A week ago Israeli forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at a group of Palestinian children, ages six to twelve, who had gathered on a public street in Hebron to perform a dance.
The group consisted of 15 children in all, both boys and girls, and the dance they were performing was dabke, a traditional Palestinian folk dance. Their activity was part of an annual “Open Shuhada Street” protest, held each year on the anniversary of the massacre carried out by Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 took an assault rifle into a Hebron mosque and opened fire, killing 29 people and wounding 125 others.
After that massacre, 21 years ago, Israel took over Shuhada Street, a commercial district that once was the thriving heart of Hebron, forcing Palestinian businesses there to shutter, and turning the central bus station into an Israeli Army base. It has remained this way ever since.
The children’s dance performance took place in a part of Hebron that is, at least officially, controlled by the Palestinian Authority, but it was held near the Shuhada check point, and apparently this is what agitated the Israelis.
According to a report here, at least 13 Israeli soldiers were spotted on rooftops around the area as the protest got under way.
“As soon as the dancing kids moved closer to the checkpoint, soldiers immediately attacked with two tear gas grenades and two stun grenades,” according to one person who witnessed the incident. “Israeli soldiers fired tear gas even though the children were not throwing stones.”
After at first fleeing the assault, the children bravely made the decision to continue their dance. About 20 soldiers and eight border police charged forward from their checkpoint into the ostensibly PA-controlled area. Palestinian youths in the crowd began hurling stones, at which point the security forces threw about a dozen stun grenades into the crowd.
Apparently the children are alright, but two adults reportedly suffered injuries from rubber-coated steel bullets.
On Tuesday, March 3, the prime minister of the state whose soldiers fired projectiles at the dancing children will speak before a joint session of Congress—and the scheduled address has been pitted as a confrontation between the Obama administration and Benjamin Netanyahu and his adoring fans. It is also leading, most likely, to the inevitable questions in people’s minds about who really runs America, because of course—it doesn’t seem to be Obama.
In fact, if you compiled a list of the most powerful people in America, it’s debatable as to whether the president would even make the top 10. He doesn’t own or control any media outlets, Wall Street investment banks, or Hollywood movie studios. He does have what is sometimes thought of as a “bully pulpit,” but the only thing he seems to use it for these days is to accuse Russia of aggression in Ukraine.
How about using that bully pulpit to campaign for congressional passage of a mandatory GMO labeling law? That’s certainly something that would benefit Americans and which the vast majority of the American people would support. But no. Obama has more pressing concerns, like accusing Donbass separatists—who’ve watched Kiev forces invade their territory, bomb airports and residential buildings, and kill women and children—of violating the Minsk 2 ceasefire.
I must say, whatever group of people are pushing for this war in Ukraine, Obama seems eager to assure them that he is definitely down with their program. The video below is what one might categorize as a “must see.” Not only does it document America’s role in the overthrow of the democratically elected Yanukovych government, but it also provides some constructive insights into the economic and geostrategic considerations that likely motivated it all:
The video does one other thing for us as well: the images we see of masked gangsters carrying guns and wearing suits give us a look, in a generic manner of speaking, into who really runs America. Yes, I know. They’re only artist’s renderings. But I suspect that buried somewhere deep in the collective human imagination are images of fierce devourers that look very much like these. Talented artists are those who simply project what all of us are thinking and imagining. And if we’re all imagining gangsters in suits who look like this, is it possible we could be that far off the mark?
So who are the faces behind the masks? Well, certainly the media in America are powerful. We get a glimpse into how powerful in a 2011 article published in New York Magazine about Fox News President Roger Ailes.
All the 2012 candidates know that Ailes is a crucial constituency. “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger,” one GOPer told me. “Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.” But he hasn’t found any of them, including the adults in the room—Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney—compelling. “He finds flaws in every one,” says a person familiar with his thinking.
Written by Gabriel Sherman, the article discusses a Fox News “war with the White House” that broke out in 2009 after Obama took office. All in all, it was the White House which didn’t fare so well:
But from the moment of Obama’s inauguration, Fox went on the offensive. Its pundits pushed stories including tales of voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party, ACORN fraud, Obama’s czars, and Obama’s rumored $200 million–per–day trip to India. As the summer of 2009 unfolded, with tea-party anger over the stimulus and health care ratcheting up, Fox and the White House went to war. In June 2009, Obama gave an interview to CNBC’s John Harwood and lashed out. “I’ve got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration,” he said. “That’s a pretty big megaphone. You’d be hard-pressed, if you watched the entire day, to find a positive story about me on that front.”
But it wasn’t until a month later that a succession of media controversies convinced the White House that Fox was a dangerous opponent that needed to be taken on. On July 28, Beck went on Fox and Friends, called Obama a “racist,” and declared that his response to the dustup between Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Cambridge Police Department exposed the president’s “deep-seated hatred for white people.” Beck’s next target was Obama’s green-jobs “czar,” Van Jones, who had been blasted for signing a 9/11 “Truth Statement” in 2004. Jones resigned on September 6. Four days later, Fox broke the undercover video of conservative prankster James O’Keefe’s ACORN sting. “I had never heard of Glenn Beck before,” Dunn told me. “Obviously, August of 2009 was a disaster.”
When even the New York Times began to endorse some of Fox News’ positions, it became nail-biting time for White House staff. Anita Dunn, a former Obama media adviser, complained that “the narrative was being hijacked by Fox.” Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs reached out to Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente to try and negotiate a truce, yet it was four days before Clemente even returned Gibbs’ call. Sherman comments that “for Fox, the war with the White House only stoked ratings.”
Ailes is a powerful media boss. No doubt about it. But it seems there are higher powers that even Roger Ailes must bow down to. In 2011, the Fox News president incurred the wrath of the Anti-Defamation League after comparing NPR executives to “Nazis.”
The brouhaha arose after Fox News commentator Juan Williams, who also served as an analyst for NPR, made a remark about Muslims on the Bill O’Reilly show that resulted in his being canned by NPR. Williams expressed trepidation about getting on airplanes and seeing people dressed in Muslim attire, commenting that the presence of such individuals among his fellow passengers gave him the heebie jeebies. “I get worried. I get nervous,” he said. For NPR, the remark was “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices” and had “undermined his (Williams’) credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
The NPR management statement prompted the “Nazi” analogy from Ailes, which in turn ignited criticism from the ADL. The higher power had spoken. The Fox News president promptly issued an apology.
“I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word, but I was angry at the time because of NPR’s willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough,” Ailes said. “My now considered opinion ‘nasty, inflexible bigot’ would have worked better.”
The ADL’s Abe Foxman generously granted him absolution for his sin.
“I welcome Roger Ailes apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt,” Foxman said. “Nazi comparisons of this nature are clearly inappropriate and offensive. While I wish Roger had never invoked that terminology, I appreciate his efforts to immediately reach out and to retract his words before they did any further harm.”
Note the use of the word “immediately.” Ailes apparently didn’t wait four days to return Foxman’s call. In a later comment to the Wall Street Journal, Foxman praised both Ailes and Glen Beck as “pro-Israel stalwarts.”
So if even a mega-media boss like Ailes has to occasionally do obeisance to “the Lobby” what sort of demands must Obama accede to?
In September of 2011, our president gave a speech before the UN in which he opposed recognition of Palestinian statehood and used the words “unshakeable” and “deep and enduring” to describe the US-Israel relationship. One day later he held a conference call with approximately 900 US rabbis in which the adjectives he used became even stronger: “The bonds between the US and Israel are unbreakable and the commitment of the security of Israel is ironclad. Since coming into office, I haven’t just talked the talk, we’ve walked the walk,” he said.
Interesting to note is that on September 18 of that year—three days before the UN speech and four days before the conference call—New York Magazine jumped to the fore again—with a front-cover article describing major erosion of support for Obama amongst Jews in America. “There’s no question. We have a big-time Jewish problem,” said one presidential fundraiser quoted. Written by John Heilemann, the article is entitled “The Tsuris.” “Tsuris” is a Yiddish-derived term meaning “trouble” or “problem.”
A recent poll by the Republican firm McLaughlin & Associates found that among Jewish donors who gave to Obama in 2008, just 64 percent have already donated or plan to donate to him this time. Complicating the picture is the fact that Jewish buckrakers cite a variety of complaints with Obama: Some object to his rhetoric on Wall Street, some to his economic policies, and some to his handling of Israel.
Keep in mind that all this—the UN speech, the conference call to the rabbis—took place in the early stages of the 2012 election season. Erosion of support from Jews, and more importantly Jewish money donors, could have seriously disrupted the re-election bid. What is a president to do when faced with such a “tsuris?” Well one strategy might be grabbing as many people with Jewish bona-fides as you can get your hands on and bringing them into your administration.
In June of 2012, with the election some five months away, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Obama’s Special Assistant and White House Coordinator for Defense Policy (she has since been promoted to Deputy Secretary of Energy) seems to have been quite busy making speeches to Jewish audiences in Los Angeles.
Sherwood-Randall’s father, Dick Sherwood, served as a past president of the L.A. chapter of the American Jewish Committee, and her brother, Ben Sherwood, a former head of ABC News, is today co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group.
In remarks given in late June at the Peninsula, a five-star hotel in Beverly Hills, Sherwood-Randall seemed intent on assuring her audience that the Obama administration was energetically speeding toward regime change in Syria.
“We launched an international coalition to isolate the regime while seeking to support the peaceful opposition and to create increasing pressure on President Assad to stop committing atrocities against his own people,” she said. “We have said to President Assad, repeatedly, ‘You’re on the wrong side of history.’ ”
The “peaceful opposition” seems today to have morphed into ISIS.
Naturally, of course, Sherwood-Randall had lots and lots to gush about Israel:
“As these historic changes unfold the stability of Israel’s borders and the security of its people have remained our highest priority. This administration is committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region involving two states, a State of Israel as a Jewish state, and a State of Palestine that will be a homeland for the Palestinian people, with each respecting the right of the other. The status quo is not sustainable.
“We continue to work to see there is a durable peace that meets all of Israel’s security concerns. President Obama has declared Israel’s security sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.”
Nor did she neglect to mention the $205 million spent to help the Jewish state develop its Iron Dome missile system—approved under Obama’s watch.
That same month, Sherwood-Randall also gave a talk to a group of AJC members at the Hillcrest Country Club in L.A. Home to an 18-hole golf course, the country club is located across the street from Fox Studios. A report on her talk there can be found here and includes the following:
Dr. Sherwood-Randall outlined the President’s agenda for the Middle East, noting that Israel’s security remains non-negotiable and mutual recognition and peace is required for a durable solution to the Middle East conflict. She noted that the President has spent more time in meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu than any other world leader and argued that when it comes to Israel’s security, no American Administration has ever done as much for Israel’s security, citing the U.S. intervention at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and the largest joint military exercise ever between the U.S. military and Israeli Defense Forces, to occur in the coming months.
Apparently it was enough to tip the scales in Obama’s favor.
Now here we are with one year and eleven months left in Obama’s second term in office. Clearly Israel has been the big winner. It has received billions in aid and unlimited diplomatic support at the UN. But what have the rest of us gotten out of the Obama presidency?
Well, there was the passage of Obamacare, and just last week the president vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline, which is good for the environment that he did. But some have pointed out that Obamacare was probably more a gift to the insurance industry than a saving grace for the American people, and it is perhaps emblematic that a move like the Keystone veto would not materialize until the “lame duck” stage of the Obama years. Another point in Obama’s favor is his support for net neutrality—but here again, like the Keystone issue, that support didn’t materialize categorically until late 2014 when it should have been voiced from the moment Obama and his family moved into the White House in 2009. The bully pulpit should have been put to use for a lot of things that it wasn’t.
But maybe there are reasons for this. It was also in 2012 that Andrew Adler, publisher of a Jewish newspaper in Atlanta, published an article saying that it might not be such a bad idea if Mossad simply assassinated Obama in order to “preserve Israel’s existence.” The article caused an uproar, and Adler ended up being heavily admonished by his own community. But of course a Mossad hit upon a US president is not inconceivable (it certainly wasn’t inconceivable to Adler), nor is it farfetched that the media could simply invent something heinous and accuse Obama of it—in which case an assassination would not even be necessary. If the charge were serious enough the chief executive could face impeachment, legal proceedings, and conceivably even his presidential pension might be at risk. If you were a sitting president, no matter how sorry you might feel for the Palestinians or the poor in America, would you want to jeopardize yourself and your family in such a manner?
And now (with the “lame duck” days fully and heavily upon us) the tiff between Obama and Netanyahu seems finally to have come to a head. Even at this stage, however, the president apparently has to be very careful about how he handles the upcoming visit by the Israeli prime minister. Officially the White House says there will be no meeting between the two because Obama doesn’t want to interfere in the upcoming Israeli election (ironically, Israelis, by a 62% margin, think he’s “interfering” anyway), but does anyone believe this is the real reason? While a few members of the administration, such as Susan Rice, have voiced some mild criticisms, the official strategy nonetheless seems to be: keep quiet, say as little as possible.
Be that as it may, House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu—along with the Israeli prime minister’s decision to accept—have been widely perceived as an insult to the president. This seems to be the case not only in the civilian branches of our government, but also in the military.
“There’s always been a lot of support for Israel in the military, but that’s significantly eroded over the last few years,” one Joint Chiefs of Staff officer, speaking anonymously, told Aljazeera.
The officer went on:
“This caps it. It’s one thing for Americans to criticize their president and another entirely for a foreign leader to do it. Netanyahu doesn’t get it. We’re not going to side with him against the commander in chief. Not ever.”
While no currently-serving officers were willing to speak on record, several retired ones did. One is retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard.
“It’s a really politically freighted question, but I can tell you from my own experience that Mr. Netanyahu is way out of his lane,” Gard said. “And you can be sure there isn’t a military officer in uniform who would get involved in this issue. It’s not just that Netanyahu is showing disrespect for Mr. Obama. It’s that he’s disrespecting U.S. institutions. He’s thumbing his nose at our way of doing things. Even for those out of uniform, this is a mistake. It’s one thing to show disrespect for President Obama—that happens all the time—but it’s another thing to show disrespect for America. That just can’t be tolerated.”
Another retired officer, Air Force Col. Richard Klass, went so far as to author an article entitled Is Israel Becoming a Strategic Liability for the United States, in which he describe Netanyahu as a “bull in the china shop,” criticizing his upcoming visit as an “intervention” into US politics, one of a “different order of magnitude” than heretofore seen. Klass also says the visit jeopardizes US security by threatening to upset talks with Iran. Sadly, some of his former War College classmates have found fault with the remarks, but the retired officer says he stands by them.
At any rate, Wall Street banks, media corporations, defense contractors, and the like, many of them with interlocking boards and relationships, obviously wield enormous power, but perhaps none packs a punch more powerful, or occupies a place higher on the pyramid, than the Israeli Lobby. This is not to say that these entities aren’t all on the same side anyway. They probably are. Or if there are significant, major disputes, they seem to keep it “in the family,” so to speak.
This may sound like a racist comment, but it really isn’t. I sometimes wonder: if Obama had been white, would things have been any different? Would he have been able to exert more power over the flow of events? I remember reading an article posted some time ago, maybe a year or so after the president had taken office, in which the writer, lamenting the failure to end the wars and other disappointments to the liberal base constituency, commented rather perceptively: “Just when we needed an angry black man, we didn’t get one.” And maybe that’s it: Obama just wasn’t angry enough.
At any rate, the fierce, devouring gangsters prevail for now. And if they aren’t arrested and brought to justice at some point, a nightmarish future awaits—not only the dancing children of Hebron, but all of us.