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July 24, 2014 / 26 Tammuz, 5774
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What the Syria Crisis Tells Us about the Israel Lobby

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Barely minutes after the news broke earlier this month that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was planning a major effort on Capitol Hill to garner support for the Obama administration’s plan for a limited military operation against the Syrian regime, the conspiracy theorists were having a field day.

As always, it’s instructive to note how the notion that American foreign policy is a prisoner of organizations like AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying group in America, is an idée fixe on both the far left and the extreme right. Juan Cole, a left-wing academic with a strong online following, grabbed the opportunity to argue that AIPAC, in advocating for what he described as “attacking Syria,” is out of touch with the opinions of most American Jews, who are not evil neoconservatives but solid progressives. The anti-Zionist Jewish blogger M.J. Rosenberg ranted about how “AIPAC and its cutouts are the only lobbying forces supporting the administration’s plans for war.”

Not to be outdone, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan, wrote that in supporting military action, AIPAC was endangering the lives of Syrian Christians, whom he believes are better off under the Assad regime.

Such concern for the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East is touching, but also a tad disingenuous, as The American Conservative has never shown much sympathy for the fate of those Christian communities, from Nigeria to Pakistan, who suffer from Islamist atrocities. When you bring Israel into the equation, however, the magazine suddenly finds its voice.

The combined message here is clear: Syria is Iraq Redux, another “endless war” America is being pushed into by a shadowy Jewish cabal.

Critics of these conspiracy theories have rightly pointed out the anti-Semitic pedigree on display here. The idea that Jews are powerful enough to manipulate their governments from behind the scenes is a staple of modern anti-Semitism. Still, let’s for a moment take the Israel Lobby thesis on its own merits. Is the charge that the “Lobby” is the real authority when it comes to U.S. foreign policy empirically verifiable?

The answer to that question is a resounding no. In fact, what the latest developments on Syria demonstrate is that rather than the “Lobby” running the administration, it is the administration that runs the “Lobby.”

AIPAC, along with mainstream Jewish advocacy organizations, had been largely silent on the atrocities taking place in Syria. In that sense, they were no different from the other influential groups and individuals who were either undecided on the issue of a limited military operation or firmly opposed to it. It’s no secret that Obama always faced a rough ride in Congress, especially as some of his traditional supporters, like the MoveOn.org PAC, actively opposed any intervention in Syria.

Similarly, the Jewish left is uncomfortable with the prospect of taking on the Assad regime; J Street, a group that once ludicrously claimed to be Obama’s “blocking back” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issue, has deserted the president over Syria.

Rather than pushing for war, then, AIPAC and similar groups were drafted in at the last minute to boost support for a president who was looking dangerously isolated. The irony of an administration that includes Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary who famously bemoaned AIPAC’s influence, running to groups like AIPAC to secure backing shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Even so, away from the political point scoring, what this shows is that the influence of pro-Israel groups is something this administration values. Equally – and this is key – these groups will wield that influence when the administration requests that they do so.

Importantly, this is not the first time the administration has turned to the “Lobby” for support on Middle East-related matters. Part of the reason Secretary of State John Kerry was able to galvanize support and publicity for his efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was that he turned to American Jews, whose principal organizations dutifully trumpeted his message. The fact that Kerry’s diplomacy has yielded few results isn’t really his fault, nor is it the fault of American Jews. The stasis on the Israeli-Palestinian front is the consequence, as it always has been, of rejectionism among the Palestinians, whose leaders remain distinctly queasy about doing anything that might smack of accepting Israel’s legitimacy.

Any worry about all of this on the part of American Jewish organizations should relate not to accusations of outsize influence but to association with failure. So far Israel has little to show for its decision, under pressure from the Americans, to release Palestinian terrorists ahead of the talks; meanwhile, the Syrian intervention proposal is mired in confusion because of widespread concern that an American-led operation will be too little, too late.

If the Obama administration can be confident of anything, it is that its American Jewish partners will never go so far as to openly criticize the president. Far from being the war-crazed cabal depicted in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists, the “Israel Lobby” is in reality an oasis of calm reliability for a president who may just be on the cusp of his biggest foreign policy failure.

Poll: Americans Not Eager to Attack Syria

Monday, August 26th, 2013

While some lawmakers, including Sen. Bob Corker, republican of Tennessee, senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, are pressuring President Barack Obama to take military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad, Americans are not excited about the prospect of a new war.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Aug. 19-23 and released Sunday, about 60 percent of Americans said Obama shouldn’t intervene in Syria’s civil war, while only 9 percent favored action.

More Americans would support U.S. intervention if the use of chemical weapons were to be confirmed, with 25 percent in favor, 46 percent opposed. But an Aug. 13 Reuters/|Ipsos poll asked the same question and got responses of 30.2 percent in support of intervention to 41.6 opposed.

U.S. military assets in the region are being intensified, but no decisions were announced after an emergency White House meeting that included Vice President Joe Biden and top defense, intelligence and diplomatic officials.

A Future of Only More Radicalization and Escalation – Get Used to It

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

The crisis in Egypt is deepening, and both sides of the conflict are becoming increasingly entrenched in their positions. The fatalities that have occurred among Mursi supporters as well as among the military people causes both sides to act on the basis of their hearts and emotions, and not from logic. Both sides think “We’ll show them” and “we will break them”, the Egyptian public scene is crashing, representatives of foreign companies are leaving in droves, and everyone blames everyone else for the miserable situation.

The vice president, Mohamed al-Baradei, resigned and fled the country, because he saw that Egypt is sliding into a swamp of blood, fire and tears, where dozens of people are killed in the streets every day, the economy is collapsing, and the solution to Egypt’s problems seems farther away than ever. Al-Baradei may be put on trial for treason because he fled from Egypt and evaded his responsibilities.

The army detained Mohammed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, for two weeks, suspected of inciting the masses to violence and bloodshed. If he actually is put on trial, the Brotherhood and their supporters will most likely not stand by passively and watch, but will envelop the country in another wave of violence.

Another very disturbing phenomenon has been happening recently – the destruction of museums and the theft of antiquities. Some thieves steal exhibits in order to sell them for a small fortune on the black market to collectors; mainly gold coins, statuary and sarcophagi, which were recovered from ancient tombs from the days of the pharaohs. But along with the theft is another phenomenon: the destruction of exhibits, vandalism for its own sake, stemming from the deep hatred that radical Muslims feel toward the cultures that preceded Islam, and especially the Pharaonic culture which Islam considers to be heretical. We saw something similar in March of 2001 in Afghanistan, when the Taliban destroyed the two enormous statues of Buddha in Bamiyan Valley.

The international sphere is also undergoing a major shake-up: the United States’ plan to put the Brotherhood in power has failed, but the White House and the State Department continue to issue pronouncements of support for the Muslim Brotherhood and objects to the army’s actions, including the arrest of Badie. It may be that Mubarak will be freed from the defendant’s box and the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Mursi and Mohammed Badie, will take his place. It seems like Washington fell asleep on the 30th of June and still has not awakened to the new situation.

General al-Sisi and his comrades are not giving in to American pressure, and despite the good relations between the Egyptian military and the United States, al-Sisi refuses to accept Obama’s calls, and when the Americans issue declarations opposing the army’s acts, al-Sisi becomes angry. He places his definition of Egyptian interests over Obama’s definition of Egyptian interests. Al-Sisi sees the dismal failures of the United States Middle East policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Iran, and he understands that he should not allow the Americans to influence events in Egypt, otherwise it may become another link in the chain of failures.

However, even al-Sisi will not be able to forestall the waves of terror, which might bring Egypt to a state similar to that in Syria or Iraq. The neighboring countries – Libya and Sudan – as well as the Sinai Peninsula, are full of weapons of all sizes and types, and the border with these states is long and porous. Egypt could become a magnet for jihadists from the entire Muslim world, who will want to enforce Islam on the country exactly as they did in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria and in Libya. Egypt may also become a victim of “international terrorism”, with car bombs, suicide attacks, assassinations of senior figures, attacks on military bases, trains, bridges (and there are many in Egypt), electrical lines and dams. Egypt could become a hell for its residents, especially for the Christian Copts, who are already trying to figure out how they can continue living in a country where about sixty churches were burned down in the space of one week .

The world had better get used to the scenario of radicalization and escalation of the internal situation in Egypt, so that they will not be surprised when it happens, and I hope that I may be proven wrong.

Muslim Brotherhood Picks Hawk as New Leader

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) on Tuesday named Mahmoud Ezzat as its new leader after the Egyptian government arrested its former leader Mohamed Badie earlier on the same day.

Experts are suggesting that hardline MBs who managed to go underground to evade an arrest, would seek ways to avenge Badie’s arrest.

Ezzat has strong relations with the international Muslim Brotherhood and with the Hamas movement, Tharwat Kharabawy, a dissident former MB leader, told Xinhua.

Ezzat is a hawk, Kharabawy said, “the real guide of the group” and the one “managing the group from behind the curtains.”

The appointment means that the MBs are in no mood for peaceful negotiations with General al-Sisi and the new regime in Cairo.

Ezzat, former MB secretary general, has been a member of the guidance bureau and a deputy of Badie. In 1965 he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

He was chosen as a member of the guidance bureau in 1981, and was arrested again in 2008.

According to the Egyptian authorities, Badie has been transferred to Mazraah prison in the Torah prisons’ complex, where former President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons are currently residing.

Badie is going to stand trial on Aug. 25, together with his two deputies, Khairat al-Shater and Rashad al-Bayoumi.

The new Egyptian rulers appear determined to crush the MB. In an interview with the CNN, presidential political advisor Moustafa Hegazi said that putting Badie in jail is a step toward restoring law and order.

He said “Egypt is waging a fierce war against terrorism and criminal acts.”

Hegazi suggested that the cruelest incident in all of Egypt’s history was the execution of 25 off-duty security servicemen on Monday in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday that she had offered to return to Cairo.

“I told the Egyptian prime minister at the weekend that I would be more than willing to go back to Egypt if they wish me to come back,” said Ashton, who has been to Egypt twice since the regime change by the military.

US Gen. Dempsey Lands in Israel, to Meet with Netanyahu

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey landed in Israel Monday afternoon to begin talks with Israel and later with Jordan, where American troops are stationed.

Syria will top his agenda in Jordan, which has been flooded by Syrian refugees and where there has been a spillover in fighting in the Syrian civil war.

In Israel, Gen. Dempsey will meet with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, with the Iranian nuclear program and instability in Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula high on the agenda.

Dempsey arrived immediately after U.S. Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh was in Israel for a secret four-day visit, which the United States had asked not be reported until it concluded.

El-Sisi Slams US for Abandoning the Egyptian People

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Egypt’s armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi lashed out at the U.S., urging the Administration to pressure the Muslim Brothers to end their resistance to the new rule.

In an interview with the Washington Post, El Sisi—who led the military coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi on july 3—is warning of police action that would put an end to the protests.

Despite the $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. gives Egypt every year, El-Sisi accused President Barack Obama of abandoning Egypt.

“You left the Egyptians, you turned your back on the Egyptians and they won’t forget that. Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians?” El-Sisi asked.

“The U.S. administration has a lot (of) leverage and influence with the Muslim Brotherhood and I’d really like the US administration to use this leverage with them to resolve the conflict,” he said, echoing accessions from the right in America, that Obama is still committed to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, despite their loss of popularity.

According to El-Sisi, the task of “removing” the Brotherhood protesters would not be assigned to the army.

“Whoever will clean these squares or resolve these sit-ins will not be the military,” he said, alluding to recorded massacres of unarmed Muslim Brothers by military units shooting into civilian crowds. “There is a civil police and they are assigned to these duties,” he clarified, shutting the doors a tad after the horses have all left the barn.

“On the 26th of [July], more than 30 million people went out onto the streets to give me support. These people are waiting for me to do something.”

According to Al Ahram, more than 250 Egyptian civilians have been killed since Morsi’s overthrow.

When asked whether he would seek the presidency, El-Sisi was vague:

“I want to say that the most important achievement in my life is to overcome this circumstance, [to ensure] that we live peacefully, to go on with our road map and to be able to conduct the coming elections without shedding one drop of Egyptian blood,” he said.

When he was pressed on his presidential ambitions, he responded that he is not the type who “aspire for authority.”

If ever there was a man with self-awareness issues… How does someone without aspirations for authority depose a legally elected president and impose a military junta in his place? Somebody hand that man a mirror…

In response to the obvious authority aspirations thing, El-Sisi defended his decision to overthrow Morsi, saying: “I expected if we didn’t intervene, it would have turned into a civil war. Four months before he left, I told Morsi the same thing.”

Except that now he has a real civil war on his hands – and it’s all the fault of the Muslim Brothers-loving Obama Administration.

“What I want you to know and I want the American reader also to know is that this is a free people who rebelled against an unjust political rule, and this free people needs your support,” urged the junta leader who shuns authority.

If you have access to Woody Allen’s last truly funny movie, “Bananas,” now would be a good time to watch it again…

America’s Real ‘Dangerous Slide’ to the Wrong Side

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Would you ever imagine that the leading American newspaper would openly advocate siding with radical Islamist forces in the Middle East against all of America’s allies and friends, and I mean with eyes wide open and with full awareness that it sought to overthrow them? Well, the day has come.

How has the argument for this strategy, which the Obama Administration is already pursuing being made?

A New York Times July 30th editorial entitled “Egypt’s Dangerous Slide” shows a real catastrophe for the United States. What is amazing is that it takes less than five minutes to deconstruct Obama Administration’s Middle East policy.

But be wary since if you do this—even once—you will be barred from 95 percent of mass media and academic jobs. [Note: What’s amazing about the previous sentence is that it is in fact accurate. That’s why the public debate is so bad.]
 
After all, we are at a moment when Israel-Palestinian talks haven’t even agreed on pre-conditions (a point which is usually reached before the two sides even begin talks) yet Secretary of State John Kerry predicts success within nine months (and the mass media quotes him without snickering).

“Deadly blundering by Egypt’s military rulers is making a bad situation much worse,” starts the editorial.

One of the most blatant, arrogant views of the American foreign policy establishment today is the frequency with which its members insist that leaders know nothing about their own countries. Thus, Obama, a man who has spent a few hours in Israel and has no empathy with it, can dare to say that he knows better what the country needs than does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Last weekend’s massacre of marchers supporting the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, will make national reconciliation and a return to democracy far more difficult.”

No kidding. First of all, there was never going to be conciliation. Second, the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t exactly eager to get national conciliation, a point  the editorial and the Obama Administration never mention.

Third, the military wants massacres because it seeks to intimidate the Brotherhood. That’s how things work in Egypt. In fact, that’s what happened last time, when the Brotherhood was crushed in the 1950s and 1960s, with its leaders sent to concentration camps, tortured, and hung. And that’s what the Brotherhood would be doing to its opposition if its regime had survived.The Brotherhood is portrayed simply as the victim.

In other words it is not Egypt’s leaders who don’t understand Egypt but rather America’s current leaders.

“The stakes are too high for any country to give up on the search for a peaceful resolution.”

No! Egyptians know that the stakes are too high not to give up on the search for a peaceful resolution. This is the Middle East. And this is true just like as with the Syrian civil war, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and every secular/nationalist/traditionalist versus give up on the search for a peaceful resolution Islamist battle in the region.But fourth the Brotherhood is also provoking a lot of violence which is neither reported or protested by the U.S. government. The Brotherhood is portrayed simply as the victim. That’s why millions of Egyptians now say they hate Americans. See here. And here. And a brutal murder of an anti-Mursj demonstrator here.

Al-Ahram writes: “The current misinformation campaign bears the hallmarks of a fully-fledged psychological warfare campaign aimed at deceiving the population.” Funny, it hasn’t fooled Egyptians but it has fooled the American elite.By the way, we should notice that Yusuf Qaradawi, the leading Sunni Islamist in the world, has just accused the military government of recruiting Egyptian Christians to kill helpless Muslims. Look for massacres of Christians in other Arab countries and Egypt. Perhaps the Obama Administration better worry about that. It is already happening.

In other words it is not Egypt’s leaders who don’t understand Egypt but rather America’s current leaders.

“Washington’s leverage has been limited, despite…its good intentions undermined by years of inconsistent American policies. President Obama urgently needs to rebuild that trust. And he cannot hope to do so by maintaining a cautious diplomatic silence while the Arab world’s most populous and most important country unravels.”

Where to begin! First, American policies have not been undermined by inconsistent policies. Doesn’t anyone know Egyptian history?

1952-1956: America supported the Egyptian military coup and even saved the regime! Only when President Gamal Abdel Nasser behave aggressively—not so much toward Israel but by conservative Arab states–and allied with the USSR, did America turn against him.

1956-1973: An anti-American regime allied with the Soviet Union and aggressive against America’s friends was opposed.

1974-2011: The United States was allied with a moderate regime.

Get it? It must be hard for the current establishment to understand so let me capitalize it and put in bold:

IT WASN’T AMERICA’S FAULT U.S. POLICY WAS ‘INCONSISTENT”; IT WAS EGYPT’S.
 
As for “good intentions” may I remind you that Obama did not have good intentions at all. Just like any British or American imperialist in a previous century, Obama has sought to overthrow regimes and replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood and thus inevitably Sharia regime.
 
How’s that for “good intentions?”

And if Obama wanted to rebuild trust–as opposed to protecting the Br0therhood’s interests–he would rebuild trust with the Egyptian army and people by supporting the  new government rather than seek to empower an anti-Christian, anti-Western, antisemitic, anti-American, homophobic, genocidal, anti-woman totalitarian-destined regime.

The editorial continued:

“Whatever Egypt’s new military strongman, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, thought he was doing by summoning people to Tahrir Square last Friday to demand a `mandate’ to fight terrorism, the result was to undermine Egypt’s prospects for stability even further. Whatever self-described pro-democracy groups thought they were doing by endorsing his call, the result was to strengthen the military and inflame raw divisions between civilian parties.”

He knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted to build and mobilize a civilian support base. And the civilian parties weren’t “inflamed,” they hate each other and know they are engaged in a life-and-death struggle.

“And whatever the Muslim Brotherhood leaders thought they were doing by urging followers to challenge security forces, the result was to add to the bloodshed and give the military new excuses for repression.”

Same patronizing tone. The Brotherhood knows what it is doing, too: it doesn’t want conciliation; it wants revolution.

“And things are likely to get worse until the military can be persuaded to hand over power and return to the barracks.”

Wrong again. They will get worse if the military does hand over power. For every day—except a few disastrous weeks under Mursi—during the last 61 years the army basically held power even if it was in the barracks.

“Other Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia and its allied Persian Gulf emirates, are unlikely to help. They are more concerned with stamping out any potential political threat to their own autocratic rule at home than in encouraging democracy in Egypt.”

Of course because they understand Arab politics! And are they wrong? Listen to them. A Brotherhood takeover of Egypt would increase the political threat to them! Now you want to overthrow Saudi Arabia and any other remaining American friends in the Arab world?

“Israel has its own legitimate security concerns, mostly centered on preventing threats from Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula and Hamas-ruled Gaza.”

And in parallel you want to further undermine Israel’s security?

“That leaves the United States and the European Union.”

Right. If Egypt, the Arab states, and Israel don’t undermine their own security the United States and the EU will. People, think what you are saying here! Consider what insanity you are advocating!

In other words, the pro-Islamist forces are the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists (and in a sense the Taliban and al-Qaida) backed by the EU and United States, ([plus Turkey and Qatar along with Iran, Syria,  and Hizballah); while the anti-Islamist forces are the Arab countries and Israel?

Does that seem strange? .

“But Washington has been doing less than its share. Excessive concerns with maintaining good relations with Egypt’s generals and fears that a loosened military grip on Sinai and the Gaza border might throw off nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have wrongly muffled America’s public voice.”

I’m not believing this stuff. Let’s get tough with the generals, not the Islamists? And the best way to help peace talks is to return an Islamist regime in Egypt? That will surely quiet Hamas and the jihadists in Sinai and make Israel feel real secure. Oh by the way, the main threat to even the Palestinian Authority (PA) is Hamas! No doubt the PA will thank you, too.

“Most of all, President Obama needs to clarify what America stands for as Egypt struggles over its future.”
He sure does. By changing sides away from the Islamists and toward others, including Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/americas-real-dangerous-slide-to-the-wrong-side/2013/08/01/

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