page report, “Ripe for Abuse: Palestinian Child Labor in Israeli Agricultural Settlements in the West Bank,” documents that children as young as 11 work on some settlement farms, often in high temperatures. The children carry heavy loads, are exposed to hazardous pesticides, and in some cases have to pay themselves for medical treatment for work-related injuries or illness.
“Israel’s settlements are profiting from rights abuses against Palestinian children,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Children from communities impoverished by Israel’s discrimination and settlement policies are dropping out of school and taking on dangerous work because they feel they have no alternatives, while Israel turns a blind eye.”
Israeli officials responded with condemnation of the EU’s decision and the oft-repeated accusation of antisemitism. Even the so-called center-left opposition used histrionic language.
Israel suspends talks with EU amid settlement tagging scrap, Times of Israel – 11 November
“We have suspended the subcommittee on diplomacy, the subcommittee on human rights and international organizations,” the ministry said. “The remaining dialogues [with the EU] are continuing as planned. Clearly, we won’t damage Israeli interests.” […]
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the position of foreign minister, slammed the EU for the decision.
This move is “hypocritical and applies double standards, targeting Israel when there are over 200 other conflicts around the world,” Netanyahu said in a statement. […]
Israeli politicians from the left and the right criticized the EU, with some calling the move “anti-Semitic.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said it was “a shameful step giving a prize to terrorism and the people behind it.” […]
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, of the dovish Zionist Union party, called the decision “dangerous and detrimental” and said it would damage peace efforts.
Israeli officials were joined with pro-Israel members of Congress:
36 senators sign bipartisan letter against EU labeling plans, Times of Israel – 11 November
The letter spearheaded by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was sent Monday to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief and vice president of the European Commission. […]
“As allies, elected representatives of the American people, and strong supporters of Israel, we urge you not to implement this labeling policy, which appears intended to discourage Europeans from purchasing these products and promote a de facto boycott of Israel, a key ally and the only true democracy in the Middle East,” the letter says.
“We are also deeply concerned that enacting this policy would lead to the broader boycott of Israel,” the letter adds,
The letter accuses the proposed labeling of delegitimizing Israel and affecting the outcome of future peace negotiations.
In other news, a Brazilian musician who initially rebuffed a BDS campaign to boycott Israel has now announced that we will no longer perform in the country after his visit opened his eyes to the reality of occupation:
Brazilian Star Caetano Veloso Refuses To Perform in Israel Again, The Forward – 10 November
Caetano Veloso declared he will not return to Israel due to the “oppression” of the Palestinians only a few months after performing in Tel Aviv in defiance of a strong boycott appeal from leftist groups. […]
The bossa nova singer’s declaration was published under the headline: “To visit Israel to never go back to Israel,” published last weekend by Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil’s most influential daily paper. He said he reached his decision after visiting a Palestinian village in the West Bank.
The Conservative mayor of London recently visited Israel and, inter alia, spoke out against BDS. In response, he was boycotted by Palestinian civil society:
Palestinians call off meetings with London mayor over anti-BDS comments, Times of Israel – 11 November
The mayor on Tuesday dismissed those who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, known by its BDS initials, as “corduroy-jacketed lefty academics,” comments which caused anger on Palestinian social media.
“I cannot think of anything more foolish” than to boycott “a country that when all is said and done is the only democracy in the region, the only place that has in my view a pluralist open society,” Johnson said.
A number of Palestinian groups then refused to meet him while he was also informed his comments had led to additional security risks if he were to visit the West Bank, Johnson’s office said.
His meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, however, went ahead as planned.
As the Israeli government seeks new ways to “Brand Israel” in order to derail attention from the nearly half-century occupation, the BDS movement is never far behind:
BDS Movement Targets Top Chefs Visiting Israel, Rotem Maimon, Ha’aretz – 30 October
As part of the event, Round Tables, eight chefs from acclaimed restaurants in Europe and the United States are scheduled to arrive with their restaurant staffs in order to dish up their flagship dishes to diners in Tel Aviv. Some of the restaurants have Michelin stars.
Now, the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement has teamed up with some 130 organizations in calling on the chefs not to participate. The petition states “Take apartheid off the menu” and describes the event as “gastro diplomacy” courtesy of the Israeli government that seeks to improve international trade and cultural relations.
“The initiative is even more tasteless as it comes on the heels of brutal Israeli repression against Palestinians protesting for their rights and freedom in the Occupied Territories and inside Israel,” states the BDS movement in its letter, published Tuesday.
So far, none of the participants have agreed to cancel, the BDS movement admitted.
The doyen of Liberal Zionism – novelist Amos Oz – joins the boycott of Israeli state institutions:
Amos Oz Quietly Boycotting Official Israeli Events, Ha’aretz – 5 November
Author Amos Oz, an Israel Prize winner, informed Israeli Foreign Ministry officials a few months ago that he would no longer participate in official events associated with the ministry or the Israeli government, Israeli news site Ynet reported on Thursday.
“I do not feel comfortable participating now in events by the ‘government agency,'” Ynet quoted him as saying. Ynet reported that his decision had been kept under wraps out of a sense of responsibility toward the country.
“Amos Oz is a responsible man. You have to assume that he understands that such a declaration can be interpreted as justifying the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement,” a source familiar with his decision said. “If the greatest of Israeli authors himself does not want to appear at events in which the Israeli government is involved, what does that say?”
Responding to an enquiry [sic] by Ynet, Oz told the website: “In the wake of the current radicalization of Israeli policy in various areas, I informed my hosts that I prefer not to be invited to events in my honor at Israeli consulates abroad.” Oz stressed that he does not support the BDS movement.
And, lastly, redundant legislation from the Knesset since individuals who adhere to BDS’ guidelines would not visit Israel anyway:
Israel targets boycotters as EU moves against settlements, Edo Konrad, +972mag – 11 November
On the same day the EU adopts guidelines for labeling settlement goods, the Knesset passes a preliminary reading of a bill to prevent entry to individuals who support a boycott of Israel.
From Ferguson to Palestine
When ‘Black Lives Matter’ is linked with ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’, Colbert I. King, The Washington Post (op-ed) – 6 November
One speaker, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago — and President Obama’s pastor until 2008 — used the occasion to deliver a paean to the Palestinians. […]
“Apartheid is going on in Palestine,” Wright said. “As we sit here, there is an apartheid wall being built twice the size of the Berlin Wall in height, keeping Palestinians off of illegally occupied territories, where the Europeans” — presumably Israelis — “have claimed that land as their own.”
Drawing on the black chant, Wright observed, “Palestinians are saying ‘Palestinian lives matter,’ ” and added, “We stand with you, we support you, we say God bless you.” […]
A Pew Research Center poll this year showed that with regard to the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, 72 percent of whites had “a lot” or “some” sympathy for Israel. That number fell to 50 percent among African American respondents. What’s more, 20 percent of blacks had “a lot” of sympathy for Palestinians, but only 10 percent of white respondents reported they felt that way.
Media Roundup is a regular feature of Palestine Square.