The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged israellobby
Israel won't stop spying on US, which won't stop it

Some interesting reporting on Israel's extensive spying on the US in two pieces by Newsweek's Jeff Stein this week - Israel Won’t Stop Spying on the U.S. and Israel’s Aggressive Spying in the U.S. Mostly Hushed Up. From the first piece:

“I don’t think anyone was surprised by these revelations,” the former aide said. “But when you step back and hear…that there are no other countries taking advantage of our security relationship the way the Israelis are for espionage purposes, it is quite shocking. I mean, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that after all the hand-wringing over [Jonathan] Pollard, it’s still going on.”

And this anecdote from the second, follow-up report:

When White House national security advisor Susan Rice’s security detail cleared her Jerusalem hotel suite for bugs and intruders Tuesday night, they might’ve had in mind a surprise visitor to Vice President Al Gore’s room 16 years ago this week: a spy in an air duct.

According to a senior former U.S. intelligence operative, a Secret Service agent who was enjoying a moment of solitude in Gore’s bathroom before the Veep arrived heard a metallic scraping sound. “The Secret Service had secured [Gore’s] room in advance and they all left except for one agent, who decided to take a long, slow time on the pot,” the operative recalled for Newsweek. “So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.”

Did the agent scramble for his gun? No, the former operative said with a chuckle. “He kind of coughed and the guy went back into the vents.”

To some, the incident stands as an apt metaphor for the behind-closed-doors relations between Israel and America, “frenemies” even in the best of times. The brazen air-duct caper “crossed the line” of acceptable behavior between friendly intelligence services – but because it was done by Israel, it was quickly hushed up by U.S. officials.

And the reason it goes on unchecked, of course, is that American lawmakers are protecting Israel:

Always lurking, former intelligence officials say, was the powerful “Israeli lobby,” the network of Israel’s friends in Congress, industry and successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, ready to protest any perceived slight on the part of U.S. security officials. A former counterintelligence specialist told Newsweek he risked Israel’s wrath merely by providing routine security briefings to American officials, businessmen and scientists heading to Israel for meetings and conferences.

“We had to be very careful how we warned American officials,” he said. “We regularly got calls from members of Congress outraged by security warnings about going to Israel. And they had our budget. When ... the director of the CIA gets a call from an outraged congressman–’What are these security briefings you're giving? What are these high-level threat warnings about travel to Tel Aviv you're giving? This is outrageous’ – he has to pay close attention. There was always this political delicacy that you had to be aware of.”

Weddady's Free Arabs, American Islamic Congress and the pro-Israel funders who helped them rise

Max Blumenthal has this investigative piece on the American Islamic Congress in Electronic Intifada. I was shocked to read about the funding behind AIC that Max uncovers, I had simply no idea, having thought AIC was funded by Muslim Americans or, perhaps, Gulf countries. It turns out the most fanatic wing of the Israel lobby has a big role in it:

According to Internal Revenue Service 990 information filings, the AIC is funded largely by a pool of right-wing donors responsible for bankrolling key players in America’s Islamophobia industry, from Charles Jacobs to Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism and Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum. These same donors have pumped millions into major pro-Israel organizations, including groups involved in settlement activity and the Friends of the IDF, which provides assistance to the Israeli army.
Among the AIC’s most reliable supporters is the Donors Capital Fund, which has provided at least $85,000 in funding since 2008. Donors Capital was among the seven foundations identified in the Center for American Progress’s 2011 report Fear Inc. as “the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America.” Another foundation singled out in the report, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, has donated $325,000 to the AIC between 2005 and 2011.

There's a lot more there.

Knowing both Max and Nasser Weddady, I am a bit uneasy with his attack on Nasser, who after all is not a top dog at AIC. And I think the swipe at Stanford's Program on Arab Reform is a little weak, especially compared to what he reveals about AIC. Much of the last part of the piece focuses on the Free Arabs website, which Nasser co-edits. As far as I know it is more of a personal project for Nasser that secured funding from Stanford and elsewhere by co-editor Ahmed Benchemsi. So the AIC-Free Arabs connection, apart of Weddady, remains unclear. I was critical like many others of Free Arabs's "Horrible 4" feature and the quite scandalous article cited in Max's article about Mizrahi Israelis being the freest Arabs. But there is also good content elsewhere there.

There is a real problem in the funding of secular liberal Arab publishing. Often sources are from neo-con, pro-Israel sources that tend to minimize criticism of Israel (in my view is the only logical position to take on Israel as a liberal is critical, otherwise one is buying into the exceptionalism of "liberal Zionism" and thus into the racial/religious supremacism inherent in Zionism, which is hardly liberal.) In Arabic, they are often from conservative Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, whose princes finance such "liberal" sites as Elaph. This represents almost none of the mainstream, center-left to center-right, liberal/social-democratic thinking in the Arab world. To have institutions like AIC created to supposedly represent "mainstream Muslims" and have them be largely financed by extremists is deeply disturbing.

Update: Free Arabs' Ahmed Benchemsi has a reply to Max Blumenthal.

The lobby that does not intimidate

Transcript of some of the more surreal portions of Chuck Hagel's vetting as Secretary of Defense, courtesy of Americans for Peace Now: 

Wicker versus Hagel re: Jewish Lobby [starting at 03:02:10]
Wicker:  What you said was the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. This was in a book -- an interview that you gave to Aaron David Miller. And you said, "I've always argued against some of the dumb things they do, because I don't think it's in the interest of Israel." Here's my problem with -- with your position at this point. You have corrected the term "Jewish lobby." And I assume now the correct term would be "Israel lobby" or "Israeli lobby."
Do you still stand by your statement that they succeed in this town because of intimidation, and that it amounts to causing us to do dumb things?  Because I want to say this, Senator, you -- you are here today as a potential secretary of defense, and it would seem to me that however you characterize them, you have suggested that there is an effective lobby out there, whether you call them the "Jewish lobby," the "Israeli lobby" or the "Israel lobby," and that they succeed in doing dumb things through intimidation, and that U.S. policy has been the wrong approach because the intimidation has worked.
So when you talked about the Jewish lobby, were you talking about AIPAC? Were you talking about NORPAC? Were you talking about Christians United for Israel? And do you still believe that their success in this town is because of intimidation and that they are, as you stated, "urging upon our government that we do dumb things"?
Hagel:  …I've already said I regret referencing the Jewish lobby. I should have said "pro-Israel lobby." I think it's the only time on the record that I've ever said that. Now, you all have done a lot of work with my record, and yes, it's appropriate, by the way. Any  nominee's record, what he or she thinks, says, done, absolutely. I was on your side of the dais for 12 years, so I understand that and that responsibility. So, I don't have any problem with that.  So I've already noted that I -- that I should have used another term and I'm sorry and I regret it.
On the use of “intimidation,” I should have used "influence," I think would have been more appropriate. We were talking about in that book, and you've evidently read it, Aaron David Miller's book. And by the way, it's a book, "The Much Too Promised Land." He has spoken out directly over the last few weeks, written an op-ed about my position because it's gotten some attention, as you've noted, and been quite favorable to me, and said much of that was taken out of context, and he was "offended by it." Those were his -- his words. Those of you who know something about Aaron David Miller know that he is Jewish. He is a highly respected individual who was counsel to presidents and secretaries of state.  He also says in that interview, which is a fairly short interview, he mentioned that I am a strong supporter of Israel. That's in the interview.
So, I think that says something. I -- I should not have said "dumb" or "stupid," because I understand, appreciate there are different views on these things. We were talking about Israel. We were talking about the Middle East. We weren't talking about Armenia or Turkey or the banking influence or Chamber of Commerce -- Commerce influence. That was what the context of my comments were about…
Graham vs. Hagel re: Jewish Lobby [starting at 04:17:20]
Graham: … You said “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I am not an Israeli senator. I am a United States senator. This pressure makes us to do dumb things at times.” You said the Jewish lobby should not have been -- that term shouldn't have been used; it should've been some other term.  Name one person in your opinion who's intimidated by the Israeli lobby in United States Senate?
Hagel: Well, first...
Graham: Name one.
Hagel: I do not know.
Graham: Well why would you say it?
Hagel: I didn't have in mind a specific person.
Graham: Do you agreed that it is a provocative statement - that I can’t think of a more provocative thing to say about the relationship between the United States and Israel, and the Senate or the Congress than what you said. Name one dumb thing we have been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby?
Hagel: I have already stated that I regret the terminology...
Graham: But you said, back then, it makes us do dumb things. You can't name one senator intimidated, now give me one example of the dumb things that we're pressure to do up here.
Hagel: We were talking in that interview about the Middle East, about positions, about Israel...
Graham: So give me an example of where we have been intimidated by the Israeli-Jewish lobby to do something dumb regarding the Middle East, Israel, or anywhere else.
Hagel: I cannot give you an example.
Graham: Thank you. Do you agree with me you shouldn't have said something like that?
Hagel: Yes I do, I've already said that.