Over the past few days, Maariv’s far-right columnist, Ben Dror Yemini has been lying up a storm in a desperate effort to show that John Kerry hates Israel and loves Islamists like Hamas and Iran. The evidence he’s offered is a sack of lies, as I’ve shown in this post.
Yesterday, Yemini secured a statement (Hebrew) from the State Department which explained the circumstances under which Kerry provided a letter of introduction to a humanitarian mission headed for Gaza. Apparently, either Yemini thought no one else would see the statement or he just didn’t give a crap because he also lied through his teeth about the contents of the statement.
For example, the Maariv headline quotes Kerry as saying “I didn’t know what I was signing.” First of all, the statement was not written in Kerry’s name so there is nothing written in the first-person nor any quote from Kerry. Second, the actual statement, which JTA’s Ron Kampeas transcribed, says nothing of what Yemini claimed. In fact, the actual statement says that Kerry never saw the letter and that it was auto-penned and robo-signed, as were hundreds of similar letters constituents requested from the then-Senator.
Further, the statement makes clear that the constituent who originally requested the letter may’ve misrepresented the purpose of the mission by claiming it would visit ‘Israel and the Occupied Territories.’ Had his office known the mission was only going to Gaza, he would’ve been unlikely to have offered even the pro forma letter he did provide.
What this shows, if anything, is that the members of the Gaza Freedom March, while they were engaged in a laudable enterprise, weren’t forthright with either Sen. Kerry or the U.S. embassy in Cairo, to whom they presented the letter. While the embassy should’ve helped expedite their access to Gaza, it should not have done so on the basis of a document secured under false pretences.
Here is the State Department statement in full from Kampeas:
The letter from Sen. Kerry regarding the humanitarian mission in Israel and the Palestinian territories was a form letter that was auto-penned, a standard constituent mail that congressional members send out as common practice. The Massachusetts Senate office receives hundreds of requests each year for letters like this for constituents traveling to other countries.
Sen. Kerry never saw it, nor did senior staff see it. It was put together by his Boston office and would also not have involved senior staff members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Moreover, the text of the letter has nothing to do with the flotilla incident or even Gaza.
It focuses purely on a humanitarian mission in Israel and the Palestinian territories in support of the peace process. Kerry’s staff would have provided the letter so that Massachusetts residents could receive meetings while they were in Israel and the Palestinian territories. That is all. And if it was used for anything else it was under false pretenses.
The two flotilla participants who the article says used the letter are both non-residents of Massachusetts. The letter specifically alludes to a Massachusetts delegation. Ali Abunimah lives in Chicago, Jodie Evans lives in California. None of these people had contact with Sen. Kerry’s office and if these people were carrying the letter, it was under false pretenses that are not the responsibility of Kerry’s senate office.
If, on the other hand, it was Massachusetts constituents who were involved in the flotilla, then based on the text of the letter it is clear they obtained that letter from Kerry’s staff under false pretenses.
The conclusion that Sen. Kerry was in any way affiliated with the Gaza activists or supportive of this effort is specious and unjustified.
Here are some of the false claims in Yemini’s most recent Maariv article, which purports to quote the State Department below:
“They [the activists] misled him. He didn’t know. The charges are inaccurate and unfair.”
The only portion of above purported quotation that is actually in the statement is the last of the three sentences. The statement says if the activists secured the letter intending to go to Gaza, they did so “under false pretenses.” At no point does the statement say that Kerry “didn’t know.” Rather, it says that in such circumstances Kerry would not involve himself directly in preparing such a letter. Neither would any of the 535 members of Congress. So of course he didn’t know, nor would he be expected to know, as Yemini seems to infer he should.
Part of the problem here is Yemini’s abysmal ignorance (he isn’t the only Israelis who is so ignorant) about the American political system. Politics in America is not individualized as it is in Israel. There are 120 MKs who represent about 5 million voters. In America, there are 535 members of Congress who represent a total of 210-million adults eligible to vote. John Kerry represented a state of 7-million people, equal to the entire population of Israel.
The Maariv article continues the lie Yemini published in his two earlier articles saying that after Jodie Evans and Abunimah’s party were refused entry to Gaza via Egypt:
It [the party] persisted and later arrived aboard the flotilla that included the Marmara.
As I’ve pointed out previously, this is a total fabrication. Neither Abunimah nor Evans nor any member of their delegation arrived aboard any flotilla vessel. Besides the Marmara sailing did not occur till five months later and was an entirely independent venture from the Gaza Freedom March (Abunimah and Evans’ venture).
The article further confuses another part of the State Department release. The former claims that Kerry was “misled” by the activists who presented his letter in Cairo because they weren’t constituents of his from Massachussetts. This in fact is false. There were members of the humanitarian mission from Massachusetts. That’s how they secured the letter. Ali Abunimah admits that all delegation members were asked to secure such letters from their Congressional representatives. The fact that neither Abunimah nor Evans are from Kerry’s state was irrelevant.
Maariv closes the article with yet another cheap-shot non sequitur:
It seems the Obama administration has messed up other extremely important matters that happened under its authority. As you’ll recall, Obama said that he had no idea the NSA was spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders throughout the world, even though testimony was published showing that he did indeed know about such eavesdropping.
This too is wrong. While Pres. Obama may have known about such eavesdropping, no one has ever presented any proof that he did. But why let facts get in your way??
In Yemini’s rebuttal to my original claim that Kerry churned out hundreds of these letters for constituents, he derided me saying I should offer not hundreds, but “tens” of examples. Note the italicized portion of the State Department statement above which says precisely that. Another Yemini claim bites the dust.
UPDATE: Regarding the following paragraph, Ron Kampeas graciously tweeted to me that he intended to correct his JTA story and add a link to my original reporting. That’s classy and I thank him for that. Thanks to Bob Mann in the comment thread for reminding me of this.
I have a bone to pick with Ron Kampeas and JTA. My first post about Yemini was published nearly 24 hours before Kampeas published his first JTA story. In fact, he tweeted a question to me about my post before he published. Yet in neither of the two articles he published did he link to my original reporting nor did he credit this blog as an original source. This may be due to the fact that his editors refused to credit me; or it might have been his own sloppiness. Whichever it was, it was a journalistic breach. Please note that I linked to both articles Kampeas wrote and I credit him for doing the hard work of securing the State Department statement which he published. A pity there’s no such thing as reciprocity.
Finally, though I take Ben Dror Yemini to task for his serial mendacity, he’s not the only one. Israeli journalism has far too many Yeminis. Even as good a publication as Haaretz has a few (though none as egregious as Yemini). In other words, they stretch facts and the truth to fit a political agenda and often leave journalistic standards by the wayside.
The Senator from the ‘Great State’…of Israel
I wrote a post about Secretary Kerry’s testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, in which Sen. Mark Kirk explicitly told Kerry that what he was saying contradicted the briefings he was getting from Israel and its intelligence services. I questioned whether U.S. senators should be taking direction from foreign governments like Israel in determining U.S. foreign policy.
Now, lo and behold, the Channel 10 TV-affiliated news portal Nana has written virtually the same message in The Face is the Face of Senator [Kirk], But the Voice is the Voice of Bibi (catch the Biblical allusion):
Yesterday, the diplomatic masks–those which obligate people to articulate their ideas in polite phrases despite the fact that a storm may be brewing behind the curtains–came off. They were stripped away by America’s top diplomat. John Kerry arrived for a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, a full 12-hour plane ride away from Israel, and he felt as if he were speaking to Bibi Netanyahu himself. To be more precise, the faces were those of Republican senators, but the voice (work of the devil!) was that of Netanyahu.
Gradually [in the course of the hearing] it became clear that the senators had been intensively briefed by the prime minister’s staff. Some even by Bibi himself. It’s not surprising that Kerry lost his composure.
…At the end of the hearing, Sen. Mark Kirk…faced the cameras and said he didn’t believe Kerry’s claims [that we need to give time to negotiations that will bring a resolution of the nuclear standoff with Iran]. Who did he believe?
If you read my post you’ll recall that he said he preferred to believe what his Israeli briefers were telling him because their intelligence service is ‘pretty good’ on these matters.
The Nana article continues, referring to Kirk’s comparison of the current nuclear talks to the Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich agreement:
You know perfectly well who uses terminology comparing the signing of a 2013 Geneva agreement to the Chamberlain-Hitler pace of 1938. Kirk used the same terminology to justify increasing sanctions. Rep. Ted Deutsch of Florida said: “The Iranian regime is like Hitler. And it [Iran] is about to gain the ability to drop an atom bomb on other countries. This administration’s [policies] will make the catastrophe even worse! We’re buying time? We’re not buying time! We’re making ourselves a laughingstock!”
Or take Rep. Eliot Engel, whose words may’ve been his own, but whose terminology reminds us of someone else [Netanyahu]: “The Iranians are trying to buy time. They say Rouhani is a reformer? I don’t believe it. He was elected president and no reformer could possibly be elected president. All of them [reform candidates] were disqualified from the race. We have to judge Iran by deeds and not by rhetoric…”
So who controls U.S. foreign policy? The State Department of the senators from the ‘great state’ of Israel?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.