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Only a Jew of Uri Avnery’s credentials could get away with comparing the US Congress to the German Reichstag under the Nazis! Perhaps he’s being tongue-in-cheek? Even so, the comparison is chilling.

In truth, if you watch the video of Netanyahu’s speech with the sound muted and just follow the interaction between audience and speaker it is quite scary! As Avnery points out, politicians in Israel’s Knesset would never fawn over their Prime Minister the way US members of Congress do! Of course this makes the speech in Congress all the more valuable for Netanyahu’s target audience – the voters back home. Even so, the tens of thousands of Israelis who subsequently rallied in opposition to Netanyahu and his anti-Palestinian militancy suggests that the strategy didn’t work.

One thing that hadn’t occurred to me until I read Avnery’s commentary was that the vacuous nature of Netanyahu’s speech may have been due to drastic last-minute revisions in the prepared text! Perhaps he realised that the leaked Mossad cable – revealing Israel’s official intelligence assessment that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon – could not be ignored? It is hard to work up a head of steam in fear-mongering when everybody knows that what you’re saying has been flatly contradicted by your own intelligence community!

I hope and pray that these are Netanyahu’s final days and that someone with a heart for peace will take the helm in Israel soon, before it is all too late!

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

The Speech
by Uri Avnery

SUDDENLY IT reminded me of something.

I was watching The Speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the Congress of the United States. Row upon row of men in suits (and the occasional woman), jumping up and down, up and down, applauding wildly, shouting approval.

It was the shouting that did it. Where had I heard that before?

And then it came back to me. It was another parliament in the mid-1930s. The Leader was speaking. Rows upon rows of Reichstag members were listening raptly. Every few minutes they jumped up and shouted their approval.

Of course, the Congress of the United States of America is no Reichstag. Members wear dark suits, not brown shirts. They do not shout “Heil” but something unintelligible. Yet the sound of the shouting had the same effect. Rather shocking.

But then I returned to the present. The sight was not frightening, but ridiculous. Here were the members of the most powerful parliament in the world behaving like a bunch of nincompoops.

Nothing like this could have happened in the Knesset. I do not have a very high opinion of our parliament, despite having been a member, but compared to this assembly, the Knesset is the fulfillment of Plato’s dream.

ABBA EBAN once compared a speech by Menachem Begin to a French souffle cake: a lot of air and very little dough.

The same could be said about The Speech.

What did it contain? The Holocaust, of course, with that moral impostor, Elie Wiesel, sitting in the gallery right next to the beaming Sarah’le, who visibly relished her husband’s triumph. (A few days before, she had shouted at the wife of a mayor in Israel: “Your man does not reach the ankles of my man!”)

The Speech mentioned the Book of Esther, about the salvation of the Persian Jews from the evil Persian minister Haman, who intended to wipe them out. No one knows how this dubious composition came to be included in the Bible. God is not mentioned in it, it has nothing to do with the Holy Land, and Esther herself is more of a prostitute than a heroine. The book ends with the mass murder committed by the Jews against the Persians.

The Speech, like all speeches by Netanyahu, contained much about the suffering of the Jews throughout the ages, and the intentions of the evil Iranians, the New Nazis, to annihilate us. But this will not happen, because this time we have Binyamin Netanyahu to protect us. And the US Republicans, of course.

It was a good speech. One cannot make a bad speech when hundreds of admirers hang on every word and applaud every second. But it will not make an anthology of the world’s Greatest Speeches.

Netanyahu considers himself a second Churchill. And indeed, Churchill was the only foreign leader before Netanyahu to speak to both houses of Congress a third time. But Churchill came to cement his alliance with the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who played a big part in the British war effort, while Netanyahu has come to spit in the face of the present president.

WHAT DID the speech not contain?

Not a word about Palestine and the Palestinians. Not a word about peace, the two-state solution, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem. Not a word about apartheid, the occupation, the settlements. Not a word about Israel’s own nuclear capabilities.

Not a word, of course, about the idea of a nuclear-weapon–free region, with mutual inspection.

Indeed, there was no concrete proposal at all. After denouncing the bad deal in the making, and hinting that Barack Obama and John Kerry are dupes and idiots, he offered no alternative.

Why? I assume that the original text of The Speech contained a lot. Devastating new sanctions against Iran. A demand for the total demolition of all Iranian nuclear installations. And in the inevitable end: a US-Israeli military attack.

All this was left out. He was warned by the Obama people in no uncertain terms that disclosure of details of the negotiations would be considered as a betrayal of confidence. He was warned by his Republican hosts that the American public was in no mood to hear about yet another war.

What was left? A dreary recounting of the well-known facts about the negotiations. It was the only tedious part of the speech. For minutes no one jumped up, nobody shouted approval. Elie Wiesel was shown sleeping. The most important person in the hall, Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Congress republicans and of Netanyahu, was not shown at all. But he was there, keeping close watch on his servants.

BY THE way, whatever happened to Netanyahu’s war?

Remember when the Israel Defense Forces were about to bomb Iran to smithereens? When the US military might was about to “take out” all Iranian nuclear installations?

Readers of this column might also remember that years ago I assured them that there would be no war. No ifs, no buts. No half-open back door for a retreat. I asserted that there would be no war, period.

Much later, all Israeli former military and intelligence chiefs spoke out against the war. The army Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, who finished his term this week, has disclosed that no draft operation order for attacking Iran’s nuclear capabilities was ever drawn up.

Why? Because such an operation could lead to a world-wide catastrophe. Iran would immediately close the Strait of Hormuz, just a few dozen miles wide, through which some 35% of the world’s sea-borne oil must pass. It would mean an immediate world-wide economic breakdown.

To open the Strait and keep it open, a large part of Iran would have to be occupied in a land war, boots on the ground. Even Republicans shiver at the thought.

Israeli military capabilities fall far short of such an adventure. And, of course, Israel cannot dream of starting a war without express American consent.

That is reality. Not speechifying. Even American senators are capable of seeing the difference.

THE CENTERPIECE of The Speech was the demonization of Iran. Iran is evil incarnate. It leaders are subhuman monsters. All over the world, Iranian terrorists are at work planning monstrous outrages. They are building intercontinental ballistic missiles to destroy the US. Immediately after obtaining nuclear warheads – now or in ten years – they will annihilate Israel.

In reality, Israel’s second-strike capability, based on the submarines supplied by Germany, would annihilate Iran within minutes. One of the most ancient civilizations in world history would come to an abrupt end. The ayatollahs would have to been clinically insane to do such a thing.

Netanyahu pretends to believe they are. Yet for years now, Israel has been conducting an amiable arbitration with the Iranian government about the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline across Israel built by an Iranian-Israeli consortium. Before the Islamic revolution, Iran was Israel’s stoutest ally in the region. Well after the revolution, Israel supplied Iran with arms in order to fight against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (the famous Irangate affair). And if one goes back to Esther and her sexual effort to save the Jews, why not mention Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Judean captives to return to Jerusalem?

Judging by its behavior, the present Iranian leadership has lost some of its initial religious fervor. It is behaving (not always speaking) in a very rational way, conducting tough negotiations as one would expect from Persians, aware of their immense cultural heritage, even more ancient than Judaism. Netanyahu is right in saying that one should not trust them with closed eyes, but his demonization is ridiculous.

Within the wider context, Israel and Iran are already indirect allies. For both, the Islamic State (ISIS) is the mortal enemy. To my mind, ISIS is far more dangerous to Israel, in the long run, than Iran. I imagine that for Tehran, ISIS is a far more dangerous enemy than Israel.

(The only memorable sentence in The Speech was “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy”.)

If the worst comes to the worst, Iran will have its bomb in the end. So what?

I may be an arrogant Israeli, but I refuse to be afraid. I live a mile from the Israeli army high command in the center of Tel Aviv, and in a nuclear exchange I would evaporate. Yet I feel quite safe.

The United States has been exposed for decades (and still is) to thousands of Russian nuclear bombs, which could eradicate millions within minutes. They feel safe under the umbrella of the “balance of terror”. Between us and Iran, in the worst situation, the same balance would come into effect.

WHAT IS Netanyahu’s alternative to Obama’s policy? As Obama was quick to point out, he offered none.

The best possible deal will be struck. The danger will be postponed for ten years or more. And, as Chaim Weizmann once said: “The future will come and take care of the future.”

Within these ten years, many things will happen. Regimes will change, enmities will turn into alliances and vice versa. Anything is possible.

Even – God and the Israeli voters willing – peace between Israel and Palestine, which would take the sting out of Israeli-Muslim relations.

For more wisdom from Uri Avnery visit the Gush-Shalom website.

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The following letter was written by American Catholic Bishop, Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and was addressed to US Secretary of State, John Kerry. Bishop Pates is the chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Forthright statements like these are an indication that the tide is turning. I don’t expect that the US government will pay much attention to Bishop Pates, but as the trickle of protest from the church gradually builds into a torrent they will find it increasingly hard to resist being caught in the current.

Father Dave

Most Reverend Richard E. Pates

Bishop Richard E. Pates

source: : www.us…

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
2201 C St NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

As Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I wrote you last May regarding the injustice being perpetrated in the Cremisan Valley near Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Earlier this month, I made a solidarity visit to the Cremisan Valley together with brother bishops from Europe, Canada and South Africa. Enclosed you will find a statement that summarizes our reflections on the sad state of affairs.

As I stood amidst the beauty of this agricultural valley and heard the testimony of the Christian families whose lands, livelihoods, and centuries-old family traditions are threatened, I was simply astounded by the injustice of it all.

On the eve of the Supreme Court of Israel taking up this case, I ask you once again to urge the Government of Israel to cease and desist in its efforts to unnecessarily confiscate Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank. As I said earlier, the Cremisan Valley is a microcosm of a protracted pattern that has serious implications for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and your commendable efforts to achieve a peace agreement.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Richard E. Pates
Bishop of Des Moines
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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Thank you to Julian Borger for having the courage to raise the question that nobody dares to ask – why is there one standard for Iran to adhere to when it comes to nuclear weapons and a totally different one for Israel?

The Israeli nuclear stockpile is the elephant in the room in every discussion about the Iranian nuclear program. Since 1986 we’ve had conclusive proof that Israel has an enormous stockpile of nukes, thanks to the self-sacrificial actions of my dear friend, Mordechai Vanunu. Vanunu took pictures of the bombs under construction and his photos revealed an arsenal larger and more advanced than anybody had guessed, and it must only have grown since then!

Even after completing 18 years in prison, Morde Vanunu is still in virtual captivity – unable to leave Israel and live a normal life, free from the constant harassment of the security services. Borger’s article also gives us a clue as to why Israel insists on this continued confinement. The state is probably afraid that Morde will report on the complicity of the US, France, Germany, Britain and Norway in the development of Israel’s nukes.

In the context of the self-righteous Western rhetoric about Iran, Israel’s nukes are the ultimate tragic irony.

Father Dave

Mordechai Vanunu and me in 2004

with Morde Vanunu – the man who proved that Israel had the bomb – after his release in 2004

source: www.theguardian.com…

The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal

by Julian Borger

Israel has been stealing nuclear secrets and covertly making bombs since the 1950s. And western governments, including Britain and the US, turn a blind eye. But how can we expect Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions if the Israelis won’t come clean?

Deep beneath desert sands, an embattled Middle Eastern state has built a covert nuclear bomb, using technology and materials provided by friendly powers or stolen by a clandestine network of agents. It is the stuff of pulp thrillers and the sort of narrative often used to characterise the worst fears about the Iranian nuclear programme. In reality, though, neither US nor British intelligence believe Tehran has decided to build a bomb, and Iran‘s atomic projects are under constant international monitoring.

The exotic tale of the bomb hidden in the desert is a true story, though. It’s just one that applies to another country. In an extraordinary feat of subterfuge, Israel managed to assemble an entire underground nuclear arsenal – now estimated at 80 warheads, on a par with India and Pakistan – and even tested a bomb nearly half a century ago, with a minimum of international outcry or even much public awareness of what it was doing.

Despite the fact that the Israel’s nuclear programme has been an open secret since a disgruntled technician, Mordechai Vanunu, blew the whistle on it in 1986, the official Israeli position is still never to confirm or deny its existence.

When the former speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg, broke the taboo last month, declaring Israeli possession of both nuclear and chemical weapons and describing the official non-disclosure policy as “outdated and childish” a rightwing group formally called for a police investigation for treason.

Meanwhile, western governments have played along with the policy of “opacity” by avoiding all mention of the issue. In 2009, when a veteran Washington reporter, Helen Thomas, asked Barack Obama in the first month of his presidency if he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, he dodged the trapdoor by saying only that he did not wish to “speculate”.

UK governments have generally followed suit. Asked in the House of Lords in November about Israeli nuclear weapons, Baroness Warsi answered tangentially. “Israel has not declared a nuclear weapons programme. We have regular discussions with the government of Israel on a range of nuclear-related issues,” the minister said. “The government of Israel is in no doubt as to our views. We encourage Israel to become a state party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT].”

But through the cracks in this stone wall, more and more details continue to emerge of how Israel built its nuclear weapons from smuggled parts and pilfered technology.

The tale serves as a historical counterpoint to today’s drawn-out struggle over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The parallels are not exact – Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so could not violate it. But it almost certainly broke a treaty banning nuclear tests, as well as countless national and international laws restricting the traffic in nuclear materials and technology.

The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft, include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway.

read the rest of this article here.

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Admittedly, the signatories to this statement are all American Rabbis. It would be more encouraging still if a hundred or so Israeli rabbis signed a similar statement. Even so, this is a significant step forward and another solid indication that not all Jews support the war-mongering of the Israeli President.

The most impressive thing about this statement, from my perspective, is the open confession of the history of willful violence enacted on Iran by the United States. Even so, it is disappointing that the great elephant in the room – namely, the massive Israeli stockpile of nuclear weapons – doesn’t get a mention.

Father Dave

source: theshalomcenter.org…

Step by Step toward Shalom with Iran

As Rabbis, Cantors, and other Clergy serving the American Jewish community, we are deeply committed, as Jewish tradition teaches –

§  to the shalom –-  peace, social justice, functioning democratic process, and ecological sanity –of the country where we live  – all of which would be damaged by still another unnecessary war;

§  to the shalom, peace and security, of the State of Israel, to its democratic character, and to its special relationship with the Jewish people;

§  to unequivocal action by all the Arab-majority and Muslim-majority states to make peace with Israel, and to Israel’s unequivocal action to make peace with all its neighbors, including an emergent Palestine;

§  to our respect and our prayers for salaam, peace and justice, among our cousins in the Abrahamic tradition, Arab and Muslim civilizations;

§  to the peace and prosperity of all the “70 nations” of the world;

§  and to the healing of our wounded planet.

For all these reasons, we welcome warmly the greatly increased possibility of a peaceful resolution of the conflicts among the US, Iran, Israel, and other nations.

We especially welcome the new attitudes toward the Jewish people and toward the nuclear issue set forth by the new President of Iran, and his assertion that Iran will never hold nuclear weapons. We also recall the repeated assertions and fatwas by Grand Ayatollah Khameini that for Iran to possess nuclear weapons would violate Islam.

We urge the US and Iran to move swiftly to agree on a step-by-step process of reducing and ultimately ending sanctions against Iran in accord with steps by Iran to make its nuclear research transparent and to allow verification that its research is directed wholly toward civilian uses of nuclear energy. We believe that such a step-by-step process is the best way to guarantee that both parties are fulfilling their commitments.

We urge Iran to make clear its full acceptance of Israel as a legitimate state in the fabric of international relations, protected like all other states from aggression and attack.

We urge the Government of Israel to welcome steps by Iran to make clear and verifiable its commitment to use nuclear energy and research for peaceful purposes only, not for pursuit of nuclear weaponry, and while this process is under way, we urge Israel to end hostile acts and statements toward Iran.

We urge the peoples of the United States, Iran, and Israel to reject and oppose all statements and actions from whatever source that undermine the swift and thorough achievement of agreements to ensure the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to end sanctions against Iran.

We urge the American people to recognize and do tshuvah (“turning” or “repentance”) for the ethical errors of our own government toward Iran – particularly, the US Government’s intervention in 1953 to overthrow the democratically elected reform government of Iran; US actions to support the tyrannical regime of the Shah until the Iranian people overthrew it in 1979; and US support for Iraq’s wars of aggression against Iran in the 1980s, including US support for Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons to kill 100,000 Iranians.

We urge the Iranian people to do tshuvah for their government’s demonization of the United States and Israel, for its holding US diplomats hostage for more than a year in 1979-1980, and for the support it seems to have covertly given for attacks on Israeli citizens.

We believe that this combination of governmental acts and public rethinking and re-feeling can move American society, the entire Middle East, and the world toward the shalom that Judaism yearns for.

to read the list of signatories, click here

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I find this story almost mind-blowing!

We all knew that it had to be Israel that launched this latest missile strike against Syria. After all, it is one in a series, and who else could or would launch such an attack from the sea?

As to what exactly was the rationale behind the attack, it is open to speculation:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the lack of US action in Syria.
  2. An attempt to sabotage upcoming peace talks in Geneva.
  3. As stated, an attack on a weapons convoy, bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Personally, I think Israel is simply trying to provoke a response. They know it won’t come from Assad as he has all his resources tied up in fighting the rebel armies. The response they are looking for is from Iran – one that will sabotage any peace negotiations between the Americans and the Persians.

Putting all this to one side though, I still find the Israeli response to being exposed as the culprits astonishing! We didn’t expect them to apologise, of course, but we might have expected that Israeli officials would at least try to explain why they attacked another sovereign nation without provocation. Instead their response seems to have been one of indignance! Apparently they feel ‘compromised’, and they are horrified that their ally, the USA, has identified them as being responsible for the crime!

I suppose this is just the norm nowadays. High profile criminals never expect to be held accountable for their crimes, while those who expose them are invariably hunted down and made to pay – Mordechai Vanunu, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Ed Snowden, … Have we really reached the point though now where the Israeli government doesn’t even feel a need to try to justify its acts of war?!

Father Dave

source: www.timesofisrael.com…

Israel ‘furious’ with White House for leak on Syria strike

Israel is fuming with the White House for confirming that it was the Israeli Air Force that struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia on Wednesday, hitting weaponry that was set to be transferred to Hezbollah.

Israel has not acknowledged carrying out the strike, one of half a dozen such attacks widely ascribed to Israel in recent months, but an Obama administration official told CNN on Thursday that Israeli warplanes had indeed attacked the Syrian base, and that the target was “missiles and related equipment” set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

A second TV report, on Israel’s Channel 2, said the leak “came directly from the White House,” and noted that “this is not the first time” that the administration has compromised Israel by leaking information on such Israeli Air Force raids on Syrian targets.

It said some previous leaks were believed to have come from the Pentagon, and that consideration had been given at one point to establishing a panel to investigate the sources.

Channel 2′s military analyst, Roni Daniel, said the Obama administration’s behavior in leaking the information was unfathomable.

Daniel noted that by keeping silent on whether it carried out such attacks, Israel was maintaining plausible deniability, so that Syria’s President Bashar Assad did not feel pressured to respond to the attacks.

But the US leaks “are pushing Assad closer to the point where he can’t swallow these attacks, and will respond.” This in turn would inevitably draw further Israeli action, Daniel posited, and added bitterly: “Then perhaps the US will clap its hands because it will have started a very major flare-up.”

Channel 2 speculated that the US might have leaked word of Israel’s attack as a warning to Israel to desist from such actions. Alternately, it might be seeking to signal that it was part of the tough policy designed to prevent a flow of sophisticated weaponry to Assad. But these and other possible explanations simply didn’t justify the leak, which the TV report described as “illogical” and “foolish.”

Jerusalem’s reported anger with the White House over the leak coincided with efforts by the Administration to assure Israel that it is holding to a tough line on Syria and in the effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, and is maintaining its robust military partnership with Israel.

On Thursday, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, reiterated America’s commitment to thwarting Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions. “Let me be absolutely clear: President Obama is determined to ensure that the Islamic Republic does not acquire a nuclear weapon,” Power said at the Anti-Defamation League’s centennial conference held Thursday in a Manhattan hotel. Addressing the subject of nuclear negotiations with Iran, she said the Obama administration considers a bad deal worse than no deal and that the administration will not accept a bad deal.

Later Thursday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the same gathering that the US is testing Iran’s diplomatic intentions but remains “clear-eyed” on Iran’s role as a state-sponsor of terror and exporter of extremism.

Hagel also announced that the US will fast-track delivery of six advanced Osprey helicopter-airplanes to Israel. “Israel will get six V-22s out of the next order to go on the assembly line, and they will be compatible with other [Israeli defense] capabilities,” Hagel said, anticipating delivery in two years time. NBC News said Israel requested that the delivery of the Ospreys be expedited because of threats from Iran and Syria.

Hagel added that “the Israeli and American defense relationship is stronger than ever, and it will continue to strengthen.”

read the rest of this article here.