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Israel Lobby Smears Kerry as Anti-Israel, Pro-Hamas; Questions His Conduct of Iran Talks

john kerry letter

John Kerry’s letter requesting safe-passage for Gaza-bound humanitarian mission

An indication of just how low the Israel Lobby can go in its efforts to smear U.S. government officials who defy their wishes can be seen in today’s Maariv.  It features an article by Israel’s leading smear-monger rightist reporter, Ben Dror Yemini, calling John Kerry a supporter of “radical ultra-leftists” and “Israel-haters” like Jodie Evans (a co-founder of Codepink) and Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada).   The (false) headline:

Scoop: John Kerry Supported Organizers of the Gaza Flotilla

Letter of Recommendation Given to Anti-Israel Group Raises Question About Kerry’s Discretion and Conduct Concerning Iran Negotiations

The background: in 2009, the Free Gaza Movement organized a series of flotillas and humanitarian missions designed to break the Gaza siege and bring humanitarian relief to Gaza.  In 2010, the Mavi Marmara attempted to break the Gaza blockade.

As Greta Berlin, a founder of the Movement notes in a comment below, a separate entity was the Gaza Freedom March.  Its mission was to bring humanitarian relief overland to Gaza via Egypt. Yemini has confused the two entities.

Among those supporting the March, according to Yemini, were Jodie Evans and Ali Abunimah.  In fact, before one of these missions (December 2009) someone in Evans delegation secured a letter from then-Sen. Kerry’s office asking for safe-passage from any government officials they might encounter.  Kerry asked that the group be treated with respect and allowed to complete its work.

This letter, one of hundreds Kerry has undoubtedly written over the years, is designed to ensure the safe passage of his constituents who travel into regions where such a letter might carry some weight.  Thus, a harmless pro-forma letter becomes an indictment of both the aid groups themselves and John Kerry for supporting them.

The article goes on, claiming falsely that both Abunimah and Codepink organized the Gaza flotillas, which supposedly supported Hamas.  This proves not only their hatred of Israel, but their support of terrorism.  By inference, Kerry himself becomes tainted by his supposed bad judgment in endorsing them.

ben dror yemini

Ben Dror Yemini, orchestrates anti-Kerry smear

Yemini notes that Evans and Abunimah did attempt to use the letter to get the Egyptian authorities to permit them to pass through Egypt to Gaza.  But unlike Kerry, the Israeli reporter states, the Egyptians weren’t hoodwinked by the humanitarian guise of the trip.  They “wisely” ignored Kerry’s letter, dismissing it out of hand, and detained Abunimah and Evans’ group, preventing them from entering Gaza.

But, Yemini falsely claims, the American activists persevered and later reach Gaza on the flotilla that included the Mavi Marmara.  That vessel’s ill-fated trip occurred in May 2010, while the Egyptian trip happened in December 2009, five months earlier.  Neither Abunimah nor Evans were aboard the Mavi Marmara.

It’s important to get a (bitter) taste of the rhetoric employed in this smear:

The Egyptians didn’t take the delegation seriously.  Israel didn’t take it seriously either.  The problem was John Kerry.  How could such a figure of such stature equip this group, whose views on the Middle East were much closer to Balad [the Israeli-Palestinian nationalist political party] or Hamas than to “Peace Now.”

The letter raises a grave question about Kerry’s political orientation, whether regarding Iran or Palestine.  Even then, in 2009 it was clear to Kerry with whom he preferred doing business.  In 2008, one of the strangest meetings that ever took place in New York joined “peace activists” (including representatives of Codepink) on one side and on the other, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The result was an agreement to wage a  common struggle against America’s “criminal” sanctions.

…How could such a Senator provide legitimization to a group characterized by its support for Hamas and Ahmadinejad, including its deep hatred of Israel and the U.S.?  And an even more important question: is the John Kerry of 2013 the same as the John Kerry of 2009?

I’ve been trying to pinpoint what might be the source for this garbage.  At first I thought it might be from the prime minister’s office or Israeli intelligence.  But it seems too gross even for them.  Then I started thinking it might be from the new take-no-prisoners Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer or an Israel Lobbyist like Josh Block, director of The Israel Project.

After doing some googling, it appears that Yemini dredged up much of this material from the scuzzy underworld of the Israel Lobby. Specifically sources like David Horowitz‘s Discover the Networks, which “exposes” Jodie Evans’ pro-Palestine activities; and World News Daily, in which smut reporter Aaron Klein raises many of the charges Yemini uses in his report.  Though Klein at least doesn’t throw facts to the wind as Yemini does in his piece.

As an example, compare the italicized portion of the passage quoted above to what may be the original version of the story of the alleged Ahmadinejad-Codepink meeting as portrayed by David Horowitz’s Discover the Networks:

In September 2008, Evans and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin met with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York; they were subsequently invited to meet with Ahmadinejad again, in Iran, two months later. There, they met with high-level government officials, and offered to help fund environmentally-friendly businesses as well as the construction of a “peace park” in Tehran.

Yemini has the peace activists joining together to fight sanctions, while Horowitz has them building a peace park.  While there’s little doubt that Codepink opposes U.S. sanctions, that doesn’t mean it agreed to join forces with Iran in a commons fight against sanctions; or that it harbors a “deep hate of Israel and the U.S.,” as Yemini claims.

The hidush (“what’s new”) in the Maariv story is the attempt to connect Kerry as a supporter of terrorism to the Iran talks.  The inference is that just as Kerry supported Hamas and sold Israel down the river for the sake of Jodie Evans, he’d do the same regarding Iran.  Unfortunately, Yemini doesn’t point to a single sin Kerry has committed in supporting the Iranian ayatollahs.  He doesn’t even try to connect the secretary of state to that bane of the DC neocon world, Trita Parsi.

So we’re meant to believe that a single letter supporting a supposed activist plot on behalf of Hamas will lead to Kerry selling out Israel’s interest in the Iran negotiations.

A bit of personal disclosure is in order: I felt ambivalent when I first read this story.  While it raised my level of indignation sky-high, I have to say that I harbor mixed emotions about Ali Abunimah and Electronic Intifada.  Not about the content of his blog (which I largely respect and admire) nor about him personally since I don’t know him well.  Rather, my issues are with the fact that I’ve been excluded from publication there.

In fact, when I faced my own crisis and my website was hacked by pro-Israel cyber-thugs, I asked Ali to publish a piece I’d written about it.  I’d hoped there’d be some sense of solidarity between me and supporters of the Palestinian struggle for justice.  There wasn’t.  A later attempt to publish a different piece at EI was also rejected.  A number of other anti-Zionists–including one who writes regularly for EI–and who once collaborated with me on important human rights projects, have stopped all contact with me.

While I’ve collaborated willingly in the past with EI writers on projects and used EI as a source for some of my own reporting, I’ve been put in a sort of far-left herem (“excommunication”).   It isn’t only EI: I’ve noted how often the anti-Zionist left accuses me, both publicly and privately, of being a tool of Israeli intelligence.

All that being said, my personal issues shouldn’t interfere with the fact that Ben Dror Yemini has attacked not just Ali Abunimah, but the entire progressive Israel-Palestine community.  To paraphrase Pastor Niemoller, they may first come for Ali Abunimah, but eventually they’ll come for the rest of us as well.  I refuse to ignore injustice merely because of my own personal disappointments or because I’ve failed someone’s political litmus test.

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{ 48 comments… add one }
  • Oui November 13, 2013, 4:33 AM

    Isn’t this just a rehash of published stories from February 2010 and stretching the falsehoods a bit towards Iran. Kerry was attacked by the Republican right-wing and a publication in Live-Leaks. A similar letter was written by André Carson for his constituents traveling to Gaza with medical aid as part of the Gaza Freedom March and to meet with NGOs and UNRWA.

  • Noga November 13, 2013, 4:37 AM

    “So we’re meant to believe that a single letter supporting a supposed activist plot on behalf of Hamas will lead to Kerry selling out Israel’s interest in the Iran negotiations.”

    Here is what the Ben Dror Yemini, (Unlike your representation of him, he is a Left of Center journalist and jurist with a record of dissent and assertive insistence on truth and accuracy in journalism and politics) wrote in his article:

    המכתב מעמיד בסימן שאלה חמור לא רק את האוריינטציה הפוליטית של קרי, אלא בעיקר את שיקול הדעת שלו, הן בנושא האיראני והן בנושא הפלסטיני. כבר אז, בסוף 2009, היה ברור לקרי עם מי ועם מה יש לו עסק. בספטמבר 2008 התקיימה אחת הפגישות המוזרות ביותר בניו יורק. מצד אחד היו שם “פעילי שלום” ובכלל זה נציגות “קודפינק”, ומצד שני, נשיא איראן, מחמוד אחמדינג’אד. התוצאה הייתה מאבק משותף נגד הסנקציות הנפשעות של ארה”ב.

    ארה”ב היא הידידה החשובה יותר של ישראל. אין על כך סימני שאלה. ההתנהלות של קרי, לעומת זאת, מציבה סימני שאלה קשים. איך זה שסנאטור בכיר העניק לגיטימציה לקבוצה שהמאפיינים שלה היו גם תמיכה בחמאס, גם תמיכה באחמדינג’אד, וגם עוינות תהומית, הן לישראל והן לארה”ב. והשאלה החשובה יותר: האם ג’ון קרי של 2013 הוא ג’ון קרי של0

    The letter casts a severe question mark not only on what Kerry’s political orientation might be but, more importantly, his good judgment when it comes to the Iranian issue and the Palestinian issue. Even back then, at the end of 2009, Kerry must have known whom he was dealing with: In September of 2008 a most bizarre meeting took place in New York, between “Peace activists” including representatives from “Code pink” and Ahmadinejad. The result was an agreement on a shared struggle to dismantle the “iniquitous” sanctions against Iran.

    The US is Israel’s most important friend. There is no question about that. Kerry’s conduct, on the other hand, raises some very tough questions. How come a senior senator was providing support to a group known for its support of Hamas, support of Ahmadinejad, as well as for its unyielding hostility towards Israel and the US. And the most important question is: Is 2009 Kerry the same as 2013 Kerry?

    __________

    No one leads you to believe anything. It is ALWAYS (make no mistake about it) your choice to believe something and not another thing. Your choice of what to believe is a direct extension of your own biases and reflects upon your own quality of good judgment and common sense. Unlike you, writing from your safe perch in wherever in America, Ben Dror cannot afford to look the other way or attribute nothing but benign compassion to the motivation of a well seasoned American politician. He is looking from a highly critical POV and making his point known, which is what a journalist does, in a free society. And he actually provides the documentation of what provokes these legitimate questions from him. You call it a smear compaign. How so? Where is the smear? Are Kerry’s letter, its contents and its beneficiaries, deniable? Is the context within which the letter is mentioned not verifiably accurate? Are Codepink’s and EI’s agenda a concealed secret? The answer to all these questions is a pretty solid No.

    By trying to cast this honest and often intrepid and contrarian journalist a smearer you are the one doing the smearing, Mr. Tikkun Olam.

    • Richard Silverstein November 13, 2013, 8:06 PM

      @ Noga: Commenters with very common names should NOT use them so as not to confuse readers with other commenters using the same nickname.

      Unlike your representation of him, he is a Left of Center journalist and jurist with a record of dissent and assertive insistence on truth and accuracy in journalism and politics

      That’s like saying Genghis Khan was a cultivated humanitarian! His name is “Yemini” (“Right”) not “Smolani!” Not to mention that he is only “left of center” if the center is considered fascism.

      Ben Dror cannot afford to look the other way or attribute nothing but benign compassion to the motivation of a well seasoned American politician

      I never attribute “benign compassion” to any politician. In fact, just the opposite: I suspect the motives of every politician. But unlike you or Yemini, I won’t lie about what politicians believe, including those I disagree with.

      He is looking from a highly critical POV and making his point known, which is what a journalist does, in a free society.

      No, he is scuzzily lying and making up “facts” as he goes along. There’s hardly a single truthful statement in the article. Part of its problem is that it is warmed over propaganda lifted from previous far right scandal sheets. But in the places where Yemini departs from the script of the original articles he gets things even more wrong than they did. That is most definitely NOT what journalists do in a free society. It’s what scandal mongers do in a repressive society like Israel’s.

      he actually provides the documentation

      No, he doesn’t. The original letter was published at Ali Abunimah’s blog where the far right shmattehs stole it from. And this “documentation” doesn’t document what Yemini claims it does.

      this honest and often intrepid and contrarian journalist

      If I’m not careful, my morning coffee is liable to explode out of my nose in disbelief at your stupidity and naiveté.

      • Noga November 14, 2013, 9:16 AM

        I did not quite get your point about “very common name”. Are you referring to my name? Is it common? Is there a regular commenter here named Noga?

        “Yemini” is his family name, his father’s family name, just as Silverstein is your family name. Do you actually take his name to represent his politics? Are you for real, Richard? BTW, the opposition to Smolani is not Yemini but “Yemani”. “Yemini” probably refers to a place name “Yemin” in the same way that Toledano suggests that a person’s ancestor was from Toledo (Spain) and “Ashkenazi” suggests that a person’s ancestor has arrived from “Ashkenaz” (West Europe) and mizrahi suggests that a person’s father had arrived from the Mizrah, the East (Iraq).

        You have no idea what it means to be a genuine Leftist in Israel, nor have you much notion of what politics Ben Dror Yemini advocates. Your entire article and your smearing of Yemini have to do with the fact the he criticized Kerry and alluded to a very real event in his past which may well be an indicator of Kerry’s innermost inclinations.

        Is it now forbidden to criticize American politicians for fear of being pilloried as a Far right fascist or whatever? You mean as an Israeli(!) Ben Dror should just shut up and not do his work as a journalist? The best disinfectant is sunlight, said someone. That’s what he does. Kerry’s latest manouvres in Washington seem to bear out Yemini’s suspicion that Kerry 2013 is exactly the Kerry of 2008. Blessed Sunlight!

        • Oui November 14, 2013, 12:05 PM

          “… to do with the fact the he criticized Kerry and alluded to a very real event in his past which may well be an indicator of Kerry’s innermost inclinations.”

          Are you for real? You write the same crap here as Yemini in Maariv. Why bother? If I want to read your opinion I would go over to your blog.

          I have much appreciation for the courage of Secretary John Kerry in the political minefield of the Middle-East. The US government should act in the interest of “We The People” and not foreign elements with falsehoods, propaganda or sheiks with billions in sovereign wealth. The people of Iran deserve a chance to have the sanctions lifted. The GCC states deserve to live without the fear of a nuclear threat. Israel is isolated as a state and intends to violate International Law on the occupied territories of Palestine. Just like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, this intolerable concept to retain the West Bank should end.

          Speaking in British terms pré WWII, PM Netanyahu likes to be portraited as Churchill. Indeed, the innermost inclinations are striking: revenge bombing of Dresden and gassing of the Kurds.

  • Oui November 13, 2013, 7:11 AM

    In one week two severe blows for diplomacy and peace. Neoconservatives win by way of France on the Iranian nuclear issue and Israel with increased settlement building just destroyed peace talks with the Palestinians.

  • pabelmont November 13, 2013, 7:37 AM

    RS: Thank you so much for reminding us all about Pastor Niemoller’s famous (and so very important) statement to the effect that fascists attack first one small group, and then another, and then another, until no-one is safe, so that all who failed to oppose the fascists initially (when the early victims were attacked) were enablers of those early attacks and also enablers of the later attacks (in which they themselves may have been swept up).

    I value your work at this blog and I cannot imagine anyone in the pro-Palestine world not valuing it as well. If EI has refused to publish your work when your web-site was hacked, then it would seem to be a black mark on them. For, surely, we must all help each other.

  • Not much to work on, is it? November 13, 2013, 3:13 PM

    I followed your link so that I could actually read the letter itself, which seems to me to be the better way to approach this issue.

    There’s really nothing in it: Kerry points out (several times, as he should) that this group consists of people in his constituency, and BECAUSE they have convinced him that they are doing nothing but humanitarian work THEN he suggests that anyone they meet should extend to them the same courtesy that he has just shown them.

    Honestly, the worse that Kerry can be accused of is being a bad judge of character (if that is what he has done, which is very much a matter of opinion).

    But that letter does not express any support for Hamas, nor for the flotilla, nor for any of the things that Yemini implies.

    BTW: Just a suggestion, but perhaps you should increase the size of the image so that the text is readable. Having to go to that gutter rag to read the text left me feeling all slimy all over…..

    • Noga November 14, 2013, 9:26 AM

      “Honestly, the worse that Kerry can be accused of is being a bad judge of character ”
      So you actually do not disagree with Ben Dror Yemini’s point:

      “The letter casts a severe question mark not only on what Kerry’s political orientation might be but, more importantly, his good judgment when it comes to the Iranian issue and the Palestinian issue.”

      “but, more importantly, his good judgment ..” being the key to his argument here.

      I thought Ben Dror was being quite charitable here. To me it seems that either Kerry did not think much of codepink or that he was unaware what he was signing. All of which is worse than just having bad judgment; more like careless disdain.

      • Not much to work on, is it? November 15, 2013, 7:48 PM

        “So you actually do not disagree with Ben Dror Yemini’s point:”

        No, that’s not what I said.

        I said that such an accusation is the *only* one that Yemini can conjure from the evidence that he has presented, but that is not the same thing as saying that I “do not disagree” with that accusation.

        “being the key to his argument here.”

        Hmm, I’m going back over this article, and what I see quoted is this:
        Yemini (via Silverstein): “The letter raises a grave question about Kerry’s political orientation, whether regarding Iran or Palestine.”
        versu
        Yemini (via Noga): “The letter casts a severe question mark not only on what Kerry’s political orientation might be but, more importantly, his good judgment when it comes to the Iranian issue and the Palestinian issue.”

        Indeed, nowhere in this article does that quote appear, and it turns out that the sentence that what you have just quoted is actually a sentence that was first uttered by….. *you* i.e. it is not a quote from *Yemini* at all, and therefore is not “his argument” at all, merely *your* attempt to put words in his mouth.

        I suppose there are many words that would describe such an post (propaganda, for one. hasbarah, for another) but I think I’ll settle for the most accurate: dishonest.

        • Noga November 16, 2013, 6:31 AM

          Are you relying on Silverstein to provide an accurate translation of what Yemini actually wrote? Note that he has not disagreed with my translation (which is meticulous). And judging by his errors on the next post about the HipHop singer I wouldn’t credit him with any credibility for accurate or honest translation, except perhaps “Pass me the salt”. But even that would be exasperating as you are likely to get the pepper instead.

          Here is the phrase in Hebrew missing from Silverstein’s translation: אלא בעיקר את שיקול הדעת שלו,

          Try google translation for “שיקול הדעת”.

          • Richard Silverstein November 17, 2013, 2:44 AM

            @ Noga: You don’t understand my approach to translation. I’m not a literary translator. I translate and write quickly. I convey into English the material I’m translating. The translation is not slavish, but it conveys the full meaning of the original. I’ve written this before here about my approach to translation & you, naturally, have never bothered to read it.

            I dare you to show any particular portion of my translation that misconstrues the original or contradicts it. If you can’t, you’re nitpicking for political purposes and I don’t look favorably on this.

      • Not much to work on, is it? November 15, 2013, 9:53 PM

        Richard (correctly) points out that there is nothing wrong
        per se in a Congressman writing a letter of safe passage for a
        constituent. So the FIRST issue is this: should Kerry’s Tingly
        Spider Senses(tm Marvel Comics) have warned him off writing such a
        letter for *these* constituents. Which leads to a SECOND issue: if
        it *was* wrong for him to write this letter then *why* did he write
        it? Did Kerry write it because a) he is a know-nothing dolt (your
        interpretation of Yemini’s accusation, as far as I can see) or
        because b) he is an anti-israeli, pro-terrorist Iran sympathizer
        (Richard’s interpretation of Yemini’s accusation)? For argument’s
        sake let’s take the second issue first…….. You and Richard
        disagree on the translation of the first sentence in Yemini’s
        article, but there is little discrepancy in the next three sentence
        i.e. Richard and you both agree that Yemini is arguing that the
        core reason why Kerry *shouldn’t* have written that letter is
        because he knew it would be in support of a sanctions-busting,
        pro-Iranian organization. Which, of course, would peg Kerry’s
        motivation for writing that letter as “sanctions-busting,
        Pro-Iranian sympathizer”. So I’d have to say that on that SECOND
        issue Yemini’s article is exactly as Richard explains i.e. it
        attempts to smear Kerry as a sanctions-busting, Pro-Iranian
        sympathizer, not simply as a lazy know-nothing dolt. Which leads us
        back to the FIRST issue i.e. is Yemini correct to even claim that
        this is something inappropriate about this letter to those
        constituents? The answer to that question hinges on whether the
        2008 meeting that Yemini is so outraged over was a meeting about
        “sanctions-busting” or whether it was a meeting regarding
        “tree-hugging”. And on that score Richard pegs the source of
        Yemini’s information to David Horowitz, who unambiguously reported
        that meeting to be about tree-hugging-in-Tehran. Which gives
        another win to Richard i.e. there is nothing wrong with Kerry
        writing a letter of support for a bunch of tree-huggers. Regardless
        of you view of the intrinsic worth of tree-hugging, there is
        nothing wrong with wishing them well nor is there anything wrong
        with asking other to treat them well. They are tree-huggers, after
        all, and that’s neither a crime nor a sin.

        • Noga November 16, 2013, 2:28 PM

          [comment deleted for violation comment rules. Do NOT rehash things you've written in previous comments. It's boring, unpersuasive and violates the rules.]

          • Not much to work on, is it November 16, 2013, 3:46 PM

            “being the key to his argument here.”

            Which is an interpretation that is completely undermined by Yemini’s own claim that Kerry knowingly wrote these letters for a bunch of sanction-busters when they were, in fact, a bunch of tree-huggers.

            “My point was that you basically agree with the gist of Yemini’s criticism that Kerry’s signature on this letter (before the State Dept released the information that he was unaware of what he was signing) was a failure of good judgment.”

            No, actually, your “point” is demonstrably incorrect.

            I said that the only possible criticism that *could* be levelled was that of “poor judgement”.
            But I do not agree with the “gist of Yemini’s criticism” that the letter *is* indicative of “poor judgement”.

            Quite the reverse: I see nothing wrong with Kerry writing a letter of safe conduct for a bunch of tree-huggers, and that remains true even if the trees they want to hug are in Tehran.

            And (I don’t know why I have to point this out again, but apparently I do) the claim that the “gist” of Yemini’s argument was “Kerry has poor judgement” is undermined by the three sentences that followed, wherein Yemini lays out (false) evidence to indicate that mendacity, not “poor judgement”, was the explanation for Kerry’s signature.

            Your defence of Yemini is thoroughly unconvincing, akin to you insisting that *because* someone says “I don’t intend to speak ill of the dead, but…..” then that is Proof Positive that what follows is not intended to be a hatchet job. Even though what follows is a hatchet job.

            Yemini *claims* that what he is questioning is Kerry’s judgement, and then immediately follows it up with a bunch of lies that were obviously intended to paint Kerry as an anti-sanctions, pro-Iranian sympathizer rather than simply a naïve country bumpkin.

            You doth protest too much.

          • Noga November 17, 2013, 5:36 AM

            [comment deleted. Again you're repeating yourself ad nauseam. This may interest you, but not anyone else.]

          • Noga November 17, 2013, 7:21 AM

            “I dare you to show any particular portion of my translation that misconstrues the original or contradicts it.”

            To pinpoint the difference:

            This is the sentence in Hebrew:

            המכתב מעמיד בסימן שאלה חמור לא רק את האוריינטציה הפוליטית של קרי, אלא בעיקר את שיקול הדעת שלו, הן בנושא האיראני והן בנושא הפלסטיני.

            This is how Silverstein reproduced the sentence in his translation:

            “The letter raises a grave question about Kerry’s political orientation, whether regarding Iran or Palestine.

            Here is my translation:

            The letter casts a severe question mark not only on what Kerry’s political orientation might be but, more importantly, his good judgment when it comes to the Iranian issue and the Palestinian issue.

            You will notice that Silverstein not only omits this part of the sentence:
            “but, more importantly, his good judgment”

            but reconstructs the sentence in such a way as to accommodate the omission. The “not only … but…” structure becomes just a straightforward statement. To me that suggests that the translation was deliberately done in such a way as to circumvent the difficulty this particular clause presented to the blogger’s thesis in this post.

            I dare you to correct the mistranslation at the heart of your post, and the conclusions you derive from this ellipsis.

          • Richard Silverstein November 17, 2013, 8:09 PM

            @ Noga: Once again, that is not a mistranslation. It is a summary of the sentence which captures what I thought was the main thought or idea.

            BTW, there is no such thing as a “severe question mark.” You might want to brush up your own translation skills.

          • Noga November 18, 2013, 3:57 AM

            “It is a summary ”

            Nice try. You inserted this entire passage from the article:

            “It’s important to get a (bitter) taste of the rhetoric employed in this smear:

            The Egyptians didn’t take the delegation seriously. Israel didn’t take it seriously either. The problem was John Kerry. How could such a figure of such stature equip this group, whose views on the Middle East were much closer to Balad [the Israeli-Palestinian nationalist political party] or Hamas than to “Peace Now.”

            The letter raises a grave question about Kerry’s political orientation, whether regarding Iran or Palestine. Even then, in 2009 it was clear to Kerry with whom he preferred doing business. In 2008, one of the strangest meetings that ever took place in New York joined “peace activists” (including representatives of Codepink) on one side and on the other, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The result was an agreement to wage a common struggle against America’s “criminal” sanctions.

            …How could such a Senator provide legitimization to a group characterized by its support for Hamas and Ahmadinejad, including its deep hatred of Israel and the U.S.? And an even more important question: is the John Kerry of 2013 the same as the John Kerry of 2009?”

            Your quote repeats in English every detail in that paragraph that appears in the Hebrew underlying text EXCEPT for this little clause. You even begin the second paragraph with … to inform the reader that some text was left out. That to me suggests you were not doing a “summary” as you allege but a translation. Additionally, nowhere at all did you alert the reader to the fact that this was a summary and that he/she ought to read it as such. It also took you a couple of days to filter this comment through. To me it suggests that you only allowed it in AFTER you came up with a plausible explanation for the DIStranslation you committed. It is of course only conjecture on my part. I can’t know for sure what exactly prompted you to publish my comments after all.

            And please. You are being very silly impugning my translation skills. “severe question mark.” is the exact and accurate translation of Ben Dror’s phrase ” בסימן שאלה חמור”. I am not responsible for his stylistic linguistic choices. I’m just rendering an adequate translation of what he said. Which is what an ethical translator is expected to do.

          • Richard Silverstein November 18, 2013, 6:33 PM

            I’m not interested in responding to your insipid comment except in one important point. Your ridiculous translation into English, “a severe question mark,” indicates the idiocy of slavish translations. A question mark cannot be “severe.” Ben Dror Yemini is not just a liar, but he writes insipid Hebrew. I’m not going to insult the intelligence of my readers by slavishly translating his mumbo jumbo. A question can be severe, but not a question mark. Hence, the way I translated it. THis too exemplifies my philosophy of translation for the purposes of this blog. I translate into clear comprehensible English. If the original is garbled as this is, I’m not going to translate it into garbled English. Life & readers’ time is too short for that.

            There is no such thing as “ethical translation.” It’s an invented concept. Since you have no crediblity, the term doesn’t either.

            If you write another peep on the subject of translation you’ll be banned.

          • Not much to work on, is it? November 18, 2013, 3:20 AM

            Noga: “I dare you to correct the mistranslation at the heart of your post, and the conclusions you derive from this ellipsis.”

            I’ll just point out (how many times now? Five? Six?) that Noga is attempting a crude piece of misdirection i.e. arguing about one particular sentence of Yemini’s, while studiously ignoring the three sentences that follow directly from it.

            As in: Noga fixates on the sentence where Yemini says that he questions Kerry’s “judgement”, while shying away from the next three sentences wherein Yemini does Much, Much More than just accuse Kerry of being a bumpkin.

            It’s a pretty transparent trick, and quite crude with it.

  • Greta Berlin, Free Gaza movement November 13, 2013, 4:34 PM

    OK. No one is getting this story straight, not even you, Richard. Our boats started to sail into Gaza in August 2008. Although both Ali Abunimah and Jodi Evans endorsed our trips after our first one, they never came on any of the voyages, five of which got into Gaza successfully.

    The letter above is for the Gaza Freedom March, a completely different project, one that had nothing to do with the boats sailing into Gaza. Once we were successful, many others decided to follow in our footsteps (or wake), with other projects. Initiatives such as the Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina decided to go into Gaza by land. We never did that. Our mission was always to sail boats into Gaza.

    We never asked kerry for any kind of endorsement, although it would be interesting to see what his response might have been.

    • Richard Silverstein November 13, 2013, 5:33 PM

      @ Greta Berlin: THanks for the clarification. I will correct the post so that it’s accurate. Sorry for not thinking to contact you before I published. It was my oversight.

      • Mary Hughes Thompson November 13, 2013, 7:03 PM

        My fellow co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement, Greta Berlin, beat me to the punch in clarifying the Free Gaza connection. In addition to being on board the first boat to reach Gaza in August 2008, Greta and I headed the land team in Cyprus responsible for several more successful voyages to Gaza. These continued until Israel invaded Gaza in what came to be known as Cast Lead. On December 29, 2008, Free Gaza’s boat DIGNITY, carrying doctors and journalists in addition to humanitarian aid, was repeatedly rammed by Israeli gunboats in international waters off the coast of Lebanon. Due to our experienced captain all the passengers survived, but our boat was damaged beyond repair and later sank in the Mediterranean. I was later part of the Gaza Freedom March in December 2009/January 2010, largely organized by Code Pink and Medea Benjamin. Ali Abunimah was one of over 1400 international activists who travelled to Cairo to participate. As Greta said, neither Benjamin nor Abunimah ever boarded any of our boats, and they were never involved in the Free Gaza Movement.

        • Mary Hughes Thompson November 13, 2013, 7:25 PM

          Richard, I see it was Jodie Evans rather than Medea Benjamin who was credited (above) along with Ali Abunimah with a connection to the Free Gaza Movement. Nobody from Code Pink ever boarded one of our boats to Gaza. The same is true of Ali Abunimah. At the end of December 2009 Jodie, Medea, Ali and I were all in Cairo for the Gaza Freedom March. Not sure if Jodie actually arrived in Gaza, but Medea, Ali and I all declined to go because the Egyptians tried to divide us by agreeing to let some of us enter Gaza but not all of us. Again, the Gaza Freedom March was a land based operation which had nothing to do with the Free Gaza Movement.

          • Greta Berlin, Free Gaza movement November 14, 2013, 7:12 AM

            Thanks for the clarification, Richard, on the difference between the sea-based Free Gaza movement and the land-based Gaza Freedom March. Both Mary and I want to make sure that the advocates of both of these missions clearly understand they are completely different and run by different people. Just one more correction, which Mary and I think is really important.

            Our missions began in August 2008 (not in 2009), and we successfully entered Gaza five times before we were brutally stopping on December 30, 2008 when Israel rammed our yacht, the Dignity, three times while in international waters. Because of our success in sailing into Gaza, the other initiatives, from the Gaza Freedom March to Viva Palestina, to dozens of other projects, were organized.

    • Oui November 14, 2013, 12:22 PM

      Thank you for your courage and activism on behalf of the Palestinian people.

      In my first comment I linked to a February 2010 article and the Gaza Freedom March with images of letters by John Kerry and André Carson.

  • Noga November 14, 2013, 9:40 AM

    [comment deleted for comment rule violation; comments much be on topic and must be factual; comments that are slanderous will lead to banning.]

    • Greta Berlin, Free Gaza movement November 14, 2013, 10:15 AM

      It’s unfortunate, Noga, that you don’t appear to know how to read. The comment that you make above is NOT mine. It came from the video that Mullens did. It wasn’t his comment either, but one that someone else wrote. Of course, like many Zionists of your ilk, you’re no more interested in the truth than Yemini is, since his original posting doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between Free Gaza and Gaza Freedom March. Gee!!! Could that be a posting mistake? You might want to read carefully what other people wrote more than a year ago, before making yourself look uninformed.

      http://www.thestruggle.org/g_berlin_controversy.htm

      I don’t really expect any of you to be accurate as your comments above demonstrate.

      • Noga November 14, 2013, 2:00 PM

        “you’re no more interested in the truth than Yemini is, since his original posting doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between Free Gaza and Gaza Freedom March.”

        Well, then, by your own words, “No one is getting this story straight, not even you, Richard” then I guess Richard and Yemini are in the same boat. Both have not been able to distinguish between Free Gaza and Gaza Freedom March. Yet you seem pretty forgiving towards Richard, despite his fuzzy ideas about what the truth is and quite hostile to Yemini, about whom you know next to nothing except what Richard is serving for you and which you appear to accept as truth, despite noting that at least on one point he was not getting the story correctly.

        Of course I’m interested in the truth. Much more than you are. But somehow I don’t think truth has much to do with what’s being promoted on this blog.

        • Greta Berlin, Free Gaza movement November 14, 2013, 2:06 PM

          Richard apologized for the confusion between Free Gaza and the Gaza Freedom March, then corrected his post. What is your excuse, Noga, for not be willing to accept the truth? Interesting

          • Noga November 14, 2013, 2:15 PM

            You are not a reliable source for the truth for me, Greta. Nor is Richard. I read from time to time, not too often, his blog posts.

            BTW, have you attempted to correct Ben Dror’s inaccurate conception of the difference between Free Gaza and the Gaza Freedom March?

          • Richard Silverstein November 14, 2013, 9:19 PM

            @ Noga: Yemini attacked me in yesterday’s column and read my first post which made the distinction clear. He also read the fact that Abunimah & Evans never went on the Mavi Marmara nor did the letter have anything to do with it. Yet he continues lying through his teeth.

          • Noga November 15, 2013, 3:50 AM

            You are lying of course. I just read Ben Dror’s article in which he writes:

            “זה קרה בסוף שנת 2009, בעונה החמה של משלחות מהשמאל הגלובלי, האולטרה-רדיקלי, לכיוון רצועת עזה. פעם זה משט ימי, פעם זו משלחת יבשתית. השמות פה ושם מתחלפים. הפעילים הם אותם פעילים, עם זהות אידיאולוגית מוחלטת בין הגופים, ובדרך כלל גם מדובר באותם פעילים. הפעם הם קראו לעצמם GFM (מצעד החופש לעזה). היו שם, בין התומכים, עלי אבונימה ועומר ברגותי, ראשי קמפיין ה-BDS (תנועת החרם נגד ישראל), ג’ורג’ גלאווי, חבר הפרלמנט הבריטי, תומך מובהק של איראן ולפני כן של סדאם חוסיין, רוג’ר ווטרס מהפינק פלויד, שמקדיש חלק מזמנו למאבק נגד ישראל, ועוד שורה של אישים וגופים, שמהווים ביחד את הקואליציה האדומה-ירוקה, של שמאל רדיקלי ואיסלאמיסטים.

            … sometime it is the flotilla, sometime it is Gaza Freedom March. The names of the initiatives change but there is an absolute ideological identification between them and most of the time the activists are exactly the same activists…

            It seems he has acknowledged that the initiatives were different but insists that the substance remains the same.

            He is correct of course: All these initiatives have nothing to do with promoting peace. They all share the ideology of anti-Israel BDS and seek to cause the dissolution of the state of Israel and anything that may follow from that*. That is why they promote a view of Israel and Israelis as monstrous and evil. This is how they can side with organizations like Hamas and still claim the higher moral ground. This is why, when an 18 year old soldier sleeping on a bus on his way home gets murdered by a 16 year old Palestinian you will not find even the slightest hint of this event being mentioned anywhere on these corner of the blogosphere. It is no more than 18 year old Jewish Israelis deserve.

            Since he has not named you in his article I wasn’t sure he was referring to you. It’s too bad he gives you any mention at all. By your own account you are not considered malevolent enough to be counted among the true believers of the Palestinian cause and they shun you. Perhaps now they will reconsider and lift the ban …

            I don’t have the time to translate the whole thing but it seems that my earlier conjecture that Kerry had been unaware of what he had signed was close to the explanation that was provided by the State Office. I of course do not really think such shameful carelessness can be so easily dismissed.

            ___________

            *[Q] Knowing the region and given the history of the conflict, do you think
            such a Jewish minority would be treated fairly?

            [A] I worry about that. The history of minorities in the Middle East has not
            been as bad as in Europe, but I wonder what would happen. It worries me a
            great deal. The question of what is going to be the fate of the Jews is
            very difficult for me. I really don’t know. It worries me.” (Edward Said)

        • Richard Silverstein November 14, 2013, 9:05 PM

          @ Noga: Not so much. Because Yemini has published the same lie three different times in 3 days in Maariv claiming that Jodie Evans & Ali Abunimah went on the Mavi Marmara flotilla. He knows this is a lie and he repeats it. He also lied when he claimed Codepink and Ahmadinejad announced they would make common cause against U.S. sanctions. He also lied when he said that the Gaza Freedom March and Free Gaza flotilla were the same thing. All of w\Which makes him the lowest form of scumbag.

          You’re an apologist for a liar, which doesn’t make you “interested in the truth.” It makes you an aider and abettor of lies.

          • Olivia January 22, 2014, 10:00 AM

            I want a clarification please. I-ve read on Wikipedia that Ali Abunimah traveled on Mavi Marmara flotilla on the ill fated expedition. Here you say that he did not. I know that Wikipedia is not always a reliable source of information, but often the public goes there for an immediate take of an event. If it is true that he didn’t go, why no one corrects this information? Here is the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Abunimah

          • Richard Silverstein January 22, 2014, 8:13 PM

            @ Olivia: Indeed, in this case Wikipedia is passing off falsehood as fact. Ali Abunimah did participate in non-violent marches to Gaza that attempted and failed to enter through the Egyptian crossing to Gaza. He was not on the Mavi Marmara nor did he participate in it. Any claim he did is false & presumably malicious intended.

          • Greta Berlin, Free Gaza movement January 23, 2014, 11:16 AM

            Again, Wikipedia never said he participated with Free Gaza, nor did it say he was on the Mavi Marmara. It does say that he made a comment when the boats were brutally attacked by heavily armed Israeli commandoes. I think he was quoted correctly and subsequent videos smuggled out of prison (Israeli guards stole all of the tapes and equipment) prove that the commandoes were firing from helicopters, before even landing on the Mavi Marmara. In addition, they beat up, broke bones and attacked passengers on board ALL six vessels, not just the Mavi Marmara.

          • Richard Silverstein January 23, 2014, 1:21 PM

            @ Greta Berlin: Actually, Olivia is right. The page did make the false claims she noted. It was me who corrected his article yesterday before you accessed it. Unless my correction has already been reverted by a hasbara troll, it should now be correct. I made that harder by noting a source for the correct info & by noting in the page discussion that the false claim had no source supporting it. If you look back through the history of the page you’ll see what it did say before I corrected it yesterday.

    • Richard Silverstein November 14, 2013, 1:33 PM

      This is entirely off topic and a gross violation of my comment rules. Read them carefully. Stay on topic. Relate your comments directly to the post. If you do this again you will be moderated.

      • Greta Berlin, Free Gaza movement January 23, 2014, 11:08 AM

        Olivia. Wikipedia does NOT say that Abunimah was on board the Mavi Marmara. In fact, the entry clearly states that he had nothing to do with the Free Gaza boats, but was involved in the Gaza Freedom March. The Free Gaza movement has always been a project to send boats into Gaza. The Gaza Freedom March (as it demonstrates by using the word ‘march’) is a land based project. Please read the entry on Abunimah again.

  • Davol November 14, 2013, 12:28 PM

    I can’t believe this after watching Kerry cheerlead and
    tell outright lies for a war on Syria like there was no
    alternative. I’ve lost all respect for the man because of this and
    consider him the worse Secretary of State ever and a walking
    disgrace. Now this man sacrificed his career and credibility for
    this Israel butt-kissing war-mongering and now this is the thanks
    he gets from Israel. Kerry should reconsider who really are
    America’s friends.

    • Noga November 14, 2013, 2:09 PM

      I don t understand davol how you can state you lost all respect for Kerry in one sentence and then complain that he “sacrificed his career and credibility for this Israel butt-kissing war-mongering”. If you lose respect for someone, doesn’t it mean that that someone has no credibility for you anymore? Or is there some other variation of losing respect for someone that I’m not getting?

    • Oui November 14, 2013, 2:49 PM

      Read up about R2P policy and the humanitarian hawks in the Obama administration (Susan Rice and Samantha Power). Secretary Kerry made the deal with Lavrov about Syria (off-cuff remark CW) to give negotiations and diplomacy a chance. Kerry is making a powerful diplomatic push on 4 fronts: Syrian civil/sectarian war – Assad’s chemical weapons – Iran sanctions and nuclear technology – Israeli/Palestinian peace talks.

  • dickerson3870 November 15, 2013, 1:42 PM

    RE: “I’ve been trying to pinpoint what might be the source for this garbage… After doing some googling, it appears that Yemini dredged up much of this material from the scuzzy underworld of the Israel Lobby.” ~ R.S.

    SEE – “The AIPAC Politics of Smear: The Secret Section in Israel’s U.S. Lobby That Stifles American Debate”, By Gregory D. Slabodkin (an opposition researcher for AIPAC in 1990 and 1991), Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1992, pages 7-8, 89-91

    [EXCERPTS] During the reign of terror that Senator Joseph McCarthy unleashed in the 1950s, when the reputations and lives of many loyal Americans were ruined by false charges of “communism” and “treason,” American Jewry was overwhelmingly opposed to the Wisconsin senator and his blackmail by blacklists. According to the Gallup polls of the time, the percentage of U.S. Jews who opposed McCarthy’s smear tactics was twice that of the rest of the population. Many Jewish organizations passed resolutions condemning McCarthy’s ruthless character assassination.
    Today, however, such national Jewish organizations as the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are using the same tactics to stifle open debate of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

    • Secretly Circulated Lists
    To conduct this “neo-McCarthyism,” AIPAC operates a covert section within its research department that monitors and keeps files on politicians, journalists, academics, Arab-American activists, Jewish liberals, and others it labels “anti-Israel.” AIPAC selects information from these files and secretly circulates lists of the “guilty,” together with their alleged political misdeeds, buttressed by their statements, often totally out of context.
    Just as McCarthy’s permanent investigations subcommittee labeled criticism of specific policies of the U.S. government as “anti-American,” or “pro-Soviet,” AIPAC labels criticism of Israeli government policies “anti-Israel,” “pro-Arab” or “pro-PLO.” Still worse is the pro-Israel lobby’s redefinition of “anti-Semitism” to include any such criticism of Israel or its actions. . .
    . . . AIPAC’s “opposition research” department traces its roots to I.L. (Sy) Kenen, who founded AIPAC in 1954. As editor of AIPAC’s weekly Near East Report, he often attacked critics of Israel in his aptly titled column, “The Monitor.” Besides monitoring, analyzing, and responding to “anti-Israel” comment and activities in the United States, Kenen also kept files on AIPAC’s “enemies.” In his final year AIPAC began to expand its intelligence-gathering operations.
    Kenen’s memoirs, “Israel’s Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington”, record how AIPAC pooled resources in 1974 with the American Jewish Committee and other national Jewish organizations to create a “truth squad.” Its purpose was to combat “pro-Arab propaganda” and the emerging “Arab lobby,” which Kenen believed to be a growing threat to the U.S.-Israel relationship.
    “While vigorously defending Israel’s perceived interests, the organizations that created the truth squad turned into a kind of Jewish thought police,” journalist Robert I. Friedman explains. “Investigators—sometimes overzealous Jewish college students, sometimes sources with access to U.S. intelligence agencies—were used to ferret out critics of Israel, Jew or gentile, wherever they might be. At ADL and AIPAC, files were opened on journalists, politicians, scholars and community activists. Their speeches and writings were monitored, as were, in some cases, their other professional activities. And they were often smeared with charges of anti-Semitism or with the pernicious label of self-hating Jew. The intention was to stifle debate on the Middle East within the Jewish community, the media and academia, for fear that criticism of any kind would weaken the Jewish state.”
    When Kenen stepped down as executive director of AIPAC in December 1974, the task of monitoring Israel’s “enemies” was left to the department of research and information at AIPAC, where it has remained ever since. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.wrmea.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10030:the-secret-section-in-israels-us-lobby-that-stifles-american-debate&catid=141

  • Mary Hughes November 17, 2013, 8:41 PM

    I have been reading these comments with great amusement. When we sailed to Gaza on the first boat in August 2008, several of my U.S. colleagues were carrying letters written by their representatives in Congress asking for their safe passage. This was true also when I was in Cairo more than a year later as part of the Gaza Freedom March. Hedy Epstein, for instance, who lives in St Louis and who like me participated in both initiatives, requested and received such a letter from her U.S. Congressman. This is standard procedure. One of the things we elect our representatives to do is to — well, yes, represent us.

    Inside the cover of my U.S. passport appears the following:

    “The Secretary of State of the United States of America requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”

    When traveling overseas, it is not unusual for a constituent to approach his or her Representative in Congress to request a personal letter containing the same request. Such a letter is written merely as a formality and as a courtesy to the constituent and it is ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

    • Richard Silverstein November 17, 2013, 9:00 PM

      @ Mary Hughes: But you should realize that Ben Dror Yemini believes that your taking advantage of this American right makes you anti-Israeli and anti-American. And he isn’t even American!

      • Mary Hughes November 17, 2013, 9:31 PM

        It certainly doesn’t carry any weight as far as Israel is concerned. Americans of Arab descent are routinely refused entry to Israel, especially if they are suspected of wanting to visit Palestine, and are often jailed while awaiting deportation. My Senator Barbara Boxer has the gall to ask that Our State Department to give special waivers to Israeli citizens (just the Jewish ones, I imagine) wanting to enter the U.S. Such waivers, when granted, have always required reciprocity from the other government. Senator Boxer believes Israel should be exempt from this requirement, so it can continue to discriminate against Americans on the basis of religion.

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