Sunday, April 27, 2008

Israeli Ex-Soldiers Expose Abuse of Palestinians

Published on Sunday, April 27, 2008
by The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Ex-Soldiers Expose Abuse of Palestinians In a report this week, 39 soldiers give eyewitness accounts from their patrols in and around the West Bank city of Hebron. by Ilene R. Prusher TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - Doron Efrati was assigned to the Kfir Brigade, part of an infantry battalion that was especially created to serve in the West Bank following the outbreak of the second intifada.

He figured if he was going to be drafted anyway, he would agree to serve in the Israeli-occupied territories, “to see what really happens, and maybe to change things,” he says. “But I didn’t succeed.”

Today, he is one of 39 recently discharged soldiers whose testimonies are part of a grim new report on the situation in the West Bank city of Hebron, where the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) oversee a volatile population of 700 to 800 Jewish settlers living amid nearly 170,000 Palestinians. The 118-page report, which tells of systematic mistreatment of local Palestinians by both soldiers and settlers, was released during this week’s Passover holiday.

The timing is not coincidental. Forty years ago this week, a small group of far-right religious Israelis, led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, wrangled with a reluctant Israeli military establishment to hold a Passover seder in Hebron, revered as the burial place of several biblical patriarchs and matriarchs. Rabbi Levinger, who saw in Israel’s 1967 military victory over the Arabs a heralding of a Messianic-era redemption, rented hotel rooms for himself and his followers the following Passover, and refused to leave. Today, his flock constitutes the only Jewish settlement inside a Palestinian city.

The report, put out by the nongovernmental group Breaking the Silence, is meant to challenge what the group sees as a growing assumption by Israelis that Israeli-Palestinian friction in the West Bank has quieted down since the Al-Aqsa Intifada petered out around 2004.

“A lot of people come and say, ‘Oh, that’s all in the past,’ ” explains Yehuda Shaul, executive director of the group, which has brought 3,000 people on eye-opening trips to Hebron. On the contrary, he adds, he sees abuses as increasingly institutionalized. “The whole point of Breaking the Silence is to understand the moral price tag of a military occupation.”

Asked to respond to the group’s report, an IDF spokesman said in a written statement, “All IDF soldiers of all ranks are instructed to follow a strict set of moral guidelines which dictate codes of conduct in combat settings. IDF soldiers operate according to these guidelines, which determine the way they are expected and instructed to behave at all times.”

But in the report, 39 recently discharged soldiers who served in the Hebron area between 2005 and 2007 describe a pattern of repeated violations. Mr. Efrati is one of the five who have made their identities known; most offered anonymous accounts. The IDF does not investigate “anonymous complaints,” said the spokesman, who asked not to be named in keeping with Israeli army policy.

One of Efrati’s worst experiences started when some Palestinian kids threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at his unit when he was out on patrol in south Hebron. About 40 minutes afterward, he says, other soldiers in his unit identified and shot dead one of the youths who threw a flaming bottle. He was 11 years old.

“It was reported in the Israeli media later that one terrorist with a Molotov cocktail was killed,” he recalls, sitting in a Tel Aviv cafe. “I didn’t feel so good, but most of my friends didn’t care, and we had so much to do. These things were happening all the time,” he says.

The IDF spokesman said that in the event of an incident, “Officers from every unit that comes in direct contact with the civilian population in the West Bank take steps to ensure that similar incidents, whether commonplace or highly unusual, are never repeated.”

But Efrati describes numerous actions he witnessed on a regular basis. One involves locking an entire family into one room, and then using the rest of the house - the roof included - as a base. He says that in one such mission, in the village of Tarkumiyeh near Hebron, soldiers stayed overnight. Additional jeeps with sirens came in the morning, trying to draw a crowd. When the stones started flying, soldiers were able to shoot from the roof.

Michael Manekin, one of the leaders of Breaking the Silence, which has collected testimonies from more than 500 soldiers, says that’s a “fixed procedure.” Efrati says the only explanation given for the operation is that there were “a lot of terrorists in the village.” He says that on one occasion where he witnessed clear violation of policy - he saw an army comrade hitting someone who was already handcuffed and calm, he complained to his commander. The answer? “Let’s leave the dirty laundry in the company.”

Efrati also describes regularly being sent on late-night missions that involved raiding homes in the wee hours of the morning, turning over the house and searching for weapons. This often was carried out for the purposes of “mapping” - keeping track of who lives where - but he and most others who gave testimonies for the reports said that this technique was not carried out to target specific militant activity, but to instill fear. “It’s done because we want the Palestinians to feel that we can be anywhere at anytime,” he says. “The first time you enter some family’s home, you feel, why am I doing it? But then after two, three times, you get used to it.”

Efrati’s stories are far from the worst in the report. The testimonies include details of beatings and detaining Palestinians for checks without reason and making them sit or squat in uncomfortable positions. According to one troubling testimony, a soldier who gets annoyed at the sight of a Palestinian farmer whipping his donkey decides to ride the man and give him a taste of the same. The soldiers describe a constant stream of settler violence and vandalism against Palestinians, some of which is captured on the extensive camera system through which the IDF monitors what happens in the city. But if the report is correct, the footage is rarely turned over to the police to prosecute settlers.

Some of the most damning testimonies have been given on condition of anonymity - some soldiers fear legal action, and others are afraid of the social pressures to keep quiet. Says Mr. Shaul: “I hope that by doing this, it will get people to break their silence earlier.”

Copyright © 2008 The Christian Science Monitor

Kucinich breaks the silence.

This is what he dared say in congress: Please write Congressman Dennis KUCINICH a message of support at _ (

Congressional Record, April 22, 2008, Page: H2522

Mr. Speaker, today I join my colleagues in Congress in celebrating Israel's accomplishments over the past 60 years. I am happy to be co-sponsor of this congratulatory resolution. However, like many Israelis and Palestinians, I have concerns about Israel's future, its stability, its security and the prospect for peaceful coexistence for both Palestinians and Israelis. One of those concerns relates to the ongoing lack of resolution on the dispossession of Palestinian property and the dislocation of Palestinians after Independence. It must be remembered that about 700,000 Palestinians became exiled. Much Arab property was appropriated. And about 500 Arab villages were destroyed. On December 11, 1948, the United Nations passed Resolution 194, affording Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes in Israel, or to compensation for their property should they choose not to return. To this day, the mandate of U.N. Resolution 194 has not been fulfilled. Unfortunately, this failure remains as one of the most significant barriers to the realization of a two-state negotiated solution.

I am also concerned for those Palestinians who did not flee and who became Israeli citizens after Independence. According to the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, today there exist 20 Israeli laws which explicitly discriminate against the Palestinian minority in Israel, who constitute 20 percent of its population. In its 2005 Annual Report, the U.S. State Department said that ``[There is] institutionalized legal and societal discrimination against Israel's [Arab] Christian, Muslim and Druze citizens. The government does not provide Israeli Arabs with the same quality of education, housing, employment and social services as Jews.''

Finally, Israel has a right to security and a right to defend itself. Accordingly, I am concerned that the 40 year military occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem has been and continues to be brutal and unjust and undermines the security of Israel. It is a fact that the government of Israel continues to support the construction of settlements on Palestinian land, perpetuating the consequences of dispossession and exile. Additionally, I am concerned that the government of Israel has increased the number of checkpoints which destroy a viable Palestinian economy and a vibrant civil society. I am concerned that the Israeli government has erected a wall, often on Palestinian land, that divides Palestinians from Palestinians, rather than divide Israel from the West Bank. As stated by Judge Elaraby of the International Court of Justice in his 2004 Advisory Opinion on the legality of Israel's separation barrier, ``The fact that occupation is met by armed resistance cannot be used as a pretext to disregard fundamental human rights in the occupied territory.'' This conundrum of a dialectic of conflict further separates Israelis and Palestinians alike from hopes for peace.

H. Con. Res. 322 eloquently states the many reasons why I celebrate Israel's accomplishments and I sincerely wish it a bright future. I only wish to add that, in my opinion, and in the opinion of many Israelis and Palestinians as well, Israel's future will be bright only if it includes an open dialogue with Palestinians, a respect for human rights and international law, and a society built on coexistence and tolerance. Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace with justice and I encourage the United States government to help Israel achieve that so the joy of future anniversaries will be unalloyed.

I support the resolution in the spirit of reconciliation to which we must all inevitably turn, to achieve peace and justice with our brothers and sisters from whom we may be estranged.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Shattering a 'national mythology'

By Ofri Ilani

Of all the national heroes who have arisen from among the Jewish people over the generations, fate has not been kind to Dahia al-Kahina, a leader of the Berbers in the Aures Mountains. Although she was a proud Jewess, few Israelis have ever heard the name of this warrior-queen who, in the seventh century C.E., united a number of Berber tribes and pushed back the Muslim army that invaded North Africa. It is possible that the reason for this is that al-Kahina was the daughter of a Berber tribe that had converted to Judaism, apparently several generations before she was born, sometime around the 6th century C.E.

According to the Tel Aviv University historian, Prof. Shlomo Sand, author of "Matai ve'ech humtza ha'am hayehudi?" ("When and How the Jewish People Was Invented?"; Resling, in Hebrew), the queen's tribe and other local tribes that converted to Judaism are the main sources from which Spanish Jewry sprang. This claim that the Jews of North Africa originated in indigenous tribes that became Jewish - and not in communities exiled from Jerusalem - is just one element of the far- reaching argument set forth in Sand's new book.

In this work, the author attempts to prove that the Jews now living in Israel and other places in the world are not at all descendants of the ancient people who inhabited the Kingdom of Judea during the First and Second Temple period. Their origins, according to him, are in varied peoples that converted to Judaism during the course of history, in different corners of the Mediterranean Basin and the adjacent regions. Not only are the North African Jews for the most part descendants of pagans who converted to Judaism, but so are the Jews of Yemen (remnants of the Himyar Kingdom in the Arab Peninsula, who converted to Judaism in the fourth century) and the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe (refugees from the Kingdom of the Khazars, who converted in the eighth century).

Unlike other "new historians" who have tried to undermine the assumptions of Zionist historiography, Sand does not content himself with going back to 1948 or to the beginnings of Zionism, but rather goes back thousands of years. He tries to prove that the Jewish people never existed as a "nation-race" with a common origin, but rather is a colorful mix of groups that at various stages in history adopted the Jewish religion. He argues that for a number of Zionist ideologues, the mythical perception of the Jews as an ancient people led to truly racist thinking: "There were times when if anyone argued that the Jews belong to a people that has gentile origins, he would be classified as an anti-Semite on the spot. Today, if anyone dares to suggest that those who are considered Jews in the world ... have never constituted and still do not constitute a people or a nation - he is immediately condemned as a hater of Israel."

According to Sand, the description of the Jews as a wandering and self-isolating nation of exiles, "who wandered across seas and continents, reached the ends of the earth and finally, with the advent of Zionism, made a U-turn and returned en masse to their orphaned homeland," is nothing but "national mythology." Like other national movements in Europe, which sought out a splendid Golden Age, through which they invented a heroic past - for example, classical Greece or the Teutonic tribes - to prove they have existed since the beginnings of history, "so, too, the first buds of Jewish nationalism blossomed in the direction of the strong light that has its source in the mythical Kingdom of David."

So when, in fact, was the Jewish people invented, in Sand's view? At a certain stage in the 19th century, intellectuals of Jewish origin in Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism, took upon themselves the task of inventing a people "retrospectively," out of a thirst to create a modern Jewish people. From historian Heinrich Graetz on, Jewish historians began to draw the history of Judaism as the history of a nation that had been a kingdom, became a wandering people and ultimately turned around and went back to its birthplace.

Actually, most of your book does not deal with the invention of the Jewish people by modern Jewish nationalism, but rather with the question of where the Jews come from.

Sand: "My initial intention was to take certain kinds of modern historiographic materials and examine how they invented the 'figment' of the Jewish people. But when I began to confront the historiographic sources, I suddenly found contradictions. And then that urged me on: I started to work, without knowing where I would end up. I took primary sources and I tried to examine authors' references in the ancient period - what they wrote about conversion."

Sand, an expert on 20th-century history, has until now researched the intellectual history of modern France (in "Ha'intelektual, ha'emet vehakoah: miparashat dreyfus ve'ad milhemet hamifrats" - "Intellectuals, Truth and Power, From the Dreyfus Affair to the Gulf War"; Am Oved, in Hebrew). Unusually, for a professional historian, in his new book he deals with periods that he had never researched before, usually relying on studies that present unorthodox views of the origins of the Jews.

Experts on the history of the Jewish people say you are dealing with subjects about which you have no understanding and are basing yourself on works that you can't read in the original.

"It is true that I am an historian of France and Europe, and not of the ancient period. I knew that the moment I would start dealing with early periods like these, I would be exposed to scathing criticism by historians who specialize in those areas. But I said to myself that I can't stay just with modern historiographic material without examining the facts it describes. Had I not done this myself, it would have been necessary to have waited for an entire generation. Had I continued to deal with France, perhaps I would have been given chairs at the university and provincial glory. But I decided to relinquish the glory."

Inventing the Diaspora

"After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom" - thus states the preamble to the Israeli Declaration of Independence. This is also the quotation that opens the third chapter of Sand's book, entitled "The Invention of the Diaspora." Sand argues that the Jewish people's exile from its land never happened.

"The supreme paradigm of exile was needed in order to construct a long-range memory in which an imagined and exiled nation-race was posited as the direct continuation of 'the people of the Bible' that preceded it," Sand explains. Under the influence of other historians who have dealt with the same issue in recent years, he argues that the exile of the Jewish people is originally a Christian myth that depicted that event as divine punishment imposed on the Jews for having rejected the Christian gospel.

"I started looking in research studies about the exile from the land - a constitutive event in Jewish history, almost like the Holocaust. But to my astonishment I discovered that it has no literature. The reason is that no one exiled the people of the country. The Romans did not exile peoples and they could not have done so even if they had wanted to. They did not have trains and trucks to deport entire populations. That kind of logistics did not exist until the 20th century. From this, in effect, the whole book was born: in the realization that Judaic society was not dispersed and was not exiled."

If the people was not exiled, are you saying that in fact the real descendants of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah are the Palestinians?

"No population remains pure over a period of thousands of years. But the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendents. The first Zionists, up until the Arab Revolt [1936-9], knew that there had been no exiling, and that the Palestinians were descended from the inhabitants of the land. They knew that farmers don't leave until they are expelled. Even Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president of the State of Israel, wrote in 1929 that, 'the vast majority of the peasant farmers do not have their origins in the Arab conquerors, but rather, before then, in the Jewish farmers who were numerous and a majority in the building of the land.'"

And how did millions of Jews appear around the Mediterranean Sea?

"The people did not spread, but the Jewish religion spread. Judaism was a converting religion. Contrary to popular opinion, in early Judaism there was a great thirst to convert others. The Hasmoneans were the first to begin to produce large numbers of Jews through mass conversion, under the influence of Hellenism. The conversions between the Hasmonean Revolt and Bar Kochba's rebellion are what prepared the ground for the subsequent, wide-spread dissemination of Christianity. After the victory of Christianity in the fourth century, the momentum of conversion was stopped in the Christian world, and there was a steep drop in the number of Jews. Presumably many of the Jews who appeared around the Mediterranean became Christians. But then Judaism started to permeate other regions - pagan regions, for example, such as Yemen and North Africa. Had Judaism not continued to advance at that stage and had it not continued to convert people in the pagan world, we would have remained a completely marginal religion, if we survived at all."

How did you come to the conclusion that the Jews of North Africa were originally Berbers who converted?

"I asked myself how such large Jewish communities appeared in Spain. And then I saw that Tariq ibn Ziyad, the supreme commander of the Muslims who conquered Spain, was a Berber, and most of his soldiers were Berbers. Dahia al-Kahina's Jewish Berber kingdom had been defeated only 15 years earlier. And the truth is there are a number of Christian sources that say many of the conquerors of Spain were Jewish converts. The deep-rooted source of the large Jewish community in Spain was those Berber soldiers who converted to Judaism."

Sand argues that the most crucial demographic addition to the Jewish population of the world came in the wake of the conversion of the kingdom of Khazaria - a huge empire that arose in the Middle Ages on the steppes along the Volga River, which at its height ruled over an area that stretched from the Georgia of today to Kiev. In the eighth century, the kings of the Khazars adopted the Jewish religion and made Hebrew the written language of the kingdom. From the 10th century the kingdom weakened; in the 13th century is was utterly defeated by Mongol invaders, and the fate of its Jewish inhabitants remains unclear.

Sand revives the hypothesis, which was already suggested by historians in the 19th and 20th centuries, according to which the Judaized Khazars constituted the main origins of the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.

"At the beginning of the 20th century there is a tremendous concentration of Jews in Eastern Europe - three million Jews in Poland alone," he says. "The Zionist historiography claims that their origins are in the earlier Jewish community in Germany, but they do not succeed in explaining how a small number of Jews who came from Mainz and Worms could have founded the Yiddish people of Eastern Europe. The Jews of Eastern Europe are a mixture of Khazars and Slavs who were pushed eastward."

'Degree of perversion'

If the Jews of Eastern Europe did not come from Germany, why did they speak Yiddish, which is a Germanic language?

"The Jews were a class of people dependent on the German bourgeoisie in the East, and thus they adopted German words. Here I base myself on the research of linguist Paul Wechsler of Tel Aviv University, who has demonstrated that there is no etymological connection between the German Jewish language of the Middle Ages and Yiddish. As far back as 1828, the Ribal (Rabbi Isaac Ber Levinson) said that the ancient language of the Jews was not Yiddish. Even Ben Zion Dinur, the father of Israeli historiography, was not hesitant about describing the Khazars as the origin of the Jews in Eastern Europe, and describes Khazaria as 'the mother of the diasporas' in Eastern Europe. But more or less since 1967, anyone who talks about the Khazars as the ancestors of the Jews of Eastern Europe is considered naive and moonstruck."

Why do you think the idea of the Khazar origins is so threatening?

"It is clear that the fear is of an undermining of the historic right to the land. The revelation that the Jews are not from Judea would ostensibly knock the legitimacy for our being here out from under us. Since the beginning of the period of decolonization, settlers have no longer been able to say simply: 'We came, we won and now we are here' the way the Americans, the whites in South Africa and the Australians said. There is a very deep fear that doubt will be cast on our right to exist."

Is there no justification for this fear?

"No. I don't think that the historical myth of the exile and the wanderings is the source of the legitimization for me being here, and therefore I don't mind believing that I am Khazar in my origins. I am not afraid of the undermining of our existence, because I think that the character of the State of Israel undermines it in a much more serious way. What would constitute the basis for our existence here is not mythological historical right, but rather would be for us to start to establish an open society here of all Israeli citizens."

In effect you are saying that there is no such thing as a Jewish people.

"I don't recognize an international people. I recognize 'the Yiddish people' that existed in Eastern Europe, which though it is not a nation can be seen as a Yiddishist civilization with a modern popular culture. I think that Jewish nationalism grew up in the context of this 'Yiddish people.' I also recognize the existence of an Israeli people, and do not deny its right to sovereignty. But Zionism and also Arab nationalism over the years are not prepared to recognize it.

"From the perspective of Zionism, this country does not belong to its citizens, but rather to the Jewish people. I recognize one definition of a nation: a group of people that wants to live in sovereignty over itself. But most of the Jews in the world have no desire to live in the State of Israel, even though nothing is preventing them from doing so. Therefore, they cannot be seen as a nation."

What is so dangerous about Jews imagining that they belong to one people? Why is this bad?

"In the Israeli discourse about roots there is a degree of perversion. This is an ethnocentric, biological, genetic discourse. But Israel has no existence as a Jewish state: If Israel does not develop and become an open, multicultural society we will have a Kosovo in the Galilee. The consciousness concerning the right to this place must be more flexible and varied, and if I have contributed with my book to the likelihood that I and my children will be able to live with the others here in this country in a more egalitarian situation - I will have done my bit.

"We must begin to work hard to transform our place into an Israeli republic where ethnic origin, as well as faith, will not be relevant in the eyes of the law. Anyone who is acquainted with the young elites of the Israeli Arab community can see that they will not agree to live in a country that declares it is not theirs. If I were a Palestinian I would rebel against a state like that, but even as an Israeli I am rebelling against it."

The question is whether for those conclusions you had to go as far as the Kingdom of the Khazars.

"I am not hiding the fact that it is very distressing for me to live in a society in which the nationalist principles that guide it are dangerous, and that this distress has served as a motive in my work. I am a citizen of this country, but I am also a historian and as a historian it is my duty to write history and examine texts. This is what I have done."

If the myth of Zionism is one of the Jewish people that returned to its land from exile, what will be the myth of the country you envision?

"To my mind, a myth about the future is better than introverted mythologies of the past. For the Americans, and today for the Europeans as well, what justifies the existence of the nation is a future promise of an open, progressive and prosperous society. The Israeli materials do exist, but it is necessary to add, for example, pan-Israeli holidays. To decrease the number of memorial days a bit and to add days that are dedicated to the future. But also, for example, to add an hour in memory of the Nakba [literally, the "catastrophe" - the Palestinian term for what happened when Israel was established], between Memorial Day and Independence Day."

Friday, April 18, 2008

How LBJ's Vietnam War Paralyzed His Mideast Policymakers (thanks, Joel)

Grace Halsell Washington Report on Middle East Affairs June 1993

Everyone around me, without exception, was pro-Israel.

In the summer of 1967, I was a staff writer for President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House. I was aware of that year's Middle East crisis but, like most Americans, understood little about it other than the fact that it involved Jews and Arabs. In that year I did not know a single Arab, and possibly LBJ did not either. Like most Americans, I was pro-Israel, Israel having been sold to most all of us as the underdog.

Everyone around me, without exception, was pro-Israel. Johnson had a dozen or more close associates and aides who were both Jewish and pro-Israel. There were Walt Rostow at the White House, his brother Eugene at State, and Arthur Goldberg, ambassador to the United Nations. Other pro-Israel advisers included Abe Fortas, associate justice of the Supreme Court; Democratic Party fundraiser Abraham Feinberg; White House counsels Leo White and Jake Jacobsen; White House writers Richard Goodwin and Ben Wattenberg; domestic affairs aide Larry Levinson; and John P. Roche, known as Johnson's intellectual-in-residence and an avid supporter of Israel.

I did not "know," but could sense, that events of great portent were transpiring. I heard rumors of CIA Director Richard Helms sending a warning to LBJ that the Israelis were about to attack, and the president getting word from Moscow that if the Israelis attacked any Arab country, the Soviets would go to that nation's defense.

I could see the comings and goings of Abe Fortas and Arthur Goldberg, and I knew that Walt Rostow, in particular, had close Israeli connections, and met frequently with Israeli Embassy Minister Ephraim (Eppy) Evron.

On occasion I saw a strikingly attractive blonde woman who, I learned, was an ardent supporter of Israel and a woman of whom the president was fond. Her background sounded like material from a spy novel. She was born Mathilde Galland in 1927 in Italy, where she was reared as a Roman Catholic. Then, when her family returned to her father's birthplace in Switzerland, she became a Lutheran.

While a student in Geneva, she fell in love with a young Bulgarian Jew, David Danon, who had been brought up in Palestine and exiled by the British for his association with the Irgun Zvai Leumi, a Jewish terrorist group led by Menachem Begin. Danon was studying to become a medical doctor, but spent most of his time recruiting and carrying out secret Irgun operations throughout Western Europe.

In later interviews with former Time reporter Donald Neff, Mathilde said that as a teenager she saw Danon as a dashing and heroic figure, an activist dedicating his life to the founding of a Jewish state in Palestine. He was a personal friend of the Stern Gang terrorists, led by Yitzhak Shamir, who killed British resident minister Lord Walter Moyne in Cairo during World War II, and the Irgun terrorists who blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, with heavy loss of life. As bloody as these actions were, Mathilde said, she saw them as heroic. They represented the depth of the convictions of Danon and the Irgunistsãand drew her to them.

Mathilde became so enamored of the Jewish struggle and of Danon's daring undercover operations in Europe that she converted to Judaism and married Danon. Then she, too, became an Irgun agent.

Reporter Neff, in his book entitled Warriors for Jerusalem: The Six Days That Changed the Middle East, documents Mathilde's role as a young "gun-runner" for the Jewish terrorist group. "As a seemingly innocent petite and pretty blonde out for a bicycle ride along Switzerland's borders," wrote Neff, "she in reality was taking messages and explosives into neighboring France and Italyãto be passed on to the Irgunists.

Five years after the creation of Israel obviated the need for pretty blonde gunrunners, Mathilde received a Ph.D. in genetics at the University of Geneva in 1953. She and Danon then moved to Israel, where she became a cancer researcher at the Weizmann Institute. After the birth of a daughter, she and Danon separated. While still at Weizmann, however, she met and later married the richãand 20 years her seniorãArthur Krim, a motion picture executive who became finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee.

American Jews such as Krim and Abraham Feinbergãa New York banker and the first Jew to become a prominent moneyraiser in presidential campaignsãwere by then bringing in well over half of the Democratic Party's funds. Thus it was natural that such fund-raisers would become very important to many Democratic candidatesãand particularly to the leader of the Democratic Party, Lyndon B. Johnson.

LBJ often invited the Krims to his Texas ranch. There also were many instances in which Arthur and Mathilde were guests at the White House, and other times when, for many days running, Mathildeãwithout her husbandã was a guest there. The Krims built a house near the LBJ ranch known as Mathilde's house, and Johnson often traveled there by helicopter.

Advice and Counsel

The Krims, as well as other Jewish Americans who were closely associated with Johnson, advised and counseled him on the events leading up to the Six-Day War of June 1967. On the Memorial Day weekend in May 1967, Mathilde and her husband were guests at the LBJ ranch. On arrival at the ranch, Johnson learned that the Soviets had warned the U.S. that if Israel attacked an Arab state, the Soviets would go to the aid of that state. The State Department was preparing a message for LBJ to send to Israel.

While awaiting the draft message, Johnson got behind the wheel of his Lincoln Continental and took Mathilde and Arthur Krim for a drive over the hill country. They were at a neighbor's house when an aide brought Johnson a message drafted by the State Department for Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. It relayed to Israel Moscow's warning that "if Israel starts military action, the Soviet Union will extend help to the attacked party."

After reassuring Eshkol of America's interest in Israel's safety, the draft message cautioned: "It is essential that Israel not take any preemptive military action and thereby make itself responsible for the initiation of hostilities." The president strengthened the warning by adding two words so that the sentence read, "It is essential that Israel JUST MUST NOT take any preemptive military action. . ."

On June 3, Johnson traveled to New York to deliver a speech at a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner. He moved on to a $1,000-a-plate dinner dance, sponsored by the President's Club of New York, whose chairman was Arthur Krim. While at the table, fund-raiser Abe Feinberg leaned over the shoulder of Mathilde Krim, seated next to Johnson, and whispered: "Mr. President, it [Israel's attack] can't be held any longer. It's going to be within the next 24 hours."

On June 4, Johnson went to the home of his close adviser and friend, Justice Abe Fortas. The following day, June 5, Rostow woke Johnson with a phone call at 4:30 a.m. "War has broken out," Rostow said. The Israelis had attacked Egypt and Syria.

Mathilde Krim was a guest at the White House and, before going to the Oval Office, and apparently before waking Lady Bird or notifying anyone else, Johnson dropped by the bedroom where Mathilde was sleeping and gave her the news: "The war has started."

At 7:45 a.m., Johnson talkedãfor the first timeãon the hot line with Moscow. Soviet Premier Aleksi Kosygin expressed the hope that the United States would restrain Israel. Both leaders vowed to work for a cease-fire.

On that dayãJune 5, 1967ãI walked the White House corridors as the telephone lines and news tickers recorded developments of the first morning of the war that would change the Middle East. I learned that in the war's first hours, Israeli planes had destroyed the air forces of both Egypt and Syria on the ground.

Unconcealable Glee

Several U.S. officials in a State Department Operations Room briefing could not conceal their glee over Israel's successes. With a wide smile, Eugene Rostow said, "Gentlemen, gentlemen, do not forget that we are neutral in word, thought and deed."

At the State Department's noon briefing on June 5, press spokesman Robert J. McCloskey repeated those words for reporters. (Since the U.S. was not neutral but totally supportive of Israel, however, this statement would needã over the next several weeksãendless clarification.

Also on June 5, Arthur Krim wrote a memo to the president saying: "Many arms shipments are packed and ready to go to Israel, but are being held up. It would be helpful if these could be released." Johnson got the shipments on their way.

Walt Rostow, in a memo to the president, referred to the results of Israel's surprise attack on Egypt and Syria as "the first day's turkey shoot." On June 6, in another memo to the president, Walt Rostow recommended that the Israelis not be forced to withdraw from the territories they had seizedã short of peace treaties with the Arab states.

"If the Israelis go fast enough and the Soviets get worried enough," he wrote, "a simple cease-fire might be the best answer. This would mean that we could use the de facto situation on the ground to try to negotiate not a return to armistice lines but a definitive peace in the Middle East."

Mathilde Krim, still a guest in the White House, left for meetings in New York. Before departing, however, she wrote out a statement supportive of Israel which she asked the president to deliver "verbatim to the American people." Johnson was sufficiently impressed with her comments to, later in the day, read some of them to Secretary of State Dean Rusk. But the president did not, as she had asked, read them to the American people.

Jordan, treaty-bound to come to the aid of Egypt and Syria if either were attacked, had done so and, on June 7, Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem. Also on June 7, Wattenberg and Levinson wrote in a memo to Johnson that the U.N. might attempt "to sell Israel down the river."

They urged LBJ to support Israel's claim to the territories seized militarily. They referred to McCloskey's statement that the U.S. was neutral, suggesting LBJ issue a statement affirming total support for Israel which, they said, might stop American Jews from meeting in Lafayette Square to protest the "neutrality" statement.

While Johnson never minded getting pro-Israel advice from such close friends as Mathilde Krim or Abe Fortas, he apparently resented advice from relatively minor White House staffers such as Wattenberg and Levinson. Seeing Levinson he stormed:
"You Zionist dupe! You and Wattenberg are Zionist dupes in the White House! Why can't you see I'm doing all I can for Israel! That's what you should be telling people when they ask for a message from the president for their rally." As LBJ abruptly stormed off, Levinson reports, he stood there, "shaken to the marrow of my bones."

Meanwhile, on the night of June 7, the USS Liberty, a Navy "ferret" ship equipped to monitor electronic communications, had approached within sight of the Gaza Strip so the National Security Agency personnel aboard could intercept the military communications jamming the airwaves. The president retired at 11:30 p.m., but White House logs reported that at one minute to midnight he got a call from Mathilde Krim, still in New York.

By June 8, despite U.S. and Soviet demands for a cease-fire, the Israelis were planning one more attack to take Syria's Golan Heights. Perhaps to prevent U. S. intelligence from learning of their plan, despite Syria's acceptance of the cease-fire, the Israelis dispatched planes to the USS Liberty. One roared over the Liberty so closely that the portholes of the aircraft's reconnaissance cameras were clearly visible. Lieutenant James M. Ennes, deck officer, saw on its wings Israel's insignia, the Star of David.

The Liberty Assault

Ennes glanced at the U.S. flag atop his ship's tall mast. If he could see the Israeli pilots in their cockpits, he reasoned, the pilots could certainly see the large U.S. flag. It was not long after the last of several such Israeli reconnaissance flights, however, that an Israeli aircraft swooped down and fired rockets directly at The Liberty. Rocket fragments and 30mm bullets punched through the heavy deck platingãand through the flesh of the stunned crewmen. Then more planesãwith cannon and napalmãturned the Liberty into a floating hell of flames and screaming men.

The Israeli attacks killed 34 Americans and wounded 171. The ship was partly flooded when an Israeli torpedo boat hit the U.S. ship with a torpedo below the water line. Another machine-gunned the ship's life rafts when the crew tried to launch them.

Only by a miracle did The Liberty remain afloat. But its threat to Israel's plans was finished. The next day, June 9, Israeli forces attacked and captured the Golan Heights. On Saturday, June 10, the war's sixth day, Israel agreed to a cease-fire.

It was Rostow who first notified Johnson of the assault on the Liberty. Asked who did it, Rostow said he did not know. Later the Israelis said they had done it, by mistake.

Johnson sent an immediate report to Kosygin that the Israelis had torpedoed a U.S. ship. Thus the Kremlin now knew about the Israeli attack, but the American people did not. From the beginning, the Johnson administration covered it up. Surviving crew members were separated from each other and the Navy was ordered to make certain that no survivor talked with any reporterãor to anyone elseãabout the assault on the USS Liberty.

It went virtually unnoticed. Not only the crew of the USS Liberty, but all Americans were victims. Johnson and most of those who entered and left the Oval Office were oriented toward Israel. For that matter, I too, was ready and eager to believe in 1967 that the Arabs, not the Israelis, had started the war and that the bombing raid on the USS Liberty was not intentional, but a mistake.

While there can be no moral justification for the White House cover-up orders to the Navy after the assault on the Liberty, from hindsight Johnson's political motivation is obvious. It was the same motivation that led him subsequently to listen to the Jewish friends and advisers who urged him not to put any pressure on the Israelis to relinquish territories they had seized in the Six-Day War.

In 1967, President Johnson felt he needed all the support he could get to 'win" in Vietnam. Many American Jews were liberals outspokenly opposed to the war there. Johnson was told if he gave all out support to Israelãwhich would include ignoring the Israeli attack on the Liberty influential Jewish Americans would stop opposing his Vietnam policies.

In a memo to the president, Wattenberg, whose parents had moved to the U. S. from Palestine and who was known as a strong supporter of the Jewish state, said flatly that if the president came out with strong support for Israel, he would win American Jewish support for the war in Vietnam. Many American Jewish leaders are "doves" on Vietnam, Wattenberg wrote, but "hawks" on a war with Arab states.

A "Bonus" for Johnson

"You stand to be cheered now by those (American Jewish leaders) who were jeering last week," Wattenberg wrote the president. He added that the Mideast crisis could be "a bonus" for Johnson. All-out support of Israel, he predicted, would "help turn around 'the other war'ãthe domestic dissatisfaction about Vietnam."

The support given by the American Jewish leaders "was welcome to the president," as reporter Donald Neff observed, when at every turn he was being attacked by critics, particularly in the media, of his Vietnam policy.

I was, at the time, a typical American. I was convinced back then that the Arabs had started the war and deserved what they got. I didn't try to reason how, if the Arabs had started the war, they were surprised with their air forces on the ground and how it was that Israel so easily seized all of Palestine, including the rest of Jerusalem. Instead, like millions of Americans,
I was thrilled by the might of "little Israel."

Yet, despite the euphoria around me, what I saw in the White House planted questions in my mind. As Americans we had just passed through a dangerous Middle East conflict that threatened to explode into World War III. There were two parties to the conflict, Arabs and Jews. But for weeks on end I had seen only one set of advisers who could call or see Johnson whenever they pleased. The Arabs had no voice, no representation, no access, whatsoever.

It was only later that I came to reflect on how America, which devoted so much of the efforts of its "best and brightest" to the problem of Vietnam, had in 1967 quite unwittingly stumbled into a Middle East quagmire that, long after the fall of Saigon, would continue to enmesh U.S. soldiers and diplomats, and project an image of double standards and insincerity onto U. S. diplomacy all over the world.

Far more than his failed policies in Vietnam, the Middle East policies that LBJ allowed to fall into place in the June 1967 war would remain to haunt the U. S. for decades to come.

Grace Halsell, a Washington-based writer, is the author of Journey to Jerusalem and Prophecy and Politics, as well as several other works of nonfiction.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Jewish Lobby

Inter Press Service News Agency 04-1708
New Jewish Lobby Seeks to Redefine "Pro-Israel" By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - A new group of prominent U.S. Jews who believe that the so-called "Israel Lobby" has been dominated for too long by neo-conservatives and other Likud-oriented hawks has launched a new organization to help fund political candidates who favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a stronger U.S. role in achieving it.

Almost two years in the making, the "J Street" project plans to spend some 1.5 million dollars -- about half of which has been pledged to date -- in its first year of operation, a portion of which will go to supporting half a dozen Congressional campaigns for candidates who share its pro-peace and pro-Israel views.

"For too long, the loudest American voices on Israel have come from the far right," noted Jeremy Ben-Ami, a founder and director of both J Street and its political-action affiliate, JStreetPac.

"Those voices have claimed that the only way to be pro-Israel is to support military responses to political problems, to refuse to engage one's adversaries in dialogue and to put off the day of reckoning when hard compromises will be required to achieve a peaceful and secure future for Israel and the entire Middle East," he told reporters via teleconference Tuesday.

"These are not the kind of smart, tough views that serve the long-term interests of the state of Israel, of the United States -- or frankly, the American Jewish community," he added.

The new project has been endorsed by some two dozen prominent Israelis, including three former directors of Israel's foreign ministry, a former chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) General Staff, a former commander of the Israeli air force and several other top former top military and intelligence officers.

"Now more than ever, true friendship requires strong American leadership and engagement to move the sides toward a comprehensive two-state solution," the Israeli leaders wrote in a letter to J Street's founders. "With time running out, business-as-usual will not do."

The launch of the new group, which will be led by an advisory council of 100 prominent U.S. Jewish leaders and philanthropists, is aimed primarily at challenging the longstanding dominance of several major Jewish lobby organizations, particularly the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), whose leadership has generally opposed substantial Israeli concessions in negotiations with Palestinians and Israel's other Arab neighbors.

AIPAC, which is widely seen as Washington's most powerful foreign policy lobby, has forged strong ties with both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill where it has long claimed to represent the foreign policy views of the vast majority of U.S. Jews.

Although Jews make up only about two percent of the U.S. population, they provide up to 40 percent of total campaign contributions for Democratic candidates and up to 20 percent for Republican candidates.

AIPAC has also cultivated alliances with prominent right-wing Christian Zionists, such as John Hagee, the Texas televangelist who keynoted AIPAC's annual convention last year. Among other positions, Hagee has repeatedly denounced any consideration by the Israeli government to giving up parts of Jerusalem as part of any peace settlement with the Palestinians. He has also urged President George W. Bush to attack Iran.

Those alliances have created growing discomfort within the larger U.S. Jewish community which, in any event, tends to hold less hawkish views about Israel and its relations with its neighbors than those urged by AIPAC and other more-rightwing national Jewish institutions, according to recent surveys of Jewish opinion by the American Jewish Committee.

Indeed, earlier this month, Eric Yoffie, the president of the influential Union of Reform Judaism, called on Jews to disassociate themselves from Hagee and his organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Several days later, seven past chairmen of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, another major national group whose leadership has moved increasingly to the right, defended Hagee as a "true friend of Israel" and CUFI as "among the strongest supporters of Israel in the United States" in a letter to the New York Times.

Founders of J Street, however, clearly question the notion that AIPAC, CUFI, and other organizations that oppose substantial territorial or other concessions by Israel as part of any peace process are indeed strong supporters of Israel, particularly at a time when most experts say the chances for a two-state solution that would preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state are diminishing.

"For the sake of Israel, the United States and the world, it is time for American political discourse to re-engage with reality," wrote Ben-Ami, whose grandparents were among the founders of Tel Aviv and whose father was a militant in the right-wing Revisionist Movement, in a column published Tuesday by the Jewish national daily, The Forward.

"Voices of reason need to reclaim what it means to be pro-Israel and to establish in American political discourse that Israel's core security interest is to achieve a negotiated two-state solution and to define once and for all permanent, internationally-recognized borders."

"We need to have a much more robust discussion in this country about what it means to be pro-Israel," said Victor Kovner, a former Corporation Counsel of New York City and a member of the group's advisory council.

"Many of us have been frustrated to say the least at the presumption held by so many...that, because we are active in the Jewish community, we are somehow supportive of AIPAC and those who have pursued right-wing agendas. I don't support AIPAC; I support a different vision of the Middle East, and, in creating J Street, I think we will make that position clear."

In its policy positions, J Street calls for territorial compromises with the Palestinians based largely on the 1967 borders with reciprocal land swaps and the division of Jerusalem. The group also favors strong U.S. support for Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations and direct, high-level U.S. talks with Iran to address all issues of mutual concern, including ending Iranian opposition to Arab-Israeli peace efforts and its support for armed anti-Israel groups in Palestine and Lebanon.

"There is no way that Israel as a Sparta is going to be in the interests of the Israeli or American people," noted Sam Lewis, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who helped negotiate the 1978 Camp David Accords with Egypt under the Jimmy Carter administration.

"The threats to Israel are real, but the way to go after those threats is to bring about different kinds of dialogue and negotiation than we've seen recently," said Lewis, who also serves on the J Street's advisory council.

While the group's goal of 1.5 million dollars in the first year is a fraction of AIPAC's 50-million-dollar annual budget, supporters stressed that this is just the beginning.

"Most Americans and most Jewish Americans support the two-state solution and are tired of having a Likud-oriented lobby speaking in their name," said M.J. Rosenberg, an analyst at the Israel Policy Forum. "Let's see what happens but I think this could be big."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Manifest Destiny?

Uri Avnery (Hebrew: ???? ??????, also transliterated Uri Avneri, born September 10, 1923 in Beckum, Germany as Helmut Ostermann), is a German-born Israeli journalist, left-wing peace activist, and former Knesset member, who was originally a member of the right-wing Revisionist Zionist movement. His complete essays can be found on the website of the Israeli peace organization, Gush-Shalom



... According to the fashionable formula, "both governments, the Israeli and the Palestinian, are too weak to make peace. Everything must be postponed until strong leaderships emerge on both sides." Some people add the Bush administration to the count - a lame duck president cannot impose peace.

But the settlements are only a symptom, not the heart of the problem. Otherwise, why doesn't the government freeze them, at least, as it has undertaken again and again? If the settlements are the main obstacle to peace, why are they being enlarged even now, and why are new settlements still being set up, disguised as new "neighborhoods" of existing settlements?

Clearly, the settlements, too, are in reality only a pretext. Something more profound is causing the government - and the entire political system - to reject peace. That is the hidden agenda.

WHAT IS the heart of peace? A border.

When two neighboring peoples make peace, they fix, first of all, the border between them.

And that is precisely what the Israeli establishment opposes, because it negates the basic ethos of the Zionist enterprise.

True, at different points in time the Zionist movement has drawn up maps. After World War I, it submitted to the peace conference the map of a Jewish state extending from the Litani River in Lebanon to El- Arish in the Sinai desert. The map of Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky, which became the Irgun emblem, copied the borders of the original British Mandate on both sides of the Jordan. Israel Eldad, one of the Stern Group leaders, distributed for many years a map of the Israeli Empire that reached from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates and included all of Jordan and Lebanon, with great chunks of Syria and Egypt thrown in. His son, the extreme right-wing Member of the Knesset Arieh Eldad, has not given up this map. And after the Six Day War, the map favored by the right-wing covered all the conquests, including the Golan Heights and the entire Sinai peninsula.

But all these maps were only games. The real Zionist vision does not recognize any maps. It is a vision of a state without borders - a state that expands at all times according to its demographic, military and political power. The Zionist strategy resembles the waters of a river flowing to the sea. The river snakes through the landscape, goes around obstacles, turns left and right, flowing sometimes on the surface and sometimes underground, and on its way takes in more springs. In the end it reaches its destination.

That is the real agenda, unchanging, hidden, conscious and unconscious. It does not need decisions, formulations or maps, because it is encoded in the genes of the movement. This explains, among other things, the phenomenon described in the report of senior prosecution lawyer Talia Sasson on the settlements: that all the organs of the establishment, the government and the military, without any official coordination but with miraculously effective cooperation, acted to set up the "illegal" settlements. Every one of the thousands of officials and officers who spent decades involved in this enterprise knew exactly what to do, even without receiving any instructions.

That is the reason for David Ben-Gurion's refusal to include in the Declaration of Independence of the new State of Israel any mention of borders. He did not intend for a minute to be satisfied with the borders fixed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution of November 29, 1947. All his successors had the same approach. Even the Oslo agreements delineated "zones" but did not fix a border. President Bush accepted this approach when he proposed a "Palestinian state with provisional borders" - a novelty in international law.

In this respect, too, Israel resembles the United States, which was founded along the Eastern seaboard and did not rest until it had reached the Western shores on the other side of the continent. The incessant stream of mass immigration from Europe flowed on westwards, breaching all borders and violating all agreements, exterminating the Native Americans, starting a war against Mexico, conquering Texas, invading Central America and Cuba. The slogan that drove them on and justified all their actions was coined in 1845 by John O'Sullivan: "Manifest Destiny".

The Israeli version of "Manifest Destiny" is Moshe Dayan's slogan "We are fated". Dayan, a typical representative of the second generation, made two important speeches in his life. The first and better known was delivered in 1956 at the grave of Roy Rutenberg of Nahal Oz, a kibbutz facing Gaza: "Before their [the Palestinians in Gaza] very eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived ∑ This is the fate of our generation, the choice of our life - to be prepared and armed, strong and tough - or otherwise, the sword will slip from our fist, and our life will be snuffed out."

He did not mean only his own generation. The second, lesser known speech is more important. It was delivered in August 1968, after the occupation of the Golan Heights, before a rally of young Kibbutzniks. When I asked him about it in the Knesset, he inserted the entire speech into the Knesset record, a very unusual procedure in our parliament.

This is what he told the youth: "We are fated to live in a permanent state of fighting against the Arabs - For the hundred years of the Return to Zion we are working for two things: the building of the land and the building of the people - That is a process of expansion, of more Jews and more settlements - That is a process that has not reached the end. We were born here and found our parents, who had come here before us - It is not your duty to reach the end. Your duty is to add your layer - to expand the settlement to the best of your ability, during your lifetime ... (and) not to say: this is the end, up to here, we have finished."

Dayan, who was well versed in the ancient texts, probably had in mind the phrase in the Chapter of the Fathers (a part of the Mishnah, which was finished 1800 years ago and formed the basis of the Talmud): "It is not up to you to finish the work, and you are not free to stop doing it."

That is the hidden agenda. We must haul it up from the depths of our unconscious minds to the realm of consciousness in order to face it, to reveal the terrible danger inherent in it, the danger of an eternal war which may in the fullness of time lead this state to disaster.

Approaching the 60th anniversary of the state, we must draw a line under this chapter of our history, exorcise the dybbuk and say clearly: yes, we have ended the chapter of expansion and settlement.

This will enable us to change the course of the river. To put an end to the occupation. To dismantle the settlements. To make peace. To effect a reconciliation with the neighboring people. To turn Israel into a peaceful, democratic, secular and liberal state, that can devote all its resources to the creation of a flourishing, modern society...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Capuano and Kucinich Come Clean About the Lobby

April 17, 2007

Why is the Peace Movement Silent About AIPAC?


"AIPAC!" was the forceful one-word answer of Congressman Michael Capuano when we asked him, "Why was the Iran clause forbidding war on Iran without Congressional approval taken out of the recent supplemental for the Iraq war funding?" I nearly fell out of my chair at his reply - not because this was news but because of who had just said it. Capuano is a close ally of Nancy Pelosi, her fixer and enforcer. That was last Friday morning when a small delegation from Cambridge and Somerville, MA, were visiting the Congressman, known for his bluntness, as part of the nationwide UFPJ (United For Peace and Justice) home lobbying effort during the Congressional recess.

Later that day, Dennis Kucinich made an appearance at Harvard, where he was asked the same question, the reason for removing the Iran provision. "AIPAC," I volunteered out loud. Kucinich looked my way and said, "Exactly." Again my chair almost failed to contain me.

A few weeks earlier we had gone to the offices of Senators Kennedy and then Kerry to discuss the war. (My intention was to call their attention to to which the Kennedy aide was sympathetic and the Kerry aide predictably hostile.) I raised the question of AIPAC directly with Kerry's aide, inquiring about its hawkish influence on Kerry and other Senators. Suddenly the aide was quite engaged. Leaning forward, he said: "That will never be discussed publicly. That will never be discussed publicly." Clearly even Kerry's office is unhappy with the pressure that comes from AIPAC.

It is widely acknowledged that the reps and senators are ticked at AIPAC, and their hostility seems to be growing these days. With upwards of 60% of their campaign contributions coming directly or indirectly from the Israel Lobby, the Democratic congressmen are not free to respond to their antiwar base. This opens them to an antiwar electoral challenge on the Left or Right from forces not subservient to AIPAC. And that could cost them their next election, a little thing which has them very worked up. Capuano's cry of "AIPAC" was no simple outburst of candor but a cri de coeur for his career.

So here we have even Congressmen and Senator's aides complaining publicly about AIPAC. AIPAC is being outed all over the mainstream media, largely thanks to the door opening work of Mearsheimer and Walt. AIPAC is skewered routinely by Justin Raimondo on and by Alex Cockburn and many others here on CounterPunch. But there remains no anti-AIPAC campaign within the mainstream antiwar organizations, like UFPJ or Peace Action. (Even one supposed Congressional ally of the peace movement was announced as a celebrity guest at the recent colossal AIPAC meeting in Washington, where half the Congress shows up and Dick Cheney is a regular speaker. What gives?)

I have been told by leaders of the peace movement that AIPAC is a distraction from the main thrust of the antiwar movement. And so we should not engage it; AIPAC is to be immune. But with all due respect to the sentiments of that leadership, immunity for AIPAC is a prescription for disaster. To use a military analogy, which I do not especially like, suppose that we were trying to take a hill in Germany in 1944. And suppose we said that we would not attack one pillbox, which kept devastating our forces. Leave just that one pillbox alone! The result would be devastating; we would be cut down with every succeeding attempt at advance. So it is with AIPAC which campaigns relentlessly for war on Iraq, war on Iran, war on Syria, war on Lebanon and the slow genocide of the Palestinian people. AIPAC constantly puts the peace movement on the defensive while it is free to be on the offensive all the time.

AIPAC is not just an issue for Jewish Americans or the Jewish wing of the peace movement like Jewish Voice for Peace; it is a major force, although not the only one, driving the U.S. to wars in the Middle East. AIPAC is no less a force for war than is the Republican National Committee. In fact it is worse, because it sinks its teeth into the foreign policy establishment of both parties, perhaps the Dems more so than the Republicans. If the peace movement is to be worth its salt, then it must take action against AIPAC. (It is marathon season here in Boston and my friend, Israeli expatriate Joshua Ashenberg, tells me that the foregoing thought harbors a logical error. As he says: "A 'movement' that does not work against AIPAC is NOT a peace movement by definition. It will not help if I call myself a marathon runner, while I never ran a marathon.")

In the Boston area, AIPAC appears to be especially powerful, and so we have a special responsibility to take it on. At the recent AIPAC conference in Washington, the delegates from Boston/New England were the most hawkish toward Iran. Just before the last election a notorious ad in the Boston Globe, cheering on the Israeli bombing of Lebanon, was engineered by the Jewish Community Relations Council, an arm of AIPAC here. Every major political figure in MA signed the ad, including our "liberal" governor, Deval Patrick, and supposed peacenik Congressman Jim McGovern. Only Conressmen Capuano and Delahunt withheld their signatures. In addition AIPAC appears to raise a lot of money in our neck of the woods.

So I have a modest suggestion. On Sunday, April 29, beginning at 6 pm, AIPAC has its annual fundraising dinner at the Westin Hotel in Copley Square in Boston. (Last year a good table for 10 went for a modest $10,000.) Show up at 5 pm to protest the machinations of AIPAC. Which peace organizations in our area will be there? Which ones will promote the rally? And which will maintain their silence?

John V. Walsh