US

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This latest scandal concerns some comments allegedly made by former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, as reported by former Knesset member Einat Wilf. Personally, I find Wilf’s comments more astonishing than those attributed to Straw!

According to Wilf, during a debate in British Parliament, Straw cited two major obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace:

  1. The “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US
  2. Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel.

Wilf’s astonished response was ““I nearly fell off my rickety British chair” and “I thought British diplomats, including former ones, were still capable of a measure of rational thought.”

It’s not clear whether Wilf considers both of the statements attributed to Straw to be equally crazy. Or perhaps it’s not criticism of AIPAC or Germany as such that she considers self-evidently baseless but simply the idea that Israel could be responsible for the impasse?

Certainly Wilf seems to think that her explanation for the conflict – “Arab and Palestinian unwillingness to accept the Jewish people’s legitimate right to a state of their own” – should be accepted without the need for further discussion!

Father Dave

Jack Straw

Jack Straw

source: www.timesofisrael.com…

Ex-UK FM: ‘Unlimited’ Jewish funds control US policy, block Mideast peace

Jack Straw unleashes anti-Semitic diatribe at forum held in House of Commons, according to former MK Einat Wilf

Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reportedly said during a debate in the British parliament that “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control American policy in the Middle East.

The comments were made last week during the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum in the British House of Commons, according to former Knesset member Einat Wilf.

Wilf was participating in the debate and posted what she said were Straw’s comments on herFacebook page.

Straw said, according to Wilf, that the greatest obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians and her Arab neighbors are the “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US, as well as Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel.

Wrote Wilf: “I nearly fell off my rickety British chair today when former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke at the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum in the British House of Commons. Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problem.

“I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media….”

Wilf told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Sunday that “It was appalling to listen to Britain’s former foreign secretary. His remarks reflect prejudice of the worst kind.” She added: “We’re used to hearing groundless accusations from Palestinian envoys but I thought British diplomats, including former ones, were still capable of a measure of rational thought.”

Wilf, a member of Knesset from 2010 to 2013 (Labor, and then the breakaway Independence party), said she repeatedly stressed in the debate that the root of the conflict lay in the Palestinian and Arab refusal to accept Israel’s sovereign legitimacy as a Jewish state. “Throughout the debate I reiterated that the origin of the conflict was the Arab and Palestinian unwillingness to accept the Jewish people’s legitimate right to a state of their own, and that as long as that willingness is absent there will be no true solution.”

read the rest of this article here

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Sharmine Narwani is no fool and if she says that Israel will be the target of a Syrian retaliatory strike, I believe her.

It makes me sick to the stomach. That’s not because I consider Israel an innocent party in the Syrian crisis. On the contrary, the ‘rock solid evidence’ that the US claims to have of Assad’s culpability in the chemical weapons attack probably comes from Israel, and the Israeli government has provoked Syria repeatedly this year with acts of aggression. It sickens me simply because this will inevitably lead to massive escalation of the conflict – to a third world war and untold human suffering.

As someone who is considering going to Damascus as a human shield, I appreciate that my chances of surviving the American assault are not great, but my chances of surviving an Israeli assault are close to zero.

Father Dave

Grass-roots activists in Damascus, working for peace

with local peace activists in Damascus

source: english.al-akhbar.com…

Yes, Syria and Hezbollah Will Hit Israel if US Strikes

By Sharmine Narwani

Informed insiders have confirmed that Syria and Hezbollah plan to retaliate against Israel in the event of an American-led military attack on Syria. Says one: “if even one US missile hits Syria, we will take this battle to Israel.”

An official who spoke to me on the condition that neither his name or affiliation is published, says the decision to retaliate against Israel “has been taken at the highest levels within the Syrian state and Hezbollah.”

Why attack Israel after a US strike?

“Israel has been itching for a fight since their 2006 defeat by Hezbollah,” explains an observer close to the Lebanese resistance group. “They have led this campaign to draw the US into a confrontation with Syria because they are worried about being left alone in the region to face Iran. This has become an existential issue for them and they are now ‘leading’ from behind America’s skirts.”

The “Resistance Axis” which consists of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and a smattering of other groups, has long viewed attacks on one of their members as an effort to target them all.

And Israeli aggression against this axis reached a new high in 2013, with missile strikes and airstrikes unseen for many years in the Levant.

Israel has reportedly conducted at least three separate, high profile missile strikes against Syria this year, effectively ending a 40-year ceasefire between the neighboring states. The last overt violation of this uneasy truce was in 2007 when the Jewish state destroyed an alleged nuclear site inside Syria.

Then two weeks ago, Israel launched its first airstrike in Lebanon since the 2006 war, bombing a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC) target in an entirely unprovoked attack. Earlier, four rockets had been launched into Israel from Lebanese territory, but an unrelated Al Qaeda-linked group took credit for that incident.

When asked whether Syrian allies Russia and Iran would participate in retaliatory strikes against Israel or other targets, the official indicated that both countries would back these efforts, but provided no information on whether this support would include direct military engagement.

The Russians have stated on several occasions that they will not participate in a military confrontation over Syrian strikes. Iran has not offered up any specifics, but various statements from key officials appear to confirm that strikes against Syria will result in a larger regional battle.

On Tuesday during an official visit to Lebanon, Iranian parliamentarian and Chairman of the (Majlis) Committee for National Security and Foreign Policy Alaeddin Boroujerdi told reporters: “The first party that will be most affected by an aggression on Syria is the Zionist entity.”

His comments follow a steady stream of warnings by senior Iranian officials, which have escalated in tenor as western threats to attack Syria have intensified.

“The US imagination about limited military intervention in Syria is merely an illusion, as reactions will be coming from beyond Syria’s borders,” said the Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari last Saturday.

Even Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stepped into the fray, warning the US and its allies: “starting this fire will be like a spark in a large store of gunpowder, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences”.

Concurrent with these warnings, both Iran and Russia have been urging the West to avoid further confrontation and return to the negotiating table to resolve Syria’s 29-month conflict. But instead, western officials and diplomats in the Mideast have spent the past few weeks hitting up their regional sources for information on how Syria’s allies will react to a strike.

An unusual visit to Tehran by UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman (a former senior US State Department official) was one such “feeler.”

According to several media outlets, the Iranians had a singular response to Feltman’s efforts to gauge their reaction to a US strike: if you are serious about resolving the Syrian crisis, you must first go to Damascus, and follow that by launching negotiations in Geneva.

Gunning for a fight

While Israel plays heavily in the background, by turns provoking and encouraging western military intervention in Syria, it publically denies any role in this business.

Just this week, Israeli President Shimon Peres attempted to distance the Jewish state from events in Syria by insisting: “It is not for Israel to decide on Syria, we are in a unique position, for varying reasons there is a consensus against Israeli involvement. We did not create the Syrian situation.”

He’s right about one thing. Any visible Israeli military intervention in Syria will likely raise the collective ire of Arabs throughout the region. But Peres is being disingenuous in suggesting that Israel hasn’t played a pivotal role in dragging the region to the brink of a dangerous confrontation.

In fact, since its establishment as a state, Israel has possibly never been more motivated to force a military confrontation in the Mideast:

The Arab uprisings, a shift in the global balance of power, increased isolation and the waning influence of Israel’s superpower US ally have all served to remind Israel that it stands increasingly alone in the Mideast in confronting its longtime adversaries – Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and various Palestinian resistance groups.

Before a US exit from the region becomes patently clear to one and all, Israel needs to disarm its foes – and it needs the Americans to do that. For years, the Israeli establishment has regularly threatened military strikes against Iran, in most part attempting to inextricably embroil Washington in this military venture.

Forcing ‘red line’ narratives into western political discourse – whether it be the use of chemical weapons in Syria or a civilian nuclear program in Iran – has become a clever way to commit allies to an Israeli military agenda.

When US President Barack Obama last week appeared to suddenly revise his plans to launch a strike on Syria by deferring the decision to Congress, Israel went into overdrive:

Two Israeli missiles were launched off the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean Sea to raise temperatures again. Whether this was meant to be veiled threat, a provocation, or an attempt to pin the deed on Syrians is unclear. What is certain is this: Russian early radar systems caught the activity and publicized it quickly to ward off misunderstandings that might trigger counter-strikes.

This quick reaction forced Israel – under US cover – to acknowledge it had participated in unannounced ballistic missile tests. The Iranians reacted very skeptically. Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi, said the missiles were “a provocative incident” conveniently executed as western nations withdrew from plans to attack Syria, and called Israel “the region’s warmonger.” He further charged: “If the Russians had not traced the missiles and their origin, a Zionist liar would have alleged that they belonged to Syria in a bid to pave the way for breaking out a war in the region.

On an entirely different front, Israel has been amassing its considerable army of US supporters and lobbyists to ensure a compliant Congressional vote on strikes against Syria.

All its heavy hitters have now stepped up to push US lawmakers into backing military intervention, even though polls continue to show the majority of Americans rejecting strikes.

The Israeli lobbying effort has been particularly critical to ensure there is bipartisan consensus and that Obama’s Republican opponents join the bandwagon. To ensure this, the scope of the “surgical strikes” had to be expanded for GOP members opposed to a cursory punitive strike against Syrian government interests.

Key Republicans have since piled on, and already there are soundings of ‘mission creep.’ Obama told lawmakers on Tuesday that his plan “also fits into a broader strategy that can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic, economic and political pressure required – so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability, not only to Syria but to the region.”

This suddenly sounds remarkably like President George W. Bush’s plans to remake the Middle East. And it is everything Syria and its allies have both feared and suspected from the start.

Existential for you, existential for me

If ever there was a real ‘red line’ in the region, this is it. Any “limited” or “broad” military intervention in Syria is simply unacceptable to Syria, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah, China and a whole host of other nations that want to turn the page on US hegemonic aspirations in the region and beyond.

Washington has miscalculated in thinking that an attack in any shape or form would be palatable to its quite incredulous adversaries. They are all intimately familiar with the slippery slope of American interventionism and its myriad unintended consequences.

Israel, in particular, appears to be victim to a false sense of security. Analysts and commentators there seem to think that the lack of a Syrian military response to recent Israeli missile strikes is a trend likely to continue. Or that Hezbollah and Iran would have no ‘grounds’ to climb aboard a counterattack if Syria were attacked.

But the fact is that, to date, no member of the Resistance Axis has faced a collective western-Israeli-GCC effort to strike a blow at their core. This promised US-plus-allies strike against Syria makes their calculation aneasy one: there is nowhere to go but headfirst into the fracas.

As Israel warplanes pounded Lebanon during the 2006 war, then-US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice got one thing right. Refusing to call for a ceasefire, Rice explained that battle was sometimes necessary to break free of the status quo and emerge with a new regional order. The carnage, in short, was simply “the birth pangs of a New Middle East” – something to endure in order to reach a desired outcome.

But in 2006, conditions were not yet ripe for an all-out confrontation on multiple fronts. Today’s confrontation, however, has all the ingredients to fundamentally shift the region in a clear new direction, depending on which side emerges victorious.

What Rice did not anticipate seven years ago was that a few thousand Hezbollah fighters could shake the region beyond Lebanon’s small borders in a mere 33 days – simply by emerging from battle with Israel, leadership and capabilities intact.

The US has never predicted outcomes successfully in the Middle East and is unlikely to do so this time given that its strategic and military objectives seem even more muddled than usual. What we do know is that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has promised that the “next battle” will take place inside Israel’s borders and that he will fight proportionately this time – striking Israeli cities when Israel hits Lebanese ones.

On the Syrian front, Israel imagines a war-weary adversary. But the Syrian armed forces have the kinds of conventional weapons and ballistic missiles that can level a town in short shrift – that is not an outcome Israel has the capacity to endure.

In yet another corner is Iran, boasting a rare combination of military manpower, hardware, technology and tactical skills that Israel has never faced in any adversary on the battlefield. Russia looms large too – it may provide military intelligence to its allies or it may just use its clout in the UN Security Council to intervene at opportune moments in the fight. Either way, Moscow is a huge asset for the Resistance Axis – and will be joined by China to coach and calibrate responses to the fighting from the ‘international community.’

Meanwhile, as if unable to stop a ‘war trajectory’ once it starts, the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee has just voted to widen and deepen the scope of a US attack on Syria. The new goal? To “reverse the momentum on the battlefield” against the Syrian army and “hasten Assad’s departure.”

This is no different than Libya, Afghanistan or Iraq. Israelis and Americans need to understand that language and behavior threatening ‘regime-change’ gives their adversaries only one choice: to retaliate withall their capabilities and assets on all fronts. Washington just made this existential. No more games, no more rhetoric. Any strike on Syria will be ‘war on.’ In US military parlance: a ‘full-spectrum operation’ will be heading your way. And you can call it Operation “Tip of the Iceberg” out of sheer accuracy, for a change.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter@snarwani

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Jonathon Cook always rights with insight, and I agree entirely that these peace talks are an exercise in futility. Even so, I’m not entirely convinced that he’s accounted for the enthusiasm of the  Palestinians in the process.

If, as Cook suggests, both sides know full well that the whole exercise is ultimately futile (at least in terms of any peace process) why are the Palestinians involved? I can appreciate that it’s a politically opportune move for Netanyahu but does Abbas really think he is going to enhance his reputation by participating in another round of fruitless talks? There are still some missing pieces in this puzzle!

Father Dave

Jonathon Cook

Jonathon Cook

www.kashmirtimes.com…

The flawed logic of Israel-Palestine talks

By Jonathan Cook

It may not have reached the level of fevered expectation unleashed by that famous handshake between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the White House lawn in 1993, but the sense of hope inspired by the long-awaited revival of peace talks is both tangible and deeply misplaced.The talks, which it was agreed this week will begin in earnest in the region in mid-August, are taking place not because either Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, or the Palestnian president, Mahmoud Abbas, believe a deal is in reach. The two sides are talking each to avoid being blamed for embarrassing John Kerry, the US secretary of state.

The mistaken mood of “change is in the air” was illustrated last week by a much-touted poll showing that 55 per cent of Israelis would vote for an agreement if presented with it, with 25 per cent opposed. Overlooked was the fact that many more Israelis – 70 per cent – believe an agreement cannot be reached, while 60 per cent say the reason is that Netanyahu will never partition the land.

Palestinians are no more sanguine. A recent poll revealed a measly 8 per cent had any degree of trust in the US as mediator.

But if ordinary Israelis and Palestinians are either despondent or uninterested, their leaders and many observers are talking up the chances of a breakthrough.

In part, this optimism is underpinned by the European Union’s unexpected and largely symbolic decision recently to penalise the settlements. From next year, the EU is supposed to deny funding to Israeli institutions in the occupied territories.

This is a bitter pill for Israel to swallow, and it is already seeking to punish Europe. Last weekend it emerged that the Israeli military was denying EU staff access to Gaza, and blocking European projects in Area C, the nearly two-thirds of the West Bank exclusively controlled by Israel.

But while Europe’s move has infuriated Israel, it looks suspiciously like it paved Netanyahu’s way to the negotiating table.

Israel and its supporters have long cultivated the idea that strong-arm tactics, such as boycotts and sanctions, only serve to push the Israeli public and politicians further to the right. This has been the US and Europe’s rationale for treating Israel with kid gloves since the Oslo process began two decades ago.

And yet the EU’s anti-settlement initiative suggests the opposite to be true. Both Netanyahu and Abbas hurried into the talks in the wake of the EU announcement – and for much the same reason.

For Netanyahu, Europe’s move was a stick he wielded to frighten into compliance those to his right in the government. He could argue persuasively that continuing Israeli intransigence on talks would only intensify the country’s isolation – the substance of his opaque references to “Israel’s strategic interests”.

Israel has much more to fear from the Palestinians outside the confines of a bogus peace process. There is the threat of the Palestinians building the momentum for further sanctions from bodies like the EU, or of their again taking their case for statehood to the United Nations, or of their referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for war crimes.

For Abbas, the same EU decision was a carrot used to disarm critics who have been warning that the revival of futile negotiations will damage the Palestinian national cause. Claiming the Europeans had forced Israel on to the backfoot, Abbas could argue that the moment had finally arrived to negotiate.

Uncharacteristically, the US has not appeared overly troubled by Israel’s patent displeasure at the sudden stiffening of EU resolve. Or as a senior US official told the Israeli media: “The Europeans are giving us the time and allowing us to try and get the talks going.”

But while the US, Europe, Netanyahu and even Abbas will gain some breathing space from months of empty talk about peace, there is no sign that the pressure bringing Israel to the table will continue once it is seated.

The most worrying indication that the US is heading down the same failed path is the announcement of Martin Indyk’s return as mediator. Indyk, a long-time Israel lobbyist, has been intimately tied to previous diplomatic failures.

In addition, the negotiators themselves are the same compromised figures who have been down this route before. The Palestine Papers, leaked by Al-Jazeera in 2011, revealed that in earlier talks Palestinian negotiatior Saeb Erekat had dared to give away far more than observers had ever imagined possible, while even these generous concessions had failed to satisfy Israel’s Tzipi Livni.

There is also something puzzling about a peace process driven by a nine-month timetable rather than the logic of the negotiations. A possible motivation for the White House’s desire to drag out the talks was suggested by an official on Wednesday: the US desperately wants to avoid the “train wreck” of the Palestinians returning to the UN.

Another barometer for judging the chances of a breakthrough are the relaxed smiles of Netanyahu’s far-right ministers, who are clearly undisturbed by thoughts that the settlements are in imminent jeopardy.

In fact, quite the reverse. Israel has announced it will build 1,000 settler homes over the coming months, in addition to continuing private construction. A train line linking the settlements to Israeli towns, making them even more accessible and attractive, has also been unveiled.

Regarding the peace process, Kerry has previously warned that there is “a year, a year-and-a-half, or two years and it’s over”. But what would “over” actually entail?

For one thing, someone will have to be blamed and all past evidence suggests that the someone in question will be the Palestinians. For another, Netanyahu will be able to argue that, just as Kerry feared, the peace process is dead. No Palestinian leadership, he will claim, will ever be capable of making peace.

That may prove a tempting moment for Israel to carry out the much-longed-for annexation of Area C, the bulk of the West Bank and the site of the settlements. With as few as 100,000 Palestinians left in Area C after decades of ethnic cleansing, Israel can offer them citizenship without threatening the state’s hallowed Jewishness.

Not only would such a move satisfy Netanyahu’s hunger for more Palestinian land, but it would solve another problem, this time for Europe and the US. They would no longer have to fret about boycotting the settlements; annexation would mean there were no more settlements to oppose.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net…

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It is a great encouragement to see Uncle Noam still out there on the front lines, taking his stand alongside so many voiceless Palestinians! He gains nothing but ire and accusations for his tireless work of exposing hypocrisy in high places.

Chomsky is a Jew, of course, which adds to the sting of his critique so far as the Zionist establishment is concerned. Moreover, he is an American Jew, whose harshest criticisms are generally reserved for the leaders of his own country.

At 84 years old one has to wonder how much longer the great man can maintain his global prophetic role. Certainly we will all be a great deal poorer when he leaves the world stage.

Father Dave

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

source: www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/07/27/315745/us-not-a-neutral-party-in-mideast-talks/…

US not a neutral party in Mideast talks: Noam Chomsky

Renowned American academician Noam Chomsky says the United States cannot act as a mediator in the talks between Israel and Palestine because it is not neutral.

He told reporters Friday in Geneva the US-brokered resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians likely will not amount to much, but Europe could change that if it were willing to break from American policies supporting Israel.

Preliminary talks are scheduled to begin in Washington on July 30.

“It’s hard to be optimistic, but Europe could play a role,” said Chomsky. “By and large, Europe has not developed an independent Middle East policy.”

Europe “consistently follows the US stand,” which punishes Palestinians whose land is settled by Israelis, and “there’s no reason why Europe should support illegal settlements,” he noted.

The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts made to establish peace in the Middle East.

A report released in May revealed that the Israeli regime confiscated 1,977 acres of the Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank for its settlement activity during 2012.

The settlements, which cover an area roughly equal to 1,035 soccer fields and twice as big as New York’s Central Park, were approved by “military order,” according to the report by the Israeli daily Haaretz on May 27.

The report said most of the new settlements were located deep in the Palestinian-inhabited West Bank.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.

The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in the war of 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

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Below is an excerpt from Uri Avnery’s latest offering – “The Turkey Under the Table”. He highlights beautifully how dismal our hopes are that there might be any positive result from the latest Israel/Palestine peace negotiations.

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

WHEN YOU have a conflict between two parties, the way to solve it is clear: you put them in the same room, let them thrash out their differences and emerge with a reasonable solution acceptable to both.

For example, a conflict between a wolf and a lamb. Put them in the same room, let them thrash out their differences and emerge with…

Just a moment. The wolf emerges. Now where’s that lamb?

IF YOU have a conflict between two parties who are like a wolf and a lamb, you must have a third party in the room, just to make sure that Party 1 does not have Party 2 for dinner while the talks are going on.

The balance of power between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is like that between a wolf and a lamb. In almost every respect – economic, military, political – Israel has a vast advantage.

This is a fact of life. It is up to the Third Party to balance this somehow.

Can it be done? Will it be done?

I have always liked John Kerry. He radiates an air of honesty, sincerity, that seems real. His dogged efforts command respect. The announcement this week that he has at long last achieved even the first stage of talks between the parties can give some room for optimism.

As Mao said: A march of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

The parties have agreed to a meeting of delegates to work out the preliminary details. It should take place this coming week in Washington. So far so good.

The first question is: who will be the third person? It has been leaked that the leading candidate for this delicate task is Martin Indyk, a veteran former State Department officer.

This is a problematic choice. Indyk is Jewish and very much involved in Jewish and Zionist activity. He was born in England and grew up in Australia. He served twice as US ambassador to Israel.

Right-wing Israelis object to him because he is active in left-wing Israeli institutions. He is a member of the board of the New Israel Fund, which gives financial support to moderate Israeli peace organizations and is demonized by the extreme rightists around Binyamin Netanyahu.

Palestinians may well ask whether among the 300 million US citizens there is not a single non-Jew who can manage this job. For many years now it has been the case that almost all American officials dealing with the Israeli-Arab problem have been Jews. And almost all of them later went on to be officials in Zionist think-tanks and other organizations.

Read more of Uri Avnery’s wisdom on the Gush-Shalom website.