Howard Berman: Lead Singer for Israel-is-always-right Chorus

By William James Martin

On January 26, Israeli’s Ha’aretz reported that US Congressman and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

"Howard Berman, the influential California congressman and staunch Israel ally, praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for making ‘difficult decisions’ since returning to office."

“‘Prime Minister Netanyahu and his colleagues are the ones who have taken the difficult decisions, and for this they deserve more credit than they get,’ Berman said of the premier, whom the Palestinians blame for derailing peace talks. ‘I believe [Netanyahu] well understands intellectually what peace requires, and he wants to be a peacemaker.’”

Of course, Mr. Berman does not tell us exactly what “difficult decisions”  the Prime Minister has made, nor why anyone should believe Netanyahu “wants to be a peacemaker’’, except for a peace made that leaves the Palestinians totally subjugated, expelled from Jerusalem, living in ghettoized disconnected Bantustans with Israel in control of all of their resources and access to the outside world, with the Palestinians too weakened and depleted to mount any significant resistance, and  with Israel poised to complete the ethnic cleansing of 1948 which has always been the game plan of Zionism , both before and after 1948.

Mr. Netanyahu has made it clear, as has the Likud coalition of which he heads, that he does not accept a Palestinian state and is, as well, determined to complete ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem by Jews. What sort of peace Mr. Berman is able to distill from Netanyahu’s positions is not peace but subjugation and ethnic cleansing of one people by another.

For all the expertise Mr. Berman claims, and for all his liberal credentials, he is apparently unaware, or so prejudiced he cannot see the obvious, that Mr. Netanyahu has for all of his life been an outspoken advocate of the takeover of all of Palestine by Zionist Jews and the dispersal of the  Palestinian people, and a champion of Zionists ideology which shares with the German Nazi Party, with whom the early Zionists were involved in a cooperative relation (see L. Brenner, 51 Documents.), the  ideas of racial purity and the establishment of a racially pure state, a pure Aryan state without Jews for the Nazis, a pure Jewish state without Aryans or other gentiles for the Zionists. Mr. Netanyahu is committed to the immediate ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem and to the continued confiscation of land on the West Bank, which is taking place even as I write this.

Mr. Berman, whether he is aware of it or not, is not a champion of liberalism but of racism and reaction.

Mr. Berman’s statement belongs with George W Bush’s statement that Ariel Sharon is “a man of peace”, and is equally as ridiculous.

According to historian Avi Shlaim, in his recent book, Israel and Palestine,

“The day that the Knesset endorsed Oslo II by a majority of one, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Zion Square in Jerusalem, Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud, was on the grandstand, while the demonstrators displayed an effigy of Rabin in SS uniform. Netanyahu set the tone with an inflammatory speech, He called Oslo II a surrender agreement and accused Rabin of ‘causing national humiliation by accepting the dictates of the terrorist Arafat.’ A month later, on November 1995, Rabin was assassinated by a religious-nationalist Jewish fanatic with the explicit aim of derailing the peace process. Rabin’s demise, as his murderer expected, dealt a serious body blow to the entire peace process.”

Netanyahu contributed energy, emotional and rhetorical, that contributed to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin.

Shlaim continues:

“Netanyahu spent his two and a half years in power in a relentless attempt to arrest, freeze, and subvert the Oslo Accords. He kept preaching reciprocity while acting unilaterally in demolishing Arab houses, imposing curfews, confiscating Arab land, building new Jewish settlements and opening an archaeological tunnel near the Muslim holy places of the Old City of Jerusalem. Whereas the Oslo Accords left Jerusalem to the final stage of the negotiations, Netanyahu made it the centerpiece of his program in order to block progress on any other issue. His government waged an economic and political was of attrition against the Palestinians in order to lower the expectations.”

Netanyahu called the Oslo process ‘an enormous lie’ and ‘a crime against Zionism.’ “Every time he [Yasir Arafat] says Jerusalem is his, we will respond by building a thousand homes for Jews,” explained one of Netanyahu’s advisors during the first prime-ministership of Netanyahu. Though this statement was not expressed by Netanyahu but by one of his aids, it certainly captures the attitude of Netanyahu better than does the obsequious claim of Mr. Berman.

On February 25, the exact anniversary of the massacre by Beruch Goldstein of 29 worshipping Muslims in the Al Abrahami Mosque in Hebron, in 1994, and the injuring of 150 others, the Netanyahu government announced the addition of that site as well as of Rachael’s Tomb in Bethlehem as Israeli historical religious sites which appeared to Palestinians, as well as to others, as the annexation of Islamic and Christian holy sites. The date was significant, as the anniversary of the massacre at the Al Abrahami Mosque is celebrated by other right wing organizations with Messianic visions of a greater Israel who are a substantial block of the Likud coalition, and who celebrate the suffering the mass death of Arabs on that date. These people also celebrate the killing of their own Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

By early March, envoy George Mitchell had persuaded a reluctant Palestinian Authority leadership to resume indirect Peace talks with Israel. Vice President Biden traveled to the Middle East to genuflect before the Israeli state and to meet with leaders of both sides to inaugurate such discussions. On Monday, Mar 8, as Vice President Biden began his four day Middle East visit, Israel announce the decision to build 112 new apartments in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit just a day after the Palestinians agreed to the indirect talks with Israel. And the next day Tuesday, just as the Vice President was pledging eternal friendship to Israel and observing that there was “no daylight” between Israel and the US, the Netanyahu government announced the building of 1600 more housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a religious Jewish settlement, one of a handful which rings the eastern edge of an expanded East Jerusalem. The following day the Israeli government announced that 50,000 new units were in the planning stage for East Jerusalem and its eastern boundary.

So much for Congressman Berman’s credibility. A vocalist loses his claim to competence who can only sing only one note.

According to the Jerusalem Post, in November of 1989, Mr. Netanyahu, then Deputy Foreign Minister, told an audience at Bar Ilan University, that the government had failed to exploit internationally favorable situations, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre in June of 1989 when world attention and the media were focused on China, to carry out ‘large scale’ expulsions at a time when ‘the danger would have been relatively small’. Later, when Netanyahu denied making these statements, the Jerusalem Post produced a tape recording of this speech. A war with Iran would then have a double attraction for Netanyahu and his coalition.

Confidential documents leaked to the press in October of 1996, during Netanyahu’s first term as Prime Minister, that his government had drawn up plans to ‘devour East Jerusalem and reduce its Arab community to an insignificant minority.’

Mr. Netanyahu’s  party is a continuation of the Revisionist movement of Vladimir Jabotinsky which advocated the total subjugation of the Palestinian population and the total usurpation of Palestinian land. Jabotinsky’s claim of the “Land of Israel” did not stop at the Jordan but included the East Bank, now the state of Jordan, and much of Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. Netanyahu’s coalition includes those such as the settler movement, Gush Emunum, which is a large block of the Likud, who still nourish these claims.

The Revisionist movement was established in 1925 by Vladimir Jabotinsky who advocated the revision of the British mandate for Palestine to include the east bank of the Jordan River, now the state of Jordan. Jabotinsky’s movement also celebrated militant nationalism and military prowess as well as sympathy to the fascism of Benedetto Mussolini, perhaps inculcated, like Avraham Stern, during his years spent in Italy.

Jabotinsky advocated the total subjugation of the Palestinian population and compulsory transfer to adjacent Arab states. He well understood that a Jewish state on Arab land would never be established by agreement with the indigenous people but had to be decided by force and defended behind an Iron Wall of bayonettes. Jabotinsky did not hide his racist attitudes toward the Arabs. “We Jews, thank God, have nothing to do with the East. … The Islamic soul must be broomed out of Eretz-Israel.” On another occasion, he described Arabs as a “yelling rabble dressed in gaudy, savage rags.”

His authoritarian militarism found expression in Betar, the Revisionist youth movement, and his militant ideological legacy in the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (National Military Organization), an underground military organization formed in 1931 and commanded from 1943 to 1944 by Manachem Begin who also assumed leadership of the Revisionist Zionism at Jabotinsky’s death in 1940.

The Irgun became infamous for the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, for the capture and hanging of British officers and for the massacre at Deir Yassin in April of 1948, as well as other acts of terrorism against both the British and the Palestinian population. The British branded Begin a ‘terrorist’ and placed a 50,000 pound reward on his head.

A second branching off of the Revisionists was the Lehi (Lohamei Herut  Yisrael), more widely known as the Stern Gang). Lehi was co-commanded by Avraham Stern, who, like Jabotinsky, had spent time in Italy and came away thoroughly imbued with the Fascism then current in that country, and Yitzhak Shamir, who became chief of operations, and later, Prime Minister of Israel. Israel is unique in having two world class terrorists ascend to the Prime Ministership, and a third one if you count Ariel Sharon.

Stern described Palestinian Arabs as “beast of the desert, not a legitimate people”, and “The Arabs are not a nation but a mole that grew in the wilderness of the eternal desert. They are nothing but murderers,” he wrote in 1940.

Lehi branched off from the Irgun in 1940 and thereafter specialized in assassinations. Between September of 1942 and July 1946, when Shamir was arrested by the British, there were 14 attempted assassination attempts and included successful killings of UN Representative to the Middle East, Count Folke Bernadotte and British Minister in Resident in the Middle East, Lord Moyne. There were seven attempts on the life of British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Harold McMichael, and at least one against British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin.

According to Nur Masalha:

“His [Stern’s] Eighteen Principles of National Renewal, written in 1941, and became the ideological basis of Lehi, proclaimed a Jewish state from ‘the great River of Egypt’ (the Nile) to the Euphrates in Iraq and the rebuilding of the Third Temple in Jerusalem. In this document, under the heading ‘Principles of Rebirth’, the borders of the Land were defined by a quotation from Genesis (15:18): ‘To your seed, I have given this land from the River of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates …’ The third principle in the document stated: ‘THE NATION AND ITS HOMELAND: The Land of Israel was conquered by the Jews by the sword. It was here they became a nation and only here can they be reborn. Not only has Israel the right of ownership over the land but this ownership is absolute and has never been or can be rescinded. The fourteenth principle proposed ‘ethnic cleansing’: DEALING WITH ALIENS [that is, Palestinian Arabs]: This will be done by means of exchange of populations’. The sixteenth principle envisaged the establishment of a new imperial power in the East and on the shores of the Mediterranean.” (Masalha, Imperial Israel and the Palestinians, Pluto)

The combined forces of the Irgun and Lehi carried out the Deir Yassin massacre in April of 1948, the brutality of which helped to terrorize the Palestinian population into flight. Altogether, massacres were committed in 70 or so Palestinian villages with several thousand people killed, many executed, and about three quarters of a million Palestinians were driven from their homes and property. Half of the refugee population was engendered before the introduction of armies from adjacent Arabs states on May 15, 1948.

Mr. Netanyahu has of late been calling for the unconditional resumptions of talks between Israel and the Abbas led faction of the Palestinian authority, thus believing, no doubt, that he has captured, at least in perception, the moral high ground. But Mr. Netanyahu and many others are well aware of the Likud strategy as expressed in a singular outburst of honesty by former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir upon his electoral loss in 1992 after having served for longer than any Israeli prime minister with the exception of David Ben Gurion. He said: ‘I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years, and meanwhile, we would have reached half a million people in Judea and Samaria.” When reminded that the recent election indicated that there did not exist majority support for a Greater Land of Israel, Shamir said, “I didn’t believe there was a majority in favor of a Greater Land of Israel. But it can be attained over time. There must be a historic direction. If we drop this basis, there would be nothing to prevent the development of a Palestinian state.”

Congressman Berman’s principle congressional aid is his brother, Michael Berman, who is discussed briefly by Professors Mearsheimer and Walt in their book, The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy:

“Tom Hayden, the antiwar figure who was running for a seat in the California Assembly in the early 1980’s, explains how he won support from the local power broker Michael Berman … on the condition that he would always be a ‘good friend to Israel.’ Hayden, who won the election, notes that he had to be certified ‘kosher,’ not once but over and over again. … Hayden, one may note, merely held state-level offices in this political career …”

The dual loyalty of Congressman Berman should not be in any doubt. When the congressman speaks, he is speaking for Israel at least as much as for the US and whether or not his utterances can withstand serious or even cursory scrutiny, as in the recent case, they cannot, he will take the side of Israel, even against the American president.

Mr. Berman’s liberalism is not the historical liberalism of eighteen century enlightenment philosophy, but is the philosophy of Zionism for which racial separation is central and which has its roots in early 20th century Italian and German fascism.

– William James Martin teaches in the Department of Mathematics at the University of New Orleans. He contributed this article to Contact him at:

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out