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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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irg general allahdad murder

IRG Gen. Mohammad Allahdadi, murdered in strike orchestrated by IDF’s Aman intelligence branch at behest of Bibi Netanyahu

Last week, Israel invaded Syrian sovereignty in a targeted assassination of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general, a senior Hezbollah commander and the son of Imad Mugniyeh (see Al Manar video footage above), the latter earlier murdered by a Mossad bomb.  Even worse, it is now lying about the nature of the attack in order to deflect blame and pre-emptively blame Iran and Hezbollah for any retaliatory action they may take against Israel.  The IDF is claiming it didn’t know such high level targets were in the convoy attacked:

“We did not expect the outcome in terms of the stature of those killed – certainly not the Iranian general,” the source said. “We thought we were hitting an enemy field unit that was on its way to carry out an attack on us at the frontier fence.”

“We got the alert, we spotted the vehicle, identified it was an enemy vehicle and took the shot. We saw this as a limited tactical operation.”

Hawkish Israeli columnist Ben Caspit, writing in the Al Monitor’s Israel Pulse, waxes enthusiastic in this repulsive apologia, claiming the IDF didn’t know until a day after the attack that it had “hit the jackpot.”  Imagine a terror attack that assassinates the IDF chief of staff and an Iranian journalist writes the IRG “hit the jackpot.”  Most of the world would find this disgusting.  But when Al Monitor publishes this garbage it merits no opprobrium.

These claims are ludicrous on their face.  A UN observer unit noted drones overflying the Syrian position before the attack.  Then an Israeli helicopter gunship violated Syrian territory in launching the attack.

Anyone who’s aware of Israeli tactics in such circumstances knows that it doesn’t attack low-value targets inside Syria.  Why go on a fishing expedition when so much is at stake in violating Syrian sovereignty?  It only attacks when there is a critical target whose elimination means a great deal to Israeli counter-terror goals.  Or when a prime minister needs boost in the polls or faces re-election.

In this case, assassination of an Iranian general, Hezbollah commander and Imad Mugniyeh’s son were of supreme value (this was the second such Israeli murder of an IRG general).  In short, Israel knew precisely who was in the convoy and murdered them in cold blood.  An Israeli intelligence source (not involved in the attack) told me he doesn’t believe the IDF claim:

Such killings – in Gaza, let alone in Syria – aren’t executed unless Israeli intelligence knows positively who is in the car or the house.

Further, Hezbollah and Iran will take their revenge in some form in future.  And when they do, neither I nor anyone in the world should protest.  Nor should anyone in the world listen to Israel’s claims of Islamist “terrorism.”  Targeted killings, as I and may other analysts have noted, fail on every count.  They do nothing to lessen the threat against Israel.  In fact, they exacerbate it.  The thirst for revenge only increases.  The only ones who truly suffer will be the Israeli victims of the retaliatory attack.  Bibi obviously believes the short-term political gains of this targeted murder outweigh the blowback he will have to face.

In fact, there are already reports from an Israeli resident on the northern border (h/t Dena Shunra) that a militant cell crossed the Lebanese border and planted an IED on the Israeli side.  The Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan nearest the Lebanese-Syrian frontiers has been closed to hikers and civilian traffic in expectation of a possible resistance attack.  Also, the U.S. embassy has warned U.S. citizens not to travel within 1.5-miles of the northern borders.  I should note that such Israeli-manufactured terror hysteria plays right into the political hands of security hawks like Bibi.

Yossi Gurvitz has produced a great deal of the documentary evidence exposing the IDF lies.  I’ll add some evidence of my own in the course of this post.  Gurvitz’s post notes the long history of IDF mendacity in using allegations of Arab terror to justify Israeli attacks going all the way back to 1956.  In every case, he affirms the critical role played by the media in amplifying the lies advanced by the State.

idf targeted assassination

Yossi Gurvitz uses red arrows to point to identical or similar phraseology in Israeli media accounts of the targeted killings, proving they used the same Israeli intelligence source.

Haaretz (Jackie Khouri), Yediot Achronot (Yoav Zitun) and Maariv (Asaf Gibor) each published unsupported allegations originating in the same anonymous “western intelligence source” making virtually identical claims that Jihad Mugniyeh, age 20, was a senior Hezbollah commander organizing major terror attacks against Israel.  Once these three publications ran the account, that enabled the NY Times (Isabel Kershner) to dutifully fall into line as a foreign enabler of IDF mendacity:

Citing unnamed Western intelligence sources, two Israeli news outlets, Haaretz and Ynet, said the younger Mr. Mughniyeh headed a militant network that had already operated against Israel in the Golan Heights and that Mr. Mughniyeh was planning attacks aimed at killing Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Gurvitz notes the use, in all of the Hebrew accounts, of the same Hebrew idiom, “bullet in the barrel,” used in standard IDF military lingo.  In this case, it was meant to describe Mugniyeh as a terrorist ready to perpetrate an attack on Israel.  Such phrasing in the reports couldn’t possibly come from a “western intelligence source.”  Such a source wouldn’t even know such a phrase, let alone use it.  That means the source was from the IDF intelligence branch, Aman.

The Israeli blogger also says that if the IDF lies in trying to cover up the fact that it is the source of the report, then we must treat the actual substance of the report, that a 20 year-old was a Hezbollah terror mastermind who was worthy of execution, with profound skepticism.

Gurvitz also asserts that the IDF advances such lies especially when it’s trying to cover up particular weaknesses that might be exposed.  In this case, one special weakness is the issue of timing.  In fact, Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant noted that the timing of the attack is political (he similarly affirmed that the assassination of Ahmed Jabari was politically timed to benefit Netanyahu).  When you say “politics” there can only be one meaning: elections.  Bibi, who always runs scared that challengers to his right like Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman will outdo him, needs a security success to burnish his credentials.  From now till election day he can point, like a gunslinger in the Old West, to these three major notches in his gun.

The IDF understands that skeptical Israeli journalists and voters will point to the cynicism of Bibi’s use of Arab corpses to bolster his security image with the electorate.  So it circulates a load of crap about terror plans and murdered or endangered Israeli soldiers.  One of the credulous sources I mentioned above even called Jihad Mugniyeh, “the Hezbollah Prince.”  If you inflate the importance of your target, you turn him into a menace deserving of murder.

Further, Bibi knows the west is close to a deal with Iran concerning its nuclear program.  If this happens between now and the Israeli election it will make him look weak since he vehemently opposed any such deal.  What better way to counteract this than by provoking Iran by killing one of its senior military leaders.  And if Iran is stupid enough to mount its own terror attack in response?  Then this too would play into Bibi’s hands, allowing him to paint Iran as a violent terror state.

In fact, Israel is the terror state.  Its lawless savagery against frontline states like Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine paints it as the prime benefactor from terrorism and its prime perpetrator.

Returning to the deliberate obfuscation involved in use of the term “western intelligence sources,” Aman has used the same false terminology in the website it created to unmask Hezbollah operatives, Stop910:

We are an association of western intelligence organizations established to fight the threat of terror.

Aman is no more an association of western intelligence organizations than I am the King of Siam.

Senior Israeli security correspondent Yossi Melman has also weighed in on this subject.  He too is highly skeptical of Israeli official claims, about which he says:

[They don’t] ring true.  Keep in mind that disinformation is a major part of the shadow wars — the spy-versus-spy, bomber-versus-bomber, assassin-versus-assassin battles that have gone on for years.

…Why would Israel’s military now hint…that killing those senior men was just a coincidence? First, Israel’s intelligence agencies don’t want their enemies to know precisely how much Israel knows…Israelis listen in to practically all cellphone conversations and intercept text messages.

Does it make sense that Israel — using a rocket-firing helicopter, according to the first leak, but now U.N. observers say they saw Israeli drone aircraft cross into Syrian airspace before the strike — would strike two jeeps, just because they were within a few miles of the Golan Heights armistice line?

We think…Israel struck the convoy, because of information that senior Hezbollah men were in it.  The presence of the Iranians may not have been known, but it was always a real possibility.

The leak to Reuters is probably aimed at making a tense situation a lot less volatile — to soothe some of the anger. The suggestion is made of an intelligence mistake by the Israelis, hinting that they did not intend to kill a senior Iranian — and therefore Iran shouldn’t overreact.

A former Israeli military intelligence chief, retired General Amos Yadlin (who this week became the official pick for Defense Minister by the Labor Party-led coalition called “The Zionist List”), was asked if he would order the airstrike in the knowledge there was an Iranian general in the vehicles.

“We don’t check the identity cards or passports of people who are engaged in terrorism attacks on Israel,” Yadlin replied.

But a smart espionage community like Israel’s does, in fact, try to be entirely aware of whom it is striking — and what the consequences could be.

A lingering question is whether the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may have ordered the airstrike in the belief that it would boost his reelection campaign. Israelis will be voting in mid-March.

The Israeli government strongly denies that; and there is the reality that the blowback — retaliation by Hezbollah, Iran, or both — could be so disruptive and damaging that Israeli voters will not be happy about the airstrike.

I highly doubt Melman is right about that. Unless Hezbollah and Iran succeed in launching a devastating terror attack along the lines of the U.S. Marine barracks attack against an Israeli target; or perhaps a massive rocket barrage that killed scores of Israelis, the electorate will just chalk it up to “the Arabs hate us and what do you expect from this lot?”  Then they will dutifully traipse to the polls and vote Likud as the only Party they trust to keep them safe and take it to the Arab “enemy.”  And so the cycle of Middle East pathology continues.

A side note: in Melman’s account above he displays the logo image of Aman, thus directing us to the source of the fraudulent story.

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Israeli Police Murder 2 Bedouin, Provoke Riot in Negev

rahat funeral

Funeral procession for young man killed by police in Rahat (Oren Ziv)

I’ve been reading reports from the Israeli Negev about the death of a Bedouin at the funeral over the past day or so.  The reports I saw were short on details.  Today, Yoav Peled sent me this posting from a Bedouin Google Group which riveted my attention, offering a fuller picture of the police brutality running rampant there:

Police killings in Rahat

Yeela Raanan, January 19 2014

On Wednesday night, Jan 14th, during a drug-related police raid in Rahat (the Arab-Bedouin city in the Negev), a policeman shot and killed a young man that was not involved, and was standing in his own yard.  His father took him to the closest clinic, and was arrested there by the police, who claimed that he attacked the police. The police also claim that the 20-year-old young man attacked the police… The father was taken away from his dying son and to an “interrogation” where they handcuffed his hands and ankles and he was beaten.

The funeral was yesterday. The police and the municipality of Rahat agreed to allow the funeral to proceed without any police present. Despite this an armored police car forced its way through two road blocks and into the street of the funeral. This created unrest, and a representative of the municipality approached and requested that the police follow him out of the 30,000 people crowd of funeral goers. The police responded that they have sufficient bullets for everyone present and refused. Instead, the police started to crash into the parked cars. In the very violent events that followed, the police killed another man, a  resident of Rahat, and many were injured by rubber bullets: among them a man lost his eye, and another his jaw.

Since 2000, when the Israeli police killed 13 Arab civilians, another 40 have been killed by the Israeli police. These two killings have once more shown the use of the Israeli police as a political-ethnic tool. Despite this, there is no outcry in the Israeli Hebrew media. Please help us promote this overseas, maybe eventually also our media will also have to respond…

Rahat police pogrom

Rahat protester wounded by police pogrom

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) was at the funeral and wrote this about the tragic events:

It’s hard to watch a grown man cry over a son who died in his arms after being shot by police.  I’m now leaving the house of mourning of the Alja’ar family in Rahat, after participating in the protest vigil together with my friend, MK Muhammed Barakeh.

During the Alja’ar funeral the day before yesterday, another Rahat resident, Sami Zayadne was killed and tens more wounded. The police broke a pledge made to the mayor not to intervene in the funeral.

Why? And how is it possible a funeral procession ends like this?

With the death of over 50 Israeli Palestinians at the hands of police since 2000, it’s no longer possible of speak of them as happenstance. This is a systemic failure.

I appealed today for the creation of an official investigatory committee to call for radical change in the way police relate to “Arab” citizens.

The Israeli mainstream publications that are covering the event, as poorly as they are, call this a “riot.”  As if it’s the Bedouin who rioted.  This is a lie.  The police did a drug raid there and somehow ended up killing a young innocent bystander.  Then when residents held a funeral, the police broke their vow when they didn’t like the figure delivering the eulogy.  This is outright provocation.  This is a pogrom instigated by the Israeli police, one of the most violent, corrupt and racist police forces in the western world.

The Bedouin communities of the Negev have launched a general strike to protest police mass violence. The Maan report linked above says the local residents committee in Rahat called the police attack “state terrorism” (they’re not far off).  It also notes that police began their attack on the mourners at the cemetery when Imam Raed Salah of the Islamic Movement began his eulogy.

Now it becomes obvious what happened: the Israeli State has declared him Public Enemy Number 1. They’ve tried everything beginning with harassment and escalating to criminal charges. The charges are always trumped up (cf. Haneen Zoabi). But the State has shown it’s willing to do almost anything (including murder in this case) to stop an Enemy of the State.

This tragedy shows once again the foul and systemic racism which is at the foundation of the Israeli ‘Judaic’ state. Such a regime cannot countenance Palestinian citizens exercising their full and legitimate rights. Instead of seeing this as the free exercise of democratic rights, the State sees it as an existential threat to itself. This is yet another reason the Israeli state must be radically transformed before it can be fully free and democratic for all citizens.

Note above the complaint about the paucity of Israeli media coverage. They don’t assign reporters to cover the Bedouin “beat.” There is no such thing. So coverage of events like this are hit or miss. You might see coverage. The coverage may be decent or it may be cursory. That’s why I’m honoring the request of Yaela Raanan above. Maybe foreign media coverage will sufficiently embarrass the authorities so they will treat Rahat Bedouin with a minimal level of respect which they deserve as citizens of a state which disrespects them in every way it can.

There is perhaps one decent senior Israeli Jewish leader in the midst of all this: Pres. Reuven Rivlin.  He had the guts to issue a public statement that, while not condemning the police riot, at least expressed condolences to the families of the victims and the entire Bedouin community.  At least it’s something.  But everyone knows President’s express little more than wishes.  It’s the ministers and prime ministers who do the deeds.  The very nasty deeds in this case.

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shin bet insulted french prime minister

Maariv article detailing Shin Bet insult to French prime minister

Maariv today published an astonishing story.  Anyone reading this blog is used to the brutishness of the Shin Bet.  But usually it’s reserved for Palestinians, Arab journalists, and air travelers with Arab “racial” profiles.  We would never expect it to be meted out to the elected leader of a country that is an Israeli ally.

On the day of the memorial service for those slain in the kosher supermarket attack, Prime Minister Manuel Valls sought to take his seat in the synagogue with the President, Francois Hollande and Israel’s leader, Bibi Netanyahu.  As he approached his seat, his path was blocked by a Shin Bet agent who refused to allow him to pass until Netanyahu had taken his own seat.  According to Valls, the agent grabbed his arm and forced him to wait until the Israeli had seated himself.

Valls shouted at him in French and English:

You don’t make the rules here. You provide security for the prime minister of Israel, that is all.

French prime minister in paris grand synagogue

Netanyahu, Hollande and Valls, after he was manhandled by Shin Bet goons

The Israeli ambassador to France apologized for the encounter.  There can be no doubt that this was a deliberate affront to France’s political leadership.  Hollande and Valls made clear during Netanyahu visit that he wasn’t wanted in the country.  Bibi isn’t one to suffer insults gladly.  So either he, his official lackeys, or the Shin Bet itself took it upon itself to take Valls down a peg or two.  It seems to me this is an extremely dangerous game.  It also seems to me this is a game played by very desperate people who share no concern for the overall long term interests of their country.  But who are rather motivated by personal needs and emotions.

In a separate encounter, a leader of the French Jewish community recounted a meeting Netanyahu held with the communal leadership.  Those attending were “deeply insulted” by the prime minister’s comparison of their behavior to those of the Spanish Jews in 1492 “who felt good in Spain but who erred” in not leaving when they had the chance.

You may recall that Netanyahu’s father, Ben Zion, was a scholar of medieval Spanish Jewry.  Maariv notes that in the meeting Bibi summoned his father’s authority to support the insult he offered the French leadership.  I’ve said here before that Bibi has none of the supposed erudition of his father regarding Jewish history.  Where would he have had Spanish Jews go?  To the Holy Land?  As it was, Spanish Jews found refuge in many places from Amsterdam to Brazil to New Amsterdam.  But to say that in the 15th century, Spanish Jewry should’ve known that the were doomed if they remained in Spain, seems the height of foolishness.

If we draw the historical analogy further, Bibi seems to be saying that France is headed for the same sort of religious takeover that Catholics engineered in 15th century Spain.  Except that this time, it will be Islamists taking over.  Further, Bibi infers that the Islamist hordes who do take over France will expel all French Jews after they do.  Therefore, they should escape now to Israel, their homeland, while there’s still time.  I think most reasonable people can see how ludicrous this logic is.  It’s the product of a distorted view of reality induced by the thinking that characterized Ben Zion Netanyahu, Zeev Jabotinsky’s personal secretary.

Netanyahu’s tongue-lashing is little different (in fact it’s pretty much the same) as blaming Polish and Russian Jews for not foreseeing Hitler’s rise and the Holocaust, and escaping while they still had time.  This is a shameful act of blaming the victims.  It’s easy to read history with 20/20 hindsight, but much harder when you are in the middle of such great tragedy.  As someone who’s known Holocaust survivors and written an oral history of an Auschwitz survivor, I make it a point never to judge the actions of those facing such life and death dilemmas.  It takes a cold, cruel, heartless man to do so.  And Bibi Netanyahu is just such a one.

Stories like this presage a hardening of the world’s attitude toward Israel.  When asked politely to stay home, Netanyahu defied his French hosts.  What country in the world will want to welcome him after this?  Now, an act of petty vengeance by a Shin Bet goon has strengthened the process of isolation represented by BDS.

Bibi had already been warned that defying Hollande’s wish would sour bi-lateral relations for the rest of Bibi’s premiership.  Now, Israel can expect a French vote in the UNSC in favor of Palestinian statehood.

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Israeli Ambassador to Sweden’s Islamophobic Facebook Post

isaac bachman islamophobia

Israel’s ambassador to Sweden exposes his Islamophobia and historical ignorance

Israeli ambassador Isaac Bachman published a profoundly Islamophobic Facebook post (Haaretz Hebrew coverage) which I read thanks to Max Blumenthal and Dima S.  He’s now deleted the post and replaced it with a mealy-mouthed “explanation” claiming his original post wasn’t directed against all Muslims (it was) but only against Muslim terrorists.

To be clear, this isn’t quite as bad as the foul, noxious hasbara hate emanating from Israel’s Dublin embassy.  It’s not as flamboyant as that.  But in its own way, it comes close to the Tinari-Modai “product” for anti-Muslim prejudice.

The opening section of his post repeats the stale claim of Islamophobes world-wide that the vast majority of terror in the world is Islamist.  That, of course, discounts thousands of other acts of terror by religious, nationalist groups who are not Muslim.  Among them, the IRA, Israeli settlers, anti-Castro Cubans, Uighurs, Hindu nationalists, Sikh assassins, not to mention numerous examples of state-sponsored terror from the U.S. to Israel to Russia.

Which leads to the second section.  That’s where Bachman’s historical ignorance comes to the fore.  He lists religions which supposedly have lived together peacefully, then follows this with religions Muslims have battled through history.  I thought I would correct the historical record for his benefit:

Buddhists living with Rohingya Muslims= Problem
Israeli Jews living with Palestinian Muslims= Problem
Israeli Ashkenazi Jews living with Mizrahi Jews = Problem
Israeli Jews living with Black Hebrews = Problem
Israeli Jews living with African refugees = Problem
Israeli Jews living with Negev Bedouin = Problem
Christian Americans living with Native Americans = Problem
European Christians living with European Jews = Problem
Catholic Spaniards  living with Spanish Moors (Muslims) = Problem
Catholic Spaniards living with Spanish Jews = Problem
Catholic Spaniards living with South American indigenous peoples = Problem
Indian Hindus living with Indian Muslims = Problem
Indian Hindus living with Indian Sikhs= Problem
Northern Irish Protestants living with Irish Catholics = Problem
Russians living with Chechen Muslims = Problem
Chinese Han living with Tibetans = Problem
Chinese Han living with Uighur Muslims = Problem

I got a real kick out of Bachman’s claim that Muslims in Europe are “happy,” along with the claim that Muslims in BJP-ruled India are happy as well.  I guess you could tell that to the 1,000 Muslims slaughtered in Gujarat under the watchful eye of the country’s current prime minister, Nahrendra Modi.

Finally, I want to highlight Bachman’s closing statement which clearly is not Islamophobic in the least (wink-wink):

…For those who do not like to generalize – ask yourselves where are the peace pursuing Muslims and why they hardly have any voice and opinion at all on all that.

Only a rank, ignorant Islamophobe would miss the tens of thousands of Muslim individuals, organizations, mosques and national leaders who’ve denounced the Paris massacre.  Nor is there any recognition from Bachman that it is these Muslims who are the vast majority of the world’s 1.3-billion Muslims.  And that the Islamist fanatics are a small minority.  In fact, I’d go farther to argue that one of the few places in which violent religious fanatics seem to own the major levers of power is in Israel.

Here is Bachman’s apologia of sorts.  I’ll let you be the judge of how much hypocrisy, mendacity and disingenuousness there is in it:

Some clarifications, in response to the comments on this post:

There is no other country- Muslim or Arab, but Israel where Muslims live on an equal footing with full democratic and civic rights and as great contributors to our society.

My only intention in this post is to draw attention to the dangers of radical Islamist terrorism in an increasing number of places in the world. The prime victims of which are also “regular” and peaceful Muslims themselves. The reality of the threat of this terrorism has been amply demonstrated, lastly in Paris.

Those that are looking for hidden messages in my post are looking in the wrong place.

My message is that all of us, in democratic societies, will have to defend ourselves against the growing threat of Islamist fundamentalism and terrorism, as Israel has been obliged to do for decades.

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