By Franklin Lamb – Along the Blue Line in South Lebanon
Suddenly they were all over the place, arriving not as singles but in battalions. Many, like Maryland’s 5th District Rep. Steny Hoyer had been to Israel nearly a dozen times; career stalwarts once more showing fealty to Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine while lamely telling their constituents that they were on a legitimate ‘fact finding mission.’ For many, their real purpose was to signal their President that there must be no change in the US policy of coddling Israel’s increasingly Apartheid regime.
Among the nearly four dozen members of Congress were some of the most Islamophobic and anti-Arab ever to be elected by American voters.
House Majority leader Steny Hoyer, leading a delegation of 29 Democratic Congressmen, appeared to read from a cue card as he explained in Jerusalem that he had misgivings about Obama’s insistence on stopping colonial expansions (euphemistically called by the Israel lobby ‘settlements’). Hoyer downplayed Obama’s demand to stop the expansions and informed the White House from Jerusalem that that the issue “should be a subject of negotiations”. Hoyer refused comment on Kadema leader Tsizni Linvi’s ‘leak’ of part of the last years CIA study that Hoyer helped AIPAC bury on Capitol Hill. Appearing to quote from the now withdrawn ‘study’ Livni declared in a former Palestinian village, now renamed Tirat Hacarmel: "I see the despair and desperation of many Israelis. Hundreds of thousands see what is happening and arrange for a foreign passport, send their children to study abroad and even buy a house overseas.”
Livni got it right. Israeli officials see the writing on the wall and there is not deep affection for Israel on Capitol Hill. Most feel the US will sooner or later ‘cut Israel loose’ but still they don’t want its domestic lobby on their case. Many outside of Washington don’t understand this, and Americans in the Middle East are sometimes queried “why do you Americans love Israel so much when you claim you oppose colonialism elsewhere?”
Hoyer remained focused on undermining Obama, "I don’t think settlements are nearly the big issue that confronts the Palestinians and the Israelis in reaching an agreement. President Obama has called for a stop to any additional settlements. But that is a thorny tough issue,” he said, adding that “it’s an issue that has to be solved at the bargaining table even if it takes awhile.” Hoyer’s comment presumably warmed the hearts of his hosts and handlers even as it reportedly infuriated some in the now divided the White House.
Remarkably, Hoyer, now in his 14th term in Congress (on June 3, 2008 Steny set the all-time Record for the longest serving Member from Maryland) has yet to find a single aspect of Israel’s occupation, numerous wars against Lebanon, assassinations, slaughter of innocents and massive violations of international humanitarian law and violations of American laws (Arms Export Control Act of 1976, the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act and rack of other laws) “a big issue”.
But God forbid some misguided Palestinian pre-teen lobs a piece of gravel at one of Israel’s 400+ US funded (now $6 million each!) 130,000 pound, 1,200 horsepower, 30 foot long, 13foot wide, Merkava IV, triple impenetrable (except to Hezbollah rockets we recently learned) tanks and Hoyer is on the House floor crying ‘Palestinian terrorism’ and ready to support another AIPAC Congressional Resolution demonizing Arabs and Islam.
Get Over There and Do Some Good!
Earlier this month, AIPAC dispatched two Congressional delegations to Israel. There primary purpose, as they nearly stumbled over one another, was to warn President Obama to ‘back off Israel.”
Both delegations accomplished their mission as they interviewed victims of last year’s rocket attacks at Sederot for the umpteenth time while avoiding like the swine flu Gaza and its victims of 60 years of Israeli occupation and terrorism.
One delegation was led by minority whip Eric Cantor from Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, the delegation of 25 Republicans said the weeklong mission to Israel” is designed to promote Mideast peace and that the delegation remains “Troubled’ by Obama’s Policy on Israel”
Cantor, who works closely with AIPAC is drafting anti-Arab, anti-Muslim Congressional Resolutions said his delegation is "concerned about what the White House has been signaling of late," and warned that Obama should concentrate on "the primary issue of import … and that is the existential threat that Iran poses not only to the state of Israel but to the United States."
Cantor said his delegation supported Israel’s handling of the eviction of two Arab families from a house in east Jerusalem earlier this week, a move criticized by the European Union and the White House. With a straight face, Cantor told an Israeli government organized press conference: "I don’t think we, in America, would want another country telling us how to implement and execute our laws."
Israeli President Peres set the tone for the US politicians with his “Israel has no problem with Lebanon’ speech and some Congressional visitors repeated for the media, his: “Israel never was and never will be enemies of Lebanon, and there is no reason for enmity between Lebanon and the Jewish state”, sound bite. It is likely few if any of those visiting Israel from Washington DC recall much recent history. It would be instructive if AIPAC dispatched Congressional groups to South Lebanon. Which member of Congress has even spent one hour in South Lebanon (beside Dennis Kunnich) since the Israel was expelled from most of Lebanon in May of 2000??
Not to be outdone by Republican supporters of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is tied with Shelley Berkeley of NY for the total number anti-Arab, anti-Islam, pro Israel Congressional House Resolution this past decade (44) dashed to Israel with a delegation of Democrats to show support for “ our US ally against the violent extremists”. Critical of Obama as being ‘soft on terrorism’ (read: ‘Arabs and Muslims’) Ros-Lehtinen, according to her Congressional office visited the Western Wall for her 7th time and city of Sederot, for her 4th.
Thanks to the marvels of Twitter, Ileana was able to keep US taxpayers up to the hour on her “quest to advance Middle East Peace”. A few excepts made available by her Florida District Office:
-“Finished amazing dinner with soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces. Courageous young men. from TwitterBerry.
-Had informative mtng with Palestinian Media Watch, who wants to help with peace process but sees all the hatred and incitement against Jews.
-On way to Sderot, an Israeli town close to the Gaza border, still subject to constant rocket attacks by Hamas.10:18 PM Aug 10th from TwitterBerry.
– Inspecting kassam rockets again at an Israeli police station in Sderot. New ones since my last visit.
-Watched new documentary, The Third Jihad, in Israel with producer and editor. Same folks who made Obsession. Need to get wider US showing.
-Just finished meeting with Israeli Prime Minister: discussed rise of radical, militant Islam extremists and threat it poses to free ppl. About 17 hours ago from TwitterBerry.
-Met with lawyer from Israel Law Center: they go after $ from Hamas, Hezbollah in diff courts across world to stop its financing in banking. About 22 hours ago from TwitterBerry.
-Had great mtng w/Shimon Peres, Prez of Israel, discussing a nuclear Iran: the viability of strong sanctions and the roles of China n Russia. About 24 hours ago from TwitterBerry.
Voters in Illeana’s Congressional District will presumably decide it they got their money’s worth.
Not to be outdone by a bunch of “Washington insiders”, Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, claiming to be the front runner for the 2012 Republican nomination to take Obama’s job, said this morning that the United States should not be telling Jewish people where they can and cannot live in Jerusalem, and he compared such a policy with racial segregation.
“My question is how would President Obama feel if Prime Minister Netanyahu began to dictate which people could live in the Bronx, which ones could live in Manhattan, which could live in Queens, and say, ‘We only allow certain people to live in those neighborhoods,’” he said. “How would that go over? It wouldn’t go over very well.” The position that our government has taken recently is far more harsh [than the previous administration’, even halting peace talks until there is compliance with these demands,” he noted. “I’m not sure where we would get the authority to demand of the Israelis what they should do in their own country. I’d like to think that the rights of Jewish people in their own homeland would be the same as the rights of American people in their homeland,” Huckabee said.
“We in America take our rights very seriously.” And so it goes…..welcome to the 2012 Presidential campaign and imagine which way the Israel lobby is leaning.
Campus Watch Ups the Ante
In an act of defiance against U.S. President Barack Obama’s insistence on the removal of illegal colonial outposts, a group of Jewish students from the United States spent last week working to develop them and declaring that henceforth the fight to save the settlements would be waged by Americans. A new organization called the Zionist Freedom Alliance (ZFA) with claims branches on half a dozen US colleges campuses hopes to grow into a mainstream program for US Jewish students is a spin-off of Campus Watch with seed money arranged by AIPAC.
ZFA leader Yehuda HaKohen explained:
“This partnership between US Jewish youth volunteers and Jewish farmers (on stolen Palestinian land) is a blessing for both sides: the farmers need working hands, and the youth get an unforgettable experience that connects them to the Land of Israel. These students oppose Obama’s imperialist approach to the Middle East. Obama is trying to shrink the State of Israel and ethnically cleanse our people from the heart of our land. The students are volunteering in the exact areas Obama is trying to destroy. When it comes to Israel, American Zionist youth are increasingly declaring where their blood ties are.”
Demands Are for Arabs, Not Israel
Seemingly on cue, following Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s instruction to Obama against attempting to impose a Middle East peace deal, his informing Obama that “the most peace talks can achieve for the coming year is improving security and the Palestinian economy”, 71 US senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) , issued a letter insisting that President Obama press Arab leaders for "dramatic gestures" on behalf of Middle East peace. (no mention of the 2002 ‘Arab Peace Initiative’).
Trying to corner Obama onto defense, the Senators wrote: "We would like to understand what steps you are urging Arab states to take and what your expectations are from Arab states in the coming weeks and months." They also urged that Obama demand Arab leaders to end the Arab League boycott of Israel, meet openly with Israeli officials, boost trade relations with Israel, issue visas to Israeli citizens and invite Israelis to take part in academic and professional conferences, as well as sporting events. And for good measure, Obama was told to require that the Arabs “immediately and permanently end official propaganda campaigns, which demonize Israel and Jews.” Fantastically the letter, edited by AIPAC staffers, as virtually all Congressional matters on the Hill are, to ‘get it right’ claimed that “Over the past few months Israel has taken several concrete measures to reaffirm its commitment to advancing the peace process”. No specifics were included.
Where Obama is Seen at Fault
According to Congressional staff sources, Israel blames Obama for much that it sees going wrong recently.
The past few months have not been good for Israel in Lebanon and its wants accountability. From the Obama White House.
First there is Israel’s ‘Spy problem’. Dozens have been apprehended in Lebanon as part of the Hezbollah “Surprise at Dawn” operation with no end in sight. Israel has demanded that Washington do something about the Russians which Israel Army Intelligence claims is working not just with Iran and deepening its military cooperation with Syria, but helping Hezbollah and is engaged, not for the first time, in anti-Israel activity. The Obama administration’s low key response to Israeli claims that Russian agents are “blanketing every corner of Lebanon with their sophisticated surveillance systems, were able to detect the spy rings one by one and additionally hack into Israeli intelligence data bases” has upset some Israeli officials.
Then Lebanon’s June 7th election did not go exactly as planned. True, Israel’s much preferred March 14 team maintained its ‘majority’, but just barely and the Hezbollah team won the popular count by close to 500,000 votes and two months later there is no cabinet and Hezbollah’s support are stronger than ever it started fielding candidates in 1992. The Party and its allies will have more political power in the next Parliament than in the previous one. Not quite the election outcome, desired by Israel, predicted by Washington or paid for by Saudi Arabia.
Israel also blames the Obama administration for the fact that March 14th teams appears to be crumbling. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt shocked many and reversed what he now calls his ‘black period’ under the Bush administration and has recommitted to the cause of "Arabism and Palestine" on which he was raised by his father, Kamal, and his Lebanese National Movement political allies which included Arafat and Abu Jihad. Last Friday Walid sent his son, Taymour, to attend Hezbollah’s rally where Hassan Nasrallah spoke and explained on 8/17/09 that the gesture was aimed at consolidating his roots in confronting Israel and supporting Palestine.” I grew up listening to the voice of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and seeing his image," Jumblat said. "I deliberately sent Taymour to Dahiyeh because it’s the symbol of struggle against Israel…I hope for my son it will be the beginning of a cultural and political road to strengthen the roots of his grandfather Kamal Jumblat in confronting Israel."
Jumblatt’s middle aged return to his father’s political views appears to be a common phenomenon is this part of the World, perhaps everywhere.
Israel Lobby Feels It Must ‘Take Down’ Obama
Israeli leaders also expected more help from the Obama white house with what if views as an anti-Semitic avalanche of unwarranted criticism of Israel including the following headlines:
UN rights chief criticizes Israel 08/10/09
Irish expert before Gaza inquiry | 07/07/2009
Israel ‘wantonly’ destroyed Gaza – Amnesty | 02/07/2009
UN investigating Gaza offensive | 01/06/2009
UN war crimes team leaves for Mideast | 29/05/2009
Israel, Gaza situation ‘intolerable’ – UN official | 25/03/2009
Israel ‘unlawfully’ fired phosphorous shells | 25/03/2009
UN reports say Israel targeted civilians in Gaza | 24/03/2009
Friends of Israel in Congress also expected the Obama White House to bring Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman ‘on board’. Instead, the Maronite Christian President has been telling audiences that repeated Israeli threats call on all the Lebanese to strengthen their internal resistance line and work fast on forming a national unity government and overcome personal interests. Alarmingly, Suleiman has said that "Lebanon needs the Resistance which has an important national role to play". “What kind of a Lebanese President talks like this? Would Bush have not acted on such careless language?" a staffer on Congresswoman’s Jane Harman’s staff asked, "Why is Obama mute?
Interestingly even Hariri stated recently that “We are neither against Iran, nor against Syria: we are only against Israel because it is our enemy”.
Both Sulieman, former head of the Army, and Hariri, and virtually everyone in Lebanon supports its army. It is one of the nicest ‘armies’ around. But given Lebanon’s particular situation, the LAF will not be a national defense force in the foreseeable future, and it will likely remain an internal security force. Lebanon needs its Resistance to help defend its borders and many are starting to express this openly.
A Middle East expert who works at the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress explained by email the other day:
"What Israel sees in Lebanon is that the Christians are becoming too close to Muslims, particularly Hezbollah. It is getting more difficult to find the old Israeli militant rightists stalwarts like Bachir Gemayal to galvanize the Christians against the Palestinians. Israeli society cannot accept its perceived humiliating 2006 defeat along with the continuing unraveling of the garrison’s states many myths. Israeli actions in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza 2009 have shattered pretenses for many that Israel is other than a terrorist state. Who but Dershowitz, Foxman or Dore Gold possess the chutzpah to speak of ‘purity of arms’ anymore", she added.
Is Obama Starting to Push Back?
The Capitol Hill office of AIPAC (yes, Hezbollah has a couple of friends there too!) claims to have proof that Nadav Tamir, Israel’s consul in Boston, who has since been recalled to Israel to explain what the hell he was doing, when he wrote an internal memo that was leaked to Israel’s Channel 10 TV. It said that Israel’s public clashes with Washington over the U.S. demand for a settlement construction freeze was causing "strategic damage to Israel, that the Obama White House was involved.
In the memo, Tamir warned that his government’s confrontational attitude toward the Obama administration is seriously harming Israel’s standing, adding that" in the distance created between us and the U.S. administration, there are clear implications for Israel’s deterrent capabilities."
In the strongly worded memo, the diplomat wrote, "There have always been differences between the governments, but coordination was always maintained. Now there is the feeling in Washington that Obama has to deal with obstinacy from the governments of Iran, North Korea and Israel.” The Obama administration has not commented.
Where Does This All End?
And if all this is not enough to send Obama a message, the US Israel lobby has just summoned from the hereafter one of its former most effective Congressional operatives, the late Tom Lantos.
From his grave, the late ultra Zionist Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) founder of the fake Congressional Human Right Caucus,(fake because in 30 years CHRC never has been able to find and Human Rights issues in Israel’s occupation of Palestine) and never surpassed in the annals of Congress as the most anti-Arab and anti-Muslim zealot, joins the fray through an article he wrote in 2001, circulated last week by AIPAC and Lantos’ wife Annette and those advocating against the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson.
Annette has released a statement on the Robinson honor, saying she is "deeply disappointed by the decision of President Obama to honor former Commissioner Robinson in this manner.” The Latin maxim, "De mortuis nil nisi bonum" ("Of the dead say nothing but good”), taught to this observer by Mrs. Bess Williams, my 10th Latin teacher and Sunday school teacher during those five years I set the record for perfect Bible class attendance at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Milwaukie, Oregon, after my sainted Mother and her ten kids got kicked out of the conservative local St. John’s Roman Catholic Church for Mom divorcing her wife beating first husband years earlier, and she literally joined the nearest post Henry VIII copy in town-and on one very sunny Sunday morning we all became Anglicans and were Confirmed by Bishop Benjamin Dagwell from London!) restricts further comment on Tom Lantos. May he rest in the peace; he worked so long to shatter for the Palestinians.
– Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: email@example.com.