Archive for November, 2008

Portrait of a Crypto-Jew — I.F. Stone, a.k.a. Isador Feinstein

Posted in Outing Liars with tags , , , , on November 28, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

if_stone-customCelebrated American journalist I.F. Stone, who died in 1989, is best remembered for his “‘journalistic integrity” and supposed willingness to speak truth to power. Yet few of his readers ever realized he was a committed Zionist Jew — real name Isador Feinstein — as can be seen in this 2006 book review by Christopher Hitchens.“Because so many bonds attach me to Israel, I am ready to condone preventive war; I rejoiced when my side won,” the talentless Hitchens quotes Stone as saying about Israel’s martial victories.

The phenomenon of crypto-Judaism, by which Jews adopt gentile names and downplay their origins, is hardly new. But in the case of Stone — or Feinstein, rather — one has to ask: what do these people — so often prominent journalists and influential opinion-makers — have to hide?

Hitchens is a paid spokesman for the Zionist establishment and a piss-poor writer to boot. Nevertheless, his 2006 review of an I.F. Stone autobiography — originally published in Vanity Fair magazine (below) — blatantly alludes to the prize-winning reporter’s crypto-Judaism.

The review also touches on the following points, worthy of note: Stone’s blatant anti-gentile assumptions (“twice as dense as the normal gentile”); his contempt for the anti-Communist Joseph McCarthy and the notion of “loyalty oaths”; his seeming sympathy for the (Jewish-run) Soviet Union; and his support for US intervention in the Second World War.

The complete text of Hitchens’ review follows:
I. F. Stone’s Mighty Pen
By Christopher Hitchens

Reading a new biography of the fiercely independent and incorruptible I. F. “Izzy” Stone, the author recalls how, with a one-man kitchen-table weekly, the late great reporter blazed the way for a generation of bloggers, became a legend Washington journalists still worship, and set a standard few can meet.

Vanity Fair
September 1, 2006

Hearing aid, notebook, and Coke-bottle glasses, was squinting and cupping his hand at the G.O.P.’s Nixonian cheerfest in Miami Beach in 1968:

“It was hard to listen to Goldwater and realize that a man could be half Jewish and yet sometimes appear to be twice as dense as the normal gentile. As for Agnew, even at a convention where every speech seemed to outdo the other in wholesome clichés and delicious anticlimaxes, his speech putting Nixon into nomination topped all the rest. If the race that produced Isaiah is down to Goldwater and the race that produced Pericles is down to Agnew, the time has come to give the country back to the WASPs.”

This could have been H. L. Mencken or Murray Kempton on his best day, but it was written by the great Isador Feinstein, always called “Izzy” but in 1937 amending his byline to I. F. Stone. This unusual American humanist didn’t really believe in “race” at all, could easily have quoted at length from both Isaiah and Pericles, sometimes in the original, and, as you readily see, could in a wry way make you laugh. He could also make you weep:

“Since every man is a microcosm, in whose heart may be read all that sends armies marching, I must admit I am no better. Because so many bonds attach me to Israel, I am ready to condone preventive war; I rejoiced when my side won. Though I preach international understanding and support for the UN, I found all the excuses for Israel that warring nationalisms always find to excuse breaches of peace … And this is how it always is and how it starts, and I offer the mote in my own eye.”

There’s always something faintly but definitely phony, to my ear, in the praise of one journalist for another. Our craft saturates itself in testimonial dinners, awards, and — when the career is over — lavish obituaries. “Superb professional”; “Wrote like a dream”; “Unforgettable colleague”; “Fearless on dateline and deadline.” The speeches or articles are customarily laced with pseudo-modest anecdotes about that time when he/she and I pulled that terrific scoop. What do the readers make of this self-regard?

When I. F. Stone was finally offered a dinner in his honor, at the National Press Club in Washington in 1981, he told the organizers that (a) he had resigned from the joint in 1941 in protest of its refusal to allow him to entertain a black guest; (b) he had not at the time been able to collect the mere 25 signatures necessary to support his protest; and (c) he would not attend unless or until the club’s committee found that insulted black guest and invited him back. (The man, William H. Hastie, later a judge, turned out to have become the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.) With these conditions fulfilled, Stone upped his demands and insisted that a Palestinian Arab, Edward Said, be invited to the top table as well.

These days, practically everybody in the journo racket in Washington, D.C. wishes they had been, or wishes to be, or in extreme cases believes they actually are, I. F. Stone. But it was not always thus. Richard Dudman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recalls inviting Izzy to a dinner party in 1954 and being taken aside in his own kitchen by an outraged guest who worked for the U.S. Information Agency. “How could you invite me to your house with I. F. Stone? I could lose my job!” Stone himself was impervious to all such career anxiety, because by launching a kitchen-table one-man sheet called I. F. Stone’s Weekly he had declared independence and blasted the way that is now too easily followed by a throng of self-publishers and blog artists.

all_governments_lie_265x400 Myra MacPherson’s lovely biography of the man, “All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone,” is ideally timed for the moment when reporters in Washington are once again rightly (and too late) flailing themselves, either for being spoon-fed information by the White House and the Defense Department or for swallowing the alternative pabulum put out by the CIA. When I moved to Washington, in 1982, to do the job he’d once done for The Nation, Mr. Stone helped give a reception for me — I’m no pack rat or hero-worshipper, but I still keep the spare invitation cards — and gave me some terse advice: Don’t go to briefings. Don’t have lunch with people in power. Go and read the original transcripts and papers, because the government doesn’t always lie to itself. And take a few minutes to read The Washington Post, because “it’s a great paper. You never know on what page you will find a page-one story.” Despising journalistic sycophancy, he noted of Theodore White’s moist “Camelot” prose that “a man who can be so universally admiring need never lunch alone.”

By these means, Izzy kept himself honest and tried to set an example. And, because he was right about Indochina and the FBI and the civil-rights movement, many people assume that there was a natural match between his integrity and his prescience. But in point of fact and interpretation, he was naïve about the Soviet Union for most of his life (dying just as it was about to do so itself, in 1989), mistaken about the Korean War, simplistic about both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and unable to see the diminishing returns of the New Deal tradition. This does not matter. Izzy could be as interesting when he was “wrong” as when he was “right.”

My second-favorite anecdote about him, after the National Press Club story, is this. He had expressed endless contempt for Senator Joseph McCarthy, and for all the wicked rubbish about “loyalty oaths” and the rest of the 1950s inquisition. Some little time after McCarthy was censured by the Senate and fell into disgrace and eclipse and alcoholism and dereliction, Izzy was up on the Hill, demanding a fresh tranche of paper from the Congressional printing office. He was astonished to be approached by the tramp-like figure of the once terrifying McCarthy, who continued to haunt the halls. “He put out his hand and I refused it and turned my back,” Stone told me. “I later felt really lousy and I still do. He was powerless and a bum, and even when he’d been powerful he had let me alone.”

Izzy’s last book was The Trial of Socrates, for the writing of which he taught himself ancient Greek. He was determined to discover how a democracy had sentenced its greatest dissident to death. I won’t try to summarize the argument, but I hope you know that Socrates believed that he himself had a daemon or daimonion: an inner critic and voice that warned him when he was being unfair or dishonest or proud. Izzy had his own daemon. Cranky — and even nasty — as he could be, he always tried to make restitution. On the few occasions when he was on the winning side, he distrusted himself. He joined the Socialist Party, as he put it, only “when everyone else was leaving.” Having fought for the right of everyone else to have a passport without being asked dumb questions by the State Department, he was furious at himself for signing a denial of Communist Party membership in order to be allowed on a reporting trip overseas in 1956. Finally facing the facts about Stalinism in the same year, he wrote: “I hate the morass into which one wanders when one begins to withhold the truth because the consequences might be bad.” Later in that same year, he wrote the mea culpa about Zionism that I excerpted above. His internal moral compass meant much more to him than any allegiance, or any piece of triumphal muckraking.

To say that he occasionally disliked or suspected himself is not at all to accuse him of self-hatred, let alone of that self-hatred that is sometimes suspected in Jews. Name change or no name change, he was invariably and affirmatively a Jew, and in my opinion would have gotten off the Soviet fellow-traveling train many years before he did had not the USSR falsely claimed to have outlawed anti-Semitism. But when he wrote his book “Underground to Palestine,” celebrating the birth of Israel, and was offered a vast publicity budget if he would take out the part where he recommended a bi-national state, he stoutly refused. For these and other reasons, I am utterly sure that the recent allegation from the crackpot, Ann Coulterish right, of his having been on the KGB payroll, is false. Myra MacPherson rips the “evidence” of these people to shreds, but I would simply say that here was a man who was not interested in being bought or sold. (I have to admit, though, that I can’t quite see why a man who wouldn’t lunch with a Pentagon official would deign to break bread with a Soviet Embassy goon. Probably it was just because he wasn’t supposed to.)

MacPherson makes the slightly glib assumption — as do the editors of the excellent companion volume, The Best of I. F. Stone — that, if he were around today, Izzy would be as staunchly anti-war and anti-Bush as she is. Having known him a bit, I am not so absolutely sure. That he would have found the president excruciating is a certainty. But he had a real horror of sadistic dictators, and would not have confused Slobodan Milosevic or Saddam Hussein with the Vietcong. He would have been appalled by the disclosure that CNN had soft-pedaled what it knew about Saddam’s regime in order to keep its access to the Iraqi Ministry of “Information.” Nor would he have regarded the forces of al-Qaeda as misguided spokesmen of liberation theology: he could scent anti-Semitic bigotry from miles away. Most important of all, he was very ready to quarrel with the left about isolationism. Defending the Spanish Republic in 1937, he wrote:

“If it were possible to insulate the United States from the world, to retire into our shell, to plow our fields and write our books and raise our children untouched by quarrels across the sea.… I would be for isolationist neutrality legislation.… But I do not believe insulation and isolation possible.… Must we play nursemaid to the world? I am afraid so.”

At a time when most of his friends were opposed to any American “entanglement” in the Second World War, he was a strong advocate of aid to Britain, and at a time when the left was generally hostile after the war, he supported Truman’s Marshall aid program. To Izzy, the consummate internationalist, the distinction between “over there” and “over here” was mainly imaginary. Finally, I think he would have waited for some more documents to surface, and helped unearth them himself, before making any conclusive judgments about weapons programs or terror connections in Iraq. His analysis of the Roosevelt administration’s shameful cover-up of the Pearl Harbor catastrophe remains a masterpiece of lucidity, exposing the government’s incompetence and dishonesty so comprehensively as to leave no room for conspiratorial speculation.

imagesj-f-stone-smallHowever, it is an absolute moral certainty that he would have repudiated any official pretext for bullying or invigilating American citizens in wartime. One of his most excoriating scoops was printed — not without great trepidation on the part of the editor — mid-war in The Nation, in July 1943. It exposed the secret FBI guidelines for spotting subversive tendencies among government workers. The bureau’s official list of questions to ask about a suspect ran, in part: “Does he mix with Negroes? Does he seem to have too many Jewish friends? Does his face light up when the Red Army is mentioned? Is he always criticizing Vichy France? Does he buy out-of-town newspapers? Do you think he is excessive in opposing fascism or Nazism?” (The Vichy question is, I think, the gem of that little collection.) This seemed like no way to fight a war against Hitler, but for exposing it, and for declining to identify his inside source even to his editor, Stone earned himself constant surveillance from an already hostile FBI until the foul racist and pervert J. Edgar Hoover finally turned into carrion on a full-time basis in 1972.

I possess a fairly full set of I. F. Stone’s Weekly, as well as all his books and several anthologies of his essays, and rereading them lately has made me morose as well as exhilarated. Some of the old battles now seem prehistoric: as it happens, Izzy never believed that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were innocent, and as it happens he was as right about that as he was wrong about the Hitler-Stalin pact. I recognized my own middle age in his confession of angst about the writer’s life: “The perpetual gap between what one would have liked to get down on paper and what finally did get itself written and printed, the constant feeling of inadequacy.” I also moaned with shame at the current state of the profession. Even the slightest piece written by Izzy was composed with a decent respect for the King’s English and usually contained at least one apt allusion to the literature and poetry and history that undergirded it: an allusion that he would expect his readers to recognize. Who now dares to do that? Who would now dare to say, as he did as an excited eyewitness, that there was still something “saccharine” about Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” oration? The rule of saccharine rhetoric and bland prose is now near absolute, and one could almost envy Izzy the sad deafness and myopia that allowed him to tune out the constant bawling from electronic media. I once had the honor of being the I. F. Stone fellow at Berkeley (where his old typewriter is enclosed in a glass case: probably the most hagiography he could have stood), and I told my students to read him and reread him to get an idea of the relationship between clean and muscular prose and moral and intellectual honesty. Perhaps I could invite you to do the same, if only to get an idea of what we have so casually decided to do without.
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Portrait of a Crypto-Jew — I.F. Stone, a.k.a. Isador Feinstein

Former aboriginal leader begins second hate trial

Posted in Media Watch with tags , on November 27, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

ahenakew-1126The Canadian Press
November 24, 2008SASKATOON — A second hate crime trial is underway for former aboriginal leader David Ahenakew.

The 75-year-old sat quietly in Saskatoon court as the Crown began presenting evidence he wilfully promoted hatred in 2002 by telling a newspaper reporter Jews were a “disease” and caused the Second World War.
Ahenakew avoided a throng of reporters during the lunch break, rushing off to visit his ailing wife during her dialysis treatment in hospital.

Defence lawyer Doug Christie says his client is not doing well because his wife and son are suffering from serious health issues.

Ahenakew, a former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, provoked nationwide outrage and was even stripped of his Order of Canada after the newspaper interview was published.

He was originally found guilty and fined $1,000, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.
This article can be found at:

Former aboriginal leader begins second hate trial

ADL survey: Americans believe religious values are “under attack”; 59% say Hollywood “doesn’t share their moral values”

Posted in Media Watch with tags , on November 24, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla
November 14, 2008A majority of the American people believes that religious values are “under attack,” and that the people who run the television networks and major movie studios do not share the religious and moral values of most Americans, according to a survey from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued today.

”American Attitudes on Religion, Moral Values and Hollywood,” a national poll of 1,000 American adults conducted in October 2008 by The Marttila Communications Group, found that 61 percent of the American people continue to believe that religious values in this country are “under attack.” The poll also found that 59 percent of Americans agree that “the people who run the TV networks and the major movie studios do not share the religious and moral values of most Americans.”
The poll was released during the league’s 2008 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.

“These findings point to the challenges that we face in dealing with issues of religion in society,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The belief that religion is under attack underlies the drive to incorporate more religion into American public life. Disturbingly, 43 percent of Americans believe there is an organized campaign by Hollywood and the national media to weaken the influence of religious values in this country.”

Among the main findings of the ADL survey, “American Attitudes on Religion, Moral Values and Hollywood”:

— 61 percent of Americans say they believe that “Religious values are under attack in this country,” while 36 percent disagree with that statement. 59 percent agree that “the people who run the TV networks and the major movie studios do not share the religious and moral values of most Americans.” And 43 percent hold the view that Hollywood and the national media are waging an organized campaign to “weaken the influence of religious values in this country.”

— Significantly fewer Americans believe today that Jews control the TV and film industries. The survey showed that 63 percent disagree with the notion that “the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews,” while only 22 percent agree. When ADL conducted its first survey on anti-Semitic attitudes in 1964, nearly half of all Americans believed that the television and film industries were run by Jews.

— There is surprising support for censorship. Nearly 40 percent of the American people support the notion that “dangerous ideas should be banned from public school libraries,” and nearly the same number of Americans disagree with the statement that “censoring books is an old-fashioned idea.”

— Nearly half of those surveyed, 49 percent, believe that the United States is becoming “too tolerant in its acceptance of different ideas and lifestyles; 47 percent disagreed with that statement.

“It is troubling that so many Americans feel as if the output of Hollywood is part of an organized campaign to undermine religious values in this country and believe that censorship is acceptable,” said Mr. Foxman. “It shows that in this age of pervasive media and the widening availability of the Internet, many Americans still maintain a very parochial view toward the information age, and even believe in censorship to ‘protect morality.’ If anything, it points to the need for a greater awareness of the fundamental role that the First Amendment has played in helping religious freedom in America to be sustained, and indeed, to flourish.”

The survey was conducted by the Marttila Communications Group, a Boston-based public opinion research firm that has conducted numerous national surveys for ADL measuring American attitudes on a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues. The survey has a margin of error of +/-3.09 percent. For many questions, the survey used the technique of split sampling, a process in which the 1,000 sample was split into two demographically representative national samples of 500 respondents each. The margin of error for questions answered by 500 respondents is +/- 4.38 percent.

The poll results, including graphics and other visuals, are available on the League’s Web site at:

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
This article can be found at:’%3BUnder+Attack’%3B/4164189.html

ADL survey: Americans believe religious values are “under attack”; 59% say Hollywood “doesn’t share their moral values”

Heil, Feiglin!

Posted in Media Watch with tags , , , on November 24, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

press_Al-Ahram Weekly
November 20, 2008

Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem shudders at the drift to fascism in Israeli politics

With Israeli Jewish society drifting towards right-wing extremism, especially with regard to the Palestinian issue, Israeli political parties contesting the upcoming elections, slated to take place on 10 February, are radicalising the tone of their public discourse in the hope of wooing as many potential voters as possible to their respective agendas.

The Kadima and Labour parties, erstwhile coalition partners, are escalating their rhetoric against the Palestinians, with ministers and former ministers calling for the resumption of assassinations of Palestinians.

For example, Shaul Mofaz, widely considered a certified war criminal, has been urging the Israeli government to launch devastating land and air attacks on Gaza, regardless of the political and moral price Israel may have to pay.

Mofaz, who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent Palestinians in his capacity as both chief of staff and defence minister, suggested this week that the Israeli army ought to carry out ruthless operations in Gaza in order to defeat Hamas which he termed a “key strategic threat”.

Tzipi Livni, Kadima leader, reportedly has Mofaz in mind for the defence portfolio in case Kadima emerges as winner in the elections and she succeeds in forming the next Israeli government.

Interestingly, acting Defence Minister Ehud Barak has been conspicuously less bellicose. This week, Barak called for preserving the fragile truce with Hamas despite “the provocations”, an allusion to the firing of pathetic homemade projectiles on Jewish border settlements near Gaza in retaliation for deadly Israeli attacks that have so far killed more than a dozen Palestinians.

Barak, his aides argue, is not interested in making a big conflagration in Gaza prior to the inauguration of the Obama administration in the White House on 20 January because this might leave a bad impression on the new president. Moreover, Barak and Livni seem to calculate that an outbreak of deadly violence in southern Israel would seriously undermine the Israeli campaign to press the West to force Iran to end or suspend its nuclear programme.

Israel, which is widely believed to possess a huge arsenal of nuclear bombs and warheads and delivery systems, has been saying that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities will not be ruled out.

Apart from sporadic statements by Kadima leaders, including an unprecedented remark by outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in which he said Israel would have to return to the 1967 borders, much of the action has been taking place in the right camp, where the Likud is regaining its former status as Israel’s number one political party. In recent days, a number of former Likud leaders, who had either left politics or switched to other parties, have decided to return to their former home.

The returnees include such renowned figures as Benyamin Begin, the son of former Israeli prime minister Menahem Begin and Dan Merridor, a former minister of justice. Begin is viewed as embodying honesty and integrity in politics, while the latter is seen as representing political moderation, characters that would be a valuable asset to a government formed by a notoriously dishonest and pugnacious Benyamin Netanyahu.

However, two more hawks are also joining Likud. The first is Moshe Yaalon, a former chief of staff, who is also widely viewed as a certified war criminal, not only by Palestinians, but also by human rights organisations around the world. Yaalon has been warned against entering several European countries, including Britain and Spain, lest he be arrested for his role in the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

Yaalon’s tenure as chief of staff of the Israeli army 2002- 2005 was marked by numerous acts of almost pornographic murder of civilians in both Gaza and the West Bank, including the bombing and extermination of many Palestinian families as well as the deliberate targeting of children and other civilians. Yaalon is also a leading proponent of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, with or without American backing.

Speaking in occupied Jerusalem this week, Yaalon was quoted as saying that he decided to join the Likud “because I can no longer remain on the sidelines during such a critical time in Israel.” Yaalon was against the Israeli army redeployment from the Gaza Strip and is an ardent supporter of Jewish colonisation in the West Bank. With regard to the peace process, he believes Palestinians would have to spend many years “educating themselves about peace” during which time Israel would create more settlements in the West Bank.

Nonetheless, the most dangerous and problematic right- winger, dubbed by some Israeli intellectuals in Israel as the Hitler of Israeli politics, is Moshe Feiglin, who advocates the ethnic cleansing or extermination of non-Jews in Israel-Palestine Old Testament-style.

Feiglin is very popular within Likud and there are serious concerns in Israel and within Likud itself that he would be elected as the number two man in the party.

This prospect is reportedly causing a lot of unease to Likud leader Netanyahu who is worried that the character of Feiglin would have a decidedly negative impact on the Likud image, especially if the party formed the next government, as widely expected.

Feiglin advocates the idea of manhigut Yedhudit or “the Jewish leadership”. According to this concept, Israel would have to adopt four steps towards resolving the Arab Israeli conflict once and for all:

First, induced Arab emigration from both Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Needless to say, “induced emigration” is effectively a mere euphemism for genocidal ethnic cleansing.

Second, Israel would have to reconquer and tightly control every part of the occupied territories and place non-Jewish inhabitants under a harsh military occupation until they can no longer endure the persecution, which then would force them to leave.

Third, Israel should resume intensive Judaisation of the territories, including the destruction of Christian and Muslim holy places.

And, fourth, Israel should dislodge itself from the peace process since this process is incompatible with the rules and teachings of the Torah and Talmud.

Feiglin also openly advocates an all-out war on Islam for the purpose of eradicating the religion and its estimated 1.5 billion followers. Feiglin is viewed as a fascist figure even by traditional Likud hardliners. A few years ago, Limor Livnat, a former minister of education, called him “a foreign weed, his blood is not our blood, his flesh is not our flesh”. One Israeli journalist has compared the ascendancy of Feiglin as the number two man within Likud, conceivably succeeding Netanyahu as prime minister, to the ascendancy of Adolph Hitler to power in Germany, nearly 80 years ago.

What is more worrying still is that the current Likud head Netanyahu seems quite helpless as to what he could do to neutralise Feiglin and his many supporters within the Likud. When Netanyahu was asked about Feiglin last week, he reportedly said ,”I can’t do anything about him.”

However, observers in Israel speculate that Netanyahu would seek to appease Feiglin by undertaking to stop the peace process with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has been alluding to this for weeks, saying that he believes in a peace that is based on economic prosperity, not territorial concessions, a euphemism for keeping the occupation intact.

Now the big question is how the Barack Obama administration will relate to an Israeli government run by the likes of Feiglin and a further radicalised Netanyahu who has the heart and mind of Feiglin, but the tongue of an eloquent public relations officer.

This article can be found at:

Bearing out the betrayal

Posted in Media Watch with tags , , , , , on November 24, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

_reg04Al-Ahram Weekly
November 20, 2008

With Israel’s breach of the ceasefire in Gaza, Saleh Al-Naami laments yet another example of Israeli-PA collusion which victimises Hamas

Hassan Karim, 34, has been making the rounds of real estate offices in the hope of finding an apartment to rent in the western part of Gaza city. He is doing all in his power to move out of the Shajaiya neighbourhood in the eastern part of the city where he and his family currently live. It has become too risky to stay there now that the Israelis have reverted to attacking border areas of Gaza adjacent to Israel. “It took a full year for my daughters to recover from the trauma they experienced from the quaking of our house during the last wave of Israeli bombardments,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that one of his daughters feared that if they remained where they lived under those conditions she would suffer a nervous breakdown.

The staff in the real estate office said that hundreds of people living in the eastern part of the city have been making inquiries into the availability of apartments in the western districts, which are regarded as somewhat safer. The rise in cross-border assaults by Israeli death squads targeting Palestinian militants guarding the roads leading to residential quarters has triggered growing alarm among people in Gaza. An eerie suspense prevails as pilotless Israeli reconnaissance planes constantly patrol the skies, relaying back to IDF headquarters images of the damage caused by the strikes and gathering intelligence on the movements of Palestinian resistance forces.

The Palestinian factions have condemned the sudden resurgence of military activity after more than four months of almost total calm along the Gaza-Israeli border. In response to what they claim as an Israeli breach of the ceasefire, they have resumed missile bombardments of the Jewish settlements on the other side of the border. According to Yediot Aharonot, one missile struck what the newspaper described as a highly sensitive security installation causing major damage.

Israeli officials claim that the purpose of the latest military operations in Gaza is to prevent Hamas from conducting kidnapping operations across the border using tunnels dug by Hamas operatives. Tsvi Barel believes that this was only a pretext for launching a military offensive aimed at accomplishing other objectives. In an analysis appearing on the Haaretz Hebrew website on Sunday, the Israeli writer and journalist argues that Israel deliberately broke the ceasefire in order to keep Hamas from bringing the ceasefire to the West Bank.

The historic ceasefire obliges Israel to suspend its campaign of raids and detentions against Palestinians in those occupied territories. It had been scheduled to end in about a month, after which it was to have been renewed by agreement to include the West Bank. Israel was keen to forestall this development at all costs, Barel wrote. Palestinians would see Hamas, instead of the PA president, as the agency capable of halting Israeli aggression and effectively fusing the West Bank and Gaza back together again. This would constitute an enormous political victory for Hamas and debilitating blow to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s credibility. People would ask more loudly why Abbas’s term should be extended when his political approach did nothing to restore the Palestinians’ sense of security whereas Hamas’s did.

Israel has absolutely no intention of allowing Hamas to gain a foothold in the West Bank, Barel stressed, which is why it decided to breach the ceasefire. The true purpose was to extricate Abu Mazen from his current predicament and bolster his deteriorating position. Barel writes, “the question is whether the Israeli army is more prepared to invade the Gaza Strip today than it was last year. If the answer to this is yes, then another question comes to mind: might a major operation in Gaza at this time appear more like an electoral gambit than a practical step to put an end to Palestinian terrorism? Won’t it seem that Israel is taking advantage of the period of the handover of power in the US to impose new realities on the ground? And there is another disturbing question: is the IDF now prepared to create a situation that will endanger the possibility of the release of the long-forgotten [sic] Gilad Shalit?”

Israeli officials appear to be gearing up domestic and world opinion for an intensification of military operations in Gaza. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that he has instructed security officials to prepare a plan for ending Hamas rule in Gaza. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Communications General Shaul Mofaz has called for the immediate elimination of the Hamas leadership, urging the return to targeted assassinations, a policy Israel practised when he was military chief-of-staff and minister of defence.

In Mofaz’s opinion, Israel made a huge mistake when it entered into indirect talks with Hamas. At the same time, he feels that economic pressures and collective sanctions against the Palestinians have not proven effective and that this policy towards Gaza has to be subjected to a complete review. Minister of Industry and Trade Eli Yashay was even more hawkish. “Anyone who thinks that a truce is the right direction is burying his head in the sand. The only thing the ceasefire accomplished was to help Hamas arm itself and get more powerful.” Yashay, who is also the leader of the ultra- conservative Shas Party, further holds that Israel should cut off all water and electricity to Gaza as long as missiles are being fired from there into Israel. It should be simultaneously borne in mind that much of this vehemence is posturing for the upcoming elections in Israel. Most of the officials who criticise the truce with Hamas are political opponents of Minister of Defence Ehud Barak, whom they accuse of feeding the “erosion of the Israeli deterrent power against Hamas”.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ayman Taha charges that Israel has “overstepped all red lines” with these operations which he believes are “trial balloons meant to gauge the readiness and ability of the resistance to retaliate”. He also suspects that they are a bid on the part of the ruling Kadima Party, whose credibility was severely damaged by the last defeat in Lebanon, to prove its security credentials to the Israeli electorate in advance of the parliamentary elections. At the same time, he vowed that if Israel is determined to end the truce completely, “we will not be sorry and we will engage it in a new and honourable battle.”

In an interview with the Weekly, Taha said that Hamas never pledged that it would maintain its halt to missile fire in the event of renewed Israeli aggression against Gaza. Responding to an article in Yediot Aharonot which claimed that Egypt had informed Israel that Hamas would abide by its pledge not to fire missiles, he said that his movement promised only one thing, which was “to retaliate powerfully against any Israeli assault or aggression against our people”.

“It is Israel that breached the truce and its ongoing aggression against Gaza belies its claim that it is committed to the truce and intent on sustaining it,” he said with passion. “The occupation destroyed the ceasefire. It did not abide by a single article of the truce. Therefore, it is our right and the right of all the resistance factions to respond with all possible force in order to protect our people and our Palestinian land. No Israeli soldier or settler on this land should have the right to safety and security as long as our people are being subjected to aggression and siege. They should be made to live among their own crippled and wounded so as to experience what the people of Gaza feel.”

Israel continues to keep the border crossings for commercial goods closed, and the blockade remains tight. The fuel needed to operate the sole power plant has run out and essential goods and necessities are nearly depleted. According to Palestinian National Economy Minister Ziad Al-Zaza, essential foodstuffs will run out in a matter of days. Gaza does not have strategic reserves of food and vital materials. In a statement to the Weekly, Al-Zaza warned that Gaza is on the verge of a major humanitarian crisis due to the depletion of fuel used for cooking and other types of fuel and combustibles. He appealed to Egypt to break the blockade and allow essential goods to pass through the Rafah crossing, and to Arab countries to support the call to reopen the Rafah crossing, which was one of the points of the truce that had not been honoured.

According to UN sources, it would take some 900 truckloads per week — 150 truckloads a day — of food and other essentials to meet the minimal primary needs of the Palestinians in Gaza, where around three-quarters of the inhabitants are without the electricity and the fuel needed to operate refrigerators and cooking equipment. The complete closure that Israel has imposed on Gaza has also led to a severe shortage in medicines. The human rights organisation, Addameer (Conscience), has warned that the lives of dozens of patients in intensive care units in Gaza and other patients who require oxygen tanks are at serious risk.

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Chicago Jews call Obama “first Jewish president”

Posted in Media Watch with tags , on November 23, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

08-22-08_coverHaaretz (Israel)
November 13, 2008Quite a few of Barack Obama’s “friends from the past” have popped up recently. It’s doubtful whether he even knows their names, but in the Chicago Jewish community many people really are long-time friends of the president-elect.

Some of the older people in the community say that they “raised him,” while others half-jokingly call Obama “the first Jewish president.”

They raised contributions for him, provided him with contacts, and also enjoyed hosting him and believed in his glorious future in politics. During most of the campaign, when rumors were spreading among American Jews that Obama was a closet Muslim who was more supportive of the Palestinians and was interested in granting the president of Iran legitimacy, his support among American Jews did not even come close to that enjoyed by Bill Clinton. But at the moment of truth, according to the exit polls, it turns out that 78 percent of Jews voted for Obama.

Members of the Chicago Jewish community are not surprised. They claim that the Jews simply discovered what they have known for years. Obama lives near the synagogue in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, an area with quite a large Jewish population. Some of the area visitors may even mistake the heavy security presence on the street for the synagogue’s location — that is, until they hear about Obama.

Alan Solow, an attorney from Chicago, a leader of the Jewish community and a veteran Obama supporter, was one of the few who gained access to the president-elect after his speech in Chicago’s Grant Park last week. “After his speech on Tuesday night [election day] in front of hundreds of thousands people, he was the same Barack Obama I know. I think his life is going to change, but it won’t change the type of person he is. Presidents tend to become isolated, but I’m confident he’ll fight hard against it,” he says.

Solow used to live in Obama’s neighborhood, and says that Obama has always had “excellent relations with the Jewish community.”

“As a local senator, he was very effective and helpful in what we call ‘the Jewish agenda,’ the community issues, values. He has always had a deep understanding of Israel’s need for security. I went with him to Israel for a week in January 2006, and when he started the race for the presidency I had no doubt I’d support him. The first thing that impressed me about him was his intellect — he’s one of the smartest people I’ve met — but he’s also a warm and caring person who has a keen interest in issues that people of this country are worried about,” continues Solow.

“I said with a smile that he will be the first Jewish president. He also has a deep understanding of issues that confront Israel and the Jewish community. And I think his personal story reflects the story of Jewish immigration to the United States.”

“He was raised in a family without any built-in advantages: His father was a stranger, but with the help of a close family and an emphasis on education and hard work, he succeeded. It’s the Jewish story in America. He understands it, and that’s why he’s so close to the Jewish community. His first autobiography is about seeking his roots and he understands Jewish people’s yearning for this — it fits into his world view and it’s one of the reasons for his support of Israel. When he says that Israel’s security is sacrosanct, I believe him. As I know him, he won’t say things he doesn’t really mean. And he has a lot of close Jewish friends who can confirm this.”

Solow is also very familiar with Obama’s first appointment — his designated White House chief of staff [Rahm Emanuel]. “Rahm is an active member of Jewish community, his children go to the day schools and he was always recognized as Jewish when he was Clinton’s advisor. But I don’t believe that the fact that he’s a devoted Jew and supports Israel has anything to do with his appointment. He’s simply the best person for this job, because of his experience in Congress and in Clinton’s administration, and because of his intellect. But his support of Israel fits with the president-elect’s thinking.”

Michael Bauer, a political activist from the community who has known Obama for over a decade and supported his presidential campaign, says his first reaction to Obama’s victory was disbelief. “It seemed like a dream. After the election, I had a brief opportunity to congratulate him, to exchange a hug with Barack, a kiss with Michelle. We’re very proud of him and we’re sure he’ll successfully handle the big challenges facing the country and the new president,” he says.

“If we go back to his work as a State senator, his Senate district had a relatively high percentage of Jews, and more importantly, it was a Jewish population involved both politically and with charity organizations. When he was in the State Senate, the Democrats were a minority. When you’re a minority you don’t get too much accomplished. Neither Barack as a State Senator nor any of his colleagues were able to accomplish a great deal, because of Republican control of the State Senate. However, because of his district, it was always clear to me that many people supporting Barack are active in the Jewish community both locally and nationally. And they agreed about his sensitivity to a number of issues — the issue of the U.S-Israel relationship and domestically, issues that many of us are concerned about, be it the separation of Church and State, women’s right to choose, etc. It was always a natural fit between the Jewish community and Barack Obama. He understands those issues. Frankly, he’s so smart he understands them better than most of us,” says Bauer.

Identifying with Sderot

“As a U.S. senator he visited Israel twice, and especially the second time I think was highly significant,” Bauer continues. “I think it was important to him personally to go to Sderot and see the proximity involved when Israel is attacked on a daily basis from Gaza. I think it was also symbolic for the people of Israel and the worldwide community, as well as the Jewish community, to see Barack Obama going to Sderot and speaking about it, that as president it will be unacceptable to him and he recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself. This symbolism was important on so many different levels. I’ve known the president-elect for over 10 years, and his values and principles never change. If you ask me whether I have confidence that he’ll continue to be committed to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state within secure borders — I have absolutely no doubt.”

“President Bush supported Israel as well, but after eight years of his support Israel faces a stronger Iran, Hezbollah at the northern border, Hamas at the southern border — and Hamas gained a sort of political legitimacy. I think George Bush was a disaster for the State of Israel. And I think Obama’s administration understands Israel’s needs for safety and security, the importance of Israel remaining a Jewish state, and will try to help to mediate a peace in the Middle East that accomplishes those goals. There are still people who don’t believe it, but the great thing in democracy is that everyone has an opinion and you don’t need 100 percent consensus. I think peace in the Middle East is one of his highest priorities — he’s not going to wait for seven years as a president to start working on it.”

Bauer was also heavily involved in Rahm Emanuel’s campaign for Congress. “Let me say something about Rahm. One of the things people don’t like about him is the fact he’s short with people, but it’s only because he’s such a smart person. He doesn’t need a 15-minute phone conversation, he gets to the issues in three minutes. And Israel — it’s in his blood. The fact that Joe Biden, with a long record of supporting Israel, is Obama’s vice president-elect and Rahm Emanuel is his chief of staff — I’m not sure what reassurance anyone needs that the president-elect when he is president will remain a close ally of the State of Israel and the people of Israel.”
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Chicago Jews call Obama “first Jewish president”

Debate flares over Israel’s access to U.S. secrets

Posted in Media Watch with tags , , on November 23, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

31198184The Jewish Daily Forward
October 23, 2008A bestselling author writing about America’s most secretive intelligence agency is raising eyebrows with his claims that Israeli intelligence has potentially gained access to sensitive American communications information.

Investigative writer James Bamford contends in his new book, “The Shadow Factory, the Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America,” that at least two high-tech companies with alleged ties to Israeli intelligence mined American communications data on a mass scale. The companies were hired to help major American telecommunications firms that were cooperating with the National Security Agency on its controversial eavesdropping program.

Bamford has written about the NSA, which conducts a wide array of electronic-surveillance activities, over the last quarter century. While some of the revelations in his latest book — NSA’s failure to act upon crucial information that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks and the abuses of the eavesdropping program — have received praise in the mainstream press, his Israel-related claims have been ignored by most and criticized by a few.

Michael Oren, an Israeli-American historian with the conservative Shalem Center in Jerusalem, charged that Bamford lacked proof to back up the Israeli-intelligence assertions made in the book. Oren has also criticized a previous Bamford book in which he accused the Israelis of purposely bombing an American spy ship off the Gaza Strip in 1967 during the Six-Day War.

“Bamford makes far-reaching and unsubstantiated allegations about Jews and Israel,” Oren told the Forward. “In the latest instance, he makes two serious assertions, namely that Israelis working in high-tech are Mossad and the Mossad works against the U.S. But in keeping with his previous work, there is no evidence.”

Bamford did not return inquiries seeking comment. And a spokesman for one of the companies named in the book said it did not engage in surveillance activities.

14338813In a previous book, “Body of Secrets,” published in 2001, Bamford wrote that the bombing of the U.S.S. Liberty was intended to keep it from gathering data on what the author said was the Israeli massacre of hundreds of Egyptian prisoners of war. Israel consistently has said it had mistaken the American vessel for an Egyptian boat, an explanation accepted by the American government but contested by families of some crew members as well as several former American officials.

In his latest book, published in October by DoubleDay, Bamford writes that the largest American telecommunications companies cooperated with the NSA in the “warrantless eavesdropping program by allowing the agency to tap its phone lines and fiber-optic cables.” To do so, he writes, the telecom giants resorted to the assistance of at least two high-tech firms, Narus and Verint, founded in Israel and with alleged ties to its intelligence services.

Narus and Verint were involved in tapping phone and Internet communications for, respectively, AT&T and Verizon.

“AT&T have outsourced the bugging of their entire networks — carrying billions of American communications every day — to two mysterious companies with very troubling ties to foreign connections,” he writes. “What is especially troubling, but little known, is that both companies have extensive ties to a foreign country, Israel, as well as links to that country’s intelligence service — a service with a long history of aggressive spying against the U.S.”

israel_espionage_080422_mnHe then describes close ties between the Mossad’s Unit 8200, which he describes as the Israeli equivalent of the NSA, and several other Israeli high-tech companies doing business with the United States and other governments.

Bamford also stresses that the founder of Verint systems is wanted in the United States on multiple fraud charges and is a fugitive. The author refers to the Israeli-born Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, the founder of Comverse Technology, Verint’s parent company, who was indicted in 2006 on charges he backdated stock-options. Alexander is fighting American efforts to have him extradited from Namibia.

Both Verint and Narus were founded by Israelis and are now based in the United States. Verint did not respond to requests for comment. Narus lists AT&T as one of its customers on its Web site, along with clients in China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Narus CEO Greg Oslan told the Forward through spokesperson Kathleen Shanahan that “the only ties Narus has with Israel is that the company was founded in the U.S. by a team that included Israelis. However, the original founders are no longer with the company.” She stressed that the company sells security, intercept and traffic management solutions to service providers and government organizations to help them protect and manage their complex Internet Protocol networks. “We do not engage in surveillance activities,” she said.

The Israeli embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Bamford, 62, served in a Navy unit that worked with the NSA during the Vietnam War. He then studied law before deciding to become an investigative writer. He also served as a producer for ABC News.

His first book on the NSA, published in 1982, was praised for shedding a rare light on an agency so shrouded in secrecy that its acronym is sometimes jokingly referred to as “No Such Agency.” His second book, published in 2001, hailed the agency for putting in place strong safeguards on its domestic spying activities. The latest one’s revelations that the NSA was listening in without proper warrants on the conversations of American soldiers, aid workers and reporters based in Iraq grabbed headlines in mid-October. But his claims about Israeli firms mining data on a mass scale on behalf of the NSA and his assertion that Washington’s support for Israel served as the main motivator for 9/11 have received little scrutiny in the mainstream media.

One exception is former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, who in an otherwise favorable review published in the Washington Post, squarely disagreed with Bamford on Israel. “The author’s apparent negativity toward Israel is a significant distraction from the content of his book,” wrote Kerrey, the president of the New School in New York who was a member of the independent 9/11 commission. “And though I believe there has been too great a tendency to demonize the 9/11 terrorists by calling them cowards and worse, Bamford is entirely too sympathetic to them for my taste.”
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Debate flares over Israel’s access to U.S. secrets