How the lobby works, then and now

Grant Smith writes in the excellent Israel/Palestine blog Pulse:

A huge trove of newly declassified documents subpoenaed during a 1962-1964 Senate investigation reveals how Israel’s lobby pitched, promoted, and paid to have content placed in America’s top news magazines with overseas funding. The Atlantic (and many others)received hefty rewards for trumpeting Israel’s most vital – but damaging – PR initiatives across America.

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Rattling the saber on Iran

The Atlantic magazine is one of the slightly subtler stalwart supporters of Zionism in the American media, taking a gentler approach than, say, the New Republic or its conservative doppelganger Commentary or The Weekly Standard. (It's also, in terms of editorial quality speaking, a far superior magazine.)
Which is why it is far more deadly when it pushes out a piece of propaganda like James Fallows' odious 2002 piece Who Shot Muhammad al-Dura, which tried to impute blame on Palestinians without talking to a single one of them, or the currently much-talked about Jeffrey Goldberg article on why Israel is almost certainly to bomb Iran. The aim of the piece is pretty clear from the get-go: it tries, not always directly but always implicitly, to argue that since Israel is about to strike Iran, the US may as well back it in the endeavor or carry the deed itself. This may very well be the beginning of the campaign for a US attack on Iran, not just an apology for an Israeli attack.
I won't discuss the article at length here because others have done a pretty good job. But I urge others to read it, and perhaps marvel with me how much of it is suffused with talk of the Holocaust and how much sympathetic justification it contains for what would be, after all, an unprovoked attack on a UN member by a nation that already has a considerable nuclear arsenal outside of the international non-proliferation framework. The case for Israel putting a stop to Iran's nuclear program is quite dubious, as most experts and Goldberg concede. The US is both much better able to carry out such a strike, and deal with the long-term conflict that might ensue. Hence the need for this article and a campaign to manipulate US public opinion into thinking that striking Iran is unavoidable. And why would it be unavoidable? Because Iran is being sold as a potential Nazi Germany,  even though Iran — as Stephen Walt argues — is not much of a threat to the US. (See also Walt's thoughts on Goldberg mainstreaming the idea of war with Iran in the US.)
You must do what we can’t, because if you don’t, we will, is the gist of what Goldberg is doing, argues Paul Woodward.

Worried about an Israeli attack on Iran? That’s the idea.

You must do what we can’t, because if you don’t, we will.

This is how some Israelis are trying to twist Washington’s arm to get the US to attack Iran.

A more honest way of making the argument would be to say this: If the US won’t attack Iran, then Israel will — even though it won’t accomplish its military objectives and it will open Pandora’s box. Desperate nations sometimes do desperate things. You have been warned.

Another name for this: blackmail.

It’s hard to counter an irrational argument when the irrationality is intentional. Such are the means by which someone like erstwhile Israeli army corporal and current Atlantic commentator, Jeffrey Goldberg, attempts to persuade his readers — not through cogent reasoning based on clear evidence, but by an insidious form of argument that has the clarity of slime.

Consider the way he tries to close his case for an attack on Iran — even while avoiding saying straight out that he supports such a course of action.

The United States must not take the risk of letting Israel attack Iran because if President Obama orders US forces to attack instead, this would be the most patriotic thing to do. Obama would not be serving Israel’s interests; he would be defending Western civilization.

Goldberg, of course, operates with the conceit common to many access journalists, who assume that what they’re hearing from their sources is the unvarnished truth, told to the journalist because they presumably trust him as a confidante and recognize the value of his opinions and insights. Let’s just say that such is the conceit that makes it so easy for those in power in Washington to seduce marquee name journalists to carry water for them by anointing them as “special”, cultivating in the illusion that they’re insiders privy to the inner thoughts of the key power players.

In your dreams, Jeff: The Israelis talk to you because they want to convey a particular message in Washington; and the White House talks to you because they want you to convey a particular message to the Israelis and, more importantly, to some of their most powerful backers in America.

Making Aggression Respectable | The National Interest: Here Paul Pillar makes an important point:

Perhaps one reason a prospective launching of a war against Iran has not gotten the condemnation it deserves is that the one big recent exception to the American tradition of non-aggression—the Bush administration’s war in Iraq—has shifted the terms of reference and the definition of the mainstream so much that even an offensive war has come to be considered a policy option worthy of consideration. And this has happened despite the mess in Iraq that followed the toppling of Saddam Hussein and despite George W. Bush’s restraining (to his credit, as mentioned in Goldberg’s article) of hotheads in his administration who were itching to attack Iran.

Yes you can dispute America's tradition of non-aggression, at least in the postwar era, but the fundamental point that Iran shouldn't be attacked simply because it's against international law is crucial. We have yet to deal with the illegality of Iraq's war.

Other reactions worth reading:

Did top Obama donor carry Israeli message to W.H.? Here Justin Elliott picks up on a side revelation in Goldberg's article, that a senior Israeli military official traveled to Chicago to urge one of the most important early Obama backers in the Jewish community to have a word with him.

How propagandists function: Exhibit A Gleen Greenwald.

The Leveretts, whom I don't like on Iran's internal politics, catch the same thing: THE CAMPAIGN TO TURN IRAN INTO AN “EXISTENTIAL THREAT”

Steve Clemons points out the interesting stuff about Bush being against an Iran attack late in his presidency in Jeffrey Goldberg Probes Israel's Iran Strike Option: Is Netanyahu a "Bomber Boy"?

And finally, coming back to The Atlantic, it's worth highlighting this bizarre line in this Robert Kaplan article about how to deal with a nuclear Iran:

Indeed, I would argue that because Sunni Arabs from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Egypt perpetrated the attacks of September 11, 2001, and because Sunni hostility to American and Israeli interests remains a conspicuous problem, the United States should theoretically welcome a strengthened Shiite role in the Middle East, were Iran to go through an even partial political transformation.

Because, of course, all Shias and all Sunnis think alike. And this article's main argument is that the US should be more willing to consider a limited nuclear war with Iran, and limited wars in general. Chilling.

Links for 10.29.09 to 10.31.09

Daily News Egypt - In Focus: The Brotherhood Crisis | Khalil al-Anani's take on the Brothers' troubles. ✪ Frontlines: Who will be the next leader of Egypt? | Front Lines - the week that was | Jerusalem Post | Funny how much traction Amr Moussa's comments have made in Israel, where they remember vividly his criticism of Israel. ✪ Is this the man to follow Mubarak as Egypt's next president? | World news | guardian.co.uk | On Amr Moussa. ✪ Powerful Islamic movement sees leadership struggle | On MB's woes. ✪ War and Peace | New blog from Rob of Arabic Media Shack, focusing on war, history and strategy. ✪ Lesson Unlearned | Foreign Policy | Nir Rosen says the 1983 attacks on Us Marines in Beirut was the fault of senior Reagan officials who intervened in Lebanon's civil war on the side of Christian militias. ✪ A Witness In Palestine | Anna Baltzer, Jewish-American pro-peace activist. ✪ A search engine with a mind on settlements | Antony Loewenstein | I'm switching to Bing, and I hate Microsoft: "Jewish Billionaire, Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, donated $1 million to the so-called Hebrew national Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) which heavily encourages Jews around the world to immigrate to Israel and the United States. The organization is one of the biggest supporters of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories." ✪ In Afghan Village, French Outreach Yields an Ambush - WSJ.com | On French Foreign legion in Afghanistan: "Some Legionnaires, like a pensive Italian art history graduate, had enlisted for adventure. Others, like a thin Estonian, signed up to escape potentially lethal problems at home. The Legion wipes out minor criminal records and provides new identities and a French passport in exchange for a five-year contract. "Believe me, I feel safer here in Afghanistan," the Estonian said." ✪ Alaa Al-Aswany: When women are sinners in the eyes of extremists - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent | On Somalia and extremism, among other things. ✪ BBC NEWS | Technology | Egypt seeks ethical mobile users | Code says "don't annoy people by having loud conversations", "choose non-annoying ringtone", etc. Akhiran! Wonder if it says, "Don't sit at qahwa trying different ringtones for an hour" or "Answer phone quickly or put it on silent rather than stare at it for 10 rings". ✪ Squaring the circle and erasing the margins | Good commentary on the recent J Street conference. ✪ YouTube - ‫لقاء اليوم - ريتشارد غولدستون‬‎ | Khaled Daoud interviews Richard Goldstone on al-Jazeera. ✪ Lebanon: Israel arranged Katyusha fire to keep tensions high - Haaretz - Israel News | Suleiman was praised by West before, will he be listened to now: "Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on Thursday suggested that Israel had arranged for collaborators in his country to fire Katyusha rockets at the Galilee earlier this week, in a bid to keep tensions high in the area." ✪ 'Israel's Self-Described Greatest Concern' - Jeffrey Goldberg | More poisonous Jeffrey Goldberg: anti-Zionist Jews are not real jews, they're anti-Zionists with Jewish parents; the Leveretts are apologists for Tehran. No sense of irony here about Golberg's sycophancy towards Bibi Netanyahu here. ✪ West Bank land belongs to Jews, says Israeli army judge | These people are insane: ""But over the past quarter of a century, the Israeli army lawyer and then military judge at the forefront of arguably the most significant battle in the occupied West Bank – the confiscation of Palestinian land for the construction of Jewish settlements – has come to see himself as in service of a higher duty. In an unusually frank interview, which offers insights into the melding of religion, politics and law that underpins land seizures in the occupied territories, Agassi has laid out his belief that Israel has a biblical claim to territory beyond its borders and that he, even as an immigrant, has a right to live on it when those born there do not. `When we [Israelis] say that this is a political conflict, then we lose the battle,` he told the Guardian, adding that it should be remembered that the ancient land of Israel is `given to us by the Bible, not by some United Nations`. ✪ Tens of Thousands of Palestinian Children at Risk of Forced Displacement in OPT | "Whilst most attention has focused on home demolitions and community evictions, new research by the children`s charity Save The Children has revealed intolerable living conditions are driving families to abandon their land and homes, even though most will be worse off once they do so."
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Links for 09.22.09 to 09.24.09

U.S. to block Goldstone Gaza referral to ICC - Laura Rozen | Great move for credibility on other war crimes! ✪ Iranians Favor Diplomatic Relations With US But Have Little Trust in Obama - World Public Opinion | Iranian poll. ✪ Free Mohammad Othman | Solidarity campaign for Palestinian activist Muhammad Othman, arrested September 22 while crossing the Allenby bridge. ✪ AFP: Egypt press: UNESCO loss shows 'clash of civilisations' | Nationalist backlash in reaction to Farouk Hosni's loss. ✪ The Lucrative Business of Israel-Bashing - Jeffrey Goldberg | Savor the irony of this headline from a professional Palestine-basher sitting on his lucrative perch in American journalism. The content of this post if pure invective, what Goldberg now is professional nastiness (as in his recent attacks on Stephen Walt.) ✪ The Associated Press: Fraud allegations at UNESCO race | Rumors that Egyptian delegates offered $50k bribes going around.
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Doomsday cult: Bibi and the Zionist view of Iran

Last week Jeffrey Goldberg, the most important cheerleader for Israel in American journalism, interviewed Benyamin Netanyahu and talked to him about Iran in particular, which of course Goldberg framed within the Iran-will-nuke-Israel-as-soon-as-it-gets-the-bomb meme. The article is full of this kind of stuff, like calling all Islamists (Hamas, the Iranians, Hizbullah, al-Qaeda) "jihadists" as if they were one and the same, and very short on pushing Bibi on the Palestinian question (there's no questioning of his reversal of Israeli policy since Oslo, i.e. a commitment to the two-state solution.) In fact, throughout the whole interview, Goldberg and Bibi keep coming back to the Iran issue as the most important thing, with some subtle threats from Bibi that Israel would take the Iranian matter into its own hands if Obama doesn’t (which is most likely bluster as a strategic strike on Iran's nuclear reactor(s) is not believed by military expert to be an effective deterrent.) Bibi says:
"You don't want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran."
I have been struck over the last two years by the apocalyptic tone of Israeli politicians and their supporters around the world about Iran. It appears they view Iran and its mullahs a little bit like a fantastically weird scene in Beneath the Planet of Apes, a rare sequel that is better than its original. The scene shows the remnants of the human race, a bizarre doomsday bomb-worshiping cult that has put a big gold ultimate nuclear weapon at the center of its theology: [flv:pota2weirdscene.flv 470 360] And while we're on that movie, one wonders if the Iranians view the Israelis - and indeed the Americans - like the warmongering gorillas in the same movie who decide to wage battle on the last remnants of humanity. Perhaps this is how the mullahs viewed George W. Bush's axil of evil moment: [flv:pota2ursusspeech.flv 470 360] Update: Joe Klein, reacting to the Bibi interview, makes some good points about inconsistencies in what Netanyahu says about the alleged irrationality of the Iranians (esp. his point that they might be responsive to economic sanctions - why, if they are irrational?) but has a very weird part about Arab fears of Iran:
Netanyahu is also completely wrong when he says that Iran, with a bomb, will be able to coerce Arab neighbors to its side. The precise opposite is true: Iran with a bomb would touch off an Arab arms race. The very prospect of Iran with a bomb is freaking out the Arabs now--in private, your average Egyptian, Jordanian or Saudi diplomat is far more passionate about the threat from Iran than the "atrocities" Israel undertook in Gaza.
Funny how I haven't noticed people, in private conversation, freaking out about Iran, or that they are more outraged by this than by Gaza. What the Arab regimes freak about is not the Iranian bomb but growing Iranian regional influence and what it might mean if they do get the bomb. Our friend Ezzedine Choukri-Fishere articulates this Arab fear of Iranian influence elegantly in a recent article:
srael is not the only party that is nervous about US-Iranian dialogue. Arab states are watching carefully American overtures towards their Persian neighbour. From their perspective, American-Iranian dialogue is a continuation of the risky European approach, which was based on offering Iran regional "incentives" in return for ending some of its nuclear activities. Arab states are more concerned about Iran's regional ambition than about its nuclear programme; the latter is important only in so far that it constitutes an element in Iran's bid for hegemony in the Middle East. From where they stand, offering Iran more regional power in return for its uranium enrichment defeats the purpose of the exercise. As far as nuclear programmes go, most Arab states are more worried about Israel's nuclear arsenal than they are about Iran's nascent capabilities. Even if they wanted to, Arab leaders would find it politically difficult to cooperate with the US against Iran's nuclear activities while Israel's nuclear weapons are shielded from scrutiny.
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