Jeffrey Blankfort A few weeks before Israel’s latest assault on Lebanon, SF-IMC (SF Independent Media Center/IndyMedia) interviewed local journalist, historian, photographer, radio producer, and anti-Zionist activist, Jeffery Blankfort. For a variety of reasons, technical and other, we are only just now getting around to publishing it. We apologize for the delay.
SF-IMC: Tell us how your personal history shaped your politics. Did you have an epiphany one day or did you figure it out a step at a time?
Jeffrey Blankfort: I come from a political background. Both of my parents were political activists. My father was involved with the civil rights movement before there was a civil rights movement. He was a screenwriter, later blacklisted, an unfriendly witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. My mother as among the first people working for the farm workers. So I grew up in a very political household. Unlike some political households, both of my parents, my mother and my father, shared their politics, and what they were doing and why, with my sister and myself. This, to me, was really important.
So there was never an epiphany. We were brought up to believe, essentially, that all human beings are equal, and to fight for justice. And I saw both of my parents doing that and not having double standards. There were no double set of books, and I saw that both of them took risks and had personal courage and were not ready to sell out to the establishment. And so they were role models.
Also my father said to me: “Question everything.”
Sometimes, he said, jokingly that he regretted that, but in any case, when it came to the question of Israel and Palestine it was quite interesting because my father supported a bi-national state, and he actually was working for a bi-national state. We had, in the early days, some of the important Israeli leaders, Jewish leaders, stay at our home, including Moshe Sneh, who was the head of the Haganah, and also a member of the Israeli communist party.
Well, Sneh asked my father if he could arrange for him to meet with some wealthy Jews in Beverly Hills, and my father did that, and they went out to visit these wealthy Jews in Beverly hills, many of whom had been socialists when they were young, and they kind of liked the idea of a socialist Israel. Not a socialist United States, but a little socialist Israel would be fine. And so when some of these wealthy Jews in Beverly Hills asked Moshe Sneh, when he wanted them to invest their money in Israel,”Aren’t you going to have a socialist Israel?” And Sneh said to them, “By the time we’re socialist, you’ll have your money back ten times over.”
So when they were leaving, my father turned to him and said, not friendly like, “You’re talking out both sides of your mouth. What kind of a socialist . . . what kind of a communist are you?”
And he told me this story, my father did, and I remember it because it impressed me, the contradictions between preaching and practice. Then, in the early fifties, we had a number of Israeli Jews visit our house. All of them had immigrated from Israel because they did not want to live in a racist state, racist because every time there was an attack by what they called the fedayeen, the Palestinian guerrillas who had been fighting to get back in their own land from which they’d been dispossessed, every time that there was an attack, there would be what they called a “pogrom,” what Jews call a “pogrom,” on the Arab villagers in the Galilee, who had remained. And so these Israeli Jews said, “We can’t live in a country like this.”
So then I went to Europe, and I didn’t know the history, and I wasn’t curious about the history, but I went to Europe, and I ran into Israeli Jews who told me the same story, about their parents leaving, or they had left because of the racism towards Arabs. It was years before I met an Israeli who had anything good to say about Israel. And that didn’t bother me. It wasn’t really a problem for me because I had never really made a connection between Israel and the Holocaust. The Holocaust was very traumatic for me when I found out about it, and I had this irrational, though I didn’t think it irrational at the time, an irrational hatred toward Germans, which I subsequently no longer have and haven’t had for about thirty-five years.
But I didn’t make the connection. I didn’t transfer my feelings about the Holocaust to Israel at all. I had no feeling one way or the other about Israel, except in 1967. When Israel triumphed in the Six Day War, I was appalled at the triumphalism of the Jewish community in North Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. You would think they had gone to fight the war, and there was something about their reaction that, as a human being, I found appalling, and, subsequently, I was to find that my reactions were the right reactions.
Even then, it wasn’t until 1970, when I was living in London that I started thinking about the Palestine issue. The Viet Nam War was going on. I’d worked with the Black Panthers. I’d photographed for the Black Panthers almost from the beginning. I’d done Viet Nam War work. I was active, but the Israeli/Palestinian issue was not in my mind.
I had left the US in 1969. I was kind of disgusted with the movement. In fact, when the Chronicle was telling a more accurate version of events happening here in the Bay Area than was the Berkeley Barb, I knew it was time to leave. So I left for a year-and-a-half, and I happened to be in London when I was asked by Liberation News Service, the news service for the new alternative media, which I was shooting pictures for, if I’d be interested in going to Lebanon and Jordan to photograph a book about the refugee camps and the fedayeen, the Palestinian movement, and did I have any problems as a Jew doing that?
I had some other possibilities of things I was going to do, such as go back to Sardinia, where I had been, with an Italian team to photograph the US bases that nobody knows about, that are in Sardinia, like the Strategic Air Command base. But I decided, no, I’m going to go to Lebanon and Jordan. That sounded very interesting, but I was intent in going as a journalist, not as a Jew. People don’t believe me when I say this, but this is true. My thought was that this was interesting stuff; I’m going to go there.
And so I went there, and that was the epiphany in terms of this issue. When I went to the refugee camps and saw people living there who had been forced out of their country by people, including relatives of mine, who had never been oppressed a day in their lives, there was something radically wrong. And when I went to the Lebanese/Israeli border, and stood there looking down at a town . . . in which, it turned out, my sister’s brother-in-law and his wife were living . . . standing next to two Palestinians, who were born in Palestine, and here I am, an American, a Jew, an American Jew, and I have a US passport in my pocket, and I have more legitimate rights to live in that country than these two Palestinians, for me there was something immoral about that. It was immoral then, and it’s immoral now.
A moral wrong does not become a moral right, no matter how many years pass. What happened to the indigenous people of this country at the hands of white settlers was morally wrong. It was a crime then, and it’s a crime today. Can’t do anything about it, but it’s still a crime.
And so my experience of four-and-a-half months in Lebanon and Jordan, and talking to Palestinians about what had happened to them, and seeing the Israeli planes flying over in the morning trying to find Palestinian fedayeen sleeping outside, so we had to sleep in caves to avoid them. We’d sleep outside and then when the sun came up we’d have to move into a cave, so the Israelis, when they flew over, they wouldn’t see us. Otherwise, they would fire.
And you saw in Lebanon, civilian cars all over the place that had been blown apart from the air by the Israeli air force. So when we drove around southern Lebanon, we had to drive with our head outside the car, looking for Israeli planes. We were told that if we see a plane, we had to get out of the car right away because they would shoot people in cars. This was at a time when “nothing was happening.” These were unreported stories in the media. So I decided that when I came back, I was going to work for justice in Palestine.
In ’71, I came back, and I started speaking to former friends of my parents, people who were on the Left, and who said that I was “the man from Standard Oil.” Palestinians!?! They thought I had joined the Nazis. This was a major contradiction, and remains a contradiction, within the American Left, which is very heavily Jewish and Jewish dominated. And this is one of the reasons that there is no movement here today, thirty-five years later, because most American Jews, even those on the Left who sympathize with the Palestinians,carry around so much baggage that they can’t come out and say, “Israel is wrong, was wrong from the beginning, and the way to solve the problem now, since there is no military solution, is to sanction Israel.
One state or two states, for me is not the issue. That’s for the Palestinians to decide. If I was a Palestinian, I wouldn’t want to live next to an Israeli. Understandable. But I don’t think that’s the argument right now. I think the argument is for sanctions, which, for me, is a litmus test, and those people who oppose sanctions, oppose divestment, oppose boycotts, are essentially taking a position on the other side of the barricades with Israel, no matter what they say about a two state solution, justice for Palestine, or whatever.
SF-IMC: So let’s talk about Zionists in the progressive left . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: They’re almost synonymous.
SF-IMC: . . . what are we gonna do here? They have so much control over the Left. What are we gonna do?
Jeffrey Blankfort: My position is basically to criticize them constructively when I can. It’s very difficult because people will bring up this thing of a circular firing squad . . . the Left gets in a circle and fires on each other. But, frankly, when I look on some of these people, I don’t see them on my side. United For Peace and Justice is an example. Leslie Cagan, who runs it out of New York, one of the important persons, is a long time Zionist. She denies it now, but in 1982, there was a huge anti-nuclear march in New York, a demonstration, a rally, on June 12th it was, and there was one here, which I was one of the organizers of, and inconveniently, the week before, Israel had invaded Lebanon. So what was the response in New York for 800,000 people? They had a Lebanese person on the stage who was not allowed to speak.
Now out here there was a major struggle, and even the Palestinian support movement opposed a vigil that was called by a Lebanese woman in front of Dolores Church where people were going to gather the next day at Mission Dolores before the rally, but there was a vigil. People slept overnight on the traffic island on Dolores. So even the Palestinian support movement has been so dominated mentally by Zionists, that’s what happened is you have Marxist groups (quote, unquote) like Line of March being involved with the Palestinians. Line of March’s position was, “We can move the Democratic party to the left.” That was the position of Irwin Silber, its chairman. Palestinian organizations seem to believe that they have to attach themselves to some American Left organization that essentially pimp them.
We see the International Socialist Organization, which was almost dead, begin to suddenly arise, and one of the first issues they started talking about was Palestine. But when the Afghan War started and we were going to have a big march, and a number of us wanted to bring up the issue of Israel and the Occupation, the ISO opposed that.
I wanted to debate one of the ISO leaders, who happens to channel Chomsky without even quoting him. (We can get into Chomsky later.) And he agreed to do it and discuss the Israel Lobby. I was going to give them all the money from the proceeds. And then he wrote back that, “I’ve been told that we don’t really have time to have me debate you.”
And then we have ANSWER, the Workers World Party. They also opposed . . . all the Left groups have opposed the Palestinian issue being made a major part of the anti-war movement until fairy recently.
Jeffrey Blankfort: For various reasons, some that are obvious but not valid. None of them are valid. One is labor. The American labor movement is part and parcel of the Israel Lobby. Seventeen hundred unions own over five billion dollars worth of Israel Bonds. That obliges them to support Israel to make sure the investment of their members’ dues, made without their members’ knowledge, is secure.
Twenty three states have also invested in Israel Bonds as well. This is taking taxpayers’ money and investing in the economy of a country that is dependent economically and politically on the United States. This makes all these people lobbyists for Israel. Very clever on their part.
So the argument is that if we put a Palestinian issue in there, labor will not participate. Well, the truth of it is that the American labor movement is a joke. When I was in Europe, European workers would ask, “What is it with the American labor movement?”
And I tried to explain to them as best I could, the purging of the unions of Leftists after WWII, , the lack of working class consciousness, unless somebody’s own job is threatened there is a lack of solidarity. But, in fact, when you had these major anti-war marches, major mobilizations, the labor participation is minimal. They were just happy to have the secretary of the Labor Council, Walter Johnson, speak instead of mobilizing a lot of workers. Or you’ll have the Longshore Union’s Drill Team but few longshoremen. It’s a charade, but they want the endorsement of the labor unions, then the churches.
Now back in ’82, when I was on the steering committee of this anti-nuke march, somebody who thought better of it later, who was not Jewish, said, “We ought to have a rabbi speak.”
I objected to having a rabbi speak. There was no reason to have a rabbi speak, I said, but if a rabbi speaks, it’s on one condition, that that rabbi should have taken a position of opposing Israeli Occupation of Palestinian territory. And there was a vote. And I won the vote eight to seven.
However, then the churches said the rabbis are being held to a litmus test that no one else is being held to. I asked, what other people that would speak that would represent a people that is occupying anyone else’s country? Israel is a unique situation. Why have a rabbi speak who represents an oppressive country that is oppressing somebody else? And not only that, whose soldiers are throughout Latin America and Africa, helping oppress other people who have never oppressed them.
Well, when the churches said they would pull out, I finally backed off, but the only person who was willing to speak, that was a rabbi, was Michael Lerner. A fast learner, Michael Lerner.
So you see that pressure . . . and the steering committee, which was made up of a number of political activists, was threatened when Israel invaded Lebanon. They wanted to keep it off the agenda. But, in San Francisco, it was mentioned by quite a few speakers from the podium.
The other reason is money. Jews, historically, are known for their philanthropy.
SF-IMC: Philanthropy is good.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Some is good. A lot of it is good. Historically, they have funded the Left. This even before Israel. They were the major funders of the Civil Rights Movement. They were the funders of the anti-war movement during the Viet Nam War. If people were arrested, and they needed bail, progressive Jews provided the bail, and the lawyers were mostly Jewish.
So what happens is you have all these pressures, and there’s no countervailing pressure from the Palestinian community or the Arab American community or the Muslim community. There is no similar history of political struggle in those communities here. Going back into the thirties, you have Jews active in the unions, active in every radical movement. That’s the tradition I grew up in. It no longer exists. As a matter of fact, it’s been erased from Jewish history. Young Jews growing up in America today have no idea of the Jewish radical past in this country. That was the Jewish radical past I connected with. Since it no longer exists, I have no connection to the Jewish community. It’s as simple as that. There is no radical Jewish community. There are some radical Jews, individuals that are anti-Zionist, but the community as a grouping, there isn’t any. And this is a critical situation.
And I don’t know how to overcome it because there doesn’t seem to be the kind of pressure to do so. People will make rationalizations, for example, for politicians who are good on every other issue but Israel/Palestine, who would not make the same rationalizations if they were good on every other issue but apartheid in South Africa.
Now you have Tom Ammiano, who several years ago went over to Israel as part of a delegation, a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender delegation, and declared his support for Israel, saying that the Queer struggle and the Israeli struggle are the same thing. And so I put this out on the internet. It was in the Jewish Bulletin. And I only got one response, from a Latino brother, who said that nobody was going to respond. He was right. It was ignored. I tried to question Ammiano about it at an event where he appeared. There’s a mural in the Mission district, at 21st St., a Palestinian mural, which was disfigured, and they finally covered it up. They held a press conference, and Ammiano showed up. He was very nervous and mealy mouthed about the attacks on the mural. I had a microphone. I wanted to ask him about his statement in the Jewish Bulletin. And he may have been worried about it, concerned about it at the time. He wanted to talk to a cop who was there. He said, “I’m in a hurry. I can’t talk now,” and after speaking briefly with the cop, off he went.
Now, to me, if he had said, “Ah, South African apartheid, ah, I love it, this is like Queer struggle,” it would have been unacceptable, but it’s inherent racism on the part of the movement which stems from the fact, the fact. . . I can’t say it’s a fact, but my belief that most Jews are anti-Arab at some level or another and protective of Jews at the same time, that they have been saddled with the baggage of anti-Semitism. They believe that for two thousand years, Jews have suffered, a tale that has been vastly exaggerated. Before the Holocaust, on a world scale, it wouldn’t even appear. The people of the Congo have suffered more than the Jews have suffered, including the Holocaust. They’re still suffering. Nobody here speaks about the Congo.
I’ve met people who survived El Salvador and other places who don’t demand the same kind of sympathy as the “Eternal Victim.” But this thing of being the “Eternal Victim” is a belief that Jews are conditioned with from childhood in this country and in other parts of the Diaspora, and, of course, in Israel they are taught, that non-Jews are born “suckling,” as former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said, “anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk.”
This is, of course, nonsense, but many Jews believe it. They live in a different world, in which they’re so Jewish identified that they think people look at them as Jews. I remember an experience I had in the army. I went into a Western Airlines ticket office with a friend in my unit who lived in Beverly Hills, who came from a very wealthy Jewish family, and we bought our return tickets to Ft. Ord. And when we left the airline agency . . . it was a young blond woman who sold us our tickets .he turned to me and he said, “You know, she knew we were Jewish.”
I said, “What!?!”
He said, “She knew we were Jewish. I know.”
I said, “David, you’re nuts!”
He said, “No, I know these things.”
Well, I wasn’t raised this way. But many Jews . . . I think most Jews . . . are raised this way. I was not bar mitzvahed, thank god!. (chuckles) Even the high school I went to, which was a largely Jewish high school, was very secular. The community was very secular. Unfortunately, it isn’t any more.
So I can see where this Jewish problem is coming from in the Movement because, for example, if you try to raise the issue of the Lobby in the Movement, you are told you are provoking anti-Semitism, that it’s not Marxist, it’s not socialist, and that it’s all US imperialism. So, poor old US imperialism, it’s bad enough as it is, but there are some things that it’s not responsible for. And the influence of the Israel Lobby, of the Jewish Lobby in the Middle East is manifest. It’s also manifest in that there is no debate in Congress on military spending. There’s no debate.
Now why is there no debate? Why do the Democrats not object to it? Because the Democrats are a subsidiary of the Israel Lobby. They get most of their money from it. As has been published in many newspapers and magazines, at least sixty percent of the major large funding of the Democratic Party comes from wealthy American Jews. And they don’t do this as an altruistic gesture. Politicians are given money to do someone else’s bidding. And so the Democratic Party does not fight arms spending. They’re as much for it as are the Republicans. And this, I believe, and I make the argument, this is part of the influence of the Israel Lobby.
Now the Christian Zionists are an important part of the Lobby. But this was happening before there were Christians Zionists. There are certain people, who happen to be Jewish, on the Left, who love the presence of the Christian Zionists, because now they can talk about the Christian Zionists as being more important than the Jewish Zionists, which is nonsense because they’re important in the states where there aren’t many Jews, and they do contribute some money, but they’re not lobbyists in the same sense.
SF-IMC: Let’s talk about that for a minute. I watch Comcast cable TV. The people who run it must be devout Christians. There’s a lot of Christian programming. There’s a lot of overt Christian Zionism. They have Hagee, Robertson, Falwell, for example. They have this show where they raise money to move Russian Jews to Israel. There’s another guy, his name slips my mind, lectures on the coming apocalypse and the Biblically foretold vital role that Israel plays in the preordained “end times.” This is propaganda being broadcast to a major metropolitan area. These Christian Zionists, they scare me.
Jeffrey Blankfort: But they’re not the owners of Comcast. Clear Channel, maybe, but not Comcast. Comcast, as far as I know, is Jewish owned.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Clear Channel is not.
SF-IMC: But they’re on the cable there, selling Israel to the Bay Area . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: The Israel Lobby was indomitable before the Christian Zionists were brought in. They were brought in, by the way, by Menachem Begin, who, when he got elected in ’78, invited Jerry Falwell to Israel. This was also the time when they started talking about Israel as a strategic asset of the United States because before that, the US/Israel relationship was never questioned because the people who ran Israel, the Labor Party, were basically Democrats, and when Begin was elected, it created a real problem for American Jews because he had been identified as a fascist by people like Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, and so on. So they had to find a rationalization for continued support of Israel. And as General Matty Peled, an Israeli general who was a friend of mine, said, this is when they introduced the idea of Israel being an asset, because they had to find a justification for Israel still getting the support from the United States.
In the beginning, the major Jewish organizations were very uncomfortable with Christians like Falwell and the Moral Majority. As Israel and the Jewish community moved to the right, however, this displeasure changed to the point where a couple of years ago, on the first of May, or the first week of May, there was a prayer breakfast held at the Israeli embassy, hosted by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. And the very same week, Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition had one of his speeches published in an ad by the Anti-Defamation League, which had been one of the foremost critics of the Christian Zionists.
So what’s happened is that as Israel becomes more right wing and fascistic, and Israel and its supporters seem to need support from wherever they can get it, they have now embraced the Christian Zionists, and encouraged them to come to Israel. Of course, Israel wants them to do that. They’ve given them a plot of land in Israel in order to build some kind of a center. So you have an incredible combination, working on a system that is the antithesis of democracy.
Thanks to the interpretation of a Supreme Court Decision of 1886, that gave corporations the same rights as an individual, and a later interpretation that said that donating money to politicians is a form of free speech, the American political system is obviously the most corrupt in the advanced world. What in other countries would be considered bribery is legal here. And so, the Zionist Lobby has made great use of this.
SF-IMC: Politics make strange bedfellows rich.
Jeffrey Blankfort: It isn’t just the money, however. Money is very important, but it’s the way they approach politicians. AIPAC, for example, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is the only foreign lobby that isn’t required to register as a foreign agent. They hold regional meetings around the country, at which they invite supervisors, mayors, city council people, public officials from the area, to come to these luncheons and dinners, where the speaker will be a US Senator or some very important government official, who will come into town, unknown to the media, with no notice to the media. He or she will make no other speeches, give no press conferences, and will leave. It will be reported in the local Jewish paper, but it will not be reported in the state where the person lives, except perhaps in the Jewish press there. And there’s no interest in the media in following up why, for example, Senator Christopher Dodd, when he comes to San Francisco, or Mario Cuomo when he speaks out in Danville, why does he not have a press conference and talk to the media here.
In any case, they go to this meeting, and they, these Congress people . . I’m speaking from knowledge here because I joined AIPAC and I went to one of these luncheons . . .
SF-IMC: (laughs) Good for you.
Jeffrey Blankfort: . . . and I saw what was going on there. And I said, my god, this is brilliant!! They have all the leading political figures from Northern California at the meeting, from whose ranks will come the next member of Congress, no doubt.
What happens after AIPAC leaves, then the Jewish Federation, or some local Jewish organization, maybe it’s the Koret Foundation, will then send local supervisors, city council members, mayors, and so on, on all expense paid trips to Israel. They meet the Prime Minister, whoever it is, the Defense Minister, and so on, of both political parties, they take a trip to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, to Massada, where Jews supposedly committed suicide in Roman times, to the West Bank, where they may meet a House Arab, and they come back here knowing that they have good friends, important friends, in the Jewish community.
These people who go into politics, all of them are ambitious. So they know that if they want to run for office, it’s not just a matter of money. It’s a matter of personal acquaintances. And there are certain instances where I believe people are promoted to run for office by the Lobby, and so in a sense they become the Lobby’s employee from the get-go. Take Sen. Daniel Inouye, the one armed bandit from Hawaii. His first job was selling State of Israel Bonds. He doesn’t list that in his official biography, but the Jewish press has written about that. And he has been one of the foremost supporters of Israel. Tom Daschle from North Dakota is another. They seem to have been promoted into running for office.
You also have something else called blackmail, which the Left never considers as a reason for somebody doing something. But the Anti-Defamation League is a major spying organization, the largest private spying organization in the country. They spied on me. In the Bay Area, in Northern California, they spied on twelve thousand individuals, about 600 hundred organizations. Every organization, progressive, ecological, NAACP, the Asian Law Caucus, Filipino groups, Irish Northern Aid, all of them, and Jewish groups as well, progressive Jewish groups. Why do they do this? Information is important. They don’t get information just gratuitously and pay people to do that.
I was spied on, but nothing compared to a politician. So, for example, Congressman, Tom Harkin, of Iowa, who was on the Board of Directors of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, was visited one day by a member of the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC, and sent his employees home, and the next day, Harkin, soon to run for senator, is all for Israel, totally for Israel. What did they do? Did they offer him money? I doubt it. They probably found something out about Congressman Harkin. They’d given Congressman Harkin reasons why he should be pro Israel and how they would make him a US Senator, perhaps, and afterward they gave him a lot of money through campaign contributions.
I know of another case of a progressive congressman who never would criticize Israel and who had something serious to hide, and if I knew that, so would the Israel Lobby. They have people working on this 24/7. There are many people who think that in Britain, Tony Blair is being blackmailed to support the United States. There is no good reason for the British to support the United States. Materially, they gain nothing. Their corporations have made nothing from the war. And given the British public school education, photographs could have been taken . . . there’s a very good likelihood that Blair might be being blackmailed. People try to find all kind of reasons for people’s actions and there may be no other political reasons than self survival.
These are all aspects, so AIPAC has this job, this role, of directing funds to various politicians who support them. Also, even if they don’t give money, the threat of them giving money to an opponent is there. So in August, 1989, a pro Israel congressperson told Morton Kondracke of the New Republic that it’s not out of affection for Israel that Israel gets three billion a year and that there’s no debate on the floor of Congress. It’s the fear that if you do so, you will wake up the next morning to find that your opponent has a half a million dollar war chest to use against you. That was ’89. Today, the war chest would be larger. So there are these threats.
Also something that isn’t generally known is the use of political consultants. There’s an organization that’s called Committee for an Effective Congress or something like that which is part of the lobby.
It was started by Eleanor Roosevelt and is is one of a number of consultant groups. What these consultant groups do is go to a young Congress person. They’ll loan them money. They’ll also provide them with a databank of their district, critical information on each voter. This is a very expensive proposition if you want to do it on your own. These groups tend to be Zionists. So you’re running for office and they come to you, and they want to take care of you, and suddenly you’re in their embrace.
Cynthia McKinney resisted AIPAC from the very beginning. One of the things they did with her, and with Earl Hilliard, who also criticized Israel, was to redraw their districts. When the Democratic Party, or the Republicans who have their own consulting groups, the members of Congress go to these groups because they have all the data. There was a congressman named Gus Savage in Illinois. Savage had a problem. He was a critic of Israel. He supported the Palestinians. And he gave a talk in which he listed and gave all the names of all the Jews outside the Chicago area who were giving money to his opponent’s campaign. That, of course, was “anti-Semitic.” And the Washington Jewish Week ran a headline entitled “Savaged Savage.” Talk about racist, huh? And he was defeated. What they did was they redrew his district. And they did the same with Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney to get certain voters who supported them out of their district. And, of course, they got no support from the Democratic party.
It’s interesting because the Democratic Party, as I said, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Israel Lobby. And anyone who thinks that things can change by supporting an individual Democrat, other than McKinney, maybe, is crazy.
The head of the Democratic Party Senate campaign, the one who determines where the money is going to go, is Charles Schumer, an open, leading, Jewish Zionist from New York. For the House, it’s Rahm Emmanuel, who, when he was working for Bill Clinton as a high level staff member, took time off during the first Intifada to do volunteer work in Israel for the Israeli Defense Force. His family is Israeli. He says he’s not. In any case, here you have two Jewish Zionists, one running the Democrats’ House campaigns and one running the Senate campaigns, determining who is going to get the money in the 2006 election. It’s flagrant. And yet you can’t discuss this on the Left, because they’ll say that sounds like anti-Semitism, or say that, “it’s not important that they’re Jewish,” like it’s not important that the Pope’s Catholic. This is what we’re dealing with.
And out here in San Francisco, we have Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Whip, and Tom Lantos, one of the most important persons on the House International Relations Committee. He’s the ranking Democrat, and also serves Israel as a diplomatic representative in countries where Israel has no diplomatic relations, according to the Jerusalem Post. We see major political events against the Iraq war, even for Palestine here, and yet do we hear criticism of Pelosi or Lantos?
Just before 9/11, Steve Zeltzer and I, the Labor Committee on the Middle East no longer existing, decided we would picket of Tom Lantos, who was being given the Jewish National Fund’s Man of the Year award at the Fairmont Hotel, the Jewish National Fund being the organization that took over the Palestinian land and the villages in 1948. They plant trees on Palestinian land where the trees have been uprooted. They tear out Palestinian trees in order to plant Jewish trees.
So we decided to have a picket. It was right after the Durban conference on racism. At a meeting at the Arab Cultural Center, I asked one of the leaders of ANSWER, “Will you endorse this picket of Tom Lantos?”
And she looked at a fellow ANSWER official there, and, kind of hesitant, asked “What do you think?”
And he said, “I think we have to.”
So we had the picket, and about 65 people turned up. One person turned up from ANSWER, and it was that person. He turned up at the end of the picket. You’ll never hear criticism of local the Democratic Party from ANSWER and ANSWER has to answer for that.
There was a big turnout for Nancy Pelosi speaking at the Marina Middle School some months back. Global Exchange was there, as was the ISO, but not ANSWER. Nancy Pelosi is one of the most important politicians in the United States, and she’s supportive of the war. She also has acknowledged that she knew about the government wiretapping. She knew about the phone lists being turned over. She’s admitted that. Are we going to see a picket or protest against Nancy Pelsosi?
Even when Global Exchange had a picket of her at the Fairmont Hotel against the war in Iraq, I had to get a hold of a microphone to remind people that she’s been supporting Israel against Palestine, and pledging her loyalty to Israel every year, and I passed out copies of a speech she had made at an AIPAC convention, in which she pledged her loyalty and America’s loyalty to Israel a half a dozen times.
There should be some kind of law about that, when a Congress person pledges her allegiance to a foreign country, but when it comes to Israel there’s what I call the “Israeli exception.” But here we are, in what used to be a progressive community, and Tom Lantos gets no criticism whatsoever. The Labor Council supports him because he’s good on labor issues, and he’s good on some other human rights issues. He’s also very good on pets and animal rights. He just put out some legislation on animal rights. But he is one of the main proponents of the war in Iraq and the war against the Palestinians.
He was heavily and directly involved in the phony incubator story back in 1991, in which his Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which is actually not a part of Congress . . . it’s not an official part of Congress, it’s housed in the headquarters of the Hill and Knowlton PR firm in Washington, brought in a Kuwaiti nurse who had witnessed Iraqi soldier coming in and taking Kuwaiti babies out of incubators, throwing them on the floor and taking the incubators back to Iraq, where they didn’t have any incubators, obviously, and it turned out the story was a total fabrication. The so-called nurse was the Kuwait ambassador’s daughter and hadn’t even been in Kuwait. John MacArthur wrote about it in Harper’s and the New York Times. Bob Scheer wrote about it in the LA Times. There was no follow up on this, no demand from the Left to follow up on this.
If people in Lantos’ own district and Pelosi’s own district don’t take these people on, how can we expect anybody around the country to do it? The Left is a total failure in San Francisco, an utter failure. It’s a betrayal of the Iraqis. Forget the slogans. Forget “No Blood for Oil!” Forget “End the Occupation!” They have betrayed the Palestinians and the Iraqis because they haven’t dealt with the political figures in this community who are responsible for the present situation.
Politics is local. And it may appear to give you some good credits or props to picket George Bush, but we have to deal with the issues here.
The failure to put any kind of pressure on Pelosi, over the years, even for her support of fast track on NAFTA is extraordinary.
She’s good on the Gay issues, on AIDS, of course. In San Francisco she would be. This does not take courage. This is smart politics. She was good on opposing aid to the Contras, but I asked her, when she was running for office the first time, if she would support aid to the Contras if aid to Israel was tied to it, and she said she would. She’d support the appropriation. I made a flyer out of it.
So the reason that I have contempt for the movement here, and contempt may be too mild a word, is because it’s playing games with decent people who want to do something, who look to the leadership of the movement for guidance, and what they get is smoke and mirrors, an illusion that something is being done. Now it’s interesting that during the Viet Nam War, there were big marches, but between the marches there was a lot of activity going on. There was so much activity that we had to have meetings in the morning because there weren’t enough nights to the week. And all we have here now is a march, and then at the march they announce when the next march is going to be, six months from now, and “we’re all going to work for that march.” If they got three or four hundred thousand people out, that’s one thing, but they don’t get that many people out. What happens is that people aren’t working against the war. There should be sit-ins at recruiting stations. There should be a whole variety of political actions. This is not rocket science. It was done during the war in Viet Nam. What’s the problem here?
The problem here is that, essentially, a group that was on the margins back then has emerged and has remained standing, when, thanks to the end of the Cold War, and changes in Russia and China, political groups that used to have members that were active, and related to both countries are no longer active. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the East Bloc was a major psychological blow in terms of an ideological blow. It had a worse effect on countries like Viet Nam, on South Africa, Now you have a situation in China with sweatshops and worse. It’s a horrendous situation.
And for those people who were ideologically locked in, which I never was, it hasn’t been easy because it’s very difficult to rationalize, or try to explain some things that have no rational explanation. There’s no defense for a sweatshop. There is no defense for the way China treats many of its workers. And there are many revolts going on there all the time. It’s happening in Viet Nam as well.
Calling something “communist” is like calling something “democratic”. Anything that calls itself “People’s Democratic . . .” isn’t. You know, just like they use “democracy,” Bush uses “democracy” and it’s all BS. But it presents problems, and people say, well, what can we do? And I don’t have answers.
One of the problems is there there may not be answers. Human problems are not math problems. They don’t all have solutions. They may change in form, but if you look at other periods in history, for example, before WWII when there was a big Left in Europe, a conscious Left, they couldn’t stop WWII. They knew it was coming.
You have in Europe genuine Marxists. I mean, people who have actually studied Marxism. Yet you saw what happened in the East Bloc. People who went to prison under the Nazis, when they got power, they started abusing it. In Italy, the Communist Party, people who fought against the Nazis in the Resistance, they became the establishment Left. And their job was to suppress what they called the “ultra-left.” Same thing happened in France. So the Communist Party followed the dialectic. They became reactionary organizations. In Latin America they’ve been considered reactionary organizations for years.
It’s one of these situations where you join an organization or a party because you believe that’s the way to change something, so you’re willing to take risk. Then the party becomes successful and institutionalized, and then the party has to be defended from competing ideological organizations. That becomes the main goal.
We saw that during the 80s, when you would have the Communist Party calling a demonstration against the US in El Salvador, in Oakland, or San Francisco, and the Trotskysist Socialist Workers Party having one on the other side of the Bay on the very same day.
The Zionists don’t have problems like this. They have their differences. They compete for money. They have different ideological viewpoints, like “kick out all the Palestinians” or “sit on them” are two viewpoints, a truncated Bantustan or kick them out to Jordan. But when it comes to uniting to defend Israel, they put all those differences aside. And that’s the key to their success.
SF-IMC: This brings up an interesting point. Would you say that the key to the failure of the movement, especially in this part of the world, is the traditional in-fighting between the groups, or do you think it’s because the grassroots looks to the leadership rather than generating change themselves . . . ourselves?
Jeffrey Blankfort: I think if you try to explain the failure, there is a desire to let others do the leading and thinking. So we have someone like Noam Chomsky. People think that when they read Noam Chomsky, they don’t have to read any more.
SF-IMC: Well, that’s a mistake.
Jeffrey Blankfort: That’s a mistake.
SF-IMC: Well, let’s talk about that. Talk about what a mistake that is.
Jeffrey Blankfort: The mistake is that Noam Chomsky, as I described in an article, is a human tsunami. He has written so many books, and has made so many speeches, written so many articles that the works of legitimate scholars who contradict him, I mean, genuine scholars, which he is not, in my opinion, are overwhelmed by the tsunami.
He is the most widely quoted person in the universe that’s still alive. He makes statements that he does not have to back up with fact. He makes statements in a way that it sounds like he’s talking about the day of the week. And who’s going to argue with that? If he says that it’s Tuesday and it’s Tuesday, you say, well, of course, it’s Tuesday. But much of what he says cannot be backed up in fact, and the examples that he uses, some of them are so ancient that if he was submitting a paper to a professor, the paper would be returned for more up to date, more substantial references.
As a matter of fact, there was an article on Counterpunch by someone from Harvard, who complained that Chomsky’s books were not being reviewed by serious, scholarly journals. And I wrote this guy back and said, Chomsky’s very lucky because nobody who writes thirty books in thirty years would be considered a serious scholar. A serious book requires a lot of time and research, and Chomsky hasn’t done that. And when I decided to do an article called “Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,” I didn’t realize what a snake pit it is when you’re trying to investigate what Chomsky has written because it’s more self-referential than a good scholarly work should be. So what happens is that you’re reading in a book of his, and you go back to a footnote, it will often refer to another book he’s written.
So I now have a whole shelf of books by Chomsky, which essentially say the same thing: US imperialism bad, and it’s all the fault of certain governmental elites.
Now one of the criticisms I made of him, and made also by Israel Shahak, the late Israeli Holocaust survivor, and extreme critic of Israel, Zionism, Judaism, and the PLO, is that Chomsky focuses too much on the Executive while negating the role that Congress plays, which is what we have to deal with on a local level. If it’s only the executive elite, and these elites are doing something in Washington, we, in California, are outside of Washington and essentially helpless. I wrote back in ’91, in an exchange I had with Chomsky in the old National Guardian, that Chomsky makes us spectators when history demands we be participants.
Now the other thing about Chomsky, and I love this what Shahak wrote, “Chomsky acts as if American foreign policy was put in a computer about 1944 and has been acting on a printout ever since.” Shahak wrote that American policy may be evil, but it’s far more complex than Chomsky treats it as such. This kind of simplistic thinking may be good for people looking for easy answers, wrote Shahak, but not for serious scholars.
The problem is one of American culture. Quite apart from the Left, we are not a society of serious scholars. We’ve a short story culture. We want to be entertained and really deep scholarship and research is antithetical to our general culture as Americans, apart from the Left. It’s the way we developed. You can find a book by a European writer that may be a half inch thick, that will take you longer to read than a book by an American scholar that’s two inches thick because it makes you think. And what you should be thinking about as you’re reading should provoke you. You should be provoked to think new thoughts, to pause and think about what the writer is writing, and not accept what the writer is writing as gospel.
And what’s happened with Chomsky is that he has become gospel. What happens if you criticize Chomsky, is that people’s eyes glaze over. People have taken to channeling him. They quote him without even referring to him, they have so internalized his positions. And that you go on various web sites, Marxists web sites, Trotskyist web sites, their line on the Israel Lobby is Chomsky’s line, that the Lobby is only powerful, only appears to be powerful when it’s lined up with American foreign policy, or when there’s some dispute among the elite. . Both before and after that exchange in the National Guardian, he subscribed to the Middle East Labor Bulletin, which I put out from 1988 to ’95, in which almost every issue had several pages about what the Lobby was doing in Congress, all backed with footnotes. After the Guardian exchange, a mutual friend, Ron Bleier, who happened to be one of the thousand Jewish children that Roosevelt allowed to come into the United States from Europe at the beginning of WWII, and who happened to be a very strong anti-Zionist (chuckles), wrote to Chomsky to ask him if he would debate me at the Socialist Scholars Conference in 1991 on the issue of the Lobby. And Chomsky wrote back declining, saying “it wouldn’t be useful.” Then I went to Joel Beinin, a professor at Stanford, who was a friend and said, “Will you debate me on the Lobby? “And Beinin ), taking Chomsky’s position, also mimicked him saying that “it wouldn’t be useful.”
A few years ago, I had an exchange with Phyllis Bennis, who, taking the Chomsky position, said that Congress was not Israeli occupied territory, and an anti-Zionist Israeli living in Iceland, of all places, wrote to me asking what I wanted of Bennis? I said I want her to debate me. So he wrote to her, and she made a long reply, but also refused. She wrote that she and I basically agreed on most things, but “it wouldn’t be useful.”
Wouldn’t be useful to whom? I think we know.
After two years of trying, I did finally get a debate with Stephen Zunes on KPFA in May, 2005, during which he made some amazing statements. .This is the Stephen Zunes, whom Chomsky recognizes as a Middle East scholar. In the debate Zunes said, “I’ll be a Zionist as long as there is anti-Semitism,” that “Israel is an example of ‘global affirmative action’,” and he repeated this a year later on a panel in Marin County.
This is somebody who has just been invited to speak to a Muslim audience in Hayward, and was given two hours on the air on a Muslim radio station in South Africa. It’s interesting that he, along with Chomsky, and other people on the Left, have been among those who have been first to criticize the paper of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on the influence of the Israel Lobby on US foreign policy.
Now that paper is quite interesting because even though there have been some books written about the Lobby, and other articles, Mearsheimer and Walt, who come from something called the “Realist School,” examined the lobby on the basis of whether US support for Israel benefits America’s national interest.
People on the Left argue about that, but there is a “national interest,” which includes, for example, access to cheap oil to keep the economy going. I think most folks on the Left who drive a car appreciate cheap oil.
There are problems around it, but, essentially, if you define the national interest as continuance of the US capitalist system, most Americans would accept that, irrespective of the global and domestic consequences.
In any case, Mearsheimer and Walt said that the support of Israel is against US national interests, that the war in Iraq is against US national interests, something that I had actually maintained; in other words, in an article that I had written about support for Israel. Interestingly enough, you have the pit bulls of the Zionist Lobby, like Alan Dershowitz and others, the Neo-cons, attacking Mearsheimer and Walt, from the right,, calling them anti-Semitic, identifying them with David Duke and the Nazis, and then you have the pundits of Left, attacking them as well, and coming to the defense of the Lobby, including Joseph Massad, a Palestinian at Columbia, who was attacked by the Lobby. They tried to run him off the campus, and yet he was the first person to defend it against Mearsheimer and Walt’s critique.
And I wrote an article, going paragraph by paragraph, criticizing Massad, and then when somebody in Michigan asked Massad, when he was visiting there, “Would you debate Jeffrey Blankfort (I didn’t ask him to do that) .and Massad said no, and that I am anti-Semitic. Amazing, no?
But then you have Chomsky dismissing Mearsheimer and Walt and Bennis, as well, but Zunes has been particularly aggressive in attacking them. And you have to ask why? Here when you see why the Palestinian support movement here is an utter failure . It has allowed a Lobby that’s powerful in San Francisco, is powerful in every major city, that intimidates politicians at every political level, and is allowed to do so, at least because nobody in the leadership role of the Left is talking about what it’s doing.
Oh, they’ll have a picket line around the Israeli consulate, which is a total waste of time, but here we have the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council which threatened a picket line at the Rainbow Grocery if they boycotted Israeli goods, and Michael Lerner, the rabbi, said he would be on that picket line. Here’s a worker’s co-op in which the majority of workers, or certainly a substantial number, are Latino, Third World, and they were wanting to vote for this boycott, but after their web site was totally inundated and blocked by emails from Zionist Jews from around the world, and when they were told that if they had this boycott, the Jewish Community Relations Council would mount a boycott of Rainbow and put up a picket line. And when Michael Lerner went and spoke to them, and said essentially the same thing, they were cowed, afraid, and so they defeated the boycott by a three to one vote, and didn’t want to talk about it afterward.
Two Jewish women who were active in the boycott. one from South Africa and one from here, told me that the Zionists “terrorized” them. The Jewish Community Relations Council terrorized the Rainbow workers. And I’ll tell you when I went there afterwards, after the vote, and tried to talk to some of the employees, they didn’t want to talk about it. Now they knew that even though it’s a worker’s co-op, if the store’s income went down, the last people to become part of the co-op would have to go. So here is Zionist racism manifested in San Francisco.
And one of the things that gives the Lobby power, gives AIPAC its power, is the grassroots level. The JCRC here and in other towns gets away with this, they pay no political price. As the Left ignores what they are doing completely, they continue to do it. They continue to do it.
How to stop it? How to change it? Firehoses to begin with. People need to challenge the so-called leadership of the Left. I don’t know what would replace it. This is the problem. I don’t see the material, what Zionists called “human material,” when they are referring to Middle Eastern Jews . . . they think of them as so much horseflesh . . . that’s the racism of Zionism towards dark skinned Arab Jews. But I’m looking here at trying to build a movement, and it’s very, very difficult under the circumstances. The Zionists have so infected and infiltrated the political life of America at every level, that it may not be salvageable without some other ingredient, some other events taking place that have yet to have taken place.
SF-IMC: Like what? What is going to wake up the grassroots, progressive Left?
Jeffrey Blankfort: I don’t know. The war in Iraq was clearly a war for Israel. The oil companies want stability. They’re going to make money. They look at the long run. High prices, low prices, they’re going to make money. They control the market. Saddam Hussein would play ball with them. Why the United States would not play ball with him is because the Neo-Cons, which is part of the Lobby, didn’t want that. It’s interesting. Without the Lobby, and without the orchestrated incubator story, we might not have had an intervention in Kuwait because at the time the Senate was split down the middle, and when the incubator story came out, even Amnesty International believed it. People said, oh these horrible Iraqis, and then there was no debate anymore.
So we had that first Gulf War, not initiated, but supported by the Lobby. It’s interesting that a number of Jewish organizations did not support it. But the key Lobbyists did because they were over in Israel and the Israelis told them, support it. And so they supported it. But they were very upset because they expected a regime change and George Bush Sr. disappointed them.
George Bush Sr., unlike what Chomsky has written, and Chomsky is totally and completely wrong on this, was anti-Israel from the get-go. When the Israelis hit Iraq’s Osirak reactor, Bush was Vice President. He wanted sanctions against them. He was voted down by Reagan and Secretary of State Haig. When Israel invaded Lebanon. Bush wanted sanctions against it, as well. This is according to Moshe Arens, the Israeli Foreign Minister, writing in a book about this. When Israel had its pilots sitting in the planes, waiting for the co-ordinates to go attack Iraq in ’91, after some Scuds had landed in Israel, Bush wouldn’t give them to them. They hate this guy.
And then when Shamir sent over as an emissary, to ask for ten billion dollars in loan guarantees, Bush said no He said, what we’ll do, we’ll wait 120 days, but first I want certain agreements. Stop settlement building and agree to settle no Russians in the settlements that are there, and wait 120 days and see what happens. And Shamir went to Congress, and Daniel Inouye, who I mentioned before, said to Moshe Arons, “Where’s my yamulka? This is war.” This is an American, US Senator from Hawaii, speaking.
When 240 senators and congressmen wrote a letter to Bush, telling him to pass the loan guarantees for Israel, at a time when America’s economic situation was terrible, Bush realized that if he vetoed the legislation, he’d be overridden. So what did he do? When a thousand Jewish lobbyists were on Capitol Hill, Bush went on national television, and he said there are a thousand lobbyists up here “against little old me. But I have to do the right thing.” And he says, US boys are over in Iraq protecting Israel and every Israeli man, woman and child gets so much money from the American taxpayer. No one’s ever done that before. What were the polls the next day? Eighty-five percent of the people supported Bush. A month-and-a-half, two months later, only 44% of the American public supported aid to Israel, while 70% supported aid to the former Soviet Union, and 75% to Poland.
Now these figures are totally erased from Left history thanks to Mr. Chomsky, who does not refer to them in all of his writing. He did refer to that press conference, right afterward, and he said, “It took slightly more than a raised eyebrow for the Lobby to collapse.” Now a presidential press conference attacking the Israel Lobby is a little bit more than a raised eyebrow.
In fact, the Lobby had to retreat, because they realized the American public was not going to go for it. Senator Barbara McKulskie, a good liberal Democrat, was speaking to a group of Jewish lobbyists, when she’s handed a piece of paper, and according to the Washington Jewish Week, her face “went ashen.”
She said, “I’ve just been informed that the President is taking the issue of the loan guarantees to the American people. The American people!?! The last people that the Lobby wants to have concerned with anything about Israel. If you want to put it on the basis of nationalism, we’re talking about a nest of traitors. We’re talking about a fifth column in the classic sense. You have Israel . . . it’s Israel first. These people care nothing about the United States, or they do secondarily to Israel’s interest or what they perceive as Israel’s interests . . . there’s a lot of Israelis who don’t agree with that . . . but they are looking for a powerful Israel because its power gives them power as well.
Should there be a solution, any kind of agreement between Israel and Palestine, in which Israel could not be described as being threatened, the Democratic Party would disappear because they have so based their fundraising on money from wealthy Jews that it’s like a Rube Goldberg designed contraption. Jews give them money because Israel is threatened, and they get power back from Israel’s position, but if Israel is just another country in the Middle East, these Jews have no power. It’s as simple as that. The Democratic Party would have no money.
SF-IMC: In my opinion, the Democratic Party, the government of Israel, even the Palestinian leadership, none of these guys have anything to gain from peace and justice. They’d be out of work. If there is ever peace and justice in Palestine, these guys are going to have to get honest jobs. That’s an awful impediment to peace and justice. How can we overcome an impediment like that?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, Palestinian leadership, quote/unquote . . . going back, Yasser Arafat was left alive because he was the only one who could deliver the people into the hands of Israel. Oslo was a betrayal of the highest order, and when Israel was negotiating with the Palestinians in Oslo, Arafat would not let any Palestinian lawyer go there because the Palestinians lawyers would have seen that this was a violation of international law, in which the leader of an occupied people is not allowed to give away territory to the occupying power, which is what happened in Oslo.
Also, technically, Israel, which is the occupying power, is responsible for the well being of the occupied population. What Oslo did, since it did not require Israel withdrawing from the occupied territory, would shift the responsibility, the economic responsibility, from Israel, onto Europe, the United Nations and so on, and this is what we have today. So this is aid to Israel in another form. If they are going to be there and be the occupier, they’re supposed to pay.
So we have this phony “Palestine Authority,” which is a joke. The whole thing was wrong. It’s interesting. One of the people who negotiated for Israel was the former intelligence chief of Israel, named Shlomo Gazit A few months after Oslo he came to a synagogue in San Francisco, and I went to hear him speak. He’s a very bright guy and he’s speaking very calmly. During the question period, this crazy guy comes running down the aisle, screaming in a German accent . . . this was a German Jew . . . screaming, “Munich! Munich! It’s another Munich!”
And Gazit said, “You know, my friend, I don’t like to make this comparison, but if it’s Munich, we’re the Germans, and the Palestinians are the Czechs.”
Now I had my little tape recorder. The Middle East Labor Bulletin was the only publication that published this, and this is Oslo.
Parenthetically, Hatem Bazian, is a Palestinian who is very outspoken on the Lobby, and really understands the situation pretty. Well, he and I were going to put on an event at La Peña, and we went to KPFA to be on the Morning Show to promote the event where I was told, on arrival, not to mention the ADL spying case. By the way, I was not allowed to speak about that on KPFA, other than on Dennis Bernstein’s Flashpoints program, because I would probably say something that would offend their Jewish donors. Zionism was not to be mentioned at KPFA, period. Couldn’t talk about it.
In any case, when Hatem and I went in there, Kris Welch and Philip Maldari were the hosts and they attacked us for not praising Oslo, for not accepting Oslo. Oslo was a disaster because the Israelis continue to confiscate more ground under the illusion of peace, and Arafat collaborated with them.
As a matter of fact, Arafat undermined the Intifada. He was in Tunis, and the Palestinian movement in the Diaspora had, in fact, given up on the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. They looked down on them, and the Diaspora is unimportant. They were as stunned by the Intifada in 1988 as were the Israelis, and the communiques that came out of Gaza, and I have them, were headed by the phrase: “No voice above the voice of the uprising.” That was addressed to Arafat as well as to the Israelis and to the world.
And Arafat, from the very beginning, tried to undermine the Intifada, undermine it completely. I had seen the corruption in Lebanon in ’83, Arafat’s corruption, but no one wanted to talk about it. Later Edward Said admitted he should have talked about it when he realized what was going on. And people who are still trying to defend Arafat, don’t even know that Said’s books were not even allowed to be sold in the West Bank and Gaza, because Arafat wouldn’t let them be sold there.
SF-IMC: I see a historical parallel between the Nazis’ use of Jewish puppets, the Judenrat, and Israel’s use of the PLO. The PLO, they’re puppets. Is this a correct analysis?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Israel actually tried to set up what was called the Village Leagues, which was just like the Judenrat. It didn’t work, but they did a much more sophisticated operation. They started assassinating the potential threats to Arafat’s leadership, or potential successors where they could have assassinated Arafat anytime they wanted.
Supposedly they made one effort. During the Lebanon war, Sharon’s position was “get rid of him,” as opposed to the Labour position, which was “use him”. So they did drop a bomb on a building in Beruit, which I saw the remains of, an implosion bomb that destroyed a whole apartment building. At least 175 people were pulverized, but it didn’t destroy the adjacent building.
There have been a number of Palestinian leaders over the years who were murdered by the Israelis, assassinated. And they could have assassinated Arafat as well because Palestinian security is based on cronyism not on skill.
I was in Lebanon in ’83, and it was eye opening for me, especially when I came back. I was there like two-and-a-half months, and I soon realized that people who had been there from the Movement, hadn’t told the truth about what was going on in Lebanon.
Arafat and the PLO had antagonized the Shia in the south, because their struggle was more important than the Shia’s existence, and also there was a lot of hard-handed selling of newspapers and coercing of the Shia population. The Shia population welcomed the Israeli invasion, by and large, the majority of them. The non-political Shia, they wanted Palestine not to be fought over in southern Lebanon.
And the UN officer at the border told me the Israelis were saying, “Well, look how they welcome us with flowers.”
And he said, “Yeah, if you’re still here in two months, they’ll be shooting at you.” But the Israelis treated the Lebanese just like they treated the Palestinians, but the Lebanese had access to guns, and a much better organization. Hizballah is much better organized than any Palestinian group.
And they scared the bejeezus . . . they scared the sh*t out of Israel. By the time I left, the Israelis were afraid to do foot patrols. They cleared whole areas of the road on either side for their vehicle patrols because Hizballah was knocking them off. In fact, Hizballah defeated the Israeli army without any help from any movement of the Left anywhere in the world. That’s why they don’t care what Americans have to say about Iran or Hizballah. They rely on mainly on themselves.
Arafat collaborated. You know, I was in Ramallah a couple of years ago when he was in his compound there. I was going to ask him a question ? I was on a tour there . . . and we asked to see him. I was going to ask him a question, “Why don’t you leave?”
There were no guards outside. He was right in the middle of Ramallah. Ramallah is the second largest town in the West Bank. People were going about their lives. And here’s this little building with a couple of Palestinians outside, and Arafat inside. No one was keeping him prisoner there, other than himself. It was a nice game. Now people said that if he came out, the Israelis would kill him. No way! No way! He was much more valuable to them alive. And the idea that . . . people are saying that the Israelis poisoned him and all that. I don’t buy it. He may have been poisoned, but not by Israel.
And now you have Mahmoud Abbas, who is a total collaborator, as is Said Erekat, from San Francisco State, the PA’s spokesperson. Here is Israel constantly killing people, confiscating more land, building the Wall, doing all this and Abbas says to the Israelis, “We want to talk to you”
This is crazy. They don’t complain about the genuine crimes that are being committed against the Palestinians. And one of the reasons that Hamas won the election is because the corruption of these people living in their big houses was so manifest that people didn’t want to take it anymore. That the Movement here has not talked about the corruption allowed it to take place and allowed it to continue.
Our magazine, the Middle East Labor Bulletin, was banned from a UN conference on the Question of Palestine one year. .The Labor Committee on the Middle East was accredited to the United Nations and when I went back to New York, I was informed that I could not put the magazine out on the tables. I got there before the conference had begun. There was a conference of professors, and Francis Boyle was one of them.
The reason for the banning, I found out, is that I had published an article or two that were critical of Arafat, I think, by David Hirsh and Tanya Reinhart, and the head of the PLO mission in New York was Arafat’s nephew, who’s now the PA’s foreign minister, Nasser al-Kidwa . This was the only publication dealing with Palestinian workers, and I couldn’t put it out on the tables . . . which became embarrassing to them because when I started talking, people couldn’t believe it. Al-Kidwa was more interested in talking to “two state” Zionists than he was to genuine people supporting the Palestinian struggle.
The PLO is so corrupt at the top, it is so corrupt and the people have been so betrayed . . . and if you don’t talk about the corruption, you’re being complicit with it. The Israelis could not have picked a better spokesperson for the enemy than Arafat, because there are so many well spoken Palestinians. They’re the most educated people in the Arab world. They could, as presenters of Palestine to the world, change the thinking of a lot of Americans. Instead, you had this buffoon, Arafat, acting as if he was a king, already in power, and every time he would come on TV, on Ted Koppel’s Nightline, my Palestinian friends would just hope it would be over quickly. And yet no one wanted to talk about it in public. I did. I did, finally, only because I saw him as a disaster.
SF-IMC: Hamas’ public image is they’re the honest ones. Yet rumor has it the Mossad had a hand in their creation. Is that true?
Jeffrey Blankfort: What Israel allowed Hamas to do in the beginning was to have religious centers. How much they encouraged them, I don’t know. They wanted a religious opposition to a secular PLO. They didn’t really have to worry because the PLO would self destruct without Hamas. But this has been used by opponents of Hamas to try to make them appear as if they are stooges for Israel. The fact of the matter is that it was Arafat’s and the PLO’s corruption that led to the rise of Hamas, because Hamas was honest and was providing for the people, and they weren’t spending everything on themselves.
Arafat was getting eight million dollars annually from Israel. It’s not generally known. Natan Scharansky, the virulently anti-Palestinian Russian immigrant, complained in the Knesset that they shouldn’t be giving this money to Arafat because he wasn’t running a democratic Palestinian Authority. This was a front page article in the Jewish weekly, Forward. There were no more stories on it after that.
It’s interesting about Arafat . . . when I first saw him in 1970, I was not that impressed, nor were the two people from the Liberation News Service who were with me. But I figured he was the leader.
So I was up in Irbid in northern Jordan, and Egypt’s Nasser had just accepted something called the “Rogers Plan.” This was a plan by Nixon’s Secretary of State to get Israel out of the Occupied Territories. Contrary to what Chomsky says, every American president has tried to get Israel out of the Occupied Territories, for political reasons, not for the Palestinians’ benefit. They wanted to go back to the status quo. And every effort has been defeated by the Lobby.
But in this case, Nasser had accepted the Rogers Plan and the Fatah people were shook up because they thought Nasser was great. So I was up in northern Jordan, talking to the head of the PLO office there, and I said, “Nasser is jealous of Arafat.”
And he said, “No, Nasser is jealous of the Palestinian people.”
In fact, he told me, Arafat was selected to be the spokesperson for Fatah because he was the least articulate in Arabic and the least charismatic, and they did not want to have another Nasser-like figure running the Palestinian movement. And it turned out he knew how to manipulate people and play people off against one another.
Now when I’ve told this story to people, they don’t want to believe it. The person who told me this story was purged within three months, because that’s what Fatah would do to Palestinians who were starting to get politically sophisticated.
The Democratic Front, which I related to, was light years ahead. And there were two wings of the Popular Front. One was in Beirut under Ghassan Kanafani, a brilliant artist, writer and poet, who was murdered with a car bomb by the Israelis. But the head of faction in Amman was very different. And when we went down, after friendly relations in Beirut, the guy in Amman was very hostile to us. He went over to King Hussein during the Black September massacres two months later.
The situation is very complicated, and the problem for the Palestinians is they have no external support, real external support, that doesn’t have any strings attached to it, and not even support with strings at this point. They were betrayed by King Hussein in 1970, and I was there at the beginning of Black September. So I see how that story has been distorted. We knew it was coming when the Jordanian soldiers started telling Palestinian women workers that if they went out to the fields, they’d be shot. This was before anything happened, before the plane hijackings.
And the head of the PLO in Amman told me I should leave because King Hussein was going to a attack the Palestinians, and there would be no photographs because his Bedouins would shoot anything that moves. So there were no photographs taken of Black September. There was no press out there to take a chance of getting wiped out.
But then you see that, after Hussein has killed ten thousand Palestinians, Arafat embraced him like a brother. Arafat was a traitor, and the Palestinians have been badly led. No liberation movement has been so badly led as have the Palestinians. Usually leaders become corrupt after they win. Arafat couldn’t wait.
Arafat, in fact, told a couple of friends of mine during that Intifada not to raise the issue of aid to Israel. They were stunned. They couldn’t believe it.
SF-IMC: I’m stunned.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I believed it.
There’s a fellow in San Francisco named Alan Solomonow. He’s the head of the Middle East desk of the American Friends Service Committee, and he is an untouchable. He cannot be fired. The Zionists will not let him be fired. He took a huge program of the AFSC, run by a fellow from Saudi Arabia, and put it into a box. And he became very close to Arafat. The Arab community here boycotted him. He would not even let a member of the Palestine National Committee speak at one of their meetings, the little committee meetings they had, of this Middle East committee, which had no Palestinians on it at all, but so this yeshiva student, this Zionist had the whole Arab community boycotting him. They tried to get somebody else to replace him. This is a huge area, the Middle East and Israel is one little country, and they wanted to get somebody other than a Zionist, who insulted them, running the operation.
And I was close to the president of the Arab Presidents Conference, and attended a number of ineffectual, frustrating meetings with local AFSC officials. Finally, someone came out from AFSC’s Philadelphia headquarters and told the Palestinian and Arab leaders that whether they liked to or not, Solomonow, was going to stay. They couldn’t do anything about it. He didn’t like seeing me there, that was for sure.
SF-IMC: A lot of people hate you. You know this, don’t you?
Jeffrey Blankfort: (shrugs, laughs heartily)
The Chair of the Arab Presidents Conference wrote a letter to Arafat, a long letter to Arafat, in Arabic, about Solomonow. And do you know what response they got back from him? None. And the next thing we see is a picture of Arafat and Solomonow arm in arm in Tunis.
So the betrayal of the Palestinians has been manifest. As a matter of fact, my friend, the President of the Arab Presidents Conference at the time, had been in the Jordanian army at the time of the ’67 war, and watched the Jordanian soldiers pull back. (laughing) He insists Arafat’s an Israeli. (laughs some more) I won’t go that far. He might as well be, though.
SF-IMC: Let’s bring this up to date. (June 2006) Arafat’s dead, but his gang still has power. They have guys in the street with guns shooting it out with Hamas.
Jeffrey Blankfort: The corruption went so deep, and it should have been understood, if you have a corrupt leadership and a corrupt cadre, sooner or later, over so many years . . . and I’m talking about twenty years.. the corruption will go down into the ranks. And you had . . . before the Palestinian elections, you had people from Fatah starting gun fights in Gaza, trying to do everything they possibly could to get the elections postponed.
Right now, it’s a very difficult situation there because what was considered impossible, a Palestinian civil war, is not impossible at this point, I believe, because the people in Fatah . . . that corruption threatened people way down in the ranks. And just because someone is a Palestinian doesn’t mean he or she is an angel . . . it’s not a question of good guys and bad guys. I support the Palestinian Movement for one reason . . . justice is on their side, and they have been treated as unjustly as any people can be treated in a situation where everyone can see what’s going on. I mean, it’s not some hidden situation. It’s not a secret what has been done to the Palestinians, and it’s manifestly unjust.
And the reason I support the Movement is for that reason. I don’t romanticize the Palestinians as being different from other people, or better or worse than other people. So you’re going to have people who, for whatever reasons become corrupt, because they are poor, perhaps, because corruption also corrupts the poor, poverty corrupts the poor as it corrupts the wealthy, . . . seeing what little power they have now being threatened by somebody else.
And that’s what I think we see happening with Fatah, where these folks have alienated the majority of the Palestinians, and they don’t care about it. They see Hamas moving into their place. They see Hamas, not as comrades, but as a threat. Those are the people, I think, who are doing the attacks on Hamas. And I understand the situation. It’s a situation that has been forced upon them by a combination of things, including the movement here not denouncing Arafat’s corruption.
Look at the collapse of the Soviet Union and the East Bloc. People went over there, and instead of coming back and saying everything is beautiful, had they been constructively critical, the world might be very different today.
SF-IMC: This is true.
Jeffrey Blankfort: But what happened is that they refused to criticize. They said it’s not our business to criticize. They came back and praised everything. I mean, Emma Goldman went over to Russia and wrote what she had seen . . . I have a copy of the Nation magazine . . . and complained that people have to talk to the Russians about what they’re doing, like getting people working at gunpoint, and she wrote something that was brilliant. But people here apologized for everything the Soviet Union did. And we see what happened in the end.
SF-IMC: So you’re saying that the Palestinian support movement in America and the rest of the world, and right here in town, has contributed by not exposing Arafat?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Yes, by not doing it in a constructive way, by, at their meetings, not talking about what was actually going on, instead of a lot of blather.
By the way, I used to be invited to speak at Palestinian meetings, going back to the ’80s. I started talking about the Israel Lobby, and I was no longer invited. Few Palestinian speakers, other than Hatem Bazian and Mazen Qumseyeh, will actually talk about the lobby in public. Many will agree privately, but not publicly that the lobby is the problem.
SF-IMC: They’re afraid.
Jeffrey Blankfort: They’re frightened.
SF-IMC: People are afraid, not just of their careers and the loss of financial support. People are afraid for their lives.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Actually, I always tell people that if anything ever happens to me, the Mossad’s going to get blamed.
I’ll tell you an interesting story. Back in 1988, an Arab-American lawyer, Sally Solladay was instrumental in getting something on the ballot here called Proposition W, which called for a two state solution. This, of course, was opposed by every Democrat and Zionist in the country. The money came in from all over the country to stop a two state solution. Every San Francisco politician, except Richard Hongisto, had their names and pictures on flyers, opposing it. Hongisto, who had visited the West Bank, would have endorsed it, but the Palestinian leadership said we don’t want to ruin you. So he stayed out of it. He would have endorsed it. But in any case, this campaign was actually winning. It was taken over by Mr. Solomonow and something called New Jewish Agenda, a predecessor to Jewish Voice for Peace, which was a damage control operation for Israel that appeared after the outbreak of the Intifada to neutralize the Palestinian left, to seize it very nicely. They took over the operation of Proposition W, and made certain rules for people speaking for it. You could not talk about aid to Israel. You couldn’t talk about the Lobby. And you couldn’t talk about Rabin’s order to break the hands of Palestinian children. You had to take what they called “the high road.” And, of course, the measure that was winning finally lost.
Well, there was a young German man in his thirties, Friedhelm Ernst, a very healthy guy, who was part of an Israeli-Palestinian working group in Frankfurt. He was doing research on people from Ramallah in the United States. He came out to San Francisco, and was interested in this election. And after it was over, he had me and other people involved, write a pamphlet about it. Then he left. He was never sick a day in his life. Healthy as a horse. The night before he left, with another friend, we had dinner in North Beach, and he complained of a headache. He was leaving by car the next day to visit a friend of his, a German professor in Utah.
The night he arrived, he went to sleep early, but complained to his friend about his tremendous headache for which his friend gave him an aspirin. He was found dead in his bed the next morning. The coroner’s autopsy there noted there was some strange unidentifiable substance that had caused heart attack . . .
SF-IMC: Sodium morphate?
Jeffrey Blankfort: He didn’t know anything about the political background of Friedhelm. We tried to go over his schedule, several of us, because we believed he had been killed, especially when we learned that at his funeral in Frankfurt, the PLO turned out in major force. He was clearly an important person for them. So we went over his appointments to see where something could have possibly happened to him. But, of course, it could have happened in a restaurant. You know, on the street in Amman, when they tried to kill Khaled Mishal of Hamas. The truth of the matter is that they have so many people marginalizing me from the Left, that they don’t have to do anything. . . Look, I’ll tell you, four years ago, 2002, I spoke in Marin for If Americans Knew. I was part of a four person panel, with a Palestinian lawyer, Rashid Shehadeh from Ramallah, Jess Ghannam from San Francisco, an Israeli anti-Zionist, and myself, and I was to speak on the Israel Lobby. The four of us agreed I should speak last because my speech in Zionist Marin was liable to cause such a commotion that the meeting would break up. As it turned out, I got the biggest ovation. I showed the literature, the propaganda that the anti Prop W people had passed out against the two state solution in 1988, using pictures of Martin Luther King, Oscar Arias and the Viet Nam Wall, to defeat the measure and it was pretty ugly. I had people actually crying afterward.
Then I went over to Berkeley, where Students for Justice in Palestine, was having a three day conference on Palestine. There was not a single reference to the Lobby on the agenda. This is what we’re dealing with. And there’s going to be a conference in July, and Al-Awda conference, Al-Awda, meaning the Right of Return. And I looked at the schedule and there’s no subject of the Lobby on the agenda.
SF-IMC: It’s the third rail of American politics.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Yes, it’s the third rail of American politics. And it affects everybody. Palestinians are afraid of being called “anti-Semitic,” ironically.
People ask me, why do I continue?
SF-IMC: Well, that’s a very good question, Jeff.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I’ll quote Amira Hess, an Israeli journalist, I brought out here on a tour in 1983 when she was working for a group called Worker’s Hotline. That was before she began writing for Ha’aretz. Six years ago, she told me what keeps her going was anger at the injustice she sees. And what keeps me going is outrage. I’m outraged at injustice, and I have to do something about it, even if I have no belief or confidence at all that what I’m doing is going to change things. I’m hoping that I’m wrong about that. But at least I can kick the other side in the shins. When Mearsheimer and Walt came out with their paper, a number of people wrote and said, Jeff, you’ve been vindicated.
Thanks to the Internet, my articles have been translated into a number of languages and published all over the world. I’ll get interviewed from South African radio stations, I’ll get interviewed from Europe. Not so much here. Although I do have a lot of support through the internet. But he most important occupied territory that Israel has is America.
And it’s interesting that when the first Intifada started, and the Zionists were caught unawares, they really got their act together and across the whole political spectrum, New Jewish Agenda on the so-called Left, things like dialogue groups between Jews and Arabs here, one of their great ploys, to get Jews and Arabs talking here, where one of the ground rules is you don’t talk about anything that’s going to stir up the other.
Now it’s ironic that these dialogue groups in the US are praised by Israeli officials, but they don’t want Jews and Arabs talking in Palestine. The other thing is you have this faulty belief that it’s important that Jews take the lead on the Palestinian issue, because Jews somehow have more credibility, ignoring the fact that all Americans give their tax dollars to Israel, to the billions of dollars that have gone to Israel. By saying that it’s OK to criticize Israel if you’re Jewish, you’re implying that it’s not, if you’re not Jewish.
I remember when I went to Europe after my first trip to Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, and I talked to Leftists in England and to Portuguese exiles, including the first hijacker who flew a plane over Lisbon dropping leaflets, to leftists in Paris, and they said, “You can talk about what is happening to the Palestinians because you’re Jewish, but we have this history, so we can’t talk about it.” But resentments build up when people can’t talk about it, as well.
If people ask me if I’m Jewish, I’ll explain it as I have explained it before. I speak as a human being. I didn’t have to be Vietnamese to fight for the Vietnamese. I didn’t have to be Nicaraguan to fight for them, or South African to fight for them, or Black to fight for the Panthers or for Civil Rights. Why must one be Jewish to be involved on this issue?
In fact, for me, Jews should be the last people to be anywhere near the leadership of this movement. I wish there was a Palestinian Stokely Carmichael who would tell Jews, like Carmichael told white folks, many of them Jews, which got them very upset, to work in their own communities, and not try to tell them what to do. This caused a major crisis in the Jewish community, the Jewish left, because the African-American community has long been a special focus of American Jews and not always altruistically. The idea that Jews, for example, have been presidents of the NAACP, for me, is outrageous.
Now many Jews have worked very hard for justice for African-Americans, but no Jew should have accepted a position as the head of NAACP, or the leadership of a Black organization. Certainly Blacks are not invited into Jewish organizations. Jewish control of the NAACP has, in fact, made it impotent.
Indeed, when there was a threat that it would no longer be impotent, when Ben Chavis, a former minister and civil rights leader, became head of the NAACP, and started to reach out to young Black folks, and also reach out to Louis Farakhan, the Jews who supported the NAACP withdrew their money. And for about fifteen straight weeks the weekly Jewish Forward, which at that time was right wing . . . it’s now liberal . . . had front page articles attacking Chavis because he was supporting, he had supported, the PLO. They went after him tooth and nail, and after finding that he had given a job to a woman friend, they forced him to resign. But the fact is that the NAACP had lost its money, its funding, under Chavis, and as soon as he left, the funding came back. And they got Kwame Nfume, a former congressman to take it over, and it became once again, non functioning. It is what I call the “Invisible Plantation.” When you have the entire Black Caucus, with the exception of Cynthia McKinney, voting for this thing called the “Iran Freedom Act,” which is like an Iranian version of what we had for Iraq, and they do that to get the funding from the Democratic Party, to play the tune the Zionists want them to play, this is a crime, and the Left, by its ignoring of this reality, is complicit in this crime.
SF-IMC: If they succeed and drive America into war with Iran, they will be hoist with their own petard, will they not? Because the economy here will collapse.
Jeffrey Blankfort: If there is an attack on Iran which I don’t believe will occur.. . . I think they’ve run into a corner..if Iran should be attacked . . . the situation in Iraq, first of all, would become so horrible for Americans as well as British there, that the situation there today would be like a garden party.
SF-IMC: They’d be cut off. Their supply lines would be cut off.
Jeffrey Blankfort: The two leading Shia parties in the government were founded in Iran, and supported Iran against Saddam Hussein. And right now, Iraq and Iran have had meetings together and . . . people over here don’t understand history. The Shia are not pro American. They saw the US invasion as a vehicle for them getting the power that has long been denied them.
On the other hand, you have Sunnis, not just Iraqi Sunnis, but Sunnis from the neighboring Arab countries who while not happy about the Shia in Iran . . . the Shia in Iran are not Arab . .see Mesopotamia as the heart and soul of Arab culture. And the notion that the Shia will control this is an anathema, and that’s why you have this other war going on between Sunni and Shia.
If the US would attack Iran, bomb Iran, you might have a temporary unifying of Iraqis against the United States, and I’ll tell you, it would be untenable.
Secondly, the Iranians would no doubt be able to close the Strait of Hormuz.
SF-IMC: Their missiles could sink every ship in the Gulf!
Jeffrey Blankfort: Block, not sink. They would be able to block the Gulf shipping. The European economy, which is much more dependent Middle East oil, would come to a standstill, as would Japan. And even though the US doesn’t get the majority of its oil from the Middle East, that would have an effect on the US oil supply as well, and at the bottom line, gas at seven dollars a gallon is not something that can get politicians elected.
effrey Blankfort: I have been saying for two years that there would be no attack. On the other hand, you have some people who are really insane in Washington. There are people in the Pentagon who know it’s insane. You have those in the intelligence community who know it’s insane. You have the old line establishment that sees capitalism being threatened by Bush as it never was by Russia. They’re really concerned.
There was an ad in November, 2005, which many people didn’t pay attention to, but I did. It showed a picture of a man blindfolded, and it said, “Torture is not an American value.” And I said, “Whoa, this is the ACLU.” But it wasn’t. It was signed by all these former ambassadors, Madeline Albright, Thomas Pickering, Warren Rudmon, a whole bunch of former killers, former officials of the American government. For me, this was a message from the real establishment, the old line establishment, that these usurpers here were threatening America, the safeguarding of American capitalism and imperial interests. And that is what I think has happened.
The notion that the US was going to go in with Bush Jr. and the Neo-Cons and take over Iraqi oil, shows a total ignorance of how the industry functions, and the way oil is shipped. Oil needs peace in the region where it is produced. We have oil pipelines. I saw the oil pipeline that the PFLP broke back in 1970 in Jordan with a bulldozer. I saw a pool of oil in the desert there. You can’t protect an oil line if people want to break that oil line. There’s no question about it. And the people who think of it as a “war for oil,” they don’t answer the question of why was daddy Bush who is much closer to the oil companies and the Carlyle Group against it? And Carlyle Group dwarfs Halliburton.
Why was Frank Carlucci, of the Carlyle Group against the war, as well as Jim Baker, much closer to the oil companies than anybody in the administration, Brent Snowcroft, why were they against the war? First of all, they knew it would be a quagmire, and, second of all, they knew the Shia would come to power, and they didn’t want that to happen.
So the Neo-Cons, I think, were conned by the Israelis. Whatever you say about these Israeli military people, they’re tough. And they look at these Neo-Cons coming over and talking tough, and they have total contempt for them, in my opinion. My experience with Israelis across the board is that they have total contempt for American Jews, for a variety of reasons and all of them correct. You have Zionists there who talk about the “checkbook Zionists,” here, and when you have Wolfowitz and Perle talking tough to Israelis who have been actually in the field, whatever they’ve done in the field, they look at these American Jews and they say, “What a bunch of punks!” And so they sold them, I think, on the “cakewalk.” Israel wanted Iraq dismembered. This is an old Israeli plan. They wanted Iraq broken into three confessional states. I really don’t think this is a Neo-Con plan. It may have been for some of them, I don?t know, but I thought the Neo-Cons saw themselves as gaining power through American ascendancy. They would have an Iraqi Mubarak in there. They did not want to have elections there. It’s become much more complicated. These people really didn’t know about the region. They didn’t know the history of the region.
Now people say al-Queda doesn’t exist. You know, there is a movement, a scattered movement, that is determined to keep the Shia from getting power. And it’s so complicated that here, we can’t even know all the possible ramifications. You also have what happens in situations like this, you have thugs. There are kidnappings for money going on all the time in Iraq. You don’t even hear about it –people paying off kidnappers.
But I would say, if you asked the average Iraqi, certainly in Baghdad and Basra and these places, “Do you think you are better off now without Saddam?” the answer would be in the negative.
Saddam was a horrible guy. I mean, I saw a video that Robert Fisk brought, it ran forty minutes and showed an Iraqi guard with a three foot piece of electric cable, beating a pile of Iraqi prisoners from one side of a yard to another while about five Iraqi officers just stood without any expression, watching. This was one of Saddam’s home entertainment movies that Fisk got out of Baghdad.
I also saw a picture of Saddam and his wife and his children, walking in the snow, and his sons partying with Russian prostitutes. I had a chance to watch these while Fisk was out here.
The thing is, for the average Iraqi, life was better then than it is now. No question. You don’t know what is going to happen. If you go to the market, you might be killed. If you’re driving in a traffic jam, you might be killed. I don’t think the Israelis are behind it. They may have had some involvement in the beginning but now this thing has a life of its own. Things get a life of their own. It’s a horrendous tragedy, watching a country and it’s civilians being destroyed. This crime of the United States, whatever the Zionists’ role in it, the United States has committed this crime. The US Congress is complicit. We have a nation where there’s more war criminals than there were in Nazi Germany. But the Zionists also have to take responsibility. They pushed this war. They took credit for it.
The architects of it were Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith and Libby. There were some other Neo-Cons involved. You have PNAC calling for the overthrow of Saddam. You have these think tanks, all of them are Jewish-dominated. Brookings Institute was not, but then they had Haim Saban, an Egyptian born Israeli who gave 12.3 million to the Democratic Party in 2002, funding the Sabon Center at the Brookings Inst., which was the last remaining think tank not under Zionist control. They had some good people there like William Quandt who actually looked at things from a realistic perspective, but now that’s over. What is interesting that in 2002, the arms PACs, the weapons PACs, gave to both political parties about 14 million dollars, and Saban gave to the Democratic party almost as much as the arms PACs combined.
Now you have someone like Stephen Zunes, who keeps telling a lie, that the aeronautics industry gives more money to the political parties and the politicians than the Israel Lobby. He’s just counting the Political Action Committees, which is a minor part, actually now. Most of that money that goes to the political parties comes from individual American Jews. And as I’ve said, “Mother Jones” in 1996 and in 2000, put out something called the “Mother Jones 400,” the top four hundred donors to both political parties. So I started looking at the 2000 political parties and found that seven out of the top ten donors to both parties are Jewish, twelve out of the top twenty, and a hundred and twenty five out of the top two hundred and fifty. And then I figure the rest is going to be like that, anyhow.
So anyone who tries to say that any group or lobby contributes more money to American political parties than do Jews is simply not telling the truth. People say, well, that’s not necessarily Zionists, but according to Senator Bernie Metzenbaum, speaking some years ago to a Jewish organization, he said, “As far as Congress is concerned, there is only one issue for American Jews, and that’s Israel”. And at that conference they proved it because by the time they finished talking about Israel, there was no time left to talk about anything left on the agenda.
Israel is the glue that holds the organized Jewish community together. They disagree on abortion, on all kinds of things, gay rights, but when it comes to Israel, they are in lock step, and this is . . . they have basically taken over the American political system.
People say, well, what about China? Well, it’s true that they’re concerned with Israel and the Middle East, and maintaining the arms industry. When Israel started selling arms to China, with American parts, they didn’t tell the Neo-Cons. And the Neo-Cons were really upset because, as I told you, from what I’ve been able to gather, from my experience, Israel . . . when I read . . . Israelis hold all American Jews in contempt. They don’t care what they think. They know that the American Jews will do whatever they need for them.
Since 1967, since June 8th, when Israel attacked the US intelligence ship the Liberty, and killed 34 sailors and wounded 171, and they got away with it, Israel knows that they can do anything to America and Americans and pay no price. And since the left has never brought up the issue of the Liberty, and has not brought up the issue of the Lobby, the Left is . . . I talked to Leni Brenner one day. We couldn’t decide whether the Left is the rearguard or the front line of the Israel Lobby. It’s one of the two.
SF-IMC: This is a scary proposition. The people who run Israel think they can do anything they want to America. But the Neo-Cons aren’t so stupid. They got burned on Iraq. If the Israeli power structure realizes that they cannot lure or goad America into war with Iran, do you think that they would start bombing them themselves? The have the military power, and America would get blamed. Is that a possibility?
Jeffrey Blankfort: If Israel would attack Iran, with or without American permission . . . they’d probably inform America . . . one thing you would know for sure, is both houses of Congress would fall over themselves applauding and justifying it. Which the message would then be, to the rest of the world, and certainly to the people of Iran and Iraq, that the US was behind it, even if the US was not behind it.
SF-IMC: That’s what I’m saying. We’re going to get the blame, one way or the other. That’s scary.
Jeffrey Blankfort: If Sharon was not comatose . . . like I see him as a symbol of what Israel should be, comatose. If Sharon was not comatose, Sharon might do it. I don’t think Olmert has the credibility to do it. He’s not a warrior. Sharon would do it because he’s always been able to get away with everything.
SF-IMC: Olmert was his boy, though.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Olmert was his boy. As a matter of fact, I will tell you about a conversation my sister and I had with Olmert very briefly in ’82. He was out here to defend Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. One of us, my sister or I, I’m not sure who it was, said that the war in Lebanon has disturbed . . . was very troublesome for the American Jewish community.
And Olmert’s reply was, “I don’t give a fig for the Jewish community.”
And then my sister asked him about Israel’s nuclear weapons. He said, “Look, we have missiles trained on Moscow. That doesn’t mean we’re going to use them.”
Then he repeated, “That doesn’t mean we’re going to use them.”
I think the world is frightened of Israel. I think America is frightened of Israel.
SF-IMC: They have a nuclear gun pointed at the head of the world economy.
Jeffrey Blankfort: They have nuclear weapons, and they have what they call a “Masada Complex.” As my sister’s late brother-in-law. who took pride in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, said to my sister, and other Israelis have said the same thing, “We won’t go by ourselves next time.”
It’s what’s called the “Samson Option,” is what Seymour Hersch described it, and it is a mentality. This is what separates Zionism from any other ideology. It’s an ideology of supremacy. and of total disregard for the rest of the human species. Now there are other reactionary ideologies in the past. With Zionism . . . is one that is well thought out, over many years, by people who were not directly oppressed. Chaim Weizmann, Theodor Herzi were not directly oppressed. They were well to do. They could move around in international circles. The Palestinians were in their way. And they lied about their . . . they said one thing to the British privately, they said one thing publicly and one thing privately.
Chomsky still believes that Ben Gurion was serious about his statements that they don’t want to play the role to the Arabs like the Poles played to them. They didn’t want the Arabs to be the Jews, and that they did not want the Jewish state. Now despite the fact that Nahum Goldman, the former head of the World Zionist Congress, who was there at these meetings, said “this is merely for tactics. They want a Jewish state”, and Goldman later told Jimmy Carter he had to break the back of the Jewish Lobby.
SF-IMC: Easier said than done.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Yeah, right. Chomsky wants to believe in the tooth fairy, that the Zionists were really ready to live with the Palestinians. And he, of course, was a Zionist in his youth, and it’s important to distinguish him from, for example, someone like Finklestein, people who support essentially two states. Because you could be a Zionist and support two states. You can support two states and not be a Zionist, simply be a pragmatic person, and say, look, Israel exists. It’s not going to go away. If there could be a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Israel out of the Occupied Territories, it doesn’t mean they’re a Zionist. It means they’re a pragmatist. I judge on where people were coming from to begin with. So I see Chomsky as a Zionist, and Finklestein may be, but I don’t really see him as that.
Finklestein and I have disagreements. He didn’t like my article on Chomsky. As I understood he didn’t like it at all. And he’s got very confused by stepping away from Chomsky’s position on Israel and Palestine. And he wrote an article, “It’s not either/or,” in which he says the Palestine issue has been determined, more or less, by the Lobby in this country, but not other Middle East issues, as if you can take this out, Israel/Palestine, out of the Middle East and separate it from what’s going on in Iraq. And actually, he looks kind of silly for saying this because he opens himself up to an intellectual contradiction which is obvious. I haven’t written about this because it’s so obvious to anyone reading this, but what it represents is stepping away from Chomsky’s embrace, and taking a different position than Chomsky on this issue.
As I say, there are Palestinians who support the “two state solution,” simply because they think that’s the only thing they think they can achieve.
SF-IMC: OK, here’s where I disagree with you. I think that to support the “two state solution” is to support an institutionalization of the apartheid. It’s de facto Zionism.
Jeffrey Blankfort: OK, but the problem as I see it, and I have been for a single state for eons, I mean, I am against the existence of a Jewish state, and I also believe that the discussion is almost irrelevant because the Zionists will not settle for another state.
SF-IMC: So you’re saying that it’s a moot point.
Jeffrey Blankfort: It’s a moot point. I won’t even argue . . .
SF-IMC: That’s what it looks like on the ground.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Yeah, yeah. So this is why I don’t get into that. My position is I want sanctions against Israel, to such an extent that it will bring the Israeli economy to its knees, and to such a point that those Jews from the Western countries, particularly, who have no issue of being oppressed, but like the idea of a country where they can go and be racist, and be proud of it, will leave, will leave, and that Israel will be forced to withdraw totally from everything in the ’67 borders, to something that approached the Partition borders. which is considerably less. And then we might have one state or whatever. If I were a Palestinian, I wouldn’t want to live with Israelis.
You know, I mean, Tel Aviv is a great (unintelligible). There’s some great coffee houses. Starbucks couldn’t take hold there, even though the head of Starbucks is a big Zionist, because in Israel they like coffee in real cups.
SF-IMC: [laughs, drinks more coffee]
Jeffrey Blankfort: Anyway the point is, is I think, my position is, I think the Zionists will not give up anything, and I don’t want to see a truncated Palestinian state, but I don’t want to be the judge for the Palestinians. I will let them make their judgment. They are the ones to determine, but I think what we can do here to strengthen the Palestinians is to weaken Israel to the greatest extent we can possibly do that. Attack the Lobby, expose the Lobby, make the Lobby scared. Call them for what they are, a fifth column. Get flyers, leaflets. I’ve done that by myself. I’ve put leaflets out. And demand sanctions. Selective divestment? Forget about it. That’s long gone. Selective divestment is against an American company. Let’s go right to the problem . . . Israel.
SF-IMC: Look what happened at Rainbow. They stopped buying candles. They stopped buying chocolate. And a sh*t storm arose over it. That’s a hard thing to overcome.
Jeffrey Blankfort: The problem is, I don’t know that it can be done, but we cannot let fake leaders of the Left talk about “no blood for oil” and “end the occupation” when most Americans, when you walk down the street, and ask the average person whose not Jewish or Arab, “What do you think about the Occupation?”
And, “I have a job,” they’d say, “Are you asking about my occupation?”
“No, the Occupation.”
Maybe, maybe they might say “Iraq.”
“What do you think, two states or one state?”
“What? What state? California? You want to divide California north and south?”
I would say, out of a hundred people you would ask, who have no vested interest in the Middle East, out of a hundred people, maybe a handful would know what you’re talking about or care.
And it’s interesting how the Arab organizations got on this two state thing as well. It was pushed by soft core Zionist Jews in this country, who, by the way, were the biggest supporters of Yassir Arafat. Not a coincidence in my book. They loved Arafat. They were all going to see Yassir Arafat. And I say, my God, this it like in “Alice in Wonderland.”
You know what the problem is? I actually use this example, with illustrations, the Walrus and the Carpenter. And the Walrus is talking to the Carpenter, and he’s just talking and talking and talking, and after, at the end, he asks the oysters if they had any comments, and comments “there came none, and that was no surprise, for he had eaten every one.”
And that’s what I see happening with the Israel/Palestinian situation, with the collaboration of the American Left.
SF-IMC: Well, listen! I have a better question. If you’re going to go out in the street and ask people a question about the conflict there, how about phrasing it like this because this is something that affects people in their ordinary life.
“Do you want to live like an Israeli? Do you want to be afraid of an empty package at the bus stop? Is that’s how you want to live?”
Because that’s what’s happening. I don’t think most people want to live that way. Did you see downtown just yesterday? They found a suitcase. My God! They closed the area. They brought in the bomb squad. And it was just some homeless guy’s extra pants.
I don’t want to live like that. I think if you went out in the street and asked ordinary Americans, “Do you want to be afraid of being blown up at the pizza parlor?” Do you? I don’t want to live like an Israeli, and they’re forcing it on us. Israel, the Israel Lobby, the Israeli government, the Israeli military, and the Mossad are forcing us, here in America, to live like them. To hell with that, I say.
Jeffrey Blankfort: That’s an interesting point because you have, just the other day, you have American police officials constantly being taken over on trips by the ADL and JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which is an organization that started in 1976 to integrate the US and Israeli military-industrial complexes so that no president could extricate them. They are constantly taking law enforcement officers over there to educate them how to deal with the “terrorist threat.”
Well, why don’t we eliminate the reasons for the terrorist threat by changing our policies that have been directed by the Israel Lobby?
SF-IMC: That’s what I say. People, say that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East, but before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East.
Jeffrey Blankfort: That’s right.
SF-IMC: We could go back to that. We could be very popular people, we Americans.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Mearsheimer and Waltz said that.
SF-IMC: And we saw what a sh*t storm that turned into.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Exactly! As a matter of fact . . .
SF-IMC: Those guys hit a nerve!
Jeffrey Blankfort: Interesting approach.
I made a flyer about the USS Liberty. When they were putting up a plaque for San Franciscans who had died in Viet Nam, at Embarcadero Center, they had a ceremony, and I made a flyer about the USS Liberty. And I took it down, and I passed it out among the people, and the Marine Color Guard ? I held it up so they could read it, and I got nothing but positive responses.
But the Zionists have been so strong and so powerful that they have even cowed the Veterans Lobby not to talk about this issue. And my belief, frankly, is if Americans knew about that, and knew about the bombing of the American Cultural Exchange in Egypt in 1953, that they tried to blame on Egyptians, and they would know that the first acts of terror conducted against Americans were by Israelis, they might think a little bit differently, or have some questions, and I think that even individuals making flyers. I made up this flyer that I mentioned earlier about Pelosi, back when she was running for congress. And I asked her the question about the contras, if aid, which she was opposing, was tied to Israeli aid. And she said show would support it. So I made a flyer with her statement, and I put it out all over the Mission district. And you know how they put flyers over other people’s flyers? People did not cover up that flyer.
I was just one person with my computer. A few individuals can do quite a bit, because the computer has given us power that we didn’t have before. If you want to get something printed, you don’t have to get a typesetter to do it. You go to your own computer.
But we don’t do that. We have less flyering in public places than we did during the Viet Nam war. I go to shopping malls. You know, instead of people . . . we also have something here in the Bay Area. We have more political events than take place in any major city in the world. I’ve lived in Paris. I’ve lived in London. I’ve lived in Rome. And we have more Left events taking place in the Bay Area than any one of these cities. I know, because I know political people and I have lived in all of these cities. We have so many events taking place that we have no time to do any political work.
And, you know, you have so much time to do political work. We spend too much time on the computer as well. That’s another problem.
But I think that if people, as individuals, would make up flyers and go to a shopping center or supermarket and give people flyers as they come out, and see what their reaction would be. Just try it.
I had this flyer, “Nancy Pelosi: Foreign agent?” It’s her speech to AIPAC. People read this and say, “What the hell’s going on? Why is a politician, not from the Knesset but here in the United States, pledging the loyalty of the United States to Israel? Why do they all do it?”
But nobody . . . you know, I passed this out in front of the Fairmont and people look at this and say, “Wow!”
It disturbs them. And there’s all kinds of things we can do to expose this to ordinary people.
SF-IMC: Ordinary people, acting as individuals, you think, as an individual I’m just one person. But there’s a lot of us. There’s a saying, an Arctic proverb, “Enough mosquitoes can drain a moose.”
Jeffrey Blankfort: [laughs loud and long] Hey, I like that.
SF-IMC: And we have to stop . . . my personal opinion, we have to stop letting our leaders set our agenda, set our schedules, set out meeting schedules, and focus all our energy into these useless demonstrations, and start acting on our own, one on one, in kitchens, across kitchen tables. This is where the struggle is. The struggle is in the kitchen, not the street corner.
Jeffrey Blankfort: You know, in 1991, I was awakened by a knock on my door at one o’clock in the morning, and it was a friend of mine who owns a Chinese junk. He also owned a large van, a big van, and he had with him a seventeen foot sail from that junk. And he said to me, “What slogan should we put on this?”
And I said, “No war for Israel.”
So I had another friend, who used to do posters during the Sixties, do really nice red, white and blue lettering. And we went to the 101, right over the freeway, and we had this sign “No war for Israel,” seventeen feet long, from noon on into the evening. People would beep their horns. And you can tell, the way they beep their horn, if they’re supporting you.
I did hear one guy shout our from the freeway, “F*ck you!”
But, anyway, and then the night came, we took a headlight out of the truck, and with a twelve volt battery, played it on this sign. Finally the Highway Patrol came. They had come earlier during the day, but we said, “It’s on our truck. It’s legal.”
But they complained about the light, it was distracting. And then we left and we went into the Mission where a march against the war was taking place by a youth group, and our truck led the march in the Mission. I did it again before the current war, with my own pickup. And the cops came, and I said, “It’s all legal.”
And somebody came along and said, “What are you bothering him for?”
And he took a picture of the cop doing this, and (unintelligible) this is right. Everyone who walked by agreed with me. There was not a single person who didn’t like it.
SF-IMC: It’s a great slogan, except for one thing. Now today . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: It’s true again.
SF-IMC: It’s true, yes, but if you say that slogan today, that is the name of a web site that’s run by David Duke.
Jeffrey Blankfort: [sadly] I know.
SF-IMC: So I can’t help but wonder is Duke taking money under the table to be a sock puppet enemy?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Actually, Duke evidently, has supposedly changed his position, but I don’t know.
SF-IMC: I’m skeptical of that.
Jeffrey Blankfort: So am I. But the problem is . . .
SF-IMC: It’s been stolen. The slogan has been stolen.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I know, I know.
SF-IMC: It’s a great slogan and they stole it. We need a new slogan or something. What should we do?
Jeffrey Blankfort: I think the average person seeing that slogan doesn’t even know that David Duke has that slogan.
SF-IMC: If you put that on the internet, the Zionist propaganda mill has bots that spot it. You put that in a post on any Indymedia, and on MoveOn, or Yahoo, or any board at all and two minutes later they show up and say this is David Duke.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I know that.
SF-IMC: It’s one thing to have it on the side of a pickup truck, but you put that on the internet, which is the main way that ordinary people communicate about politics now . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: The difference is this.
SF-IMC: What’s the difference?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Is that even though it is weird trying to talk to the people who are not looking at those sites on the internet . . . because the internet is interesting. The internet is what you do, but it allows you to do more than what you used to do before. So if you like sports, you do more sports. If you like pornography, you do more of that. If you like . . . what do they call it? . . . soap operas, you’re into soap operas. They don’t cross. They really don’t cross.
It’s like there’s all these different spheres, dimensions, operating at the same time. So we have this political sphere, in which the Zionists are all over the the place. But there are a lot of ordinary people who would agree with you, but are not focused on politics on the internet. Those are the people we have got to reach.
SF-IMC: That’s an interesting perspective. I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. You’re absolutely right.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I was sitting the other day in the cafeteria in a high school . . . I won’t mention the high school . . . and I was talking to a woman there, and I had never talked about politics with her before, and I was being very subtle about something. and she said, “Well, that’s capitalism!”
And, as I say, ordinary people that I’ve talked to about political issues . . . and if they were activists, I would know . . . there’s a certain lingo, and so on. They don’t wear buttons. They don’t have . . . although on my pickup I have all kinds of bumper stickers, like “End Israeli Apartheid,” “Support the Intifada,” “Bush Knew,” “Impeach Bush,” “Stop the War in Iraq,” and I’ve had nothing but compliments.
You drive a pick up, people don’t know what you got in the car. But I’ve had people drive by and when I’m parked and say, “I agree with your sentiments.” That’s across the board. That’s Palestine and Iraq. It happens all the time. I’m always taken back by when people do that. Or people go by and give me a V.
My feeling is so much better about average folks, as opposed to my feelings about the Left, people who don’t have a vested interest in a particular political ideology, or supporting Israel. People who claim to be Marxists have this vested interest in opposing US imperialism. Now I oppose US imperialism, but US imperialism is a complicated subject. And people say how . . . you know, there’s no Zionism when the US went into Central America, or other places, and I say, has the US gotten into a war like there is in Iraq, any place but where the Zionists wanted it?
I could make an argument for US imperialism benefiting from all these other situations. I can’t make the argument for Iraq. I think that it’s been a disaster. It’s probably the biggest foreign policy disaster in American history. And if they were to go into Iran, it would be beyond that.
That’s why I believe that there are certain powers that be in Washington, starting with Daddy Bush, who will tell Junior, I’m going to take you out to the woodshed, son.
SF-IMC: Do you know what I’m hoping? In my experience, every time they start talking about how we’re going to go to war with Iran, it turns out later that they were doing deals under the table, the October Surprise, Iran-contra, and it’s the same guys, the same individuals. They have the same phone numbers in their little book. They can call each other on the phone. And so I don’t think they are really going to go war with Iran unless Israel does something outrageous, like paint American emblems on their planes. They do love false flag ops.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I think that Israel’s also run into a problem because Israel’s main trading partner is Europe. Now the Israel Lobby has been extremely effective since the American Jewish Committee, which is the foreign policy arm of the American Jewish Lobby, and let me say, “the Jewish Lobby” in Israel is what they call it.
The Israel Lobby, whatever it is, represents the organized Jewish community. They have a foreign policy arm, which is the American Jewish Committee. A couple years ago, they opened an office in Brussels, right next to the EU, and since that time, you’ve seen the EU move towards Israel in a way that it hadn’t before. They have become another occupied territory.
There’s the argument that Israel is a client state of the US, the cop on the beat. The argument can much more easily be made that the US is the cop on the beat for Israel. And Europeans are becoming the cop on the beat for Israel, the “client state.” They’re paying bills for the Palestinians that Israel should be paying, as has been the US. They’re fighting the war. Shaul Mofaz, even before the war, said, Iraq, and then we want the US to do Syria and Iran. The Israelis talk about it openly.
SF-IMC: Here’s where I disagree with you and Chomsky. You guys see a dog wagging a tail. He sees one end and you see another. I don’t see a dog. I see a hydra. I see a hydra of which Israel and the Israel Lobby and the Zionists, that’s one head of this monster, global capitalism. It’s not the only head. It’s the one that’s chewing a hole in the Middle East. But it’s bigger than that. That’s what I see. I don’t see this polar thing. I see a lot of different heads. This particular faction of the world ruling class has a nuclear weapon pointed at the world economy. They could hit two thirds of the world’s oil fields in five minutes. We’re being held hostage.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I actually think there’s a fear, and the Israelis have let it be known that they’ll use the bomb if they feel threatened.
SF-IMC: That’s what Kissinger told Le Duc Tho in Paris. “You’d better do what I say or this lose cannon in the White House might do something crazy.” It didn’t work, though.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I think that there are these fears, and it isn’t either/or. However, we saw two wars on Iraq, and the Zionists were so furious when George Sr. did not take out Saddam, that immediately, as soon as Clinton came in, they started writing letters and complaining to get Saddam out of there. That this is a war for Israel is so obvious, so easy to see.
SF-IMC: No question about it.
Jeffrey Blankfort: That the resistance on the part of the Left, and on the part of Chomsky and Zunes and Beinin is extraordinary, particularly when they won’t debate it.
SF-IMC: But you’ll debate anybody, right?
Jeffrey Blankfort: I’ll debate anybody.
SF-IMC: That’s the difference between you and them.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well the difference is . . . when Mitchell Plitnik of the Jewish Voice for Peace, which is a more sophisticated version of the New Jewish Agenda . . . he was asked by KPFA to debate me on the Israel Lobby, and initially he said he would. And I told the KPFA person, “He won’t. They don’t debate this.” So what happened? He did not debate it. So what did he do instead? He held a JVP meeting at about the same time and then he wrote an article, dismissing the power of the Israel Lobby, which was distributed all over the country.
A Presbyterian church leader in Houston sent it to me. So, you see, this is how they work. Because, you know, opposing Caterpillar, opposing the Occupation, all fine, but there are only two issues that really count . . . it’s a litmus test I have . . . sanctions and the Lobby. Because if you don’t deal with the Lobby, you are giving the Lobby protection. And if you don’t deal with money, all the rest is secondary. So they won’t debate me. And, of course, they put out their own article that the war in Iraq is not for Israel. Now why do they do this? Zunes puts his articles out, that the war in Iraq is not for Israel. Why do they do this? When they put these articles out, and they go all over the world, nobody other than Jeff Blankfort was saying this, and I wasn’t the only one saying it at that time. General Zinni had said it. Even the Washington Post admitted that the defense intelligence establishment is saying it. But what does the intelligence establishment know? How could they know as much as Jewish Voice for Peace, or Zunes or Beinin?
Jeffrey Blankfort: It’s extraordinary. [laughs] It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Because obviously they have an agenda, and that agenda is to protect Israel and the Lobby.
SF-IMC: At any expense.
Jeffrey Blankfort: At any expense, and the first victim is, of course, the truth.
SF-IMC: “In war, truth is the first casualty.” Aeschylus, what a guy.
Jeffrey Blankfort: First casualty, and a continuing casualty.
SF-IMC: A continuing casualty.
Jeffrey Blankfort: And that’s “our” side, quote/unquote!
SF-IMC: I just had a flash. A visual image popped into my head. There’s a stage, and you’re sitting on the stage, and there’s a podium, and there’s six or seven empty chairs on the other side of the podium . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: [laughs]
SF-IMC: . . . and one has got Chomsky’s name, and one has Zunes’ name on it . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: [laughs harder]
SF-IMC: . . . and there’s a sign outside that says, “Debate Tonight”
Jeffrey Blankfort: [laughs even harder]
SF-IMC: . . . and you say nothing, because you don’t have to, because their absence says it all.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I spoke in Eugene a couple weekends ago.
SF-IMC: How’d that go?
Jeffrey Blankfort: It went well. They were afraid there’s be hecklers. I said there won’t be hecklers. And the reason there were no hecklers is because when I speak, I quote Israeli sources and American Jewish sources. And what can they say?
SF-IMC: So we’re back to this problem that we talked about before, that a Jewish voice is taken more seriously on this subject than a non Jewish voice. And it’s you, a Jew, quoting a Jew, quoting an Israeli Jew, no less. That’s hard to talk back to. But when I talk like that, they say, “Oh, he’s just an anti-Semite.”
Jeffrey Blankfort: It’s interesting . . .
SF-IMC: You know, though, people call you an “anti-Semite” too.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Worse.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I’ve been called “Osama Bin Blankfort.” [laughs] But it’s interesting. Edward Said made some very strong statements about the Israel Lobby in a book called “Introduction to the Intifada.” Edward Said has forgotten more . . . well, before he died . . . forgotten more about the Palestinian story than Chomsky knows today. And yet it’s interesting that while people talk about Edward Said, Chomsky is the one who is revered. Although, obviously Chomsky keeps writing and speaking and writing and speaking. You can’t turn around without another Chomsky book or speech. It’s interesting, whenever I see a Chomsky speech or interview about Iraq, I do a “find” and type in “Israel.” Invariably, the word is not found.
SF-IMC: It’s not just Chomsky. Did you see Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 91″? Did you hear the word “Israel” mentioned in there?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Michael Moore learned his lesson. Michael Moore, when he was much more svelte, when I first heard about him, he became editor of “Mother Jones,” and he announced in advance that he was going to run a picture of a Palestinian fedayeen on the cover. Adam Hochshield the publisher of “Mother Jones” who was a Zionist, realized that this would be terrible . . .
SF-IMC: [laughs] Boy howdy.
Jeffrey Blankfort: . . . and Moore was naive, and so he fired Moore, without really giving him much of a chance as the editor, long before he could do that. And when “Mother Jones” in 1984, when the Democratic party was having its convention in San Francisco, put out a special issue, timed to coincide with the convention, and there was a two page ad in it that I found just the other day, which showed a picture of Yassir Arafat and Hafez al-Assad in which it said that American foreign policy is really appreciated by these two guys.
The Republicans were in office in 1984 with Reagan. And it is an ad signed by five important Jews, saying that American foreign policy makes these guys happy. Now I had seen this ad before in a Jewish publication. That “Mother Jones” was publishing this ad was outrageous. And so I wrote a letter saying the real Mother Jones would turn over in her grave, which they didn’t publish. But I happened to know one of the editors at “Mother Jones” and I ran into him, and he admitted that they had solicited the ad in order to show the Democrats at the convention what their politics was. And then, of course, this is the Left!?! And then when the ISM started, they ran a hit piece on the ISM, the International Solidarity Movement. And I had mentioned that “Lies of Our Times” went out of business because, I believe, because when Ed Herman had me writing articles about aid to Israel and the Lobby and no other Left publication was writing articles like this, they lost their Jewish subscriber base. And since Jews contribute so much to the Left, it keeps, you know, newspapers like “In These Times” which predictably attacked the Mearsheimer Walt paper . . . it keeps these magazines staying in business, they know better than to touch that third rail.
SF-IMC: Is this any different than whoring?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Whoring is the word.
SF-IMC: Whoring is the word.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Whoring is the word. And we have Israel, just after passing this draconian piece of legislation penalizing the Palestinians, and over Bush’s opposition, because it limits what he can do in dealing with Hamas . . . and this has happened before. The administration doesn’t want Congress dictating policy. They couldn’t talk to the PLO for years, remember, and when when Andrew Young talked to some of the PLO, he had to resign.
SF-IMC: Isn’t there some kind of law against boycotting Israeli products? Didn’t they pass a law at some point?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Yes, yes. It is against the law for any US company to deal with any company in the Arab world that boycotts Israeli products. And American companies have paid fines. By the way, when Israel has gone up against other lobbies, the Farm Lobby, for example, the big, agricultural Farm Lobby . . . heavy lobby, right? Well, they were against Israel getting a favored nation status to allow Israeli agricultural products to come in here without tariff. Ed Schau, the congressman from Fresno, supported by the Farm Bureau, and Farm Bureau money, opposed that. Well, it was a TKO right away. The Lobby knocked out the Farm Bureau, and Ed Schau as well. Then came the pharmaceutical industry, the so-called “ethical drug industry.” They didn’t want Israel to be able to manufacture generic drugs to export to the United States. Who do you think won that one? The Israel Lobby.
SF-IMC: That’s a lot of clout. You know the pharmaceutical industry . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: Has a lot of clout.
SF-IMC: . . . has a lot of clout.
Jeffrey Blankfort: A lot of clout. You don’t challenge the Israel Lobby. Now there’s this joke. The Israel Lobby, next to AARP, is the most powerful lobby in Washington. AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons!?! What have they done for old people in this country? Old people in this country get worse treatment than any other advanced country. AARP is a joke. AARP is a scam.
SF-IMC: Well, you get a pint of free ice cream once a month at Ben and Jerry’s.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Is that right?
SF-IMC: It’s good ice cream.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Actually, the closest thing to the Israel Lobby in Washington is the NRA. They are a grassroots lobby, and they have their congressmen, but they don’t lobby low level politicians. But they function at a grassroots level. And they scare the bejeezus out of congress people. They might get shot. But the Israel Lobby is the bigger gun lobby.
SF-IMC: What about the Cuban Lobby? I see parallels.
Jeffrey Blankfort: The Cuban Lobby is important in two states, New Jersey and Florida, and they have linked up with the Israeli Lobby. That’s why Iliana Ros-Lehtinen a Jewish Cuban immigrant, (who says she’s Episcopal) is introducing all this legislation, all this pro Israel legislation. They work together. This is one of the problems is that the Israel Lobby links up with these other lobbies, with the Arms Lobby. It’s interesting. Going back to 1975 . . . I mentioned JINSA before . . . going back to 1975, Israel refused to disengage from areas it had take in the Sinai during the 1973 war, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is not a Zionist but a Machiavellian . . .
SF-IMC: Par excellence . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: Oh yeah.
SF-IMC: Par excellence . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: . . . advised President Ford to withhold aid from Israel until it disengaged, and Ford not only did that, he announced that he was going to make a major speech, calling on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, and there was going to be a reassessment, a major reassessment, of US/Israel relations. What happened? Within three weeks, AIPAC got 76 senators to sign a letter, a very strong letter to Ford, with people like George McGovern on the left and Teddy Kennedy and all the way to the right, on this issue. The fascist and the liberals lock arms, kind of threatening Ford not to change the US/Israeli policy. Ford backed off and never made the speech. And, of course, he was dead meat as far as the election went when Carter ran, the first Carter election. Now in 1976 . . . this really scared the Zionist Lobby. And it’s well documented in several books.
Chomsky never mentions this because his position is that every American president supported Israel’s occupation and the US is a rejectionist leader. So Nixon, who had the Rogers plan, wanted to get Israel out of the Occupied Territories. Chomsky frames his rejecting a Palestinian state, where it’s apples and oranges. Nixon wanted Israel out of the Occupied Territories and a return to the status quo, without a Palestinian state. But they did not support Israeli occupation. Ford didn’t either. Along came Carter, the most unpopular president the Jews have ever had, in which he forced Camp David on Israel. They did not want to give up the Sinai and that got him the hatred of the Lobby. He really pushed, as did Kissinger. They pushed this thing. Then, when Israel invaded Lebanon in ’78, perhaps hoping that Egypt would do something, and they could break Camp David . . .
Jeffrey Blankfort: In ’78 Israel invaded Lebanon the first time and Israel set up a Potemkin village in Lebanon.
SF-IMC: In Haddadland?
Jeffrey Blankfort: It was in that area, yeah. An Israeli friend of mine, he was a soldier, talked about this. So after three months, Carter told Begin, “Withdraw, or face the loss of aid.” And Israel withdrew. And then Carter talked about a Geneva peace conference to settle everything, including the Palestinian question, involving Russia. “My God! How much more can they do to betray us?” said the Jewish leaders?
It was then that Donald McHenry, the UN ambassador made a mistake at the UN, and voted for a resolution censuring Israel, the only time this happened. He had to resign, and apologized, “It was a mistake.” And so Carter ended up getting 48% of the Jewish vote in 1980 when Reagan won. So all this is eliminated from history by Chomsky, and the people on the Left who talk about it, but it’s mostly Chomsky because if you read Chomsky, you’re supposed to know everything that went on. But all these situations contradict Chomsky’s theory. They wipe it out completely. It’s not even an argument of interpretation. It’s a recognition of fact. So you got Nixon, Ford, Carter, and then George Bush the First. And then it’s interesting. The day after Bush made his press conference, the head of the AIPAC said . . . September 12th, actually it was September 12, 1991. September 12th will be a day that will live in infamy. From that time on, the Israeli Lobby, beginning with columnists in the papers like George Will, William Safire, started talking about the economy, and suddenly the economy became the issue, and Bush’s failure to save the economy became the major target. He was dead meat.
By the time Shamir lost, Rabin was elected in Israel, Bush finally gave in, as the election was coming up. It was too late. That’s was Moshe Aren’s opinion.
Now . . we have George Will and Bill Safire . . . Safire supported Clinton. That’s how far he went. Now jump ahead to 2002, Jenin. Israel goes into Jenin and is doing what it’s doing. Shimon Peres is worried about reports of a massacre. He was the first person to use those words. And what does George Bush do? He orders Israel to withdraw. And what does he say? I was in Europe at the time. “Enough is enough.” Big headlines: “Bush to Sharon: Enough is enough. I want you to withdraw immediately’”. And I have all the newspapers.
What happens? Immediately, George Will, Bill Safire . . . George Will says, “George Bush has lost his moral clarity.” Safire says, “Bush thinks Arafat is a better friend than Sharon.” The Christian Zionists start their letters to the White House. And a week later, Sharon is “a man of peace.” Bush Jr. blinked.
At one point Clinton was trying to make Israel make a withdrawal, and I’d forgotten about this, actually. I read somewhere in the paper that Jerry Falwell was bragging that the Monica Lewinsky affair was used to force Clinton to back off from bringing pressure on Netenyahu. And I thought, oh, that’s nonsense. And you know what happened? I actually went and looked at the newspapers, before the Lewinsky scandal, and here was the Lobby warning Clinton against pressuring Netenyahu. And then, boom, we had Monica and that was it. And I said, my God, even Clinton tried to do it.
Every American president realizes it’s in US interest to get Israel out of the Occupied Territories. The US has no vested interest in Israel settling the Occupied Territories and maintaining this confrontation. And every president has had to bend his knee to Israel. And this is the way it is, and it’s easily shown.
It’s a different policy when it comes to Israel than it is when it comes to the rest of the world.
SF-IMC: If Congress is not going to put an end to this, if the president can’t put an end to this, it’s up to you and me.
Jeffrey: [laughingly] It’s up to you and me. It’s up to you and me.
SF-IMC: It’d be funny if it wasn’t true, because you and me, we’re pretty unusual people here. If there were ten, a hundred, then a thousand people sitting in their kitchens right now talking about this, things would change.
Jeffrey Blankfort: You know that song? [sings] “Give me some men who are stout hearted men, and I’ll soon give you ten thousand more. Shoulder to shoulder,and bolder and bolder . . .” Ah, yes. Those were the days.
I have on my email list people who are like minded, and I think the thing. We could do is actually give maybe some ideas for flyers.
Do we really want our police to be going over to learn what the Israeli police are doing, because it’s going to come here? Couldn’t we just say, enough is enough?
SF-IMC: “Enough is enough.” I think that’s a better slogan than the longer one, “No war for Israel.” It’s too late for that. We already have war for Israel. Enough is enough. Let’s put an end to this.
Jeffrey Blankfort: [laughs] “No whores for Israel.”
Sf-IMC: [laughs] “No whores for Israel.”
Well, look. It’s late. You’re hoarse. I’m tired. The dogs are hungry. I’m hungry. Let’s bring this to a close. I really appreciate you’re coming over here and talking about this. I’m going to tell as many people in the world as I possibly can what you said. I’m doing my part, here, as best as I can.
Jeffrey Blankfort: I know. It’s refreshing for me because to talk to somebody who isn’t caught up in some ideological bind . . . I mean, I have some friends who still have this kind of belief, some ideological vested interest, that generally agree with me, but they always have this kind of reservation. To me, that’s a hamstring. I don’t know how to get around that, except to design flyers and print them out. Anybody can do it. Go to a Kinko’s or, there’s places around here it’s three and a half cents! Here in the Bay Area, it’s really cheap. And to make flyers and start passing them out. And see how it goes.
SF-IMC: Couldn’t hurt.
Jeffrey Blankfort: Well, it has been a pleasure going over this very important stuff, but what really has to happen is for whoever is listening to this to go out there and use your imagination and be creative. We’re the only ones who are going to do it.
SF-IMC: Good enough. We’re through. [turns off tape recorder].