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Obama’s War on Terror (and Islam) Redux

Here we go again.  No sooner did we stop Obama from making a fatal mistake in going to war against Bashar al-Assad almost a year ago today, than we have to put our bodies in the path of another war train rolling down the tracks.  This time the bogeyman is called ISIS.

I bet you thought we’d retired that awful phrase, the war on terror.  That by-product of the Bush-Cheney years.  Wasn’t it Barack Obama who told us we were no longer at war? That we were replacing that spooky Cold War-like phrase with something more positive, constructive.  What happened to that guy?  Where was he tonight?  I missed him.

Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign was so beautiful, so uplifting.  He was going to finally embody all those values so many millions of us thought we’d never get a chance to see in the White House.  He was going to turn his back on George Bush and restore constitutional government.  He was going to restore faith in American democracy, end Mideast wars.  Take us back to what we should be: a nation of laws with respect for human rights.

All that is now a shambles.  Obama has achieved almost nothing of his original promise.  Instead of the bold innovator who was going to remind us of Abraham Lincoln he’s become a Democratic version of Bush-lite.  He shambles from crisis to crisis motivated more by fear of being outflanked on the right by his GOP enemies than by any impulse toward original thinking or bold policy initiatives.  He reacts.  He husbands his resources (for what purpose isn’t clear).  He proceeds cautiously.

The only areas in which he’s moved boldly have been those in which he was fully confident his Republican enemies would join him.  In other words, Obama’s strongest and most consistent policies have been his counter-terror program, which mirrors the Bush-Cheney doctrine: lots of drone strikes, special forces, targeted assassinations.  Domestically, he’s prosecuted federal whistleblowers and invaded the prerogatives of journalists with a gusto not even seen under George Bush.

I say all this by way of talking about tonight’s speech.  Obama during his speech seemed to be a robot.  He spoke in that decisive manly way of his which we’d grown so used to and comfortable with during the 2008 campaign when he was declaiming meaningful slogans like “Yes, we can.”  But the words coming out of his mouth were nothing like those heady time of yesteryear.  It reminded me of poor Isaac being tricked by Jacob into giving him the portion rightfully belonging to the first-born, Esau.  The blind, befuddled Isaac says:

The hands are those of Esau, but the voice is that of Jacob.

Tonight, the president looked like Barack Obama, but sounded like Dick Cheney.  How can I say this any more forcefully: we do not need another Mideast war!  We do not need another Muslim enemy.  We have enough.

Charles Blow said it all in his column today:

He [Pres. Obama] made clear that “while we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland,” he still “will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.”

He called it “a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” and not a war. Yet, for all practical purposes, a war seems to be what it will be.

Pundits and journalists are regaling us with the poll numbers documenting the high level of support among Americans for taking on ISIS.  The message appears to be that all of us are ready to roll up our sleeves and join the president as he orders those F-16s and F-35s and Green Berets into harm’s way.  It’ll be another Osama bin Laden moment when SEAL Team 6 storms the bedroom in a hail of fire and takes out the Bad Guy.

Wipe out ISIS, the senators are saying.  Send them to an early grave.  No one beheads an American and gets away with it.  It insults our national pride to see a fellow-American defiled like that.  So we’ll send the Marines in like in the song, From the Halls of Montezuma.  Oh wait.  Not so fast.  We’re not sending the Marines.  No ground forces, the president promised tonight.  Only air power.  Those 1,000 soldiers either in Iraq now or soon to be arriving will only train Iraqi soldiers to do the jobs we were supposed to be training them to do over the past nine years.  Yet somehow the lessons evaporated when they were faced with a determined foe like ISIS.  Then they tore off their uniforms and disappeared into the smoke like wraiths.

“We have all been here before” to quote Crosby Still & Nash.  Remember Iraq I?  Where did that $2-trillion go that we spent there over the past nine years?  Down the drain.  What about those hundreds of millions in sophisticated equipment we left for the Iraqi military?  The same ones who turned and ran at the first hint of Islamist trouble?  Does anyone remember the 145,000 Iraqi civilians we killed to bring democracy to the Mideast?  And the 5,000 U.S. soliders who died?

Here is what a Reuters reporter had to say on the subject:

“…Islamic State’s captured an enormous amount of U.S. weaponry, originally intended for the rebuilt Iraqi Army. You know — the one that collapsed in terror in front of the Islamic State, back when they were just ISIL? The ones who dropped their uniforms, and rifles and ran away? They left behind the bigger equipment, too, including M1 Abrams tanks (about $6 million each), 52 M198 howitzer cannons ($527,337), and MRAPs (about $1 million) similar to the ones in use in Ferguson…”

“Now, U.S. warplanes are flying sorties, at a cost somewhere between $22,000 to $30,000 per hour for the F-16s, to drop bombs that cost at least $20,000 each, to destroy this captured equipment. That means if an F-16 were to take off from Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey and fly two hours to Erbil, Iraq, and successfully drop both of its bombs on one target each, it costs the United States somewhere between $84,000 to $104,000 for the sortie and destroys a minimum of $1 million and a maximum of $12 million in U.S.-made equipment.”

Imagine if we’d fought harder against Bush’s Iraq war mirage in 2003 and prevented the very nightmare we face tonight.  Imagine if we hadn’t invaded Iraq and turned the place into a seething cauldron of inter-ethnic and religious hate spiced with a heavy does of anti-Americanism?  But the damage has been done.  The question now is whether we’ll compound our earlier error and get bogged down once again in a war against the Arab Mideast.

My fear is that Barack Obama is being dragged into a war that the 2008 Obama would never have been suckered into.  The problem is that the 2014 Obama listens to GOP dog whistles.  And when he hears them his ears perk up and he assumes the position: attack dog.  Break out the guns, fuel up the planes.  That seems to be the answer to every problem in the Mideast.

There must be (and are) ways to confront ISIS short of getting ourselves into another war.  Here are some examples offered by Phyllis Bennis.

Stand down, Mr. President.


ISISophobia or “The Mooslims Are Coming”

isis ny daily news

Why would the NY Daily News or any publication believe an anonymous Saudi source concerning any subject?

ISIS has become the scare du jour of world politics.  While ISIS is a profoundly disturbing phenomenon for which the world should develop some sort of response, the problem is that the Islamist movement has become a useful foil for many varied political interests from Israel to the U.S.  Islamophobes among the Euro-nationalist far-right and the U.S. Tea Party have latched onto ISIS as their political gravy train.  Bibi Netanyahu, ever alert to memes he can exploit to promote Israel’s interests, made the memorable, and profoundly mendacious statement: “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.”  Senator Bill Nelson, who has a huge elderly Jewish constituency and is allied closely with the Israel Lobby, said this today:

“Any group that sets them [sic] up as a religious caliphate and says that they will not stop until the black flag of ISIS is flying over the White House — I take that pretty seriously,” he said.

No ISIS leader has ever made such a statement.  But Nelson appears to be watching FoxNews, because it claimed ISIS said so.  The fact that a major national political leader would air such nonsense is disturbing.  There is enough to hate about ISIS without making things up out of whole cloth.

Then we have the tried and true Wall Street Journal, always good for a bit of Islamophobic hysteria.  This is the headline for Ryan Crocker’s op-ed: Islamic State Is Getting Stronger, and It’s Targeting America.  The neo-cons are on the warpath demanding that we “eviscerate” ISIS, that we engage in some sort of a counter-jihad.  Which is just what both the world and America need, yet another war against Islam in the Mideast.

Similarly, Israeli media have reported that a freed French journalist held hostage by ISIS identified the Belgian museum attacker as an adherent of ISIS.  While the journalist, who worked for the right-wing French daily Le Point, did say Mehdi Nemmouche tortured and abused him and others while he was held in custody, he never made any statement about the alleged terrorist’s affiliations.  So when Nemmouche left Syria was he affiliated with ISIS? Why did he leave?  Had he broken with ISIS?  Had ISIS broken with him? And if so, why?

The implication of this Israeli reporting was that the attack which killed two Israeli intelligence agents may’ve been the work of ISIS.  In fact, no one knows whether Nemmouche was acting on his own or on behalf of another Islamist group.  Any speculation to the contrary is just that.

russians are coming

Artifact of American zenophobia circa 1968

Open Democracy has published an incisive piece raising uncomfortable similarities between ISIS and Israel’s religion-derived claims of authority and sovereignty.  And thank God for this still small sane voice in Congress:

“It’s fear-mongering. It’s what happened after 9/11. ‘Oh my god, they’ve got these planes crashing. Now they’re going to take over America.’ That’s nonsense,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the only lawmaker who unequivocally dismissed the idea that Islamic State militants pose a direct threat to the United States. An indirect threat, yes, he said, but not more.

“We overreacted to 9/11. Most of the people that did 9/11 were Saudis. Why the hell didn’t we invade Saudi Arabia? There wasn’t one Iraqi involved in 9/11,” Harkin said. “We just keep jumping from one mistake to another. I have a feeling we’re going to do the same thing with [the Islamic State].”

All this leads to the next logical question: what threat does ISIS really pose to U.S. national interests?  If it doesn’t pose such a threat, then what should our response to it be?  Does it threaten other interests or values that are important to us?  And what will be the outcome of any form of intervention we choose to take?

Last September, Pres. Obama was on the verge of assaulting Pres. Assad of Syria for alleged use of chemical weapons.  In the meantime, a new and more dangerous foe has arisen to take his place as the Arab bogeyman: ISIS.  The group was hardly a gleam in Assad’s eye a year ago and now it’s the foremost enemy of western civilization.

It seems to me that stopping America’s reckless pursuit of war against Assad was beneficial to our stance in the world.  The question is whether taking on ISIS will lead to good or ill for U.S. foreign policy objectives.  To what extent will turning ISIS into the “mother of all evils” help or hinder our objectives?  The first Pres. Bush turned Saddam into precisely such a demonic figure.  But at least his objectives were somewhat limited thanks to the GOP realists who directed his foreign policy apparatus.

His son tried to complete the unfinished business of the Gulf War to disastrous results.  So the question arises: which role will Obama embrace?  Will he pursue limited objectives and then have the discipline to withdraw when they are achieved (even if his political opponents deride him for withdrawing)?  Or will he gradually get sucked into a expanded presence in Syria and Iraq, as he has in embracing much of Bush’s counter-terror policy (drones, targeted killings, etc.)?

The jury is very much out on this.  My hunch is that there is a very real chance Obama could allow himself to get sucked into yet another Mideast quagmire.

Note that a year ago we almost took down Assad.  Now he doesn’t look so bad in comparison to ISIS.  During that past year many right-wing Americans saw Iran as our number one foreign enemy.  Now that ISIS is massacring Shiites, the enemy of my enemy looks a whole lot more like my friend.  In other words, Iran is almost looking good by comparison with ISIS.  My point is that in the Mideast those you view as your worst enemy become, sometimes in only a matter of months, your ally.

Imagine had we gone to war against Iran when Bibi Netanyahu wanted us to.  Would we be able to call upon Iran to act as a stabilizer in the region against the depredations of ISIS?  If you overreact in one situation it drastically reduces your flexibility when the next crisis emerges.  The ideologues and Arab-haters always forget that.

Let’s take a cold, hard look at ISIS.  Though it has coldly and brutally executed western citizens, in broad terms it doesn’t endanger any direct U.S. interest.  Indirectly, you may say that we’ve made such a huge investment in Iraq, that threatening that investment as ISIS does, harms our interests.  But throwing good money after bad in trying to salvage a dysfunctional, sectarian Iraqi state, may not be the best use of our resources.  If Iraq’s leaders can’t manage to form a government and mount a response to the ISIS threat, then why should be come like the cavalry to the rescue?  What business is this of ours?

My problem with the U.S. as Mideast policeman is that we refused to play a constructive role when the Arab Spring promised to topple authoritarian regimes and replace them with populists who bore the promise of democracy.  Why have circumstances changed now that ISIS threatens to topple other authoritarian Arab leaders and replace them with Islamist authoritarians?  In other words, we had a chance to encourage precisely the sorts of governments that would’ve more close reflected our values than their strongmen predecessors.  Yet we refused to act.  Now, all of a sudden we think those same authoritarian leaders are fine because Islamists might take their place.

This, as I’ve said many times here, is a totally dysfunctional approach to the region.  We don’t base our policy on creating societies reflecting democracy and tolerance–positive values we claim to embody.  Instead we base it on stopping the worst guy out there from taking power.  Instead of sharing a dream, our policy is “anything but them.”  How will that inspire anyone to embrace our views or emulate our values?

As a sidebar, I wanted to raise some questions about the tragic case of Steven Sotloff.  I’ve asked a number of journalists covering the region what they knew of his case.  Two veteran reporters told me they find it almost impossible to believe that ISIS didn’t know Sotloff was Jewish.  After all, these are savvy, modern insurgents who know how to use the internet.  Sotloff’s reporting included subjects on Jewish themes.  He was a citizen of Israel (first traveled there on a Birthright trip).

If ISIS did know that Sotloff was Jewish, then when it killed him it didn’t kill him as a Jew.  But rather it killed him as an American.  The Islamist group may hate Jews, but it hates the west and Arab leaders more.  This means that ISIS has made a deliberate choice of who its enemies are and right now that isn’t Israel.  Which means Netanyahu’s attempt to conflate Hamas and ISIS is a total fraud.  Both groups have particular interests that are specific to their particular situations.  Hamas wants Palestinian freedom.  ISIS wants something else entirely.  Distorting reality as Bibi does harms Israel’s interests and harms the prospects for creating any equilibrium or stability in the region.


Israeli Arrow Missile Fails in Trial

Arrow 2

Israeli Arrow 2 missile

The Jerusalem Post announced that the IDF was testing the latest version of the Arrow missile interceptor.  The new upgraded Arrow 2 system tested was designed to respond to improvements in the missiles that Israeli enemies might launch, specifically to intercept potential Iranian nuclear warheads (even though trusted experts I’ve consulted say Iran doesn’t have any!).

This raises the question: why is Israel preparing a weapons system for a threat that doesn’t exist?  Talk about provoking a Mideast arms race!  Israel possesses WMD when no other nation in the region has them.  It possesses anti-missile systems designed to protect against a weapon that doesn’t exist.  Israel’s defenders may argue that in a dangerous neighborhood, anticipation of the military strategy of the enemy is critical.  But there comes a point when such behavior becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Paranoia, much??

The Arrow is one several layers of missile-defense, the first one being Iron Dome, which is designed to intercept short-range rockets like those fired by Hamas during Operation Protective Edge.

The Post says that the Air Force will know within days about the success of the test.  That’s not precisely true.  The military knows the result, and according to my Israeli source, it failed.  A Sparrow missile was fired at Israel and the Arrow was supposed to intercept it before it reached Israel.  Instead the Arrow landed in the Mediterranean north of Israel according to this Russian media source:

The suspected target was suspected of landing some 300 kilometers to the north of Tel Aviv.

Yossi Melman confirms the test failure in this tweet:

Contrast this to Israeli media like i24, which report the test was a success. Wishful thinking, but thinking that characterizes too much of poodle-like relationship between Israeli reporters and the security establishment.

One test failure doesn’t signify the non-viability of the entire Arrow program.  But if there are more, it could signal serious problems.

This statement from the defense ministry seems designed to preempt any criticism that might emerge once it becomes known that the test failed:

“This test has no connection to the operational performance of the Arrow weapons system, which is operated by the Air Defense Command of the air force,” the statement said.

It’s hard to even parse the meaning of this statement.  But it seems to say that despite the failed test Arrow remains a viable missile defense system.  They might’ve added that since two countries, two militaries, and four defense contractors have billions invested in the system, that it has to remain viable, no matter how many failures there might be.  Excuse that bit of cynicism.  But one thing you learn when you’re exposing the presumptions of the national security state is that cynicism and irony are critical tools.


Israel’s Channel 2 published a poll which found that in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, one-third of Israelis are considering emigration.  56% would not emigrate were they given the opportunity.  Unlike in the past, only 36% would think badly of anyone who did emigrate.

In some ways, this is nothing new.  The great national poet of Israel’s post-independence era, Natan Alterman, decried Israeli emigration to West Germany as early as 1953!  Pollsters too have produced similar numbers in the past.  But it’s interesting that in the aftermath of this particular war, the numbers of those considering abandoning Israel have risen.  This may be considered a massive vote of no confidence in the leadership of the nation, and the nation itself.

A major pop hit these days is this song, Berlin, which treats the notion of yeridah (a pejorative reference to emigration) as jolly, fun, hip and cool.  This jarring, ironic treatment of emigration is something that is new to Israel, which traditionally views leaving as a traitorous act of abandonment.  I don’t particularly like the song musically.  It has a robotic rhythm and circus-like melody which I suppose is precisely the intent of the performers, who’ve devised an alienating musical format to convey an alienating social phenomenon.

But in this case, I think the song offers telling commentary on an important development in Israeli society.  The truth is that a huge number of young, well-educated, professional Israelis have already decamped, or are making plans to do so, to more hospitable climes in Europe or elsewhere.  They do so for many reasons: some are economic, seeking greater financial, professional or educational opportunities.  Some are security-related: they simply don’t want their own children facing the same burden of war and danger that they’ve faced.  And some find the climate in Israel to be stifling either culturally or politically.

The lyrics of the song savage a number of sacred national institutions from Ha-Tikvah to Naomi Shemer’s Jerusalem of Gold.  Even Berlin, the city from which the Holocaust emanated and home of the exterminators of European Jewry, becomes a more desirable refuge (“Reichstag of Peace”) than the “Jewish homeland.”  Here are the lyrics translated (I’ve amended Emily Hauser’s translation slightly):


Why stay here
Everybody’s asking
When you can catch a plane and begin to breath.
Even the newly Orthodox are leaving
And getting far away from me
How long can family be an excuse?
The neighbor’s lived in LA for 15 years already
She says we need to shut that watchful eye,
And everyone who comes back from abroad
Tells me how good it is there.

Berlin, Berlin
Even if I forget my right hand
You’ll wait forever
For us to return to you.
Reichstag of Peace
And of the Euro and of light
For all your songs
I don’t have a passport.

Let’s be honest.
Grandpa and Grandma didn’t come here [Israel] because of Zionism,
They fled because they didn’t want to die.
And now they understand that here there’s no life [possible],
They’d rather we be far away than poor.
No, it’s not a fleeing for convenience’s sake
It’s fleeing flat out
To keep your head above the water.
Even our forefather Jacob went down [emigrated] to Egypt
Because rent there was a third
And salaries double.

The whole world migrates everywhere
Only here is it considered betrayal of the [Jewish] people
By leaders who want us to remain alone
To remain afraid
Because everybody hates Jews.
And every time they open their mouths
They pin the yellow star on me again
Like a medal of honor
Like it’s a boutonniere.
They degrade all of us
Without a scrap of pride.
Liberate the Ghetto already
Let us live like a normal people.

I don’t really want anywhere else.
It’s cold there
Strange there
And Hebrew is the only language I love speaking.
Give me a bit of the Kinneret
If there’s any left, I’ll be happy.
But how long can we ignore tomorrow?
How can I raise kids in a place that
Chased away Dudu Zar ?

Israel will increasingly become a poorer, more ultra-Orthodox, more settler, Mizrahi society (though of course Mizrahim will be emigrating as well).  With this will come a rising tide of hatred, intolerance, ethnic division, and religious extremism.  The IDF, already dominated by Orthodox-settler commanders, will become more so.  If you think present-day Israel is extreme, the future promises even worse.

Young people with ambition, and their lives and families ahead of them, understand that there is little hope that things can change for the better.  Foreign cities beckon and offer the pluralism, opportunity, freedom, tolerance and democracy that Israel lacks.  A more reasoned, rhetorically articulate defense of emigration is offered in this Haaretz op-ed by Rogel Alpher.

To be clear, I’m not celebrating this development. I don’t want to see Israel become a backwater, a dysfunctional state. In fact, I’d prefer to see Israel as a thriving, vibrant multi-cultural oasis with opportunities for all and welcoming to all. But I must describe what I see, not what I wished I’d see. That’s the difference between me and liberal Zionists. They see what they think is there or what should be there. Not what is.

modai israeli ambassador

Boaz and Nurit Modai, Israel’s Irish-hating diplomats in Dublin

In this blog, I’ve often covered the scenery-chewing paranoiac ramblings of Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai and his wife, the deputy ambassador, Nurit Tinari-Modai.  During Operation Protective Edge, Irish activists held rousing protests outside the Israeli embassy in which they dramatized their opposition to the slaughter in Gaza.  Political allies of the activist community in the Irish parliament said publicly that the Israeli diplomats should be expelled.  Naturally, given the nuttiness I documented here, it’s no surprise the Irish left has had enough of the Modai hasbara road show.

Summoned to parliament in recent days, Modai has lashed out at the protesters accusing them of anti-Semitic hate reminiscent of 1930s Germany.  In other words, he’s accused them of being Nazis without using the word explicitly

Ms. Tinari-Modai gave a Hebrew interview (audio) to Galey Tzahal (IDF Radio) in which she  went, if possible, even farther off the deep end.  Here’s what she said in part:

Ireland is divided into three parts: there’s the indifferent majority, the Righteous Gentiles who are activists for Israel, and the incited, anti-Semitic, brutish masses harboring a profound, deep-rooted, rapacious hatred of Jews.  Behind the mask of concern for the rights of Palestinians they blame Israel for crimes against humanity, for [perpetrating] a Shoah [against Palestinians], and being the personification of evil.  They burn Israeli flags and vandalize stores selling Israeli products.  They throw goods on the floor, it’s complete hysteria.  They protested here in every city last weekend.  This is frustrating, it’s challenging, but we have no other choice than to be victorious.

She added that seventy years ago the Nazis dehumanized the Jews of Europe.  They made them subhumans which permitted their eventual extermination.  Today, in Ireland, she claimed, there was a similar ‘absolute dehumanization’ of the Israeli, the Zionist by Irish anti-Semites.  Though she doesn’t say it explicitly, the unspoken corollary is that a future Shoah against Israel could being right there in Ireland.  She raises the dreaded “domino” effect, saying such hatred will begin in Ireland but won’t end there.  It will spread like the plague to Britain and from there throughout Europe.  This mirrors a similar warning of the contagion of radical Islam which they swore would begin in Ireland and spread throughout Europe till there was no more civilization and it had all been turned into an Islamic state.

The embassy offered a bowdlerized translation of her remarks for the Irish public which significantly (but not completely) toned down the intensity of her rhetoric.  Unfortunately, Irish media accepted this false representation of her remarks without bothering to get their own translation.

Hey, I don’t know about you, but if I was the foreign minister of any country which employed a diplomat spewing such invective against the local population I’d have him recalled and on a plane home so fast his head would spin.  But clearly, Modai’s role in Ireland is to provoke the country’s left-wing on behalf of some imagined pro-Israel agenda.  He does precisely what his bosses in Tel Aviv want him to do.  They don’t want good relations with Ireland, they only want to make a point.  God help the country whose diplomats have no interest in diplomacy, but rather in hard-headed provocation of their hosts.

The Israeli foreign ministry has, over the past few years, harbored its share of miscreants, sex offenders, and brutalists.  None of it seems to phase Netanyahu or Lieberman.

The wonder is that the Irish political class, even those who aren’t on the left, have stood for this outrageous conduct.  What will it take before these Israeli loons go too far and alienate even the political establishment?

israeli spy gear lebanon

Lebanese soldiers examine Israeli spy gear in Adloun (Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

According to news reports and my Israeli source, Hezbollah discovered Israeli surveillance gear planted within its telecommunications network.  When a sapper attempted to disable and retrieve the Israeli equipment an Israeli drone overhead remotely detonated the device, killing the Hezbollah operative.   Both Israel and Hezbollah make continuing attempts to hack the intelligence operations and communications equipment of each other.

My source says:

…The device was planted a few years ago in a joint operation by Shayetet 13 and Sayeret Matkal in South Lebanon’s coastal area.  Its purpose was to listen to Hezbollah’s communication network.  This was a new iteration created in 2008, after Unit 8200 succeeded in hacking the group’s wireless network before and during 2006 war.  The new Hezbollah system covers much of Lebanon.

Not to be outdone, during the 2006 Lebanon war, with the assistance of Iranian technicians, Hezbollah monitored the broadcast frequencies of IDF units and knew in advance what they planned.  This was one of the many ways in which Hezbollah made the IDF pay a heavy price for its invasion.

As indicated above, the IDF has planted listening devices in southern Lebanon, some of which Hezbollah has uncovered.   Hezbollah has also exposed several Israeli spy rings which participated in planting these devices and other acts of espionage.  In fact, Ben Zygier is reported to have compromised one such Mossad operation in the Bekaa Valley by exposing one of its most valuable Lebanese agents there.


Shabak Claims to Uncover ISIS Cell in Israeli Palestinian Town

Bibiton headline: "Shabak-At Least Ten Israeli Arabs Join Ranks of ISIS"

Bibiton headline: “Shabak-at Least Ten Israeli Arabs Join Ranks of ISIS”

The above headline isn’t precisely correct.  Shabak believes it’s exposed an ISIS cell in Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian town in Israel.  But it hasn’t yet publicly made this claim.  Instead, it’s “disappeared” one resident, Muhammad Mahajna, as I reported yesterday.  According to a loal source, today he was permitted a meeting with his attorney.  Also today, the Shabak arrested 10-15 other residents of the town.  My source didn’t know the reasons for these arrests.  He believed Mahajna’s arrest involved charges of stone- and Molotov cocktail-throwing.

But through two separate Israeli sources I’ve learned the security forces believe they’ve exposed an ISIS cell in the heart of Palestinian Israel.  The timing of this is curious to say the least.  Just as ISIS sweeps through Syria and Iraq and Israel closes yet another failed war in Gaza, Bibi Netanyahu makes a big splash with the fraudulent claim: “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas.”  That’s precisely the moment when the secret police gin up an ISIS-plot against the state.  Once the gag order is lifted you’ll probably read headlines about plans to stuff Bibi into an orange jumpsuit and behead him.

It’s important to note this article (Hebrew) by Yossi Melman, which essentially argues that all claims of an ISIS presence not only in Israel, but in the West Bank or Gaza, are a crock.

It’s also no accident that just as Bibi seeks to deflect blame from Israel for killing 2,100 Gazans in cold blood, the Shabak manages to expose a huge plot to overthrow Fatah in the West Bank.  All this proves that the Israeli agency isn’t really a pure intelligence or security entity, but rather one deeply immersed in politics and which yokes its wagon to the prevailing political winds.  Here in the U.S., we saw how corrosive such a phenomenon was when the CIA tailored its reports to Dick Cheney’s preconceived notions about Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.  It found WMD where none existed.  We got into a disastrous war whose consequences and misery are still being felt.  All due to the politicization of intelligence.

If anything, Shabak’s predicament is even worse.  There is little or no separation between it and the political echelon and it serves at the latter’s bidding.  Which is how you get concocted thrillers like this one.

These charges will further stir up hatred of Israel’s Palestinian minority among Jews, who largely see the former as a hostile Fifth Column.  If you read the headline in the accompanying Bibiton front page, you can read the suspicion and hate dripping off the page:

According to information supplied to state leaders, tens of Israeli “Arabs” have joined various rebel groups in Syria since 2011.  At least 25 of them, known as extremists, joined Jihadist groups.  It’s suspected they’re likely to use the experience they gain in Syria and Iraq and try to amass intelligence about Israel to be used in future terror attacks.

The word “leaders” in the passage above implies the leak of this questionable claim came from the Prime Minister’s Office.  This isn’t surprising since so many questionable or outright false claims about Palestinians come from this source and are published without any confirmation or skepticism by the Israeli press.

With screaming yellow journalist headlines like this, the Israeli far-right has lapsed into full-blown Islamophobic paranoia.  Israel has become a land beset by hate and fear of fully one-fifth of its own citizens.  It brought to my mind a tortured reading of the opening lines of the Gettysburg Address.  In Israel’s case it might go something like this:

Three score and six years ago our [Israeli] fathers brought forth a new nation conceived in ethnic cleansing and dedicated to the proposition that all non-Jews are unwelcome and second class.  Now we are engaged in yet another war filled with blood, guts and hate, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived can long endure.

Can an Israel drenched in such hate and paranoia long endure?