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IDF Failed to Kill Hamas Military Chief, Mohammed Deif

Over the past decade, IDF military assaults against Gaza have grown progressively more vicious and brutal.  Restrictions limiting damage to civilians, homes and non-military targets have been removed.  Rules of engagement have grown looser so as to allow the slaughter of virtually anything that moved anywhere.

During Operation Protective Edge, Israel announced a new policy that was meant to further punish Hamas’ leadership for its role in organizing resistance to its siege.  It would target the residential homes of the senior leadership not just of the military wing, but the political wing as well.

mohammed deif hamas

Mohammed Deif

It was as part of  this new tactic that the IAF and Shabak developed a plan to assassinate Muhammed Deif, the chief of Hamas’ military wing.  Through the use of Palestinian informers, eighteen of whom were notoriously executed by Hamas during the war, Israeli intelligence determined that Deif was in his home on the night of August 19th.  The IAF launched an F-16 with several especially powerful warheads that would each be dropped on separate parts of the home to guarantee its complete destruction.

As I reported here, at least two of the bombs did not detonate.  Substantial damage was done to the home and Deif’s wife and two small children were murdered.  Because of the devastation and the ‘certainty’ (which appears far less certain now) of intelligence operatives that Deif was inside, Israel announced he had been assassinated with 90% certainty.  There was likely a celebration at Shin Bet HQ for finally getting the Palestinian ‘cat’ with nine lives (Israel had unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate him at least five times).

But it was not to be.  Hamas assured the world that Deif was alive.  It even released a statement by him.  Even Israel’s leaders became more circumspect.  They continued to believe he was dead, but made allowances for the possibility of failure.

Now Ben Caspit writes that Deif is indeed alive.  Caspit, one of Israel’s populist right-wing columnists, offers, as is typical, no source for his claim.  But it appears likely it’s from within the IDF or Shabak.  This new report finally lays to rest the legend of Israeli omniscience in which its intelligence services luxuriate.  Israel failed in this operation.  It will never admit it failed.  It will never explain why.  The national security state doesn’t do such things.  It owes no explanations to anyone, least of all citizens of the state itself.  They’re taught to be quiet and obedient and told that they will know only what they need to know.  This arrangement satisfies all because the citizens mistakenly believe that the generals know what is best for them and will do it–even if they don’t.

But even if the killing succeeded, as I’ve shreyed here for ages, Hamas would lose none of the power and ferocity of its resistance to Israeli aggression (remember who invaded Gaza…it wasn’t Hamas).  In fact, as I’ve also pointed out, the level and quality of resistance could very well improve.  After all, Israeli analysts have pointed out that the previous Hamas military leader, Ahmed Jabari, who himself was assassinated a year ago, was quite adept.  But they noted that his successor, Deif, instilled an entirely new level of skill, innovation, and vigilance in Hamas’ defence of the homeland.

Let’s not leave this subject without expressing outrage that Israel didn’t hesitate to murder Deif’s innocent wife and two babies.  What kind of nation achieves its objectives drowning in the blood of mothers and babies?

It’s in this context, that B’Tselem will publish its new report on the IDF’s deliberate targeted of Gazan homes, which were of no military significance.  The title of the report, Black Flag, alludes to a judicial decision written by Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Halevi about the Kfar Qassem massacre.  In describing what an illegal military order was, he wrote:

It flies like a black flag above the order, a warning to all saying: “Forbidden.”  Not just a pro forma illegality, one hidden to all or the majority, not an illegality obvious only to those learned in the law.  But a clear and flagrant violation, an illegality that is absolute and certain from the nature of the order itself.  One which exposes the basic criminality of the order or the acts which the order commands.  One that pricks the eye and outrages the heart, as long as the eye isn’t blind and the heart isn’t made of stone.

In 1957, when Halevi wrote of the Kafr Qassem incident, standards of morality were clearer.  Israelis had a better sense of what was permitted and what was prohibited.  Almost all knew such massacres were wrong and orders should be refused.  But much water has flowed under that bridge.  There is no more morality in war as far as Israel is concerned.  There may still be some amidst the international community.  It may yet hold Israel accountable.  And this report may help do so.

‘Black flag’ has come to be an idiom which refers to operations known to be illegal.  Though soldiers may refuse to obey such orders, they rarely do.  They are done off the books and the standard norms of conduct are ignored.  They are done out of revenge.  By nature, there is no chain of command or written order. But those who conduct such operations are considered heroes.  Not heroes in the sense of publicly celebrated.  Because Israelis understand there are times when things much be done, but which must be done quietly so that the world will not take undue notice.

Unfortunately, Israel’s military history of full of such massacres: from Qibya to Kafr Kassem, to Nirim, to Horev the castrator.  But the greatest Black Flag of them all is the Nakba itself.  Though David Ben Gurion wrote voluminously before the establishment of the State about the necessity of expelling Palestinians from Israel; curiously, there is almost no written record during the 1948 War of plans relating to the indigenous population.  Though 1-million were somehow ‘miraculously’ expelled, no one wrote an order to do it.  It does remind one of the Nazis who, aside from the Wannsee Conference, similarly left no written record authorizing the Holocaust.

Returning to the issue of war crimes, B’Tselem is far too judicious to use such explicit language.  But the language it does use is clear enough.  Use of the term “black flag” clearly indicates B’Tselem believes IDF policy itself was flagrantly illegal, if not criminal.  I am glad to see B’Tselem refusing to back off its commitment to basic human rights (as the New Israel Fund has done) despite the assaults against it by the Israeli right and Knesset.

The destruction of Gaza’s housing infrastructure caused tens of thousands of refugees to flee.  But they often had no place in which to take refuge since the public buildings were themselves destroyed or full of other refugees.  This left thousands to fend for themselves in the streets or wherever else they might find safety.  600 Palestinians (one-quarter of the total fatalities) died directly as a result of this policy.  The vast majority were civilians.  The nature of these attacks was especially vicious because in targeting homes, often entire families were wiped out as a result.

Israel’s defense was that the homes were “command and control” centers for Hamas terrorists.  If there were civilians inside the homes, the apologists reasoned they were human shields for the fighters inside.  In order to eradicate the terrorists, the homes and any collateral civilian damage was justified.

This is how B’Tselem, in a letter written to Bibi Netanyahu accompanying the report’s release, responded:

“[With such a policy,] there are no restrictions whatsoever on Israeli action and whatever method it chooses to respond to Hamas operations is legitimate, no matter how horrifying the consequences. This interpretation is unreasonable, unlawful, and renders meaningless the principle that violations committed by one party do not release the other party from its obligations toward the civilian population and civilian objects.”

An important corollary to the wholesale assault on private homes was the deliberate targeting of the homes of Hamas leaders I mentioned above.  Prior to Protective Edge, there was at least a tacit recognition that the families of Hamas leaders were not to blame for the actions of Hamas itself.  So except in a few rare instances (Salah Shehadeh), homes in which there were civilians were not targeted.  That all ended this summer.  Now everyone is a target and everyone a victim as far as Israel is concerned.

As a result, Israel has lost the right to distinguish between it’s own civilian and military as legitimate targets.  If the IDF treats civilians the same as a Hamas fighter, then there is no reason for the Palestinian resistance to make this distinction in its own attacks on Israeli Jews.   Hasbarists, do not accuse me of justifying the slaughter of Israeli civilians.  If you wish to find the cause of such tragedy you have only to look at the actions of the IDF this past summer in Gaza.  Indiscriminate murder of civilians–that is Israel’s legacy.

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yuri borisov

Ukrainian oligarch, Yuri Borisov, suspected of looting $40-million in U.S. foreign aid meant for Ukraine

Galey Tzahal (Army Radio) reported today that Israel welcomed with open arms two Ukrainian oligarchs wanted by Interpol for serious crimes.  The suspects, Yuri Borisov and Eduard Stavitsky, are suspected of embezzlement and money-laundering in Ukraine.  They flew into Ben Gurion airport and received Israeli entry visas.  Borisov’s visa was approved for the purposes of medical treatment, though it’s not clear what, if anything ails him except him criminal predicament. Borisov fled Israel immediately after the arrest of Yisrael Beitenu MK Faina Kirschenbaum, but stayed long enough (about a month) to get citizenship and passports for him and his entire family.

eduard stavitsky

Eduard Stavitsky, former Ukraine energy minister, doubtless sizing up how much his next ‘mark’ is worth

They were granted citizenship despite the fact that one of them isn’t Jewish and both are wanted fugitives and suspected criminals.  These matters should make them automatically ineligible for citizenship.

The United States had asked Interpol to apprehend Borisov, former CEO of a Ukrainian oil company, on suspicion that he embezzled at least $40-million (the article uses the word “billion” but that seems an error) in U.S. foreign aid intended for Ukraine.  An Israeli private investigator believes Borisov’s visa was granted so quickly because a cash bribe was offered to an Interior Ministry official.

It should be mentioned that Gideon Saar was the minister at the time this happened.  Coincidentally, he resigned within the past few months under a pall.  Some said he was about to be charged with an unspecified crime.  That still has not happened.

The second Ukrainian oligarch, Edward Stavitsky, arrived a few months ago and is still residing in Herzliya.  He is a former Ukrainian energy minister.  As he was fleeing, Ukrainian police raided his home, where they allegedly found $4.5-million in cash, millions in luxury watches, and kilograms of gold bullion.  Stavitsky earned Israeli citizenship even though he is Christian, not Jewish.

The Israeli private investigator told Galey Tzahal that Israel has become the destination of choice for fugitive oligarchs.  If you know the right people, you can get whatever you need there.  So the nation founded as a haven for Jews in distress, as a place destined for the Ingathering of Exiles, has become a beacon of criminality to the world’s filthy rich.

H/t to Iftach Shavit and Yossi Gurvitz.

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Israellycool’s New Twitter Fraud

screenshot-twitter com 2015-01-27 13-33-57David Lange has exploited Twitter to get my account suspended.  He falsely claimed that I published “private information” about him.  As a result of which Twitter agreed to suspend my account.  I’ve appealed the suspension by pointing out that all the information I posted about him is publicly available and that he himself published that information online.  In effect, Lange has engaged in a fraud, something he’s done regularly in the past.

I encourage any reader who has a Twitter account to retweet this tweet of mine to protest Lange’s manipulation of Twitter’s terms of service.  If for whatever reason you can’t do so, I suggest you tweet the information yourself along with the above links proving Lange himself revealed the information publicly he’s claiming is private.  They can’t suspend all of us.

I should also note that in the past Lange himself has engaged in fraud and abuse of Facebook’s terms of service creating fake accounts in order to sabotage pro-Palestinian Facebook users.  Not to mention that he published a comment in his blog containing my home address, phone number and my wife’s work phone number.  So it’s the pot calling the kettle black.

I also note the further hypocrisy of this episode in that a Twitter user published my name, address and phone number and despite my complaint, Twitter took no action against the user.

This marks the second time an Israeli rightist has succeeded in getting one of my social media accounts suspended on false terms.  Previously, my Facebook account was suspended because Israeli defense industry consultant, Tal Inbar, organized a campaign falsely claiming my account was fake.

UPDATE: Twitter has restored my account.  Here is the infamous tweet itself:

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IDF Unit 8200 Commander Expels Refusers

unit 8200 insignia

Unit 8200 miiltary insignia

A few months ago, Israel and the world was stunned by 43 members of the IDF’s elite intelligence Unit 8200, who protested their military service, which was being used to blackmail and disrupt Palestinian society.  They had joined 8200 to serve as its eyes and ears in protecting the nation from enemies who meant it real harm.  But they hadn’t signed up to find out which Palestinian leaders were gay or cheating on their wives or whose family members had terminal illnesses–all of which could be exploited to sow dissension in Palestine or provide an opening for recruiting spies.  They also objected to the secrecy under which their intelligence information was gathered, complaining that Palestinian security detainees could not examine or question it when it was used against them in judicial processes.

One of their main criticisms was that there was no system of civilian review of their activities.  They were essentially given free rein to pursue whatever they wished in whatever way they wished.  This led to major breaches of ethics according to the refusers.  It seems that intelligence and morality are diametrical opposites.  The only constraints upon Israeli intelligence are what they can get away with.  And in Israel, unlike the U.S., it’s almost anything.

These braves soldiers linked the deterioration in the mission of their Unit to the nation’s refusal to come to terms with the Palestinian conflict.  They closed their statement with a call for reform and review of both the procedures of Unit 8200 and policies of the State toward Palestine.

Today, 8200’s commander, Brig. Gen. Ehud Schneerson , whose identity I first exposed here a few months ago (it is censored in Israeli media), made his response.  Instead of considering the validity of the protest, he summarily dismissed all 43 members (all of whom were on reserve duty), deeming them harmful to the morale of the army, and soldiers who’d violated the chain of command by going public with their criticism.  His letter to the refusers only continues the charade of excuses offered by defenders of 8200:

[In publishing your letter], you made an error.  You crossed a fine line that separates politics from military service.  This is a line of separation that enables us to within the Unit to continue to supply high-quality intelligence to the branches of the army and the government of Israel.

The entire point of the letter was to say that it was Unit 8200 which was being politicized to advance the hard-right political objectives of the Likud government.  To say the dissenters had brought politics into the IDF is ludicrous since politics were ingrained in 8200.  This is the very same critique made against the CIA when it found WMD in Iraq that wasn’t there at the behest of the Cheney cabal.  The other more general criticisms offered by the signers of the letter also find echo in Edward Snowden’s attack on the NSA and its invasive intelligence practices.

Schneerson’s response, of course, was not unexpected.  Just as Israelis themselves bristle when dissidents from within or outside offer new paradigms for restructuring Israeli society or politics, so the national security apparatus remains hidebound in clinging to its outdated ways.  Both groups seem to think that things are proceeding well enough and refuse to listen to any voices that come from outside a narrow consensus.

Former Aman chief Amos Yadlin, who is running for Knesset on the Labor list, approved the expulsions which, again, is as expected.  He even called the mission of 8200, “holy work saving the lives of Israeli citizens.”  This inferred that the dissenters were traitors who whether intentionally or unintentionally damaged the Unit and endangered Israel by doing so.

In Israel, you may argue around the edges of politics or security.  But you may not question fundamentals.  And the notion that Israel is pursuing the wrong security goals is treif.  It will get you expelled from the army and from polite [Israeli] society.

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Last month, I reported a major scandal engulfing  Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu (YB) Party.  The allegations centered around senior YB MK Faina Kirschenbaum (though the charges against her were rumored, I was first to report them outside Israel) and extended to a number of other YB-affiliated MKs.  There were intimations that the accusations of bribery and kickback scheme may’ve reached all the way to Lieberman himself; and that MKs from other parties were also implicated.

nissan slomiansky

Nissan Slomiansky, the founding secretary general of Gush Emunim, ensnared in corruption scandal.

Today, these intimations became real as MK Nissan Slomiansky, a long time Knesset member first serving the National Religious Party, and more recently Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi (BY) Party, became the long-expected other shoe to drop.  Slomiansky, who prides himself on being a key supporter of the settler movement, plays a key legislative role as chair of the Knesset’s finance committee.  Several Israeli tweeps, including this one, have indicated there is a judicial gag order prohibiting publication of his name and the charges against him.  That’s why I’m here!

In 2013, the Jerusalem Post published charges first aired on Israeli TV that Slomiansky had employed “vote contractors” in last year’s Party primary.  This little stunt made him the highest vote-getter in the election and caused Bennett to hire a private investigator to investigate the shenanigans.

His current predicament is related to the Kirschenbaum/kickback scandal, which involved MKs approving budget allocations for official entities such as municipalities and NGOs in return for a percentage of the allocation being kicked-back to the MK.  The closest we’ve come to any official confirmation of a police investigation comes from the Orthodox publication, Kippah, which noted a report on Israeli radio news (audio–in Hebrew) that an unidentified BY MK is suspected of corruption in the Kirschenbaum scandal.  It also noted two other MKs previously uninvolved have been added to the list of suspects allegedly involved in the scheme.

Haaretz’s business publication, The Marker, published an article yesterday ostensibly dealing with legislative proposals to reform the system of budget allocations which led to the scandal.  Without any explanation at all, the editors inserted a photograph of Slomiansky into the article.  Considering he’s not been previously implicated in this, this editorial decision is a direct reference to the charges and his possible arrest.

This new set of allegations is doubly important not just in itself, but because the scandal begins to engulf a Party that hadn’t previously been involved.  Polls have noted that YB has lost half its support in the aftermath of the Kirschenbaum arrest.  Much of that support likely passed to Bennett, whose popularity has skyrocketed, making him the pretender to the throne.  With these new charges, Lieberman voters who were switching will likely be further frustrated.  The danger for the centrist, so-called Zionist Camp, will be that they will not consider moving left, but rather will stay in the nationalist camp and move to Likud.  In fact, Israeli corruption scandals are deeply political and even orchestrated by those in power to sabotage those who are less powerful, but who threaten the power of those wielding it.

Bibi Netanyahu is precisely the sort of schemer who would engage in this sort of Madam La Farge behavior.  Though Lieberman and Bennett are erstwhile allies of Netanyahu and got their start in politics in the Likud camp, Netanyahu sees them not as his mentees, but as those who may topple him from power.  Despite his three terms in office, Bibi continuously looks over his shoulder for pursuers who may be threatening to overtake him.  Rather than the politics of a normal western democracy, this is the politics of Lord and Lady Macbeth.  The only thing missing is the bodies and blood.

The current episode further affirms the corruption and venality at the heart of the Israeli settlement venture.  Slomiansky boasts of being one of the pioneers of the movement and first director general of Gush Emunim.  The ideological fervor that greeted the early settlement movement has become little more than a financial grub-fest in which politicians compete to see who can shake the most money from government trees for the benefit of further settlement building.

Bennett’s Party has also been attacked by the Israeli left as being a wolf in sheep’s clothing Party essentially parroting the agenda of settler extremists.  Though it’s hard to believe that any rightist party could more slavishly embrace settlerism than Likud and YB (Lieberman’s Party).  Just because that’s hard to do doesn’t mean the other parties won’t try.  They fall over each other to do the bidding of the settlers much like members of the U.S. Congress fall all over themselves to do the bidding of the Lobby.  In America, the Lobby controls the agenda concerning Israel in much the same way that settlers control the a much broader swath of the Israeli political agenda.

If Netanyahu or the Likud is involved in orchestrating this latest incident, then the question becomes whether the scandals benefit Likud, the centrist parties, or whether voters are so disgusted by the whole lot of them that they stay home entirely.  One thing is for certain, my view of Israeli electoral politics is further strengthened by this mess.  The Knesset is a cesspool of skullduggery and corruption.  It reminds me more of Tammany Hall than the oracle of Israeli democracy.

Israeli politics is more about patronage and distributing the pieces of the pie to supporters than it is about policy or statesmanship.  When the Knesset does debate or pass legislation it’s almost never about real issues of the day like income inequity, poverty, jobs, national security, etc.  Rather, it’s about scoring points by touting petty political projects like redefining the Jewish nature of the State; or demanding Palestinians pledge a loyalty oath; or that Arabic be removed as one of the nation’s official languages.  These are fiddling-while-Rome-burns issues peripheral to the lives of most Israelis, but right at the heart of the racist hack-jackals who form the core of the rightist parties.

For Hebrew readers wishing to be entertained by Slomiansky’s public gyrations about aiding the Israeli social sector by taking down the Israeli black market and putting millions back into the public budget, take a look at this link offered by reader Oui.  Who knew the MK himself was participating in another quite lucrative aspect of the black market?

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Is StandWithUs an Agent of Foreign Power?

The Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) declares that U.S. citizens in this country who work or lobby on behalf of foreign countries must register as its agents.  Because doing so would significantly diminish the credibility of such individuals in the eyes of the American public, lobbyists go to great lengths to avoid doing so.  For decades, critics of the Israel Lobby have complained that Aipac is such an entity, but the group cleverly articulates its programs and activities to avoid the necessity.

One of the main criteria in determining whether someone is violating FARA is if they are receiving funding directly from a foreign government.  Aipac carefully avoids any semblance of such activity.

There are however newer members of the Lobby who are more impetuous, more overtly aggressive, and more eager to do the bidding of the Israeli government.  They are less cautious about their activities and more eager to collaborate directly and publicly with the government.  One of these is StandWithUs.  It is clear to careful observers of the Lobby that groups like SWU, The Israel Project, and others are agents of the Israeli government.  In fact, then-deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon told Israeli TV that the government was funding efforts by groups like SWU, involved in the Olympia food coop lawsuit (a final appeal of SWU’s loss in that suit was heard before the Washington State supreme court this week).

israeli hasbara war room

Israeli on-campus hasbara war room.

Most of the time, government officials and the groups themselves are careful to conceal the tracks of such collaboration.  But recently another door was opened into the ways in which such projects and funding mechanisms are developed by both parties.  SWU’s press release announcing the initiative was dutifully picked up by the Likudist Jerusalem Post.  The democracy watchdog media outlet, 7th Eye also reported that the group was joining with a government agency carrying a 1984-like name, the National Information Directorate (based in the prime minister’s office).  Together, they would create a social media war room project that would aggressively disseminate the government’s point of view during times of crisis when Israel’s reputation needed a boost.

With the government and SWU contributing $500,000, they would select students in the UK and the U.S., who would come to Israel for hasbara training.  SWU would recruit the students and the government would train them in conducting social media warfare on Israel’s behalf.  They would then return home to cities like New York, Los Angeles and London (specifically referenced as places the project would like to target).

A headline in 972 Magazine about it raised a red flag:

StandWithUs to take cash, messaging from Israeli gov’t

If this were true, it would be the smoking gun that might prove SWU had finally crossed a red line many of us have known they crossed long ago.  Though the contents of the article didn’t quite support the claims advanced in the headline, I decided to read the minutes of the government meeting at which the project was approved.  They raise some intriguing questions about the project and SWU’s role.  In fact, the officials discussion the project debated what the nature of SWU’s involvement would be.  Was the government purchasing the services of SWU?  Or is Israel supporting of the organization? And they (conveniently, as far as FARA is concerned) came to the conclusion that the GOI would be purchasing services from SWU, and not supporting SWU as such.

But U.S. officials who examine such an arrangement might take a different approach to this question.

Below I’ve paraphrased (and at times quoted) the meeting minutes (Hebrew) at which the government representatives approved the joint project:

The need for this project arose in the wake of interactive campaigns in the course of Operation Protective Edge and Pillar of Cloud, which united Israeli hasbara officials with organizations and volunteers in a collective effort.

In light of this [previous success], it was decided to continue this activity with the goal of combating negative programs intended to damage the State of Israel by channeling truthful, balanced information to social media at normal times and times of emergency and military conflict.

The project is modeled on similar efforts involving Israel university students who participated in media war rooms during Operation Protective Shield.  Often the war rooms were located at the universities and students received course credit for participation.

Those participating in the new initiative would attend multiple training sessions including a preparatory meeting at their home campus.  There they would receive the needed hasbara materials and undergo training in how to use social media in order to disseminate the appropriate message.  They would then learn how to create and manage a situation room and then launch it.

The Israeli students would be brought to the central situation room located in StandWithUs’ Jerusalem office.  There, after receiving briefing materials, assignments would be given and they would be trained by officials of the PMO.

The student units would be activated during periods of emergency and would gather on their campus to take action.  They would communicate and take direction from the central situation room in Jerusalem.

Three times a year, students designated as leaders of their respective campus groups would travel to Israel, where they would conduct “educational meetings” and training that would be later conveyed to the other student participants in their home campuses.

PMO officials would develop messaging for the foreign students.  It will direct the subjects which they will promote on social media platforms and the talking points that should be emphasized.  The ministry would have a direct, active and hands-on role, thus guaranteeing the students stay “on message.”

The government turned specifically to SWU, according to the minutes, because it is widely known as an effective communicator of the pro-Israel message on the internet and social media.  The group is seeking to increase its pro-Israel advocacy on American campuses in response to the rising tide of anti-Israel activism there.  SWU’s purpose here is to present a true, authentic and appropriate image of Israel on campuses, in the media, and in different constituencies.  Information SWU uses in its advocacy is known for being sound and well-prepared, including facts about different aspects of the State of Israel.

Participants in the government meeting were told that SWU reaches 1.2-million viewers each week (a figure I would strongly dispute) through various forms of new media.  And customized content is created specifically for various target audiences, which include positive facts about Israel.

I don’t know how they devised the 1.2-million metric.  But the SWU website is ranked 650,000 by Alexa.  Its largest Twitter account has 46,000 followers with 18,000 tweets.  On YouTube, it has 5,000 followers and 4,000 on Instagram.  Its Facebook account, by far its most popular social media platform, has 500,000 Likes.  Given how infrequently I interact with the Facebook pages I’ve Liked, it’s really a stretch to imagine they have 1.2-million page views every week, unless they include all the social media accounts of their staff, members and supporters.

SWU was also chosen as the government’s partner specifically for its reputation for battling the BDS movement through various media platforms like Buzzfeed, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.  Graduates of its training programs use what they learned on the internet.  They employ the information and techniques taught them in order to advance a positive message about Israel online.

When asked how students would be chosen to join the project, an Israeli official told the government committee that a group, composed of representatives of the PMO and SWU would determine the best students to participate on the basis of criteria they established.

There was some debate within the project committee whether students would receive payment for their services (coyly named “scholarships”).  Those in this program would not (those in the earlier Israeli student programs I mentioned above did receive compensation).  They would suffice with certificates of appreciation which would add luster to their resumes.

Committee members were told that the government would not buy equipment or build out space for the project.   Rather this would be the responsibility of SWU, whose Jerusalem offices would house it.

Among other interesting phrases to consider in analyzing the nature of the project and collaboration between SWU and the Israeli government is this:

The initiative for the project and operational responsibility for it lie essentially with the National Information Directorate, assisted in carrying it out by the organization (SWU).  This project could not be carried out by the organization alone without official government involvement.

The level of involvement of the NID will be quite high, including determining the strategy and the hasbara messaging which would be disseminated.  A committee, most of whose members would be government officials, will create systems of review and oversight of the project.

According to the determination of the government specialist, members of the committee are convinced that this funding request is classified as a purchase of services and not as [organizational] support

My guess is that the issue about building out the situation room space in SWU’s office was a sensitive one.  Perhaps the minutes included a reference to the government’s non-participation in this aspect of the project as a way of distinguishing between purchase of services and funding the organization.  But the intense level of oversight the government is offering and its control of almost all key aspects of the project indicate that SWU is not really a partner in the project in the full meaning of the word, but rather taking direction from the Israeli government.  The funding provided by the government will advance the goals of SWU.  There is an utter seamlessness between the two entities.  You could not really tell where the government’s involvement ended and SWU’s began.  As such, SWU is an agent of the Israeli government.

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bibi netanyahu steps on obama's toe

(Khalil Abu Arafeh)

Bibi Netanyahu, in wangling an invitation to a second address to a joint session of Congress, is doing what comes naturally.  Exploiting his tactical political advantages to perfection while blowing all to hell any higher strategy that might advance any other than his own narrow personal political interests.  In this, he was aided by his political enforcer and now ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.  Dermer isn’t a diplomat.  He a political conniver: his Lee Atwater to Netanyahu’s George Bush.  Even before I read that Dermer had orchestrated this cheap trick, I knew he was the instigator.  It had his fingerprints all over it.

Here is their Likudist thinking (such as it is): we have several interests that all triangulate nicely here.  We have an election in which we have to outshine our opponents.  What better way to do that than to beam the PM’s speech live into every Israeli household two weeks before the election, in which he addresses America’s most powerful lawmakers who dutifully sit before him in awe and respect?  We have the P5+1 powers negotiating diligently a nuclear deal with Iran which promises to take away from Mr. Security one of his key saber-rattling tools: alleged Iranian WMD.  In the aftermath of such a deal another Netanyahu hallmark, the economic siege of that country, will eventually unravel, likely showing the Israeli’s policy for what it was: an ineffectual sham.  In the longer term, Bibi, who never forgets a slight, even from a U.S. president, will have a chance to thumb his nose at a president he detests by addressing Congress as if it was the nation’s executive.

If you’re looking for hypocrisy here, we have it in mega-doses.  Back in 1996 just before Israeli elections, the Clinton administration invited then-Israeli PM Shimon Peres to address a counter-terrorism panel it had organized.  Bibi, running against him as Likud Party leader, was in high dudgeon as he said this:

“I can’t find an example of any previous Israeli government whose prime minister, on the eve of elections, made a cynical attempt to use relations between Israel and the United States as a party advertisement,’’ Netanyahu said at the time.

It matters not a whit to the Netanyahu camp that the current invitation was extended in an underhanded way that violated Congressional protocol.  It doesn’t matter than Democrats weren’t consulted (they likely would’ve argued strongly against the invitation as a slap at their President) nor had any role in the invitation.  Indeed, Dermer and pals even lied claiming the invitation was “bipartisan.”  They’re used to doing this in Israel. Lie in the morning, lie in the evening.  Lie so many times people ignore your transgressions.  The lie only has to have the half-life of one news cycle.  By the time the truth catches up, you’ve moved on to the next lie.

Such manipulation gives the lie to the Aipac claim that the Lobby is bipartisan.  In the case of this Israeli government, it is nakedly partisan.  After all, Netanyahu made a TV commercial used by the GOP during the last presidential election.  Bibi and his political amanuensis, Dermer, are partisan through and through.  They have absolutely no need or interest in the niceties of bi-partisanship.  They treat politics as a zero-sum game.  You give no quarter to your opponents.  You hardly give quarter to competitors in your own nationalist camp.

Luckily, Obama and Kerry aren’t showing quite their usual spinelessness in refusing to meet with Netanyahu during his visit.  It would be like Bibi spitting in Obama’s eye and then making him swallow it.  Even that is too much for the President to bear.  Obama also promised in his State of the Union address, a shot across both the GOP’s and Bibi’s bow, that he will veto any added Iran sanctions passed by Congress.  This too is another show of fortitude we’ve rarely seen from this President.

All of this means that twice in the past two weeks Netanyahu has manipulated circumstances to barge uninvited into sensitive political processes of a nation against the wishes of its president (France and the U.S.).  In both instances, Bibi came off as a grasping, desperate figure with a manic need to be in the spotlight, even if it only highlighted his shamelessness and other nasty qualities for all the world to see.  In this instance, he will grasp the glory of a joint Congressional address, leaving half the political leadership of the country seething at him.  And to him it won’t matter a whit.

Israel’s most important columnist, Nahum Barnea, had this to say about Bibi’s sheer effrontery:

Netanyahu is taking it one step further…There has never been a deal like the one struck here: The American Republican Party is intervening in our elections, and in return an Israeli party is intervening in their politics. They are helping Netanyahu beat his rivals here, and he is helping them humiliate their rival there. It’s dangerous. It’s poisonous. It’s not so amusing anymore.

Returning to my comparison between the Paris march debacle and the Congressional speech, the French president warned Bibi that if he scorned the directive not to attend the march and funeral, that Israel would remain in the doghouse for the rest of Hollande’s presidency.  Now, Congressional Democrats have told Barnea the same:

I heard voices in the administration on Wednesday which I had never heard before. We must make it clear to Netanyahu that such a behavior carries a price, they said. We must make it clear to the Israelis that their prime minister is losing a vital friend for a short-term political gain.

In this too, Bibi has made the proper short-term political calculations.  At best, the GOP will win the presidency in 2016.  At worst, a Democrat wins.  If the latter, then it will be Hillary Clinton.  Bibi knows he has Hillary in the bag.  Her biggest donors are Aipac stalwarts like Haim Saban who, besides being a huge political donor, is likely an Israeli intelligence asset, as Arnon Milchan was.  Look at it from Bibi’s point of view: how big a price will it be?  He bets on the fact that political candidates need pro-Israel money far more than they care to avenge their wounded pride.  He may be right.  Betting against the Lobby has been a losing proposition for far too many good people in the past.

The danger is that gradually, over an extended period, these tiny dings in the Lobby Lamborghini begin to add up and it starts to look like a “beater.”  Will all the chicanery accrete over time?  Will the disciplined support and fear the Lobby instills begin to wane?  Not yet.  But perhaps sooner than Bibi realizes.  Odds are that by the time Israel hits rock bottom in American politics Bibi will be far removed from the political limelight.  Then he won’t care.  He’ll have written his memoirs, gotten his $5-million book advance, and joined the UJA-Lobby fundraising gala circuit commanding $100-thou a pop for his pearls of chochmas.

Speaking of second careers, I can foresee Ron Dermer’s.  He exploits the connections he’s developed among Congressional Republicans to open a political consulting shop with offices in DC and Tel Aviv.  He’ll become the political guru to Republicans with large Jewish electoral bases and he’ll pick and choose the Likud young bucks on whom he wants to bet their political futures.  With any luck, he’ll find winning horses on both sides of the ocean and ride them to riches and power.  There are American consultants who already do this: Stanley Greenberg and Arthur Finkelstein.  But they’re carpetbaggers compared to Dermer, who has spent decades in the Israeli political trenches, but who also has an American Jewish pedigree that helps among the GOP here.  Ah yes, I predict a bright political future for that young man.  He’ll go far–in infamy and amorality.

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