We Don’t Hire Racists

Israelis are recognizing and reacting to the cultural racism that has resulted from decades of war and confrontation with Arabs. “Hating them” is not going solve the problem but it does make Israelis and Jewish supporters the world over less Jewish and part of the problem, not the solution.

The sign in the window of this Israeli bar/cafe reads, “We Don’t Hire Racists.


We don't employ racists

What Would Nelson Mandela Say to this Preacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque? (VIDEOS)


  • Ever wonder why the conflict between Jews and Palestinians seems so vitriolic and implacable?
  • Ever wonder how Nelson Mandela was able to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa without a bloody violent civil war that would have left hundreds of thousands dead on both sides and the living hating one another?
  • The State of Palestine will be born when the Palestinian people have the kind of moral leader Nelson Mandela was to his people.  The founding leader of the future State of Palestine will have zero tolerance for hate and violence.
  • The State of Palestine will ultimately by founded by men or women who know that making peace with Israel and the Jewish people is the only possible way forward if the national aspirations of the Palestinian people are to be realized.


Hard Evidence Can’t Be Denied: Republican Officials Work for the Private Sector Not the American People

Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt and many of his fellow Republican AG's are suing the Federal government over new, tighter EPA regulations on the oil Industry.  Are they really protecting jobs or profits?

Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt and many of his fellow Republican AG’s are suing the Federal government over new, tighter EPA regulations on the oil Industry. Are they really protecting jobs or profits?

Progressives like myself  have repeated ad nauseam the notion that the Republican Party is nothing more than political operative for the private sector so often that we find ourselves either preaching to the choir or speaking to indifferent centrists and deaf social conservatives who have heard it all before.

This well documented article in December 7, 2014 New York Times brings home the evidence in a most chilling way.  When a politician from an oil-producing state poo-poos global warming, reasonable people know he/she feels obligated to defend the interests of the energy industry that are among the largest employers and campaign contributors in their home states.  But to read that elected officials issue letters or reports from their office that were actually composed by lawyers and PR professionals in the oil industry should alarm every American who want to believe that this is a real democracy.

(reprinted from 12/7/2014 New York Times)

Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys



The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House.”

Mr. Whitsitt then added, “Please pass along Devon’s thanks to Attorney General Pruitt.”

The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.

They share a common philosophy about the reach of the federal government,

but the companies also have billions of dollars at stake. And the collaboration is likely to grow: For the first time in modern American history, Republicans in January will control a majority — 27 — of attorneys general’s offices.

The Times reported previously how individual attorneys general have shut down investigations, changed policies or agreed to more corporate-friendly settlement terms after intervention by lobbyists and lawyers, many of whom are also campaign benefactors.

But the attorneys general are also working collectively. Democrats for more than a decade have teamed up with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club to use the court system to impose stricter regulation. But never before have attorneys general joined on this scale with corporate interests to challenge Washington and file lawsuits in federal court.

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

For Mr. Pruitt, the benefits have been clear. Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington.

That campaign, in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm, has been used to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues, the Affordable Care Act and securities regulation. The most recent target is the president’s executive action on immigration.

“We are living in the midst of a constitutional crisis,” Mr. Pruitt told energy industry lobbyists and conservative state legislators at a conference in Dallas in July, after being welcomed with a standing ovation. “The trajectory of our nation is at risk and at stake as we respond to what is going on.”
Mr. Pruitt has responded aggressively, and with a lot of helping hands. Energy industry lobbyists drafted letters for him to send to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama, The Times found.

Industries that he regulates have also joined him as plaintiffs in court challenges, a departure from the usual role of the state attorney general, who traditionally sues companies to force compliance with state law.

Energy industry lobbyists have also distributed draft legislation to attorneys general and asked them to help push it through state legislatures to give the attorneys general clearer authority to challenge the Obama regulatory agenda, the documents show.

“It is quite new,” said Paul Nolette, a political-science professor at Marquette University and the author of the forthcoming book “Federalism on Trial: State Attorneys General and National Policy Making in Contemporary America.” “The scope, size and tenor of these collaborations is, without question, unprecedented.”

And it is an emerging practice that several former attorneys general say threatens the integrity of the office.

“It is a magnificent and noble institution, the office of attorney general, as it is truly the lawyer for the people,” said Terry Goddard, a Democrat who served two terms as Arizona’s attorney general and who, like Mr. Frohnmayer, reviewed copies of the documents collected by The Times. “That independence is clearly at risk here. What is happening diminishes the reputation of individual attorneys general and the community as a group.”

Mr. Pruitt, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, dismissed this criticism as misinformed.

“Those kinds of questions arise from the environment we are in — a very dysfunctional, distrustful political environment,” Mr. Pruitt said in an interview. “I can say to you that is not who we are or have ever been, and despite those criticisms we sit around and make decisions about what is right, and what represents adherence to the rule of law, and we seek to advance that and try to do the best we can to educate people about our viewpoint.”

In a state dominated by the energy industry, Mr. Pruitt’s stands have been widely popular. “Attorney General Pruitt has been a champion for our state,” saidState Senator Mike Schulz, a Republican who is the majority floor leader. “The State of Oklahoma is in a better position than the E.P.A. to regulate drilling.”

But Mr. Pruitt’s ties with industry are clear. One of his closest partners has been Harold G. Hamm, the billionaire chief executive of Continental Resources, which is among the biggest oil and gas drilling companies in both Oklahoma and North Dakota.

This year, Mr. Pruitt joined with a group aligned with Mr. Hamm to sue the Interior Department over its plan to consider adding animals such as the lesser prairie chicken to the endangered species list, a move that Mr. Hamm has said could knock out “some of the most promising land for oil and gas leases in the country.” The suit was filed after Mr. Hamm announced that he would serve as the chairman of Mr. Pruitt’s re-election campaign.

“Time and time again, General Pruitt has stood up and bravely fought for the rights of Oklahomans in those instances when the federal government has overextended its hand,” Mr. Hamm said as his role in Mr. Pruitt’s re-election effort was announced.

A Potent Ally

Energy industry executives and lobbyists from across the United States saw great potential in Mr. Pruitt, a gifted politician who had been a state legislator and a minor-league baseball team co-owner and executive before running for attorney general.

Among them was Andrew P. Miller, a patrician 81-year-old former Virginia attorney general. Mr. Miller is a regular at gatherings of state attorneys general at resort destinations, and his client list includes TransCanada, the backer of the Keystone XL pipeline; the Southern Company, the Georgia-based electric utility, which has a large number of coal-burning power plants; and the investor group behind the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska.

For the energy industry, Mr. Pruitt was an easy choice.

“There’s a mentality emanating from Washington today that says, ‘We know best,’ ” Mr. Pruitt said during his 2010 campaign. “It’s a one-size-fits-all strategy, a command-and-control kind of approach, and we’ve got to make sure we know how to respond to that.”

Among Mr. Pruitt’s first acts was to create a “federalism office,” which challenged the Obama administration’s plan to reduce haze in southwestern Oklahoma by requiring coal-burning electricity plants in the state to install new pollution control equipment.

His interaction with the industry, Mr. Pruitt said during an interview at his Oklahoma City office, has been motivated by a desire to gather information from experts, while defending his state’s longstanding tradition of self-determination.

That ethos, he said, is depicted in a large oil painting in his office that shows local authorities with rifles at the ready confronting outsiders during the land rush era. “The founders recognized that power concentrated in a few is a bad thing,” Mr. Pruitt said.

Mr. Miller made it his job to promote Mr. Pruitt nationally, both as a spokesman for the Rule of Law campaign and as the president of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

“I regard the general as the A.G. best suited to take this lead on this question of federalism,” Mr. Miller wrote to Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff in April 2012. “The touchstone of this initiative would be to organize the states to resist federal ‘overreach’ whenever it occurs.”

To Mr. Miller, having Mr. Pruitt as an advocate fit a broader strategy. He wanted state attorneys general to band together the way they did when they challenged the health care law in 2010. In that effort, they hired a major national corporate law firm, Baker Hostetler, to argue the case, with much of the bill being paid through donations from executives at corporations that oppose the law.

In his initial appeal to Mr. Pruitt, Mr. Miller insisted that his approach was not “client driven.” But he soon began to name individual clients — TransCanada and Pebble Mine in Alaska — that he wanted to include in the effort. The E.P.A. has held up the Pebble Mine project, which could potentially yield 80 billion pounds of copper, after concluding it would “threaten one of the world’s most productive salmon fisheries.”

“This strike force ought to take the form of a national state litigation team to challenge the E.P.A.’s overreach,” Mr. Miller said in an email to Mr. Pruitt’s office. “Like the Dalmatian at the proverbial firehouse, it could move out smartly when the alarm sounded.”

A Call to Arms

Mr. Miller’s pitch to Mr. Pruitt became a reality early last year at the historic Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City, where he brought together an extraordinary assembly of energy industry power brokers and attorneys general from nine states for what he called the Summit on Federalism and the Future of Fossil Fuels.

The meeting took place in the shadow of office towers that dominate Oklahoma City’s skyline and are home to Continental Resources, a leader in the nation’s fastest- growing oil field, the Bakken formation of North Dakota, as well as Devon Energy, which drilled 1,275 new wells last year.

More liberal attorneys general, such as Douglas F. Gansler, Democrat of Maryland, did not participate.

“Indeed, General Gansler would in all likelihood try to hijack your summit,” Mr. Miller wrote to Mr. Pruitt in an email. “At best you would be left to preside over a debate, rather than a call to arms.”

Oklahoma energy companies were there, according to an agenda, joined by executives from Peabody Energy of Missouri, the world’s largest private-sector coal producer, as well as the Southern Company, which has aggressively challenged federal air pollution mandates.

The nation’s top corporate energy regulatory lawyers were there, too, including F. William Brownell, a senior partner at the law firm Hunton & Williams, which has spent more than 25 years fighting the enforcement of the Clean Air Act.

The event was organized by an energy-industry-funded law and economics center at George Mason University of Virginia. The center is part of the brain trust of conservative, pro-industry groups that have worked from the sidelines to help Mr. Pruitt and other attorneys general.

And there was nothing ambiguous about the agenda.

“Suggested Responses to Assaults on Federalism” was the topic of one breakfast meeting, moderated by Attorney General Wayne K. Stenehjem of North Dakota, that showcased Mr. Brownell and three other top corporate regulatory lawyers. Mr. Hamm was the featured dinner speaker.

“We need to ensure the robust role of the states,” said Paul M. Seby, another coal industry lawyer who attended. “And as the chief law enforcement officers, it is not surprising this is becoming a cornerstone of attorney generals’ attention.”

Attorneys general said they had no choice but to team up with corporate America. “When the federal government oversteps its legal authority and takes actions that hurt our businesses and residents, it’s entirely appropriate for us to partner with the adversely affected private entities in fighting back,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida, whose top deputy attended the meeting.

A ‘Strike Force’

The impact of the gathering was immediate. A week later, a new Federalism in Environmental Policy task force was established by lawyers in the offices of 19 state attorneys general, according to email records obtained from the office of Attorney General Timothy C. Fox of Montana, who had participated in the Oklahoma meeting.

“This message is in follow-up to the excellent environmental conference put on last week by George Mason University and hosted by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office,” said one email sent by Katie Spohn, the deputy attorney general in Nebraska. “In order to continue our coordination of efforts regarding Federalism in Environmental Policy, I am seeking input from each state who participated in the conference.”

Mr. Miller was pleased. “Just the kind of strike force I was talking about,” he said in an interview.

And the input poured forth. The states worked to detail major federal environmental action, like efforts to curb fish kills, reduce ozone pollution, slow climate change and tighten regulation of coal ash. Then they identified which attorney general’s office was best positioned to try to monitor it and, if necessary, attempt to block it.

Follow-up by Mr. Pruitt’s federalism office often came after coordination with industry representatives, especially from Devon Energy. The company, one of the most important financial supporters for the Republican Attorneys General Association, is guarded about its public profile. But it readily turned to Mr. Pruitt and his staff for help, setting up meetings for the attorney general with its chief executive, its chief lobbyist and other important players.

“We have a clear obligation to our shareholders and others to be involved in these discussions,” John Porretto, a Devon spokesman, said in a statement.

While some of the exchanges were general in character, others were quite explicit, especially the communication about the E.P.A.’s methane regulations that had prompted Mr. Whitsitt, the Devon official, to propose that Mr. Pruitt send a letter to the agency.

“Just a note to pass along the electronic version of the draft letter to Lisa Jackson at E.P.A.,” said one September 2011 letter to Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff from Mr. Whitsitt. “We have no pride of authorship, so whatever you do on this is fine.” Mr. Pruitt took the letter and, after changing just 37 words in the 1,016-word draft, copied it onto his state government letterhead and sent it to Ms. Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator.

That was just one of his challenges to Washington. Devon officials also turned to Mr. Pruitt to enlist other Republican attorneys general and Republican governors to oppose a rule proposed by the Bureau of Land Management that would regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal land.

“As promised, we are sending you the attached draft of the R.G.A./RAGA follow-up letter to President Obama opposing B.L.M.’s proposed rule,” Brent Rockwood, Devon’s director of government affairs, wrote to Mr. Pruitt’s staff in late 2012, in an email marked “confidential.”

Weeks later, that letter was sent to Mr. Obama without only a few word changes, signed by Mr. Pruitt and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who was the head of the Republican Governors Association at the time.

Company officials again expressed their pleasure to Mr. Pruitt.

“I’ve learned that we’re having an effect — and may be able to have more, perhaps even to having the rule withdrawn or shifted to almost a reporting-only one,” Mr. Whitsitt wrote, in another email marked “confidential.”

The rule — which the industry claims would cost $346 million a year to comply with — has still not been issued.

Coordination between the corporations and teams of attorneys general involved in the Rule of Law effort also involves actual litigation to try to clear roadblocks to energy projects, documents show.

Energy producers, for instance, wanted to sue the Interior Department as it considered adding animals such as the sage grouse — which nests near sites of oil and gas drilling — to a list of endangered species, a move that could put tens of thousands of acres off limits to new drilling.

The energy companies could have sued on their own, but their executives believed that the case would be more potent by bringing in Mr. Pruitt and the weight of the State of Oklahoma.

“We just came to the conclusion he would be the best person to be the lead attorney on this,” said Mike McDonald, an owner of Triad Energy, a small oil and gas exploration company, and the president of a group that calls itself the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance. “He has exceeded our expectations.” For the industry, the state is an extremely valued partner because states are granted “special solicitude” from the federal courts, a critical advantage to private companies that helps confer legal standing and means that a matter is less likely to be dismissed.

Mr. Pruitt’s office, in a statement to The Times, rejected any suggestion that the attorney general has been wrong to send to Washington comment letters written by industry lobbyists, or to take up their side in litigation.

“The A.G.’s office seeks input from the energy industry to determine real-life harm stemming from proposed federal regulations or actions,” the statement said. “It is the content of the request not the source of the request that is relevant.”

Persuading lawmakers to offer legislation has been another effective lobbying tool. In West Virginia, Mr. Miller handed Attorney General Patrick Morrisey a draft of legislation that he argued would put West Virginia in a better position to sue the Obama administration over proposed regulations to tighten pollution controls on power plants, emails show.

“I trust you will find the legislation acceptable in its present form,” Mr. Miller wrote to Mr. Morrisey in February, referring to a private meeting the two had had in the law library of Mr. Morrisey’s office in Charleston. “If so, I would appreciate your having it introduced by your friends in both the Senate and the House.”

A version of the bill was introduced and passed by the West Virginia Legislature in March. Delegate Rupert Phillips Jr., the chief sponsor of a second bill that also contained language identical to what Mr. Miller had requested, said in an interview that he had acted with Mr. Morrisey’s support, an account supported by William B. Raney, the president of the West Virginia Coal Association.

“It is nice to have everybody singing from the same sheet of music,” Mr. Raney said.

A spokesman for Mr. Morrisey disputed this account, saying that while he supported the effort to challenge the rule, he did not play a role in promoting the legislation.

Blurred Lines

The work in Mr. Pruitt’s office has sometimes seemed to blur the distinction between his official duties and the advancement of his political career.

Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff, Crystal Drwenski, served as gatekeeper to his office, arranging meetings and helping companies get Mr. Pruitt and his staff to intervenewith the federal authorities. But Ms. Drwenski also played an important supplemental role for the attorney general: fund-raising aide.

“A.G. Pruitt is working with the Republican Attorneys General Association on their national meeting in Washington,” Ms. Drwenski wrote to Mr. Whitsitt. “The benefit of membership and participation is having 25 Republican A.G.s in a room to discuss policy issues.”

Ms. Drwenski wanted Devon Energy’s help in enlisting the American Petroleum Institute, and Mr. Whitsitt agreed.

“I’ve put in a plug to A.P.I.,” Mr. Whitsitt wrote back to Ms. Drwenski, a few hours after her request, having reached out to the organization’s senior lobbyist, Marty Durbin. “He is expecting a call.”

In addition to the American Petroleum Institute, major energy companies — ConocoPhillips, the oil and gas company; Alpha Natural Resources, a coal mining giant; and American Electric Power, the nation’s biggest coal consumer — have recently joined the Republican Attorneys General Association, bringing in hundreds of thousands of additional dollars to the group, internal documents show.

By last year, the association was starting to pull in so much money under Mr. Pruitt’s leadership that it decided to break free from its partnership with the Republican State Leadership Committee, a group that represents state elected officials. Within months, the association also set up the Rule of Law Defense Fund, yet another legal entity that allows companies benefiting from the actions of Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general to make anonymous donations, in unlimited amounts. Fund-raising skyrocketed.

The $16 million that the association has collected this year is nearly four times the amount it collected in 2010, money it used mostly to buy millions of dollars’ worth of television advertisements in states like Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado and Nevada, all places where Republican candidates for attorney general won election.

The fund-raising has taken place on the state level as well. Oklahoma Gas & Electric — a for-profit utility that Mr. Pruitt joined with in federal court to fight the E.P.A. — invited its employees to the Petroleum Club in downtown Oklahoma City late last year for a fund-raising event for Mr. Pruitt, drawing donations from about 45 company employees, including the chief executive. Four days later, Mr. Pruitt filed a new appeal in the case — timing that the utility said was a coincidence.

While Mr. Pruitt’s efforts to raise money for the Republican Attorneys General Association have been an unqualified success, the lawsuits and regulatory appeals he has filed have yielded mixed results.

In May, the Supreme Court declined to take up the appeal on the Oklahoma Gas & Electric matter, meaning the company is now moving ahead on retrofitting its coal-burning plants. But other lawsuits are pending, including Mr. Pruitt’s challenge of the Dodd-Frank law, which rewrote the nation’s financial regulations, and, perhaps most important, his challenge of the tax subsidies that are a critical part of the Obama administration’s health care law.

Mr. Pruitt’s staff has juggled various duties — helping major corporations push their challenges against Washington, and then turning to these same executives, at times, to ask them for financial support.

For example, Ms. Drwenski, who is no longer Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff, asked Devon Energy in 2012, on a workday afternoon, for help in signing up the American Petroleum Institute as a member of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

She used her personal email account to send out the initial request. But the subsequent exchange took place on her work email account, even though Oklahoma state law prohibits state officials from using state property or time to solicit political contributions. A spokesman for Mr. Pruitt said, “It is entirely possible she could have been taking a late lunch.”

Mr. Pruitt, who ran unopposed to win a second term, has not needed much of the money himself, but his fund-raising efforts have greatly benefited other Republicans running for the job.

That explains the partylike atmosphere late last month in South Florida, where members of the Republican Attorneys General Association held their fall meeting at the chic Fontainebleau Miami Beach, along with hundreds of lobbyists, lawyers and corporate executives, whose companies had paid as much as $125,000 for the privilege to celebrate with them.

During the opening reception, on a giant terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with red, white and blue lights beaming onto the walls and rock music blasting, the Republican attorneys general strode to the stage to trumpet their new majority in the states.

Mr. Pruitt was there for the weekend’s festivities, an event at which Devon Energy served as a corporate host, with banners hung in the hotel hallways featuring the corporate logo.

The Oklahoma attorney general’s stay was brief. The Rule of Law campaign had a new and urgent target.

“Our president sees himself as above the law,” Mr. Pruitt said from Oklahoma City as he announced several days later yet another front in the campaign, a
lawsuit he planned to file to challenge the Obama administration’s new immigration policies. “We will take action to hold him accountable.

Nick Madigan contributed reporting.

Can You Imagine a U.S. President Inviting Those Who Were Disappointed That Officer Wilson Was Not Indicted to Move to Another Country?

On Nov. 10, 2014 Prime Minister Netanyahu extended the following message to the Palestinian citizens of Israel:  "To all those who are demonstrating and shouting their denunciation of Israel and support of a Palestinian state, I can say one simple thing: you are invited to move there - to the Palestinian Authority or to Gaza,"

On Nov. 10, 2014 Prime Minister Netanyahu extended the following message to the Palestinian citizens of Israel who utilized their rights as citizens of democracy to object to government policies:  “To all those who are demonstrating and shouting their denunciation of Israel and support of a Palestinian state, I can say one simple thing: you are invited to move there – to the Palestinian Authority or to Gaza,”

The anti-Arab rhetoric of Israel's Economic Minister, Naftali Bennett was first expressed in the Knesset by "Rabbi" Meir Khane.

When Meir Khane used racist rhetoric to describe Arabs, he was banned from the Knesset. Israel’s current Minister of the Economy, Naftali Bennet says pretty much the same thing almost everyday. But nowadays, the right-wing in Israel controls the government so Bennett is looked upon as either a hero or “challenging” charismatic personality.

Gun lovers the world over love absolve themselves and their fascination with lethal weapons from all responsibility for the thousands of people killed annually by guns with the absurd sound bite, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Verbal bullies of all ages usually fail to gauge or are just indifferent to the emotional pain, hate and anger they inflict on their victims. Likewise, bigots too often fail to see how their own words and practices incite the very behavior in the group they actively denigrate.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a case and point.  Columnist J.J. Goldberg points out something I suspect many Israelis and friends of Israel don’t want to hear:  A clear line can be draw between terrorist attacks and the words and actions of Israel politicians and intolerant Jewish nationalists.

(reprinted from November 21st edition of the Jewish Forward)

First Relief, Then Tracing the Roots of Bloody Har Nof Attack

Did unilateral or mutual hate make this scene in a Jerusalem synagogue possible?

Did unilateral or mutual hate make this scene in a Jerusalem synagogue possible?

Fingers of Blame Point to Leaders on Both Sides of Green Line

News of terrorist attacks in Israel can strike usinmany different ways. For some the first reaction is anguish; for others it’s rage. There are those who look on with mixed feelings, horrified at the bloodshed yet wanting to understand what drives the killers to such crimes. For still others, it’s that very ambivalence of the onlookers that most infuriates.For many of us, I’d guess, the strongest reaction is a certain helpless sorrow.The12th-century Spanish Hebrew poetYehudaHalevi probably captured that feeling better than anyone in his classic six-line pearl, beginning with the words: “My heart is in the east and I am at the end of the west…”Then there are the moments when the blood simply runs cold, as mine did on the Tuesday when I woke up to the news of a massacre at a synagogue intheHarNof section of Jerusalem, and all I could think was, Please, let it not be my brother-in-law and his kids.It wasn’t. The synagogue the terrorists attacked,Kehillat B’nai Torah, is onShimon Agassi Street, near the old pizza place, way on the other side of the neighborhood. Place matters.HarNof wraps around a shockingly beautiful hilltop at the very western edge of Jerusalem, in a place that was once calledDeir Yassin.Reading the news stories, I saw that one of the victims was a distant cousin of a close friend, but not someone I knew personally. I confess: My horror at the savagery was mixed with relief that it wasn’t my own family. That’s how the mind works. We think first about those closest to us. No apologies.And then comes the anger — waves and waves of it. Not just in Israel. Denunciations of the massacre came from Washington, from Europe and around the world. Even the foreign ministers of Turkey and Bahrain spoke out.

Israel’s prime minister worked hard to channel all that anger and direct it toward a larger purpose. In a way, that’s as it should be. As his nation’s leader, it’s his job both to give voice to the roiling emotions unleashed by the murders and to devise a strategy for fixing things.

Balancing the two tasks can be tricky, though. Giving voice to a nation’s pain calls for fiery passion. Charting a path forward requires cool-headed unflappability. And none of that is any good without the sure-footed ruthlessness to keep a step ahead of rivals looking to upstage you. Benjamin Netanyahu strains to maintain that balancing act.

His balance is particularly shaky when it comes to the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu has maintained on and off for years that Abbas doesn’t accept Israel’s right to exist and isn’t a serious peace partner. He points to Abbas’s habit of treating terrorists like heroes and naming streets after them as evidence of intractable hostility. Periodically he’ll turn around and address Abbas as a partner and fellow peacemaker. Then it’s back to the deep freeze.

This fall it’s been relentless. He claims the surging Palestinian terrorism is a product of incitement by Abbas. With each new terrorist attack his attacks on Abbas’s language becomes more intense. After the Har Nof massacre he accused Abbas of “blood libel,” harking back to the crudest medieval Jew-hatred.

This latest indictment rests mainly on Abbas’s claim that Israel plans to change the religious status quo on the Temple Mount and permit Jewish prayer there. It’s been banned for 47 years by an Israeli-Jordanian agreement, in deference to a baroque but fiercely held Muslim religious custom. Three generations of Israeli defense strategists have seen it as a small price to pay to avoid facing 1.5 billion Muslims in a world war.

Now, there’s no denying Abbas’s nasty tone in recent months. Since the summer he’s released a stream of inflammatory rhetoric. He’s called on Palestinians to keep Jews from the Temple Mount “by any means.” He’s claimed Jews “contaminate” the sacred compound. He’s accused Israel of genocide. He’s praised a slain terrorist as a “martyr.” The language contributes heavily to an already toxic, incendiary atmosphere. It’s not hard to see how it could lead Palestinian hotheads to think about murder.

The trouble is, Israel’s security and intelligence professionals don’t believe Abbas’s language is what’s causing the violence. They see no evidence he’s actively encouraging violence. And they keep on saying so.

Squabbles between Bibi and his security chiefs are nothing new. He’s faced a nonstop series of Mossad and Shin Bet chiefs, national security advisers and military chiefs of staff telling him he’s too trigger happy on the Iranian front, too unyielding toward the Palestinians, too antagonistic toward Washington. They tell him the Arab side is ready for peace, that Abbas’s security forces are effectively fighting terror, that crackdowns only create more hostility. He keeps replacing them, only to find the new faces are even more adamant.

What’s happened in the last month is that even the fellow hardliners he’s counted on to back him up in these spats — figures like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and even hard-core loyalist Shin Bet director Yoram Cohen — are calling him out. In rapid succession they’ve stood up and publicly declared that if anyone is inciting violence, it’s the far-right faction in Netanyahu’s own coalition.

They’re talking about a parade of right-wing Knesset members and cabinet ministers who’ve been staging provocative visits to the Temple Mount this fall, aimed at pressing the demand for Jewish prayer rights. They point, too, to a bill introduced in the Knesset by hardliners that would formalize Jewish prayer rights on the mount — and very likely incite a wave of Muslim violence throughout the Middle East.

Netanyahu opposes the bill and vows to preserve the status quo on the mount. He calls Abbas’s warnings of change in the status quo “blood libel.” But the moves are afoot. True, Bibi vows to oppose them, and he half-heartedly condemns the rightists’ mount visits. Still, calling Abbas’s fears libelous is a bit much. That, at least, is how the intelligence community sees it.

One thing about security professionals is that it’s hard to shock them. They’ve seen it all, and dished it out as well as taken it. They can be shaken up by the scenes they face after a terror attack, but it’s more in sadness or anger than surprise.

What does surprise them, they say, is how quickly the public lines up with Bibi and dismisses their assessments when they don’t echo the darkest nightmares of the Jewish past. It’s one thing to see one’s fellows repulsed by a slaughter of innocents. It’s something else — something deeply unsettling — to see them outraged by the thought that things might get better.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com

A Message From the Republican Party (VIDEO)

I want you not to vote


106 Ex-Israeli Generals & Spy Chiefs Urge New Peace Bid

b-bibi-generals2-110214(reprinted from the Jewish Forward)

BY: J.J. Goldberg

In what appears to be the largest-ever joint protest by senior Israeli security personnel, a group of 106 retired generals, Mossad directors and national police commissioners has signed a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to “initiate a diplomatic process” based on a regional framework for peace with the Palestinians.

Several of the signers told Israel’s Mako-Channel 2 News in interviews that Israel had the strength and the means to reach a two-state solution that “doesn’t entail a security risk,” but hadn’t managed to reach an agreement because of “weak leadership.”

“We’re on a steep slope toward an increasingly polarized society and moral decline, due to the need to keep millions of people under occupation on claims that are presented as security-related,” reserve Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven told Mako’s Roni Daniel. “I have no doubt that the prime minister seeks Israel’s welfare, but I think he suffers from some sort of political blindness that drives him to scare himself and us.”

The letter was initiated by a former Armored Corps commander, reserve Major General Amnon Reshef. He told Yediot Ahronot in an interview published Friday, and posted in English today on Yediot’s Ynetnews.com website, that he was “tired of a reality of rounds of fighting every few years instead of a genuine effort to adopt the Saudi initiative.”

He was referring to the Saudi-backed peace proposal that was adopted unanimously by the Arab League in 2002 (here is the full text) and later endorsed by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, with Iran abstaining. It has since been repeatedly reaffirmed and its terms softened. As currently framed, it offers full peace, diplomatic recognition and “normal relations” between the Arab states and Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal to borders based on the pre-1967 armistice lines, with negotiated land swaps, and a “just” and mutually “agreed” compromise solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

The generals’ call echoes a proposal for a regional peace conference that was floated during the Gaza war this summer by Israel’s science minister, Yaakov Peri, a member of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and a former director of the Shin Bet security service. It’s currently being advocated within the security cabinet by Lapid and justice minister Tzipi Livni.

Netanyahu takes the position that Palestinian statehood at this juncture would imperil Israel’s security.

Retired generals have occasionally made joint statements in the past, but never in such numbers and rarely on political matters that aren’t directly related to army business. In January 2012, 52 ex-generals signed a petition calling for legislation to require military or equivalent national service for Haredi men. In November 2011, 19 ex-generals called on IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz to combat growing religious extremism in the army. In February 2010, 15 ex-generals signed a statement criticizing “leftist organizations,” including the New Israel Fund, that they said had damaged the IDF by aiding the Goldstone Report.

Signers of the current letter to Netanyanu include 101 IDF veterans with the rank of brigadier or major general, as well as two former chiefs of the Mossad intelligence agency and three former commanders of Israel’s National Police. (Yediot’s report, which preceded Mako, gave a total of 105.)

The generals’ letter apparently doesn’t refer directly to the Arab Peace Initiative (I haven’t seen the letter’s full text yet), but in calling for a regional process it appears to rely on the willingness of the Saudis and Egyptians to sponsor a conference leading to negotiated peace that renders “the Arab-Israeli conflict ended,” based on the initiative.

The purpose of enlisting the neighboring Arab states is to give the Palestinian leadership backing and legitimacy to accept compromises it has failed to embrace on its own in bilateral talks.

Here are the portions of the letter published by Yediot (translation by Ynetnews):

We, the undersigned, reserve IDF commanders and retired police officers, who have fought in Israel’s military campaigns, know first-hand of the heavy and painful price exacted by wars.

We fought bravely for the country in the hope that our children would live here in peace, but we got a sharp reality check [literal translation: “but reality slapped us in the face” — jjg], and here we are again sending our children out onto the battlefield, watching them don their uniforms and combat vests and go out to fight in Operation Protective Edge…

This is not a question of left or right. What we have here is an alternative option for resolving the conflict that is not based solely on bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, which have failed time and again… We expect a show of courageous initiative and leadership from you. Lead – and we will stand behind you.