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Gloves Come Off: Israel Lobby Goes All-In for Syrian Intervention, While New York Times Self-Censors

Today’s the day I knew was coming.  Despite the fact that Jodi Rudoren mistakenly said that the Lobby would maintain radio-silence about Obama’s plan to strike Syria, I knew she was wrong. And she was.  Today, Obama pulled out all the stops and the Jewish leadership responded: virtually all the major organizations announced their support for military intervention.

This statement by the hawkish, pro-Israel Conference of Presidents highlights the real reason for the turnabout:

…Failing to take action would damage the credibility of the US and negatively impact the effort to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capacity.

So, Syria is really a sideshow.  It’s a sort of precursor to war against Iran.  That’s the main attraction and all Israel or the Jewish leadership cares about.  All the mumbling about setting a moral example and parallels between Syria and Jews being gassed by the Nazis is a smokescreen.  We want the Ayatollahs and we want ’em bad.

Aipac will let loose a lobbying barrage that will leave few members of Congress uncertain about which way they’re expected to vote (unless they’re prepared for a primary challenge from an amply endowed pro-Israel opponent).  It’s safe to say that Obama is going to win this round handily.  This will allow him the first opportunity in his presidency to bring the full force of U.S. military might on a Middle Eastern country.  You’ll recall a prior president who enjoyed that opportunity twice.  Obama will score a big gain in his popularity ratings.  Americans love a good Shock and Awe display.  But they will soon come down to earth and wonder what we’ve gained from raining cruise missiles on Damascus.  The answer will be: precious little.

An interesting sidebar to this story is a neat little bit of N.Y. Times self-censorship that M.J. Rosenberg noted.  In this story, the following passage originally appeared, but then mysteriously disappeared, apparently a product of pre-emptive censorship:

Administration officials said the influential pro-Israel lobby group Aipac was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Mr. Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. In the House, the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, has long worked to challenge Democrats’ traditional base among Jews.

One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called Aipac “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, “If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line” against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, “we’re in trouble.”

In its own explanation, the Times noted that the second paragraph had already appeared in an article the day before.  Thus the paper was apparently trying to avoid redundancy.  The public editor, Margaret Sullivan, falsely stated that the entire quotation had appeared previously: “the quotation remains in the earlier article.”  It hadn’t, as I said.  So why not retain the first paragraph?

I’d have thought the first paragraph was dropped both because it referred to Eric Cantor as Jewish (fear of the “A” word), and because it explicitly notes the muscular role Aipac was planning to play in the intervention debate.  Aipac is notorious for not wanting its fingerprints to appear publicly.  It prefers to operate off the radar as much as possible so when the shit hits the fan, it can’t be blamed for policy failures.

M.J., who worked for Aipac for ten years and knows the organization pretty damn well, believes there were explicit conversations between it and the Times and that it made its displeasure known at the negative portrayal in the offending passage.

On a related matter, yesterday the Russians announced that their early warning tracking system picked up a mysterious missile launch in the Mediterranean.  The trajectory took the missile from its launch in the central Mediterranean to its fall in the eastern Mediterranean.  Within hours, the Israeli government confirmed that it had launched a “Sparrow” missile in a routine test.  The Sparrow is the missile used to test the Arrow anti-missile system.  It’s the missile which the Arrow hunts and kills.

Frankly, there is something fishy about this story.  Israel never intended for the launch to be public.  But Russia called Israel’s bluff and did so.  Either the Israelis tested a far more ambitious weapons system and lied about it being the Sparrow; or else they launched a missile as a shot across Assad’s (and Russia’s) bow, warning them that Israel would unleash its missile cache to defend from and respond to any Syrian attack.

Haaretz reporters, writing on behalf of their government sources, say Israel never dreamed of using the test as a warning to Syria.  Again, I don’t buy it.  If they didn’t, and the original government version of this report is true, then Netanyahu is an incredibly naïve figure who ratcheted up tension in a tinder box situation without even realizing how a missile test would be received by Israel’s enemies.  Israel’s leadership is many negative things, but certainly not naïve.

Even if you accept the government version of events, the Israeli military exhibited extraordinary stupidity.  It lit a match in an oil refinery.  Luckily the whole place didn’t blow up.  It could have.

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Dan September 3, 2013, 11:09 PM

    …who is stupid?…Israel leadership is making all efforts to defend the population of this tiny country….With its limited forces, because we are not the strong country you depict.
    You know what is really disturbing me in all your articles?…It is your arrogance and your lack of sensitivity for the israeli everyday people who face destruction every day. It is your people, but no, you have only an intellectual approach.
    You are focalized on criticizm of Israel.

    And you wait for the big show to begin from you quiet forest in front of your Plasma screen…you spread antisemitism by these stupid allegations that the jewish lobby …that means the jews are the main respoinsible in case a military action is taken…it is so carricatural, so stupid!

    • Meni Zehavi September 4, 2013, 2:03 AM

      “Limited forces,” yea right. The country with the largest GDP in the region and military spending larger than any state it ever fought. Stop putting a desperate face on yourself and give that $3B yearly check back to Uncle Sam.
      I am an Israeli, and I don’t think that I “face destruction every day.” Nor did I think so back in the early years of the Second Intifada, with buses blowing up and all that. I knew all too well that my chances of being killed in a traffic accident were (and are now) much higher than my chances to be killed by an Arab militant.
      By the way, I support a US involvement against Assad. But that has little to do with my being an Israeli, and I think that in any event, this is a decision for the US Congress and administration to make, not one for AIPAC.

    • yankel September 4, 2013, 10:27 AM

      Having long been by far the strongest military force in its region and by far the most effective foreign enforcer in US national politics, any “destruction” Israel might be facing is by its very own making.

      Shana Tova to all!

      • Davey September 5, 2013, 1:18 AM

        The lobby is very effective. Consider — Israel is a little country, maybe 6-7 million, about the size of Paraguay or Switzerland. Yet, it has $325 million to spend on a military satellite to track Iranian activities. This would be, what, maybe $50 for each Israeli and maybe $200 for a family of four. How can Israel afford to maintain the largest prisons on the planet, a large standing advanced army, launching satellites, etc.? It can only be a result of subvention from the US, explicit and implicit, public and private. And this is the Lobby at work. I have no doubt that AIPAC provides the necessary push to get this absurd “red line” bombing off the drawing boards and in the air over Damascus. Between war profiteers and the Lobby, it’s a done deal. In fact, it’s hard to distinguish the two groups. “Shock & Awe Forever” — I’ll have to remember to get some popcorn.

        @Dan – if Israel is “threatened” it is just the psychological inversion of the threatening behavior Israel has itself pursued for decades unabated. It is right that Israelis should worry about their aggression coming home to roost. It is conscience.

  • dickerson3870 September 3, 2013, 11:26 PM

    RE: “Israel Lobby Goes All-In for Syrian Intervention”


    ● FROM RootsAction.org:
    To email Obama, your senators and representative, expressing opposition to an attack on Syria, click HERE.

    • dickerson3870 September 3, 2013, 11:51 PM

      P.S. If you reside outside the United States, you can still sign this petition expressing opposition to an attack on Syria by clicking HERE.

  • Oui September 4, 2013, 1:24 AM

    Mondoweiss article: ‘NYT’ deletes references to AIPAC’s role in pushing strike on Syria

    Blumenthal sent out an email: “I am unable to find it anywhere on the Times’ website. What happened, and why has the New York Times not acknowledged replacing one article with another one in a matter of hours?”

    MJ Rosenberg then did a post on the deletion.

    This UK site shows 11 revisions of the Times article. Between Version 5 and 6, it lost the 800-pound gorilla and AIPAC’s role in pushing an attack on Syria.

  • Bob Mann September 4, 2013, 4:56 AM

    What is your take on M.J. Rosenberg? Is he a generally reliable source?

    • Richard Silverstein September 5, 2013, 12:59 AM

      M.J. can sometimes be cranky and cantankerous. Some would say, just like me! But I think he’s an invaluable resource because he worked in the belly of the beast and he understands how the Lobby works.

  • J.J. September 4, 2013, 8:59 AM

    No Mr. Silverstein.
    Eli Lake confirms that Obama sought out AIPAC’s help to pass the Congressional Resolution on Syria, not the other way round.

    ‘ A senior official at AIPAC tells The Daily Beast that the organization’s leadership received a phone call from a senior White House official on Saturday, after the president’s surprise announcement that he would be seeking congressional authorization for a Syria strike, asking what AIPAC’s position would be on a congressional resolution. This official said the lobby received similar calls from Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

    ‘The senior AIPAC official said the conversation with the White House was informational. “‘Where are you going to be on this?’ That was a similar message that came from the Hill as well,” this official said in describing the call from the White House and congressional leaders. “It was not so much an ask as much as an inquiry of where you are going to be.”’
    ‘But, this official also said, the message was clear that AIPAC’s participation in the lobbying effort to pass the authorization “would be helpful.”’

    link to thedailybeast.com

    • Richard Silverstein September 5, 2013, 1:02 AM

      @ J.J.: First, I wouldn’t trust anything Eli Lake says as far as I can throw it. Second, the article doesn’t say Obama asked for Aipac’s help. Certainly not directly. Aipac doesn’t need to do Obama any favors. It acts when it determines it’s in its own interests. It took this on because it believed that overthrowing Assad is good for Israel (as Aipac defines that) & because it will set a precedent for demanding a U.S. attack on Iran.

  • bluto September 4, 2013, 9:13 AM

    It’s a whole hog Israeli Lobby/Neocon push to war (- and it’s about Iran, not just Syria) – just like it was as the Israeli Lobby/Neocons lied us into Iraq, by the way

    This is Israel and her Lobby GETTING IRAN out of this deal – make no mistake.

    This is the Clean Break Plan in flagrante delicto

  • Kevin September 4, 2013, 10:07 AM

    It begins to appear that Israel is taking advantage of developments in Syria to break the Assad government with the intent of cutting the overland supply route to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran. With the northern border more secured, Israel is in a much better strategic position to wage war on Iran, without the fear of a strong retaliatory attack from Syria/Lebanon, a rain of Hezbollah missiles. It makes perfect sense if your an Israeli leader who yearns to strike Iran but doesn’t want to ignite a wholesale conflagration on Israel proper. Chop off one arm of the Iran/Syria/Hezbollah triumvirate.

    On the other hand, this is playing a very dangerous game, because the Iranians are no fools and they may decide that they cannot afford to die the death of a thousand cuts by allowing their Mediiterranean bulwark to be taken down. If they believe their vital interests are at stake, they may well favor a strong response to an attack on Syria that neither the US nor Israel expects. And so, too, may the Syrians. They can see what’s coming and for Assad, he may have reviewed pictures of Libya and decided that it’s a life-or-death struggle now for him. back him into a corner, and what does anyone expect?

    Sooner or later, these nations that the US is always smashing with relative impunity are going to strike back, or figure out a way to deal some painful “lessons” of their own, whether its thru asymmetric warfare or an alliance of necessity with renegade, terrorist groups. Blowback is real and the Us is not immune; you’d think this lesson had been learned by now, but no one ever seems to learn anything in Washington.

    So the answer logically to the deaths of Syrians by Syrians must be to kill some for ourselves. Marvelous. Three cheers for humanity and the international rule of law.

  • H. Mor September 4, 2013, 10:50 AM

    @ Richard
    I don’t get it, on one hand you preach for Democracy and on the other you would like to deny lobbying that doesn’t resonate with your agenda.
    So which is it ? Democracy or Democracy only when your agenda prevails ?

    Personally i don’t think that AIPAC should support such an attack. The US doesn’t have any coherent strategy regarding Syria, no knowledge of what’s really happening on the ground. Te State Department paint’s the situation on the ground as a religious war between the Sunni’s and the Shiites ignoring fatwas issued by both Al-Zahar and the Shiite institute’s in both Najaf and Qom prohibiting believers from travelling to Syria participating in a Jihad (each for own reasons) and under those circumstances you should stay home.

    If Obama want’s to send Assad a massage he can simply send him an email, much cheaper, if he want’s to achieve something else he should outline the US strategy first and act second.

    currently supporting an attack is simply stupid whether you are AIPAC or not it’s immaterial.

    • Richard Silverstein September 5, 2013, 1:08 AM

      @ H. Mor: So you’re saying an organization like Aipac with a $70 million annual budget is merely a sign of the health of American democracy? And its control of the Israel agenda in the Congress is a healthy sign of such democracy? Maybe you have a bridge you’d like to sell us as well?

      • H. Mor September 5, 2013, 1:24 AM

        @ Richard
        1. Shana Tova to you and your family. שנכתב בספר החיים ושיהיה לכולנו גמר חתימה טובה
        2. Are you in favor of denying all lobbying activity in the USA ? How should the US – legally – stop AIPAC as in comparison to AAPER or the Arab lobby, or do you suggest that only the effective lobby will be stopped ?
        3. A good debate, which lobbying is an integral part of – is a sign of a healthy democracy – absolutely.

        • Richard Silverstein September 5, 2013, 5:49 PM

          @ H. Mor: Of course I’m not in favor of prohibiting lobbying. I AM in favor of creating guidelines that define proper & improper behavior by lobbyists. Those would much more sharply circumscribe the ways in which lobby money and money from those connected to lobby groups is used in political races. Compared to Aipac, there is no “Arab lobby.” The combined budgets of all Arab groups is around $5-million. The budget of Aipac alone is over $70 million.

          A good debate dominated & defined by pro-Israel money is not democracy–absolutely.

          • Davey September 5, 2013, 8:31 PM

            The incommensurate funding you cite is a good measure of how hard a “sell” the Zionist case continues to be. History and the ME would be very different if AIPAC had call on only $5 million.

          • H. Mor September 5, 2013, 10:38 PM

            @ Richard i have no idea where you are getting your numbers
            but Pro Publica displays totally different figures. – link to propublica.org

            United Arab Emirates $10,914,002
            United Kingdom $6,105,200
            Japan $4,231,656
            Iraq $3,708,368
            Turkey $3,524,632
            Morocco $3,337,392
            Saudi Arabia $3,308,285

            Seems that these 4 Arab countries alone spend close to 20 mill / year + turkey who spends another 3.5 and that doesn’t include other Arab countries. If you’ll count in all the other Arab states + the Arab league you will come to similar numbers.

          • Richard Silverstein September 5, 2013, 10:57 PM

            @ H. Mor: You’re confusing apples and oranges, perhaps through your ignorance about the U.S. political process. Aipac lobbies for Israel inside the U.S. government and Congress. It writes legislation. It funds candidates (albeit indirectly). It browbeats members of Congress into funding Israeli priorities and voting for bills it’s written. It is a domestic lobby & is entitled to do things that only U.S. citizens may do.

            There are U.S. Arab groups with a combined budget of around $5 million who try to do similar things. They are lobbying for the priorities of American Arabs and Muslims. They are a domestic lobby.

            There are many countries that spent money lobbying here in the U.S. for their interests. These include trade, cultural exchange, military weapons sales, etc. & are different than the priorities of Aipac. The rules governing the conduct of a foreign lobby are much different than those governing lobbying groups that are domestic. They are much more circumscribed in terms of what they can do. Their representatives must register as an agent of a foreign power. They can’t fund candidates. They can’t browbeat anyone. Though they might try to write a bill, if it was known that they did they’d look bad and destroy their credibility. Countries lobby for their own priorities. UAE is not lobbying for Palestine or for all Arabs. It is lobbying for UAE. The same with Saudi Arabia and the other countries you list.

            But even if your erronenous impression were correct and these Arab countries were lobbying for some sort of nefarious pan-Arab agenda that included liberating Palestine and ending Israel, their $20-million is still dwarfed by Aipac’s budget, not to mention the many other Israel lobby groups that are active (Israel Project, ADL, AJC, StandWithUs, David Project, J Street, Republican Jewish Coalition, etc.). Their total budgets would bring you well over $100-million. That’s a whole lot of dollar-bill ‘democracy,’ isn’t it?

            So I’m afraid all that research was in vain. You haven’t proven much. But a good try at shilling for Aipac.

  • bluto September 4, 2013, 11:38 AM

    John Stewart/Daily Show takes a HARD HIT at the Syria Strike – one of the best moments (other than the below) was counting arch-Neocon William Kristol amongst the parade of the ‘imbeciles’ of the Israeli Lobby that are pushing this war

    “The ‘red line’ is just a d**k-measuring ribbon.” But may lead to “Operation Just-the-Tip.”

    link to thenation.com

    Note: Stewart is generally PEP Progressive Except Palestine (like Bill Mayer, though perhaps lless so) and used to have a string of Neocons on his show after the Iraq War – including William Kristol, which to my mind only served to try to normalize this fanatic Neocon

    • Richard Silverstein September 5, 2013, 1:10 AM

      @ bluto: I don’t think you’re right about Jon Stewart’s politics at all. He’s had on tons of progressives on the I-P conflict including the pro-Palestine activist who was assaulted during the State of the Union address.

      • bluto September 5, 2013, 9:36 AM

        I’ll at least ‘temporarily’ stand corrected – I’ve watched him very infrequently – but have seen him giving in my opinion softball interviews with Kristol and others.

        That aside I loved his hit on the Neocons above and if this is any sign of where he’s at — or where he’s NOW at — then I love it.

        Maher, even though he had his clock cleaned by Glenn Greenwald a couple of months ago on the Israel-Palestine issue, I still consider beyond hope.
        PS – In my original article I meant to say that Jon Stewart IMO was softer on the Islamophobia/’Pro-Likud’ angle than Mayer but I phrased it awkwardly.

        • Richard Silverstein September 5, 2013, 5:01 PM

          @bluto: Maher is irredeemable. I also think he may be of Arab origin ethnically. So he’s unforgivable in many ways. Stewart is funny, smart, sharp & acerbic. And he’s taken on Aipac directly in skits. That’s more than any other comic, satirist or even reporter has done in years–or perhaps ever.

  • Bob Mann September 5, 2013, 7:16 AM

    The website hosting the cartoon that you have included with this particular post is pretty disgusting. I would urge you to reconsider. (If you right-click on the image, you will see the site in question). I hope you would agree that it is vile.

    • Richard Silverstein September 5, 2013, 5:41 PM

      You’ve sunk to a new low of pettiness, my friend. I never visited the site & don’t know anything about what’s featured there. The image is what interested me and the image is not anti-Semitic.

      If you did something bad in your life does my allowing you to comment here mean that I did it too? Or that I support what you did? Or that I have anything to do with what you did?

      This is some of the stupidest, vile sort of guilt by association crap I’ve come across. And I’m as vehement as I am because you are part of a legion of pro-Israel types who march around the internet creating the same stupid arguments.

      If this bothers you so much find me another site featuring the image & send me the link; or copy the image yourself and send it to me. I’ve got a thousand things to worry about in writing this blog. Spending any more time on this image in order to satisfy your faulty moral intelligence isn’t one of them.

      • shmuel September 6, 2013, 2:39 AM

        It’s a poor caricature and analogy anyway – King Kong was not supporting those who shot him down when he embraced the ES building, and he was a poor pathetic character far from home and out of his natural environment.

        A genuine anti-semite would have conjoured up Dracula

      • Bob Mann September 6, 2013, 3:18 AM

        I’m not understanding why you are responding to me in this way.

        I thought the political cartoon was quite well-done and I was curious to know who created it and/or what newspaper it came from. I right-clicked on the image and visited the site where it was hosted. Surprisingly, I found the site to be quite unsavory, one that I am confident you would find abhorrent. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this and encourage you to replace the link.

        I am somewhat hurt and confused as to why you would insult me in the various ways that you did in response to my pointing this out. I truly only meant to be helpful and have always tried to show you the utmost respect and courtesy here.

        Since you have never visited the site where the image is hosted, may I ask how you came across the cartoon in the first place? I would really like to track down its origin. I am curious to know, at least, who the cartoonist is, and, if possible, where it ran originally. It was quite a clever spin on the “gorilla in the room” phrase used so frequently.

        • Richard Silverstein September 6, 2013, 8:37 AM

          @ Bob Mann: The cartoon doesn’t originate at that site. That site did what I did & copied it from, or linked to it from another site. If you search for the cartoonist’s name you’ll find where it originated. I assure you it wasn’t an anti-Semitic site.

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