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Israel and a Tale of Two Campuses

University of Illinois Israel-Palestine lecture series

University of Illinois Israel-Palestine lecture series

Tonight, I want to present a portrait of two Israel studies programs on two different campuses to show one that largely honors the traditions of fair, open academic discourse and another that flagrantly violates them.  The two campuses are the University of Illinois (UI) and Brandeis University.  Given recent headlines you might think the institution violating academic standards was UI.  The Native American Studies program at the Champaign-Urbana campus hired Steven Salaita, then the Chancellor fired him after personal pressure was mounted by pro-Israel alumni.

But there was another interesting development at the University’s flagship campus during this period.  The Jewish studies program voted overwhelmingly to criticize the campus leadership and defend Salaita’s hiring.  The Jewish studies program at the Chicago campus hasn’t been sitting on its laurels either.  It’s doing what a good academic program is supposed to do in challenging intellectual constructs.  It’s delving into the contentious issues around Israel and our relationship to it.

UIC hosting a lecture series entitled, Thinking Out of the Box on Israel-Palestine.  The speakers cross a rather diverse spectrum academically and politically, which is as it should be.  They include on the left, Charles Manekin, Antony Lerman and Sayed Kashua and on the liberal Zionist side Peter Beinart, Mira Sucharov and Hussein Ibish.

Of course, I have some important criticisms of the panels and the overall conception of the series.  While it claims to include Palestine, the main speaker addressing the issue, Hussein Ibish, is a conservative Lebanese-American working for a discredited DC think tank.  On the panel which asks whether liberal Zionism is dead, there are two participants who are liberal Zionists and heartily reject the claim, and only one speaker who endorses it.

There are no panels that address, even indirectly, the Salaita controversy.  I’m certain this was a deliberate choice by organizers who wanted to steer clear of this mine field.  But as a result, they’ve attenuated their program by refusing to address the elephant in the room.  Additionally, there are no programs dealing with BDS, which is one of the most important current issues in this international debate, only made more prominent with each new Israeli attack on Palestine and Palestinians.

Only one speaker, Gershon Baskin, will address Gaza and he is an Israeli with strongly hostile views of Hamas, despite the fact that he negotiated the Shalit prisoner exchange.  This program desperately needs more participation by Palestinians.  You can’t have the word “Palestine” in your title and have eight Jewish speakers and only two Arab (one of whom is Israeli-Palestinian).

Despite these criticisms, this is a program that for a Jewish studies program, representing a liberal Zionist ethos, addresses important, controversial issues in a relatively balanced manner.

Not so, Brandeis University.  Its Schusterman Center for Israel Studies is hosting a boilerplate pro-Israel “teach-in” on the Gaza war and BDS, A Teach-In on the Gaza Conflict and BDS Movement.  For those who may not know, the Schusterman family offers tens of millions to fund Israel studies programs, Aipac campus organizing, and other forms of pro-Israel boosterism on college campuses.  Though its academic giving offers a veneer of academic legitimacy, it is clearly part and parcel of the campus war being waged by the Israel Lobby on college campuses.

The pro-Israel bona fides of the speakers are a case in point.  The coordinator of the event is Schusterman Center chair, Ilan Troen.  Troen sees fighting BDS as part of his academic mission.  His talk will document the anti-Israelism among academics who support BDS through their academic associations.  Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a decidedly rightist campus advocacy group, features this talk he delivered at an unofficial rump session of the MLA conference, at which BDS was debated.

Others participating include Len Saxe, who runs the Steinhardt Center on campus.  Much of his research, funded by pro-Israel neocon hedge fund manager, Michael Steinhardt, is designed to offer a patina of academic respect to the Birthright Program.  Steinhardt co-founded it with Las Vegas gambling oligarch, Sheldon Adelson.  Saxe’s “research” invariably finds long-lasting pro-Israel impact on the Jewish identities of Birthright participants.  Other speakers are Cary Nelson, the leading American academic fighting against BDS on college campuses (who sits on the University of Illinois faculty, by the way).

The campus Hillel director, Rabbi Elyse Winick will also speak on Understanding the Role of the Media During the Gaza Conflict.  A website designed to fight BDS on campus featured an anti-BDS statement by mainstream American Jewish leaders that she signed.  Given that she’s led Birthright tours, it’s safe to say that her critique of the media regarding the Gaza war will not include any claims of favoritism toward Israel.

The teach-in will conclude with a talk by Schusterman assistant director, Rachel Fish.  She contributed to a Tablet Magazine roundtable discussing ways to rebut “anti-Israel” rhetoric during campus Apartheid Week.  Her contribution was called, Expose Biased Professors and the Influence of Petrodollars.  She worked for the notoriously Islamophobic David Project from 2003-2009.  ‘Nuf said on that score.

Another major speaker at the Brandeis event will be Donna Divine, who teaches at Smith College.  She is on the board of directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and contributed to Cary Nelson’s anti-BDS screed, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.  She documents her anti-Islam views via a paper she uploaded to her Academia.edu account a paper entitled, Victory for Hamas, Defeat for Middle East.  A California pro-Israel campus blogger had this headline for a post about a SPCME event at which Divine spoke at UCSD,  Renowned Middle East Scholars Bring Pro-Israel Message to UCSD.

Campus debate on the issues raised by the Brandeis event are critical.  But not the in the fashion adopted by the Schusterman Center.  BDS is not demonic.  It doesn’t carry the plague.  It is a serious issue that deserves discussion and debate.  You wouldn’t know that from the hysterical way in which programs like this address it.

Given that the president of Brandeis is on first name basis with Charles Jacobs and would take his marching orders from him if it were possible to do so without public exposure and embarrassment.  And given that the chair of the school’s board of trustees made very clear that Brandeis is a pro-Israel campus, including in its academic departments; it’s not surprising that Brandeis is an center of pro-Israel militancy.

There is no diversity on this panel.  There are no Palestinian speakers.  Since the teach-in deals with Gaza, one might expect at least one speaker who knows the place or has has done research there.  As for BDS, I don’t expect fairness or balance.  But to only invite speakers who publicly detest BDS?  Really?

I should note that the entire subject of how Israel is addressed on campuses is part of a broad, aggressive campaign by the Israel Lobby and funded by outfits like Schusterman.  Another battle in this war is taking place at UCLA, where pro-Israel activists have attacked the renowned von Grunebaum Center for Near East Studies.  Juan Cole today published this rejoinder by the Center to its critics, who’ve called the latter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.  Liberal Jewish professors have come to the Center’s defense as well.

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Shin Bet Committing Organizational Suicide

yoram cohen

Yoram Cohen’s major miscalculation cost himself and his agency credibility and capital

The latest developments in the operatic struggle between the two Israeli military-intelligence giants, the IDF and Shin Bet, has taken further twists and turns in the past 24 hours.  Bibiton (aka Yisrael HaYom), which has the ear of the prime minister and perhaps even his writing hand, writes (Hebrew) today that Shin Bet chief, Yoram Cohen, should resign immediately.  He has, in its view, embarrassed not just himself and his agency but the nation, with his unseemly assault on the Israeli army.  The reporter says Cohen has “lost the trust of his bosses” in the Knesset, cabinet, and even in the prime minister’s office.

Though at the same time, he suggests that Cohen should learn the motto of his agency and protect while being unseen.  So whether Cohen’s job is really in jeopardy is an open question.

But what is unprecedented is open warfare with blood running down the streets from this mortal combat between the two Israeli security monoliths.  Conflict has always existed among these entities, sometimes even bursting forth into public view.  But never in such a bold, brash fashion, using Israel’s most popular TV news magazine program to advance the agenda of the attacking party.

There once was a time in Israel when these battles were fought in cabinet rooms or in IDF headquarters.  The struggle was always to advance the nation’s security and interests despite the war of wills among individuals.  But in the age we now live in, generals and spy chiefs mobilize the media to sell themselves and their agenda.  It’s become an age of personality and selling, rather than values.  Yet another indication of the decline of the Israeli state.

Cohen has shot himself not just in the foot, but in a much more sensitive spot given this humble-pie eating statement Netanyahu forced him to release, which contained this lie:

It’s appropriate to stress that at no point did Shin Bet members claim, including those interviewed for [the Channel 2 Uvda] program, that Shin Bet passed on a warning of a war with Hamas in July.

In a letter to Shabak veterans, Cohen returned to the warpath with this unyielding statement:

We stand behind everything said on the [TV] program by our people.  These things [they said] are absolutely accurate and reflect reality and the full chain of events. All the information offered by our people on the show was truthful and supported by hard evidence.  We stand behind its [the program’s] integrity and our own authenticity and true professionalism.

In the blatant contradiction between these two passages, it’s hard to see how Cohen will be able to climb down from the tenuous position in which he’s placed himself and the Shabak.

Israel’s most popular media commentator, Nahum Barnea, has entered the field as well against the Shabak.  He takes on one specific portion of the Uvdah program which featured a Shin Bet agent with the code name “Shiran.”  To bolster the claim that the agency warned the IDF of Hamas’ intent to use tunnels to burrow into Israel, she tells the interviewer of an attack during Operation Protective Edge.  In it, militants used a tunnel to penetrate Israeli territory.  But Shiran claims the tunnel led directly to a border moshav called N’tiv Ha’Asarah and the attack was intended to kill civilian residents.

That’s news, Barnea says, to the moshav, which says there never was such a tunnel in their midst.  In fact, the tunnel in question did enter Israeli territory, but never threatened any civilian target.  Rather (though Barnea doesn’t say this explicitly), it was intended to attack a military target. This further bolsters the important note that during Protective Edge, while Israel was killing 1,800 Gaza civilians, Hamas made a point of refusing to use its tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.  When its fighters had opportunities to attack civilians, they jeopardized themselves by waiting for a military target to attack.

I am by no means arguing that Hamas was an angel in this conflict.  After all, it did fire missiles into Israel which killed five civilians.  But compared to Israel’s behavior, Hamas’ was relatively benign.  It largely defended its own territory.  And contrary to the Shabak claims in Uvdah, it rarely tried to “take the fight to the enemy” and never attempted to conquer Israeli territory.

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IDF, Shin Bet in Mortal Death Spiral Over Gaza War Claims


If you’ve watched animated super-hero series or read comic books (as a father of 10 year old twins, that’s part of my job), you’ve seen those scenes where the hero and villain lock arms in mortal combat with their bodies spiraling through the universe.  Planets explode as they tumble through space in what appears to be a death spiral.

Something like that it happening in Israel as I write this.  Except that the two combatants are both villains.  There is no hero in this one, which involves the two super-villains of the Israeli security apparatus: the IDF and Shin Bet.

uvdah screenshot hamas war

Alleged Hamas secret communication: “The goal of the coming war is to conquer towns. It will be a war of liberation.”

A few days ago, Uvdah began its new TV season with a blockbuster segment (apologies that almost all the material linked in this post is in Hebrew).  Though the episode dealt with the entire Gaza war, the “money segment” featured charges by high-level Shin Bet officials that last winter the agency had forwarded to the army actionable intelligence from the field allegedly documenting Hamas plans to open a summer war against Israel.  The Islamist military wing planned a surprise attack set for summer.  It would take the war to the enemy, overwhelm border defenses, and invade Israel.  It was to be a “war of liberation.”  The goal was to conquer and hold Israeli territory.  The use of the Hebrew term “war of liberation” (milhemet shichrur) is ironic since the 1948 War is often described using the same term.  Such a troubling irony (that Hamas allegedly planned to wage its own war of liberation in which Israel would be the territory liberated) would not be lost on the average Uvdah viewer.

When an Israeli friend first sent me the Uvdah show and I read about it it sounded like a bad made-for-TV movie.  Granted some delusional Hamas official might perhaps believe such nonsense (though Hamas strikes me as far more pragmatic than many Israeli security officials), but that the Shin Bet would do so and pass it on to other agencies as a serious security threat seemed to me beyond ludicrous.  For me, it’s something like the 9/11 conspiracy theorists who tell tales of dancing Mossad agents after the fall of the Twin Towers.

One of the more glaring contradictions between the Shabak’s claim of Hamas’ strategic goals and the methods the latter actually used during the war is that Hamas’ penetration of the Israeli border never involved attacking civilians or even taking over communities.  In fact, in several instances its forces could have attacked civilians but deliberately endangered themselves by waiting for a military target.  Hamas only sought to capture soldiers in order to exchange them for its own prisoners.

Given the media glare of Israel’s foremost news magazine opening its season with this blockbuster, it’s become a Battle of the Titans.  The IDF top brass has reacted with apoplectic fury to the charges.  Despite strong efforts by the prime minister himself to calm passions and remind the army and Shabak that they were supposed to be on the same side, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz made public an unprecedented letter addressed to Netanyahu.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a high-level military official wash so much dirty laundry in public.  This is the first time the letter has been published in English:

In the TV show, Uvdah, Shabak sources crossed every moral and ethical red line.  It was a deep expression of an inter-agency lack of collegiality.  The program offered prejudicial information creating the misimpression that the Shin Bet was the sole intelligence unit for Gaza which performed its work faithfully, while AMAN, the IDF and the political echelon froze.

I strongly maintain that Shabak did not convey any warning about Hamas’ intent to wage a preemptive July war.  Never at any meeting I attended was the subject of such a war or potential [Hamas] operation raised; nor was it raised at the military or political level.

Shabak’s collaboration with the TV show glorifies it by defaming the political echelon in a way that is a moral-ethical breach.  The IDF is stigmatized as a group which refused to act upon urgent intelligence brought to it by the Shabak.  This is my strongest protest against such an act.  Such a media stunt should be investigated fully.

I am pained by this.  I never dreamed we would get to such a point.  From my perspective, exposure of intelligence in the possession of the agency’s staff and field methods used is unprecedented and dangerous.  Nor is it clear who approved such scandalous revelations.

Cabinet ministers too fumed at Yoram Cohen’s claim just after the war ended that he warned them in April about impending war.

The IDF does agree that there were reports of Hamas tunnel networks intended to cross the border into Israel in order to capture IDF soldiers and hold them ransom.  The IDF also says that it sprang into action seeking to uncover the tunnels and frustrate any cross border raid.

Ultimately, they failed and there was one Hamas raid, not as the Shabak claimed targeting Israeli civilians, but rather IDF soldiers.  Five soldiers stationed at an observation post guarding a border kibbutz were killed in that incident.  Though the program does not mention it, this was one of at least three instances in which the Hannibal Directive was invoked and an IDF soldier was likely killed by his own, perhaps deliberately so.

The TV news show documents another major operational failure of the military-intelligence apparatus during the war.  The Shabak allegedly had pinpointed the location of Mohammed Deif who, according to it, was the mastermind behind Hamas’ war plans.  He, in the minds of intelligence officials, was the dark prince of Hamas.  The target who’d escaped multiple assassination attempts.  A man living “in the shadows,” as a Shabak official says during the show.

An elaborate operation was planned to kill him involving joint efforts of the Israeli air force and Shin Bet.  Approval was given by the prime minister.  The F-16 took off, reached the target dropped its bombs and…two of them failed to explode.  Precisely the ones which were supposed to destroy the portion of the house in which they believed Deir was located.  Despite high level Israeli claims that it killed Deif, it appears they failed.  All Dayan would say during the show was “it appears there is a chance he remains alive.”  I know and any reasonably person who follows Israeli intelligence matters knows that if he were dead, they would be celebrating on camera, and not being careful and judicious in their comments.

The operational failure of the mission is mentioned but not questioned.  It’s as if it’s a matter of course that two missiles of four can fail in such an operation.  No one is blamed.  This again is typical of Israeli credulousness in the face of the national security megalith.

At no point during the Uvdah reporting on the failed assassination attempt, did anyone on camera or off note that Deif’s wife and 8 month-old son were killed in this attack along with other members of the Dalou family which owned the house.  There is no acknowledgement of civilian slaughter.  This is an example of shameful journalism.  But unfortunately reporting that characterizes the moral obtuseness of even the best of Israeli journalists (and Dayan is one of the better ones, if not among the best).

If you watch this show carefully, you won’t see a record of Shin Bet glory.  You will actually see the recounting of a series of failures of the entire security apparatus painted to look like successes.  But you wouldn’t know that from reading Ilana Dayan’s narration or the dialogue of any of the sources interviewed.  You have to read between the lines and know what they’re leaving out.

This edition of Uvdah was a love letter to Shabak.  It allowed the agency to whitewash every failure.  It allowed it to showcase a young female analyst who recounted the telephone calls she made to Gaza homeowners telling them to abandon their homes before Israel destroyed them.  She even says the Arabic words she used to warn them.  It makes the Shabak to be noble and thoughtful.  All the while you listen you know this is theater.  Theater that the average Israel views with satisfaction knowing those responsible for keeping him safe and secure are humane and decent.  They care about Gazan lives even though Gazans mean us nothing but evil, etc.

When I consulted an Israeli with some knowledge of these issues, why the Shin Bet would spin such unbelievable tales of Hamas plans to overrun Israeli defenses and take over Israeli towns, he said that the Israeli domestic security agency has felt very much sidelined by the war.  It felt that the IDF’s AMAN intelligence unit took credit for the so-called successes of Protective Edge, leaving the Shin Bet out in the cold.  Uvdah presented an opportunity for it to argue for its continued relevance.

But frankly, if this is the way Yoram Cohen is going to maintain his status as top dog in the intelligence hierarchy, he’s walked out on a branch after it’s been half sawed off.  I think a performance like this can only embarrass not just the Shabak, but the entire national security apparatus.  It looks like the two super-heroes of Israeli society are battling to the death to determine who’s the biggest, meanest and best of the lot.  How much rope does Cohen think the Israeli population will give him to do such things?

Perhaps the worst aspect of this program was that it once again encouraged Israelis to forget what really happened last summer and who really started the war.  Hamas did not initiate this war no matter what the Shabak says.  Israel initiated the war, as I’ve written here many times, with a massive West Bank pogrom.  Do not allow anyone, least of all one of Israel’s better TV news magazines to tell you otherwise.

News just broke that the Shin Bet has released a statement in which it falsely claims that it’s personnel never told Uvdah that it knew of plans by Hamas to wage a July war.  Anyone watching the show heard the agency’s officials say precisely that.  But what’s interesting about the “walk-back” is that Yossi Melman tweets that the publication of the statement was demanded by Bibi Netanyahu himself.

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marwan barghouti

Barghouti, powerful symbol of Palestinian resistance  (AP/Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi)

Marwan Barghouti is not just the most famous Palestinian political prisoner in Israeli jails.  He’s the most popular Palestinian political leader hands down.  In the past, he’s negotiated with Israeli authorities on a number of critical issues involving Israeli-Palestinian relations.  He’s been willing to serve as a bridge between the two parties despite the life sentence he’s serving for commanding Palestinian resistance during the Second Intifada.

But in light of the looming Jerusalem Intifada and Israel’s increasing obtuseness, Barghouti took a radically new tack.  He smuggled a letter from prison that called for a renewal of armed resistance against Israel:

Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi urged the Palestinian leadership to give its backing to “armed resistance” against Israel in a letter published Tuesday as a wave of violence surged.

…In a letter to mark 10 years since the death of veteran leader Yasser Arafat, Barghouthi said that “choosing global and armed resistance” was being “faithful to Arafat’s legacy, to his ideas, and his principles for which tens of thousands died as martyrs.”

“It is imperative to reconsider our choice of resistance as a way of defeating the occupier.”

His letter pointedly included other forms of resistance as legitimate as well.  But the dramatic policy change involved his call for armed struggle in light of Israel’s increasingly bellicose and provocative acts in Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods and on the Temple Mount.

The fact that Barghouti was able to smuggle the “incendiary” (to the Israelis) letter from a tightly guarded prison has to be terribly embarrassing to them.  To take revenge, the prisoner has been placed in solitary confinement (Hebrew) for a week, where he presumably won’t be able to have any contact with other Palestinian prisoners or the outside world.  While revenge may feel sweet for a time, Israel hasn’t bargained for the fact that punishing it’s most important, popular prisoner will further around anger among Palestinians.  They are already a tinder box.  This will light the match and certainly more acts of resistance will result.

 

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Border Police Killer of Two Palestinian Youths Arrested

In a development that reeks of opportunism, Israel arrested a Border Police officer who fired live ammunition at young, unarmed Palestinians protesting on Nakba Day at Beitounya, killing two of them (another post here). The video above from a surveillance camera of a Palestinian shop owner shows the killings, which happened in May 2014, clearly.  Defense Minister Bogie Yaalon claimed at the time that the video was staged and that he “knew how the system worked.”  To which I would reply: we know how the Israeli system works too.  I’m guessing the police have now decided the video wasn’t staged at all and that Yaalon was wrong.  Which means he didn’t know “the system” as well as he thought he did.

Today, the Border Police publicly revealed a small portion of a secret report on the incident.  Contrary to what the IDF reported at the time, the victims were killed by live amunition, not rubber bullets as was initially claimed.  The rest of the report may not be published by Israeli media as its under military censorship.  I’m not certain how revealing the full details of the murder of two Palestinians by the Border Police will undermine state security.  But that’s a matter only the Good Lord and the censor can understand.  We mere mortals have to suffice with the crumbs the censor will offer us.

The story about the police report was typical for Israel.  The reporter calls his story ” a dramatic development,” when the report is telling us something any sane person already knew six months ago.  Two young victims aren’t killed by rubber bullets.  Clearly, they’re killed by live ammunition.  The fact that the rest of the report is under wraps is also typical.  Everything you really want to know is sealed shut in order to protect the Israeli Stasi.  You’ll recall a judge’s secret report on the suicide of Ben Zygier had over half its content sealed under censorship.  To this day, we don’t know what she wrote because it would cause huge embarrassment to the prison authorities who negligently allowed him to kill himsef, and to the Mossad which recruited, then arrested and imprisoned him.

Censorship is the fruit of the poisonous tree of the national security state.

I often rail here about the culture of impunity that reigns when it comes to security force’s murder of Palestinians.  There is almost never accountability or culpability.  It’s interesting that in the midst of a new Intifada claiming the lives of both Jews and Palestinians, that all of a sudden Israel has found a culprit to blame for killing Palestinians.  Of course, it’s a good thing Israel has arrested someone for the earlier murders.  One hopes the police who murdered Khairuddin Hamdan will be similarly arrested (though please don’t hold your breath).

 

 

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Gila Rosenberg

Gila Rosenberg, the “Israeli Madoff,” now fighting ISIS with Iraqi Kurds

UPDATE: The censor, probably reading these posts, has thought better of censoring Rosenberg’s identity and Israeli journalists will no longer brook the wrath of the censor by naming her.  Another small victory against the national security state apparatus.  If you support this work, please make a donation using the sidebar donation options.

This story was originally broken by Eran Cicurel of Kol Yisrael (his first story did not name her).  He located and pursued Rosenberg and persuaded her to do a radio interview (Hebrew audio here).  Her English name is Gillian Rosenberg.

In this social media age, it’s apt that an ISIS-affiliated Twitter user who found Rosenberg’s Facebook profile, sporting pictures of her baking bread for her Kurdish brethren, outed her with this suitably homophobic tweet:

* *

Yossi Melman (and his Maariv article) and Dan Williams broke a story about a Canadian-Israeli con artist, the ‘Israeli Madoff,’ who contacted Kurdish forces via the internet and went to Iraq to fight against ISIS.  Israeli censorship prohibits journalists in Israeli from identifying her.  You’ll discover the reason below.

She is Gila Rosenberg.  A 2009 profile of her criminal exploits was published here in Maariv.  She was born and raised in Vancouver, BC.  Parents had scorched-earth divorce.  Mother forbade contact with her father and generally suffocated her emotionally.  Flew Boeing planes for a civilian airline.  To escape Mom, made aliyah to Israel from Canada.  Served in the IDF in search and rescue unit of Home Front Command.  Attempted, but failed to join Mossad.  One look at her background should’ve told them that she’d be trouble!

Economic distress then led her to a pal from the Hebrew language ulpan in which she enrolled after making aliyah.  She told him she was game for any scheme except selling her own body.  So he recruited her to be a cold-caller in an Israeli version of Nigerian internet scams, which targeted naive older Americans and bilked them out of millions of dollars.  The FBI and Israeli police fraud division were watching, taping every conversation as she called elderly Americans telling them they’d won the lottery.  They reaped tens of millions from pensioners cheated out of their life savings.  When authorities broke up the conspiracy, the Israelis agreed to have her tried in the U.S., where punishments were stiffer for such crimes.  She served four years in a U.S. prison.

Released in 2013, she looked around for something new and exciting.  Preferably something lucrative.  She chose an option not exactly criminal, but certainly in keeping with her daring, off-beat past: she decided to become an anti-Islamist soldier of fortune.  She contacted Iraqi Kurds and offered her services to them.  She said she specifically offered her military training and expertise to the Kurds.  She trained with them and is preparing to join the fighting on the Syrian border.  She called an Israeli radio station, which interviewed her live.

Rosenberg has violated Israeli law by traveling to a country considered hostile.  She could be prosecuted if she returns to Israel.  Though the only figures prosecuted for this offense are Palestinian citizens.  No Jews have been arrested or prosecuted for this infraction.

Given that Israel has potentially exported a former con artist to fight ISIS, the IDF censor thought better of revealing her identity so that her past would become known. But given that Rosenberg doesn’t serve in the IDF, it’s hard to understand what the justification for censorship is.  Do you claim military censors are entitled to prevent the world from knowing Israelis are mercenaries?  Or only when they’re fighting against Islamists?

Another interesting aspect of this case is that Israel is exporting not just weapons, but actual soldiers to fight against the Islamists.  Israelis have served as mercenaries for decades and as security consultants for dictators the world over.  But having Israeli Jews fighting in Arab lands against Islamists is a new wrinkle, even for Israel.

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The two largest donors to a new pro-Israel lobbying group, the Israeli-American Council, addressed its first national conference today.  They called for Israel to pursue an implacable, hawkish, Islamophobic agenda against Iran and the Palestinians.  Sheldon Adelson, who gave the IAC its single largest donation ($2.5-million), didn’t surprise anyone with his usual Palestine-denying rhetoric.  Though it tended even more Kahanist than usual.  Adelson rejected the notion that Israel must be a democracy:

“I don’t think the Bible says anything about democracy. I think God didn’t say anything about democracy,” Adelson said. “God talked about all the good things in life. He didn’t talk about Israel remaining as a democratic state, otherwise Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state — so what?”

Israel, a democracy? So what?  That’s going to become a memorable phrase in the annals of the Israel war in the American Jewish community.

At another juncture, Adelson said:

“Israel can no longer live if you say we want to live as a democracy.”

If you’d asked me twenty years ago whether it’d be possible for a devout follower of Meir Kahane to be one of the richest men in the world and one of Israel’s strongest and richest advocates, I’d have thought you’d taken leave of your senses.  Thinking back on what I knew or believed then, it would’ve made me beyond depressed to have known what was to come.

I have no doubt that had he lived, Meir Kahane would be Israeli prime minister and Sheldon Adelson would spend unlimited amounts of money to keep him there.  Even more than he’s willing to spend on Bibi, which is considerable.

haim saban hillary clinton

Haim Saban and his Zio-soul-sister (LA Times)

But major Aipac and Democrat donor, Haim Saban, also offered shocking, memorable copy.  He told the audience that if Israel doesn’t like the Iran-western nuclear deal, it should “bomb the daylight out of the sons of bitches.”  Saban ($400,000 to IAC in 2011) is one of Hillary Clinton’s largest donors.  During her upcoming campaign, when you hear her rattle sabers on Iran or any other Israel-related subject, you’ll now know why.

Saban is also suspected by the FBI of being the Israeli Mossad asset with whom then Congresswoman Jane Harman negotiated a deal she hoped would bring her the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee.  Since Arnon Milchan has written a book reciting his considerable espionage exploits in the U.S. on behalf of the Mossad, it should come as no surprise that the Mossad would see Saban as a prime asset.  It would also come as no surprise if Saban served Israeli intelligence as a loyal, even enthusiastic resource.

The IAC is a new wrinkle on the concept of an Israel Lobby startup.  It focuses mainly on the 100,000-500,000 (depending on who’s counting) Israelis who make their home in the U.S.  Adelson believes that since they’re Israelis and already imbued with ‘Zionist values,’ they’re even more valuable assets for Israel here than American Jews.  They have the zeal, experience, and passion to convey Israel’s story to American policymakers that the rest of us Jews don’t have.  To Adelson, they are the Zionist equivalent of the Christian soldiers of the old hymn (“Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war”).

IAC strives to present itself as a “non-partisan” organization.  That’s as ridiculous as saying Adelson is non-partisan.  Perhaps what they mean is that it is not partisan in terms of U.S. politics.  That’s why it’s important to them they have both a Republican and Democrat fatcat donor.  But the lead speakers at the event were Mitt Romney, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsay Graham.  Not exactly “fair and balanced.”  The prime target for the speakers was the current Democratic president.  And as for Israel, this group is as partisan as they come.  In fact, I firmly believe it should be forced to register as an agent of the Israeli government (as should Aipac).

Saban and Adelson, who own important media properties, goaded each other into further strategic purchases of newspapers like the New York Times in order to further their pro-Israel agenda:

“Why don’t you and I go after The New York Times?” Adelson joked with Saban, later explaining that the only way to do so is by offering “significantly more than it’s worth” and thus having shareholders sue the owners if they don’t accept the offer.

At one time, Saban considered a major investment in Al Jazeera which presumably would’ve toned down its reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict.  He also participated in the bidding for the Washington Post, which Jeff Bezos eventually won.  He does own Univision.  Adelson owns Yisrael HaYom and subsidizes it to the tune of $36-million per year.  During his talk, Adelon admitted he doesn’t like journalism and believes what the rest of us call responsible journalism is “looking for the wrong, to tell the people what’s wrong in life.”  He called this perspective “insane.”

I’ve been writing fairly apocalyptic posts about developments in Israel lately.  About the self-destructive nature of the country’s leaders as they face what may become a new Intifada, but this one inside Israel.  If we now add to this the insane bellicosity of billionaires like Adelson and Saban, we’re approaching a perfect storm.  If Israel had no allies, no trade partners, no donors, it would be forced to trim its ideological sails.  But donors like these encourage the baying of the Zionist hounds.  They both “love the smell of napalm in the morning.”  They both are going for the jugular.  They both are implacable enemies of realism and pragmatism.  Just the opposite of what Israel needs at this juncture.  All I can say is that with friends like these Israel, in its current incarnation, will hasten its own demise.

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