Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zionists Against Zion?

Zionism created a geopolitical realignment of great importance. It brought together two strands of the Western world, previously at odds - Christians and Jews - to join their forces against the Islamicate.

By: M. Shahid Alam
Courtesy Of

Zionists have worked hard and cleverly for their successes, but their cause has been greatly advanced at each stage by the logic of their colonial project aimed at the creation of a Jewish settler state at the very center of the Islamicate.

Most importantly, Zionism created a geopolitical realignment of great importance. It brought together two strands of the Western world, previously at odds - Christians and Jews - to join their forces against the Islamicate.

At every stage in its history, Israel has ratcheted its power by unleashing forces, even negative forces, that it has then turned to its advantage. Power, intelligence and luck have played into this.

Israel's birth radicalized important segments of the Arab world, creating anxiety among Arab Jews about their future. Israel fanned this anxiety, with help from agent provocateurs - but also aided in some cases by myopic Arab policy - to force a Jewish flight from the Arab world. As a result, Israel doubled its Jewish population - and fighting force - within a few years after its creation.

Arab nationalism - if properly harnessed and directed - could end the Jewish state and Western hegemony in the Middle East. Unafraid, Israel took steps to fan this nationalism and used it to push the US to embrace Israel, firmly and openly, as the West's bulwark against the Arab world. The plan worked, and by the late 1950s, if not earlier, the US was on Israel's side.

Defeating the Arab nationalists too carried a risk. By eliminating the threat of Arab nationalism, Israel risked losing its strategic value to the US. Considering the payoff, Israel was eager to defeat the Arab nationalists. As for the risk, the Jewish lobby in the US, energized by Israel's victory, ensured that US could only draw Israel tighter to its bosom.

A weak civil society in the Arab states also helped Israel. Although the mantle of resistance passed to the Islamists after 1967, they could not displace any of the discredited Arab regimes. US and Israel too gave a boost to these regimes. With US prodding, Israel returned a demilitarized Sinai to bring Egypt on its side. In return, Egypt switched sides.

In time, most of the Arab regimes would serve as Israel's first line of defense against the Islamists. This was a self-reinforcing arrangement. As US-friendly Arab regimes lost legitimacy and became more repressive, they could only survive by drawing closer to the US and Israel.

At this point, luck too favored Israel, as it often has in the past. In 1979, Iran, the second pillar of US hegemony in the region, fell to Islamists who openly opposed US presence in the region. Instantly, Israel began to promote itself as the rampart against the rising Islamist tide.

In the wake of the Iranian Revolution, the Zionists also made renewed efforts to resurrect the old Western animus against Islam. Next to communism, Islam was now the principal threat to 'civilization.' After the Soviet collapse, the Neocons began drumming a new civilizational thesis. War between the West and Islam was inevitable.

Israel's creation and military successes energized Christian Zionists in the US. In their millennial theology, the ingathering of Jews in Palestine was a precursor to the Second Coming. This theology demanded unconditional support for Israel. Over time, the Christian Zionists became the second organized force - next only to the Jews - that firmly backed Israel.

The end of the Cold War did not dent US commitment to Israel. It should have, since Israel was seen as America's leading ally against Soviet influence in the region. On the contrary, in the absence of the balancing Soviet presence, pro-Israeli forces tethered the US more firmly then ever to Israeli demands.

Israel now had a free hand in dealing with its foes. It used the Oslo Accords to neuter the PLO and assigned it to police the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank and Gaza. With the PLO neutered, Israel accelerated its colonization of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

This was also a signal for Israel to pursue more ambitious goals. In a 1996 document, the Neocons announced their plans to "engage" Hizbullah, Syria and Iran, "as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon." Iraq, however, was their first target.

The 9-11 attacks offered the occasion to put these plans into action. Working in concert, Israel and its backers convinced Bush to invade Iraq. There would be more wars to redraw the map of much of Middle East. Israel would emerge from these wars as the undisputed regional hegemon, and, possibly, a world power.

Just when Israel was grasping for the moon, history took a number of 'wrong' turns. Iraq became a quagmire for US troops. Iran's Shi'ite allies Iran gained control over much of Iraq, barring the Kurdish region. Soon, Iran had extended its influence into eastern Afghanistan. Israeli policy had boomeranged.

In a strange reversal, Iran now cast its shadow over much of the Middle East. It mocked Israel, stood up for the Palestinians, showed up the pro-American Arab regimes for what they are, forcing them to openly identify with Israel. In bitterness, some Arab commentators blamed the US for resurrecting the ancient Persian empire.

Now, suddenly - so it appears - the US love fest with Israel has run into a spot of trouble. In a reversal of its previous policy, the US is insisting that Israel suspend new settlement construction in East Jerusalem to pave the way for 'peace' talks with the Palestinian Authority. For a change, the US is countering Israel's 'No' with tough talk not heard in a while.

On March 9, when the US Vice President was greeted in Tel Aviv with news of new settlements in East Jerusalem, he was furious. Privately, he told Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel's settlement activity "undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us, and it endangers regional peace."

This was not a message right-wing talk artists could shout down. Joe Biden was echoing the message delivered by General Petraeus, commander of US troops in the Middle East, to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the US Armed Services Committee. Hillary Clinton too reiterated this message in her speech to AIPAC.

What has occasioned this open rift between two spouses in a heavenly marriage? There have been tiffs before between them, but never before has a US administration told Israel that its policy endangers American troops or American interests in the Middle East? This talk is serious. It belies decades of rhetoric that has boosted Israel as America's unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Middle East.

It appears that the past is beginning to catch up with Israel. Adversaries it had long suppressed, forces it had harnessed for its expansionist policy, blowbacks from decisions made in hubris have now converged to limit Israel's options. Is the Zionist logic that had brought endless successes in the past now working in the opposite direction? Is Israel running out of its fabled resourcefulness?

Israel's stunning victory in June 1967 had produced two destabilizing results. Having solved its native problem in 1948, Israel had created it anew in 1967 by its decision to retain the West Bank and Gaza. The June War also swelled the ranks of extremist Jews who began to colonize East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza. Unable to drive out the Palestinians, this new round of colonization would turn Israel into an apartheid state.

In the 2000s, international civil society started taking notice. Movements were launched to divest from, boycott and sanction Israel. Activists began to use Western legal systems to prosecute Israelis for war crimes. Israeli leaders visiting Western campuses are now heckled routinely. Slowly, Western publics are turning away from Israel.

In 1982, in a bid to extend Israel's northern border, Israel invaded and occupied southern Lebanon. The Lebanese Shi'ites responded by creating Hizbullah, a multi-layered grass-roots resistance, the most formidable adversary Israel had ever faced. In 2000, they forced Israel to withdraw unilaterally, and in July 2006 repulsed a fresh Israeli invasion, giving Israel a bloody nose.

No more was Tehran a distant threat for Tel Aviv: it was now positioned right next to Israel's northern border. Although Hizbullah spoke to the grit and discipline of Lebanese Shi'ites, it could not have grown without Iranian support.

At about the same time, as part of its strategy to defeat the Second Intifada, Israel built the apartheid Wall cutting through the West Bank, and it pulled the Jewish settlements out of Gaza while sealing it from outside contacts. By stopping the suicide-bombers, the Wall gave Israel time to complete the creation of Gaza-like enclaves in the West Bank. In consequence, 'peace' talks with Palestinians lost their urgency and were shelved. This made the pro-US Arab regimes a bit nervous: they needed the charade of 'peace' talks to shore up what little legitimacy they had with their home audience.

The Egyptian-Israeli siege of Gaza brought Iranian influence to Israel's southern border. The siege has stopped Hamas from become another Hizbullah, but their home made rockets reminded Israel that its native problem had not gone away - that it would continue to haunt them.

In the 1990s, the Zionist logic had spawned al-Qaida, a group that would use terror to lure the US to wage war against the Middle East. After the Cold War, the Zionists too - led by the Neocons - pursued the same goal. Using the absurd thesis of the 'clash of civilizations,' they began to promote a Western war against the Islamicate. They urged the US to take out Iran, Syria and Iraq.

This was a departure from Israel's long-standing war strategy. Israel took US money and weapons, but fought its own wars. This had several advantages. It built Israel's military strength and prestige; it kept the US military out of Israel's path to hegemony over the Middle East. Also, American support for Israel might wear thin if they saw their troops dying in Israel's wars. If Israel was ready to abandon this strategy in the 1990s, that is because it could not take on Iran, Iraq and Syria on its own.

And so the die was cast. When al-Qaida struck on 9-11, Israel saw opportunity. The Zionists began to press full steam for the US to invade Iraq - and succeeded. Few Israelis worried that the chickens would come home to roost. In April 2008, Netanyahu said, "We are benefiting from...the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq."

Now, some ten years later, the chickens are coming home to roost. The Iraq War has achieved little for Israel. It removed a defanged Saddam Hussein, but extended Iran's influence into Iraq and it has brought Iranian proxies to its northern and southern borders. Iran now uses Palestine to undermine pro-US Arab regimes.

More ominously, the US military has now spoken. It has warned that Israeli policy raises tensions in the Middle East and endangers US troops on the ground. It will not be easy for Israel and its backers to shout down US generals with charges of anti-Semitism. That is why so many Zionist commentators look alarmed. One Israeli commentator warns that "Obama and Netanyahu are at point of no return." Others are saying worse.

It appear unlikely that this 'flap' between the US and Israel will blow over soon. If it does not, attacks by Jewish groups - inside and outside Israel - against Obama will become more frequent and nastier. The loyalty of some Americans, both inside and outside the Congress, will be tested. It is hard to predict where this will go.

However, this much should be clear. Even if US-Israeli differences over the Middle East are finessed for now, that will not be the end of it. The pressures that have persuaded the US to insist on a 'solution' to the Palestinian problem will persist. The realities that have produced the present 'flap' are not going away.


M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University, Boston. He is author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2009) and Challenging the New Orientalism (IPI, 2006). Contact him at

Lying About Nuclear Weapons

By Lawrence S. Wittner
Courtesy Of
The History News Network

Dr. Wittner is Professor of History at the State University of New York/Albany. His latest book is Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford University Press).

One of the most popular muckraking American journalists of the late twentieth century, I.F. Stone, once remarked: "All governments lie." Even a prominent government official -- Andrei Gromyko, the veteran Soviet diplomat -- once admitted, in a weak moment: "Governments are never sincere."

This gloomy assessment appears all too true when it comes to national security policy, and particularly so with respect to nuclear weapons. Indeed, in early March, a new Japanese political party -- swept into governmental power last year thanks to a political upheaval -- revealed that its predecessors had lied for more than four decades about one of the most hallowed principles in Japanese public life: Japan's nuclear-free status.

In 1968, Japan's ruling conservatives -- the misnamed Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) -- under enormous pressure from an antinuclear public, had proclaimed Japan's Three Non-Nuclear Principles: the government would not manufacture, own, or allow the entry of nuclear weapons into Japan. Ever since that time, there has been considerable controversy over whether U.S. warships in Japanese harbors were armed with nuclear weapons. As it was hard to imagine how U.S. nuclear warships could dispose of their nuclear weapons before entering Japanese harbors, massive antinuclear demonstrations erupted in Japan's port cities. Meanwhile, the U.S. government refused to confirm or deny that its warships carried nuclear weapons, while the Japanese government swore that they did not.

In recent years, although occasional statements by U.S. government officials indicated that nuclear weapons were probably entering Japan aboard U.S. warships, the Japanese government clung to its lies. The latest denial was by Taro Aso, the last LDP prime minister before the new Democratic Party of Japan administration revealed the long record of deception. A Foreign Ministry official told the Associated Press that he and other high-ranking officials of the past feared that disclosing the agreements with the American government to bring nuclear weapons into Japan would have created massive upheaval in Japanese life and, perhaps, toppled the prime minister. "The political costs were too great," he explained.

Actually, in the case of nuclear weapons, the Japanese government had been playing a double game for years. During the 1950s, Japanese officials issued numerous protests against nuclear weapons testing that were designed less to halt the testing than to soothe public opinion. In May 1956, the Japanese ambassador explained that his government's protests were "largely a public opinion matter inside Japan." The following day, secretly apologizing for delivering a diplomatic note calling for a halt to U.S. nuclear testing -- and "off-the-record," expressing his disagreement with it -- the second in command at the Japanese embassy depicted it as an attempt to woo parliament and public opinion.
Much the same policy continued in subsequent years. In 1957, explaining his government's critique of nuclear testing, the Japanese foreign minister told U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and other U.S. officials that "the Japanese people, old and young, are very sensitive on this question." Thus, "the Japanese government was placed in a position where it had to lodge a protest." He added, apologetically, that if the government failed to criticize nuclear testing, "the very existence of the Liberal Democratic Party might be endangered."

In the early 1960s, when the U.S. government resumed underground and, later, atmospheric nuclear testing, the Japanese government again assailed nuclear tests, but as in the past accompanied such statements with private assurances to U.S. officials that the protests had been made "to offset domestic political pressures." Secretly, some Japanese officials went so far as to remark that they favored Japan's development of nuclear weapons.

Thus, the Japanese government's duplicity in connection with the Three Non-Nuclear Principles should not come as a total surprise.

Of course, lying about nuclear weapons has not been limited to Japanese officials. The French government argued for years that it was developing nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes -- until it abruptly moved forward with its nuclear weapons program. The Indian government denied that it had conducted a nuclear weapons test in 1974, when it set off a "Peaceful Nuclear Explosion." Meanwhile, the Soviet government, while posing for decades as a fierce foe of nuclear weapons, developed the world's largest nuclear arsenal. As for the U.S. government, it lied for years about the dangers of nuclear testing, downplayed the ability to detect nuclear testing and development abroad, and made nuclear disarmament offers based on their propaganda value. One of the more interesting nuclear gambits has been pursued by the Israeli government, which has never admitted that it possesses nuclear weapons -- although that government had Mordechai Vanunu kidnapped, tried, and locked in prison for eighteen years (eleven of them in solitary confinement) for the "crime" of publicly revealing their existence.

In addition, one might ask what has been done to honor the pledge, made at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference of 2000, for an "unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapons states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals"? At the moment, there remain more than 23,000 nuclear weapons, 96 percent of them in the hands of Russia and the United States.

But this outrageous record is only part of the story. Over the years, intense pressure from disarmament organizations and the general public has forced reluctant governments to abandon their foremost nuclear ambitions. Indeed, numerous non-nuclear nations have decided to forgo the nuclear option, while nuclear nations have scrapped roughly two-thirds of their nuclear weapons and have backed away from plans for nuclear war. And this May, when the 2010 NPT review conference convenes at the United Nations, there will be a massive public outpouring of people from diverse nations demanding that long-promised -- but never delivered -- nuclear-free world. Good luck to them! They certainly deserve better than further nuclear lies and duplicity.

"Jewish Settlers Live High While GIs Die"

By John V. Walsh,
March 30, 2010
Courtesy Of
Anti-War News

"Jewish Settlers Live High While GIs Die" is what Gen. David Petraeus is saying if we strip away the niceties. Is Petraeus’ formulation anti-Semitic?

Perhaps it would be better to talk of "Israeli settlers." But that portrayal is not accurate. The minority of Arab citizens of Israel, even though suffering so many forms of discrimination, do not move to the West Bank of the Jordan, which would be a jump from frying pan into fire. Nor are the settlers exclusively Israelis. They are Jews come from all over the world, and the most aggressive and racist appear to be from the United States – and Russia. So it seems that the slogan is accurate when put "Jewish Settlers Live High While GIs Die."

Do Jewish settlers, or more precisely colonists, live high? The whole world knows about the apartheid highways, smooth and fast, walled off from Palestinians who are forbidden to travel them. The few pictures of the settlements available reveal a suburban paradise for Jewish settlers complete with swimming pools adjacent to parched Palestinian dwellings, and even at least one dude ranch, where games of "cowboys and Indians" are staged. (Apparently the dude ranch owners, the settlers, and the tourists see no irony in this; perhaps they hire Palestinians to play the "Indians." Or perhaps they have never looked over the apartheid walls to see that there is a real shoot-out with real guns and a real indigenous people gradually being exterminated.)

One can make the argument that what applies to the settlements applies in spades to the rest of Israel. Even the mainstream punditry is discussing this. Thus Dan Ephron of Newsweek, quoted by Tom Friedman in the New York Times of March 28, writes:

"An improved security situation, a feeling that acceptance by Arabs no longer matters much, and a growing disaffection from politics generally have, for many Israelis, called into question the basic calculus that has driven the peace process. Instead of pining for peace, they’re now asking: who needs it? …

" Tourism … hit a 10-year high in 2008. Astonishingly, the IMF projected recently that Israel’s GDP will grow faster in 2010 than that of most other developed countries.

"In short, Israelis are enjoying a peace dividend without a peace agreement."

And Friedman goes on to take up the theme:

"Now, in the same time period, America went from having only a small symbolic number of soldiers in the Middle East to running two wars there – in Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as a global struggle against violent Muslim extremists. With U.S. soldiers literally walking the Arab street – and, therefore, more in need than ever of Muslim good will to protect themselves and defeat Muslim extremists – Israeli-Palestinian peace has gone from being a post-cold-war hobby of U.S. diplomats to being a necessity."

Will it be long before Petraeus’ cry rings across the majority of the citizenry fed up with America’s wars in the Middle East? And will this not put a sharper edge on the limp calls for Israel to think twice about continuing its apartheid policy, its relentless ethnic cleansing of Palestine? Does this not begin to pose the question of "Us or Them" for the American populace?

This writer has long contended that Israel has been risking a serious backlash in the U.S. When it erupts, it may not be pretty. And it may be especially dangerous given the long policy of crying "wolf" over anti-Semitism. It would seem very wise for American Jewry to boot out the neocons and Israel-Firsters from their midst and hasten back to the morality of the secular, humanist Judaism which was dominant in the U.S. not so long ago. It may not be simply a matter of morality but of self-interest.

Read more by John V. Walsh

A Serious Israel-EU Crisis In The Works

By Barak Ravid and Anshel Pfeffer
Last update - 10:10 29/03/2010
Courtesy Of
Haaretz NewsPaper

Israeli government sources say it is likely that after the current diplomatic crisis and pressure by the United States regarding the Palestinian issue, Israel will soon face an even more serious row with the European Union.

A government source in Jerusalem said this was the concern voiced during a conference call between Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal and seven of Israel's ambassadors in important world capitals.

Gal spoke last Thursday with Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, and the envoys to the European Union, London, Rome, the UN, Moscow and Paris.

Oren's laconic retelling of Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington, revealing no details of the prime minister's meetings, roused the ire of the other ambassadors, who said they were not kept abreast of events and so could not represent Israel adequately regarding the dispute with the United States.

"The American embassy in London knows what went on in Netanyahu's meetings in Washington and I have no idea," said Israel's ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor.

The envoys all said that if U.S. pressure continued, the European Union would go even further in condemning Israel and promoting diplomatic initiatives.

Netanyahu told the cabinet Sunday that he saw "no signs of moderation" among the Palestinians. "However, we will maintain a restrained framework of debate and continue our talks with the U.S. administration to move the process of dialogue forward," he said.

Netanyahu said the statements reported in Yedioth Ahronoth that an anonymous associate had called Obama "a disaster for Israel" were "improper," and that "we are trying to move the peace process ahead but also to serve our interests, and we continue to narrow the gaps with the administration."

In a first extensive statement by a senior minister on the diplomatic dispute with the United States, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said continued cooperation with America was necessary to protect Israel's security.

However, he added, "Only we have the exclusive responsibility when it comes to the fate and security of Israel, and only we can determine the matters pertaining to the fate of Israel and the Jewish people. But we must never lose sight of how important these relations are, or the ability to act in harmony and unity with the United States."

Barak said it was "crucial to remember that the United States is friendly to Israel in a deep and substantial way."

Barak underscored the key difference between his positions and those of most of Netanyahu's coalition partners. "The components of the agreement are clear," he said.

"I believe that it is our obligation to seek an agreement that sets a clear border within the Land of Israel based on security and demographic considerations, with the Jewish state, the State of Israel, on one side with a solid majority of Jews through the generations, and the demilitarized Palestinian state on the other side with territorial, economic and political viability."

Christian Militia Plotted To Kill Cops

This combo of eight photos provided by the U.S. Marshals Service ...
Mon Mar 29, 3:55 PM ET

This combo of eight photos provided by the U.S. Marshals Service on Monday March 29, 2010 shows from top left, David Brian Stone Sr., 44, of Clayton, Mich,; David Brian Stone Jr. of Adrian, Mich,; Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio; Tina Mae Stone and bottom row from left, Michael David Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich,; Kristopher T. Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio; Joshua John Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Mich.; and Thomas William Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.,. Nine suspects tied to Hutaree, a Christian militia that was preparing for the Antichrist were charged with conspiring to kill police officers, then kill scores more by attacking a funeral using homemade bombs, federal prosecutors said Monday. Federal authorities say Stone's other son, Joshua Matthew Stone is a fugitive. Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind., was arrested Sunday in Illinois after an FBI raid Saturday in Hammond, Ind. In court Monday, he initially said he was the person named in the federal indictment, but when read the allegations, he said 'I'm not that guy.' U.S. District Judge Paul Cherry ordered Piatek to return Wednesday for an identity and bond hearing.

(AP Photo/U.S. Marshall)

Associated Press Writers
March 30, 2010
2 hrs 42 mins ago
Courtesy Of
Yahoo News

DETROIT – Nine alleged members of a Christian militia group that was girding for battle with the Antichrist were charged Monday with plotting to kill a police officer and slaughter scores more by bombing the funeral — all in hopes of touching off an uprising against the U.S. government.

Seven men and one woman believed to be part of the Michigan-based Hutaree were arrested over the weekend in raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The ninth suspect was arrested Monday night after a search in rural southern Michigan.

FBI agents moved quickly against Hutaree because its members were planning an attack sometime in April, prosecutors said. Authorities seized guns in the raids but would not say whether they found explosives.

The arrests have dealt "a severe blow to a dangerous organization that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States," Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Authorities said the arrests underscored the dangers of homegrown right-wing extremism of the sort seen in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

In an indictment, prosecutors said the group began military-style training in the Michigan woods in 2008, learning how to shoot guns and make and set off bombs.

David Brian Stone, 44, of Clayton, Mich., and one of his sons were identified as ringleaders of the group. Stone, who was known as "Captain Hutaree," organized the group in paramilitary fashion and members were assigned secret names, prosecutors said. Ranks ranged from "radoks" to "gunners," according to the group's Web site.

"It started out as a Christian thing," Stone's ex-wife, Donna Stone, told The Associated Press. "You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far."
Donna Stone said her ex-husband pulled her son into the movement. Another of David Stone's sons was arrested Monday night about 30 miles from the site of the weekend raid at a home where he was found with five other adults and a child.

Joshua Matthew Stone surrendered about 8 p.m., said Andrew Arena, head of the FBI's field office in Detroit. Stone's friends and relatives had recorded messages, urging him to surrender, that the FBI played over loudspeakers outside the home before he and the others came out willingly, Arena said.

"We're guessing he's been in there at least a day," Arena said.

Arena said the other adults at the home were taken into custody and will be interviewed. A determination will be made later about whether they might face charges, he said. The child was 1 or 2 years old, Arena said.

Other details, including whether those in the house had weapons or were affiliated with Hutaree, weren't immediately released.

Prosecutors said David Stone had identified certain law enforcement officers near his home as potential targets. He and other members discussed setting off bombs at a police funeral, using a fake 911 call to lure an officer to his death, killing an officer after a traffic stop, or attacking the family of an officer, according to the indictment.

After such attacks, the group allegedly planned to retreat to "rally points" protected by trip-wired explosives for a violent standoff with the law.

"It is believed by the Hutaree that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more widespread uprising against the government," the indictment said.

The charges against the eight include seditious conspiracy — plotting to levy war against the U.S. — possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, teaching the use of explosives, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction — homemade bombs.

Hutaree says on its Web site its name means "Christian warrior" and describes the word as part of a secret language few are privileged to know. The group quotes several Bible passages and declares: "We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. ... Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment."

The nature of the organization's alleged grudge against law enforcement and the government was unclear. The Web site does not list specific grievances.

The site features a picture of 17 men in camouflage, all holding large guns, and includes videos of armed men running through the woods. Each wears a shoulder patch that bears a cross and two red spears.
David Cid, executive director of the Oklahoma City-based Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, said there has been a resurgence in the past year or two of "domestic militancy" similar to what was seen before the Oklahoma City bombing.

"It's issues like eminent domain and immigration, and apparently national health care in some quarters," said Cid, a former FBI counterterrorism agent. "It's increasing these people's ire and their discomfort with their own government."

The wife of one of the defendants described Hutaree as a small group of patriotic, Christian buddies who were just doing survival training.

"It consisted of a dad and two of his sons and I think just a couple other close friends of theirs," said Kelly Sickles, who husband, Kristopher, was among those charged. "It was supposed to be a Christian group. Christ-like, right, so why would you think that's something wrong with that, right?"

Sickles said she came home Saturday night to find her house in Sandusky, Ohio, in disarray.

Agents seized the guns her husband collected as a hobby and searched for bomb-making materials, she said, but added: "He doesn't even know how to make a bomb. We had no bomb material here."

She said she couldn't believe her 27-year-old husband could be involved in anything violent.

"It was just survival skills," she said. "That's what they were learning. And it's just patriotism. It's in our Constitution."

One of the defendants expressed anti-tax views during his Monday court hearing.

Thomas W. Piatek, a truck driver from Whiting, Ind., told a federal judge he could not afford an attorney because he was "getting raped on property taxes."

The mother of another defendant, 33-year-old Jacob Ward, told police in Huron, Ohio, last summer that family members took away his two guns — an AK-47 rifle and a semiautomatic pistol — because she thought he needed mental health treatment.

Ward told police he needed to protect himself from members of a crime family that was keeping him from his girlfriend, according to Huron police records obtained by the AP. He also said he was going to meet with the CIA.

Seven of the defendants in court in Michigan asked to be represented by public defenders. The eighth had a public defender appointed in Indiana.
Devlin Barrett reported from Washington. Associated Press writers John Seewer in Wheatland Township, Mich.; Meghan Barr in Sandusky, Ohio; David Aguilar and Jeff Karoub in Detroit; and Mike Householder in Adrian, Mich.; and Don Babwin in Chicago contributed to this report.

Normalizing Relations With Israel

President Obama’s speeches signal a desire to treat Israel like any other country. Now events have converged to test his resolve.

MAY 01, 2010 ISSUE
Courtesy Of

President Obama has probably studied the first President Bush’s standoff with Israel. Then as now, the issue of contention was Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank and Jerusalem. George H.W. Bush was hopeful about moving toward a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In the last days of the Reagan presidency, the Palestine Liberation Organization had finally laid down the only significant diplomatic card in its possession, accepting UN Resolutions 242 and 338, recognizing Israel’s right to exist within its 1967 borders and limiting its aspirations to a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. In May 1989, Secretary of State James Baker addressed AIPAC’s annual Washington conference. After praising Israel’s commitment to democracy and role as a strategic partner, Baker went on to say, “Now is the time to lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel. … Forswear annexation. Stop settlement activity. Allow schools to reopen. Reach out to the Palestinians as neighbors who deserve political rights.”

AIPAC’s delegates gave Baker a chilly reception. Relations between Israel’s Likud Party Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and President Bush were frosty as well. Bush believed Shamir had lied to him about settlements in East Jerusalem, which the United States (and every other country) considered occupied territory. The embryonic peace process stalled.

But after driving Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, Bush and Baker returned to the Palestine issue. In May 1991, Israel asked the administration for a $10 billion loan guarantee. The funds were to be used to settle immigrants from the former Soviet Union. At the time, Israel was building settlements at breakneck pace, and Baker and Bush both labeled them an obstacle to peace. Shamir was confident Israel’s clout in Congress would force the president to relent and turn over the money. Bush worked to ensure no funds could be used for construction beyond Israel’s 1967 borders. When AIPAC held an “education day” in Congress to press for the loans with no strings attached, Bush went public with a denunciation, depicting himself as “one lonely little guy” battling thousands of lobbyists. Some American Jews were bothered by the language, but the country was supportive, backing the president by two- and three-to-one margins. Bush stuck to his guns through the following summer, when Israeli voters tossed out Likud and elected Yitzhak Rabin’s Labor Party by a decisive margin. He then released the loan guarantees. The peace process, which came tantalizingly close to producing a two-states-for-two-peoples agreement by the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, would begin.

A principal lesson is that an American president can prevail in a showdown with Israel over settlements. But the Bush-Shamir dispute also highlights the centrality of the settlement issue. Pro-Israel commentators have gone into overdrive apologizing for Israel’s “gaffe” of announcing that 1,600 new homes for Jews would be built in East Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country. Bibi Netanyahu decried this “regrettable incident, done in all innocence, which was hurtful and certainly should not have occurred.” (The “hurtful” part is especially rich, as if the injury was to Biden’s self-esteem and not to America’s national interest.)

But, of course, the issue is one of substance, not timing, just as it was in 1991. It can be difficult for outsiders to grasp what is at stake in these seemingly endless battles over the building of neighborhoods in a few contested acres. But the 22 percent of Palestine that remained for the Palestinians after the 1948 armistice has, since 1967, been sliced and diced by Israeli settlements, by roads connecting the settlements to one another and to Israel proper, and by checkpoints and roadblocks designed to hinder Palestinian commerce and normal life. Israel’s East Jerusalem settlements supplement a policy of slow- motion bureaucratic population removal —Palestinians are routinely denied residency permits, permission to live with a spouse, authorization to build. Palestinians in Bethlehem have a difficult time visiting a Jerusalem-based doctor or lawyer or parent ten minutes away. Quite apart from its sacred status to Islam, Jerusalem is the center of bourgeois Palestinian life, a place where the majority of professional families have their roots. A Palestinian state without a capital in East Jerusalem is as much an absurdity as a Jerusalem stripped of an official Jewish presence.

In recent months, the battle of neighborhoods has been intensifying. In January, an Israeli court evicted several Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, another East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood, and Jewish settlers were moved in. Thousands of Arabs and Jews have marched together in weekly demonstrations to protest this ethnic cleansing by housing court. Likewise, there have been regular demonstrations in Bil’in, where the route of Israel’s “separation wall” severs the Arab village from its farmland. Settlement-building has been incessant; 10 percent of Israelis now live in the occupied territories, four times the number that did so in 1993.

But if new settlements with their roads and checkpoints and the separation wall have transformed the physical geography of the West Bank since the first George Bush confronted Shamir, the moral geography of the region and how it is perceived in the United States may be changing more rapidly—and not in Israel’s favor.

One of the most interesting developments—not to my knowledge ever quantified—is the dramatic growth in the number of Americans who have become well-informed about Israel from a critical perspective. This group, far too diffuse to be called a coalition, includes some anti-Zionists, but its vast majority favors a two-state solution. It is composed of Christians and Jews and an increasing number of Muslims. It includes congressmen who tour the region under non-Israeli auspices, young people who volunteer on the West Bank, a talented coterie of bloggers, and a proliferation of Jewish peace groups, stretching from the establishment-oriented J Street leftward. Whereas informed skepticism about Israeli claims was once limited largely to American diplomats who served in the region, today its base may be ten times larger. For the first time in U.S. history, the pro-Palestinian side has a competitive voice in the public discourse—far smaller than the Israel lobby’s but growing every day.

In December 2008, Israel initiated a war against the Palestinian population of Gaza, then under the rule of Hamas. For over a year prior, there had been an uneasy but viable ceasefire, which Israel broke with some “targeted killings” in November. Hamas responded with rocket fire. Gaza was without serious military defense during the three-week campaign, and the IDF had its way, killing 1,400 Palestinians, using white phosphorous against civilian targets, and destroying much of Gaza’s infrastructure while suffering a handful of casualties. Several American congressmen who visited Gaza in the weeks after were appalled at the destruction and disturbed by Israel’s use of American weaponry to carry it out.

Shortly thereafter, Judge Richard Goldstone was named by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate Israeli and Hamas actions during the Gaza war. A highly accomplished international jurist, Goldstone has been described as nothing less than an archetype of Jewish liberalism, a believer in the rule of law and in human rights, a Zionist with a daughter living in Israel. His scathing report about Israeli conduct in the war opened up the possibility that the war’s initiators, the leaders of Israel’s centrist Kadima Party, could be arrested and charged with war crimes if they traveled abroad. The United States used its power in the UN to constrain the writ of the report, but in public-relations terms, the stain on Israel was there for the world to see.

At the same time, Israel began to be increasingly linked in the public mind with the term “apartheid.” Jimmy Carter used it in his bestselling book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. In interviews, he explained carefully that Israel itself was not an apartheid state, and Palestinian Arabs living in Israel proper possessed civil rights. But for 40 years, Israel has been ruling over Arabs on the West Bank, and the growth of settlements and Jews-only roads and checkpoints has created a de facto apartheid system. Some Israeli leaders have used the term to warn of their country’s fate in the absence of a two-state solution. And indeed there are parts of Israel now visible to anyone with Internet access that resemble South African apartheid conditions or worse. The New York Timeswebsite recently posted a video of Israeli settlers, newly moved into an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem, singing songs in praise of the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein. It is hard to know how much such scenes have altered American perceptions, but clearly the racist settlers are a world away from the “Exodus” performances of Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint.

A milestone in this shifting moral climate was the face-off between Andrew Sullivan and Leon Wieseltier. Gay, Catholic, and eclectically conservative, Sullivan is an extremely popular political blogger. Combining moral seriousness and whimsy, he manages to post on dozens of topics every day. After initially supporting the Iraq War, he revised his view and in the last few years has become increasingly critical of Israel and occasionally of the role of the Israel lobby. Leon Wieseltier—the longtime literary editor of The New Republic and Sullivan’s colleague when the latter edited the magazine in the early 1990s—is known for prose drizzled with displays of philosophical erudition and is author of the award-winning book Kaddish, an exploration of Jewish liturgy.

Generally centrist, Wieseltier is a staunch defender of Israel. “We’re the cops,” he once said of his magazine’s role in policing the Washington debate on the Mideast. In February, Wieseltier posted a long essay accusing Sullivan of displaying “venomous hostility toward Israel and the Jews.” The “rants” Wieseltier cited in evidence were in the main Sullivan’s expressive critiques of Israeli policies—the “pulverization of Gaza,” the “daily grinding of Palestinians on the West Bank”—and the assertion that “standing up to Netanyahu’s provocations” would help the U.S. “advance its interests in the region and the world.”

What happened next invites a point of comparison. In the mid ’80s, the editor of Commentary, Norman Podhoretz, launched a campaign against Joe Sobran, then a senior editor at National Review. Sobran was a less judicious and far more reactionary writer than Sullivan, but there was nonetheless a fair degree of overlap between what he was writing about Israel then and what Sullivan is writing now. Under pressure from Podhoretz,NR founder William F. Buckley wrote an editorial affirming that “the structure of prevailing taboos respecting Israel … is welcome” and that Sobran, in full “knowledge of the reigning protocols,” had transgressed them, giving rise to “suspicions of anti-Semitism.” NR henceforth disassociated itself from Sobran’s syndicated columns. This was the first step along the way to the severance of Sobran from the magazine. Outside theNational Review orbit, Sobran’s career unraveled. Apart from a few paleoconservatives, few took time to lament the hit.

In Sullivan’s case, almost the opposite occurred. Much of the liberal blogosphere rose to his defense. Wieseltier was widely mocked, most effectively perhaps by Matthew Yglesias, who observed that a former Bolshevik minister of justice had said that “execution of the innocent will impress the masses even more” than execution of the guilty. Yglesias added, “flinging baseless charges of anti-semitism is the essence of [The New Republic’s] commentary on Israel.” In the Washington intellectual blogosphere at least, the “structure of prevailing taboos” concerning Israel had eroded nearly out of existence.

The newest and potentially most decisive development in this American conversation about Israel, the settlements, and the Palestinians arose, by chance or design, at almost precisely the moment that the vice president and secretary of state were denouncing Israel’s settlement policy. Mark Perry reported in Foreign Policy that Gen. David Petraeus of Central Command had dispatched a team of officers last year to the Middle East to take a reading of America’s position. In January, they reported to the Joint Chiefs that the conduct of Israel toward the Palestinians was causing Muslims throughout the region to conclude that the administration was weak. The message was delivered in dramatic terms and reportedly shocked the White House. Petraeus reiterated the finding in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee: “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment. … Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with government and people in [the region].”

Such analysis is hardly new: one could have heard variations on it from almost any American Mideast specialist over the past 40 years. But it has usually been discounted by political Washington, a murmur from the foreign-affairs bureaucracy that could be ignored.

But Petraeus is no mid-level Arabist or anonymous retired general. He is the military’s best-known commander, admired for apparently turning around the conflict in Iraq and touted by conservatives as a potential president. While his statements were a frontal challenge to the Israel lobby’s claims that America’s and Israel’s interests are identical, his stature seemed to render him immune to the defamation typically showered on those making this argument.

The Petraeus intervention may prove a case study in the role of unintended consequences in history. Both he and Vice President Biden stressed the increased danger American troops now face because of perceptions that the U.S. is anti-Muslim and weak because of its deference to Israel. Ironically, it was in great part because of Israel and its American lobby that U.S. soldiers were in this position to begin with. A parade of Israeli leaders had professed to American audiences that Saddam Hussein was the new Hitler whom the United States had to take out, and it is well documented that pro-Israel voices within the administration worked relentlessly to ignite the Iraq War. Of course, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld had to be inclined to listen to them. But as Stephen Walt has pointed out, it is inconceivable that the United States would have attacked Iraq had Israel and its American friends argued against such an invasion.

And so the United States is now there, and the security of its troops depends considerably on cooperation with Arab friends and the effective neutralization of those less friendly. As a society, the United States is thus much more engaged with Arab perceptions than it was before March 2003. The patronizing generalizations of Israeli Orientalism about the “Arab mind” have lost much of their cachet in Washington, as the United States has had to expand its base of specialists to deal with the Arab world. A fair number are in the military and report to General Petraeus.

The result is that two streams of anti-settlement, pro-peace-process discourse have begun to merge and reinforce one another. The realist argument about Israel—which can be traced from President Truman’s secretary of state George Marshall through Kennedy and Johnson aide George Ball to Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer—now appears to have the patronage of American’s most respected military commander. The pretense that America’s and Israel’s interests in the Middle East coincide completely is being challenged at the highest level and may never recover.

At the same time, the humanitarian argument, rooted in observation of Israeli oppression and Palestinian suffering, is disseminated more widely than ever. It reaches Americans through the Internet, through congressional visits, through the work of Israeli peace and human-rights monitoring groups, through the burgeoning communities of international solidarity workers, through church groups, through Richard Goldstone. Expressions of unconditional solidarity with Israel—such as Joseph Lieberman’s claim that we must not quarrel in public because Israel is “family”—are of course as common as ever. But they often give off the musty scent of Soviet bloc boilerplate in the 1970s and ’80s—words that many recite ritualistically but fewer and fewer say with conviction.

A gap in the line has been opened, but no one yet knows whether Obama will push through it. Chas Freeman, the veteran diplomat whose appointment to chair the National Intelligence Council was scuttled by objections from Israel lobbyists, says, “The president gets it”—that his appreciation of the centrality of these issues was manifest in his Ankara and Cairo speeches. Freeman views the showdown as an historic juncture: “the first time anything resembling an assault on an entrenched interest that many have recognized is contrary to American interests” has taken place. The moment has the potential to unite “Obama as the commander in chief with the visionary who spoke in Cairo.” But Obama’s track record is not reassuring, Freeman admits. He notes that the president has a “pattern of laying out a sensible strategic doctrine followed by delegating its implementation to people who may work to subvert it or who have their own agendas.”

Progress does not seem possible with the current Netanyahu government. But Israeli governing coalitions last, on average, 18 months, and some fall more quickly. (Netanyahu was sworn in a year ago.) George H.W. Bush had the leverage of Israel’s extraordinary request for a $10 billion loan guarantee, which Obama lacks. But there are many steps short of a cut-off of American aid that the administration could use to prod Israelis toward the two-state solution the majority of them say they want.

Biden and Clinton’s condemnations of East Jerusalem settlement-building were a start. The U.S. could choose not to veto a UN resolution condemning the occupation. It could suspend or downgrade military or intelligence cooperation with Israel as Ronald Reagan did after the invasion of Lebanon. It could end tax deductions for U.S.-based organizations that fund settlements.

In a broader sociological sense, the United States and Israel are plainly moving in different directions: America has been striving to become less racist and is inexorably becoming more multicultural. So are all the Western democracies. Israel, founded on the idea that Jews, like other peoples, should have their “own” state, is animated by an ethnonationalism that seems, in the Western world at least, increasingly anachronistic. Meanwhile, Israeli racism is on the upswing. I know no one on the Israeli Right who has proffered a suggestion for what Israel might do with the Palestinians in the absence of a two-state solution: the choices would seem to be either to grant them democratic rights in what would then become a binational state or solidify the current West Bank apartheid and rule over a growing Arab population while denying it equal rights.

The moment for decisive action is seldom obvious, but the first polls could hardly be more favorable to Obama: there is roughly a 50-50 split in Israel over whether settlement-construction in Jerusalem should be stopped, and Americans approve Obama’s position on the settlements by nearly a 5-2 margin (likely more than their approval of any other presidential initiative). With the Biden trip and the Petraeus report, the Obama administration has crossed its Rubicon in dealing with Israel. What remains to be seen is whether the president recognizes this.

Scott McConnell is editor at large of The American Conservative.