Netanyahu to Meet With Obama, Appear at Center for American Progress
Journalist Max Blumenthal explains why presidential candidate Hilary Clinton would preserve the status quo in the Israel/Palestine conflict and why a progressive think tank invited the Israeli prime minister to speak at their organization
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently penned an op-ed for the Forward, one of the post popular Jewish newspapers in the world. It’s titled: How I Would Reaffirm Unbreakable Bond with Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu. The title seems to paint the picture quite clearly of what a Clinton White House would look like. This message comes in the midst of a record number of Palestinian detentions, as violence escalates in Jerusalem. In October alone at least 65 Palestinians have been killed and 2,600 injured. For the same time period, nine Israelis have been killed.
Now joining us to discuss all of this is our guest Max Blumenthal. He’s an award-winning journalist and bestselling author. His latest book is 51-Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. Thanks for joining us, Max.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Good to be on with you.
DESVARIEUX: So Max, Netanyahu has not been the most popular leader amongst Democrats of late, especially after the controversial speech he gave to Congress to persuade lawmakers to reject the Iran deal. He even endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 election over President Obama. But Democrats are still pledging to defend Israel and unapologetically courting Netanyahu. Why are Democrats so pro-Bibi?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, Netanyahu did not endorse Romney explicitly in 2012. What happened was one of Netanyahu’s key benefactors, Sheldon Adelson, contributed something like $100 million to defeat President Barack Obama. And this is part of Netanyahu’s belief that the Republicans would not pass the Iran deal. The Iran deal’s been passed. Netanyahu remains extremely antagonistic towards Democratic control, towards the Democratic-controlled White House. His new director of public affairs in his office is someone who’s called Barack Obama an anti-semite, who has mocked John Kerry as being mentally deficient. And so, you know, the insults continue. And meanwhile so does the Democratic boot licking.
Barack Obama in 2008, when he was running for president–and this is before Netanyahu was elected. He campaigned, he sent Dennis Ross out, who is a veteran, is pro-Israel lobbyist, complete lackey of Israel, to campaign for him in synagogues, to reassure Jews that Barack Hussein Obama was not, in fact, an anti-Israel figure. He was not a crypto-Muslim. And Dennis Ross wrote Obama’s speech at AIPAC that year, in which Obama pledged to preserve a united Jerusalem. In other words, to allow Israel to continue to occupy East Jerusalem forever and to never establish space for a Palestinian capital there. So voiding the two-state solution that he claimed to be campaigning for.
And now we see Hillary Clinton doing the same thing, but at a much more perilous and pivotal time. Netanyahu has won a third term. Sorry, a fourth term. He has pledged to live by the sword perpetually. He said there will be, repeatedly, that there will be no two-state solution. And Hillary Clinton is pledging to repair ties with him. She is at the same time, in her piece for the Forward, which was basically probably a press release written by someone from the pro-Israel group AIPAC that she just signed off on, along with members of her team who coordinate closely with AIPAC, that she pledged to work for two states. You can’t work for two states with Benjamin Netanyahu in the prime minister’s office and with the right-wing figures that surround him, who all openly favor a single apartheid state.
And so what Hillary Clinton is doing is, if we’re to take this letter seriously, is signaling that the status quo will be protected by the United States, and Netanyahu will determine what the parameters of the status quo are, and we’ll see a deepening of occupation and apartheid. And this is all as violence explodes across the Holy Land. So it’s really a dispiriting letter, and it’s clear that she wrote it not to appeal to the Jewish vote–it’s one of the things that really annoys me, is when people talk about the Jewish vote. Because there, first of all, is no Jewish voting bloc. Most Jewish Americans are liberal Democrats who vote on the economy, and they just vote solidly with Democrats. They don’t turn on the issue of Israel like, for example, Christian evangelicals turn on the issue of abortion or same-sex marriage.
What this letter is about is appealing to a donor bloc. Not a voting bloc, but a donor bloc that represents a tiny percentage of the Jewish-American community in America which is extremely wealthy, generally older, more right-wing, virulently anti-Palestinian, Islamophobic, that gives a ton of money to both parties. And it counts for a substantial percentage of individual donors. The chief figure among this donor class is Haim Saban, who is someone who’s said that he has one issue. His issue is Israel. And he’s donated millions to both the Obama campaigns and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, and this is a letter to him.
DESVARIEUX: All right. Let’s turn and talk about a controversy that you and your family now seem to be entangled in. Your father, Sidney Blumenthal, he was an advisor to the Clinton administration, Bill Clinton’s administration. And now there are email exchanges between Hillary Clinton and your father that have been leaked. Can you just give us a brief description, Max, about what’s going on there, and what does this all mean in light of the Clintons trying to position themselves as being very pro-Israel?
BLUMENTHAL:Well, there isn’t very–there isn’t very much there. But it was sort of interesting for me to see the response. It was kind of amusing when emails were FOIA-ed to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and many of them were from my father, Sidney Blumenthal. I’d never seen them before or known about them. And some of them contained my articles, in addition to all sorts of range of information about what was happening in Israel-Palestine. For example, he attempted to alert her to the importance of the Palestine papers, which were leaked minutes of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and really showed how the negotiations had gone south and how Israel was determined to keep all of Jerusalem, et cetera.
So he was trying to prevent her with a more critical view of what was happening in Israel. It to me was most–the information was accurate. No one’s challenged the accuracy of my articles. He was also providing her with pretty accurate information about British politics, for example. But on this point there is an element of neoconservative Jewish Republicans in Washington who have always sought to peel off the, what I referred to as the element–parts of the Jewish donor class from the Democratic party, because this donor class does consider the Israel issue to be really important. And so they used these emails, highlighting them at places like the Daily Caller and the Weekly Standard, to attempt to frighten this donor class into believing that Hillary Clinton was taking advice from people who were determined to undo the status quo of occupation and apartheid.
But there is an ongoing logic to this kind of tactic. And I think that it may have fueled the urgency of Hillary Clinton’s piece in the Forward. It may have been a factor in driving her to write this homage to Benjamin Netanyahu, and to pledge to sort of lick his boots perpetually while fighting for a two-state solution. I can’t confirm that it was a factor. But it’s definitely, it’s definitely one of the tactics of the Republican Jewish National Committee, and of various neoconservative groups, is to try to sort of sap the financial clout of the donor–of the kind of Democratic, pro-Israel donor class, and bring it into the Republican column.
DESVARIEUX: All right, Max, let’s turn and talk about some recent leaked emails obtained by Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald. In his article titled Leaked Emails from Pro-Clinton Group Reveal Censorship of Staff on Israel, AIPAC Pandering Warped Militarism, it details the extent to which any critical work on Israel, particularly at the Center for American Progress, is heavily screened and rejected by its own executives in order to placate AIPAC and longtime Clinton operative and Israel activist Ann Lewis. First off, Max, give us some background on a specific person like Ann Lewis and these Israel activists. And does this sort of behavior, is this common practice within the Washington beltway amongst Democratic establishments?
BLUMENTHAL: Yeah. I mean, this is–the emails leaked from the Center for American Progress, which is the premier Democratic think tank in Washington, sort of the Democrats’ version of the Heritage Foundation, really shows how the Democratic party elite operates and how the Clinton machine operates, because the two are sort of one and the same. Ann Lewis is the sister of Barney Frank, the former liberal representative from Massachusetts. She’s the former head of communications for the Democratic National Committee. And she once said that our job is to ask Israel what it wants and to provide it for them. What it wants us to do, and then to do it, in so many words.
And that’s been the way that the Democratic National Committee has operated. I mentioned a figure before in Haim Saban, who is one of the top pro-Israel donors in the country. He built the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, single-handedly. Sort of very reliant on AIPAC and the donors it can bring in. A few of my contemporaries, my colleagues, people that I know very well, were working at Think Progress, which is sort of the blog of the Center for American Progress. And they were providing very critical reports on the neoconservative attempts to scuttle the Iran deal on the hype that was attempting–the hype that was really emanating from Netanyahu’s Israel, attempting to push the United States into war with Iran. And they produced a very detailed report on the rise of Islamophobia, and they didn’t ignore the fact that figures very close to the pro-Israel lobby were funding Islamophobic groups.
So this infuriated the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. They had very close connections to figures in the Democratic party elite. And they went straight to the Center for American Progress and basically said to behead, politically behead, these researchers. These young researchers, who were doing a really important job of pushing back on the drive to war. And I think most Democrats, including most Jewish Americans, didn’t want to go to war with Iran. So the leadership of the Center for American Progress, like Ken Gude, for example, promised to align with AIPAC. Neera Tanden, who’s another figure, the president of Center for American Progress, someone who’s very close to Hillary Clinton. Very close. Instructed these researchers they were never to mention Israel again. And one by one they were driven out after being censored. And Ken Gude went on a free trip to Israel sponsored by AIPAC. So there was sort of a, you know, pat on the back from AIPAC.
The Center for American Progress is worse than these emails indicate. It’s funded by the United Arab Emirates, which is a huge supporter of the military junta in Egypt. It’s hired UAE diplomats as researchers. It’s basically written press releases for the United Arab Emirates. Brian Katulis, another figure who is involved in the pro-Israel censorship campaign at CAP, has urged the United States, right after the coup in Egypt that removed the first democratically elected president, to normalize relations and give Egypt weapons and aid. As a reward for this bloody coup, including massacre of thousands in the streets of Cairo.
So this, this center, this think tank, which claims to be progressive, really lifts the mask on what the Democratic party has become, which is basically a front for rich people, and a front for rich donors. And sort of the nicer, you know, kinder gentler wing of a very imperial duopoly that controls Washington. And if you violate, if you touch the third rail, which is Israel, as a young person coming up the ranks in Washington–even if you’re not an anti-Zionist. If you challenge the pro-Israel lobby’s narrative in Washington these emails send the message that you know, you’re going to basically be censored and run out of town. And that’s extremely depressing.
And you know, just, just another quick point. If you look at polls of rank-and-file Democrats, look at the Bloomberg poll from April 2015 this year, most rank-and-file Democrats do not—they reject the narrative of the pro-Israel lobby. They do not like Netanyahu and most of them do not support Israel over the Palestinians anymore. Most Democrats, rank-and-file Democrats, opposed Israel’s assault on the Gaza strip last year, according to a Pew poll.
So the Democratic party’s biggest problem is that it’s not democratic. Because if it listened to its rank and file it would challenge the status quo of occupation that prevails and it would absolutely reject Netanyahu. But what we see is that this week, this Wednesday–sorry, this Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing prime minister of Israel, will be a welcomed guest at the Center for American Progress.
DESVARIEUX: Yeah. And he’s also going to be a welcome guest at the White House, as well, this week. So there are plenty of protests being planned in Washington. Max, it’s always a pleasure having you on. Learn tons about this issue whenever you’re on the program. Thank you so much for being with us.
BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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