Special report: Inside the Israeli lobby

Published: December 2, 2012

The term 'Israeli lobby' is credited with the power to make or break Presidents and dictate US foreign policy. PHOTO: JELLE VD WOLF/ SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

The term 'Israeli lobby' is credited with the power to make or break Presidents and dictate US foreign policy. PHOTO:  JELLE VD WOLF/ SHUTTERSTOCK.COM As far as members of Congress are concerned, they are less concerned about national security and more about campaign financing.

The Israeli Lobby. It is a term that brings up images of an entity of near-mythic strength that seems to influence all branches of US policy and has an inside track to prominent US politicians, whether Republican or Democrat. It is credited with the power to make or break Presidents and dictate US foreign policy. Unaccountable and impossible to fight, it is seen in Pakistan and in large parts of the Muslim world as the driving force behind the United States’ pro-Israel stance.

It is in fact not a monolithic entity, and comprises of many separate lobbies, the most powerful of which is the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is considered to be the most powerful lobbying group in the United States (see The Lobby List).

From 1982 to 1986, MJ Rosenburg was editor of the AIPAC’s Near East Report, a biweekly publication on Middle East Policy. Since then, he has held the position of Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum, a non-partisan group that lobbies for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue and has also worked as a fellow for Media Matters for America, a media watchdog group.

Once a supporter of Israel’s policies, Rosenburg is now a staunch supporter of peace between Palestine and Israel and holds AIPAC and the right-wing Israeli lobby responsible  for not only distorting American policy, but also plunging Israel and Palestinians into a seemingly never-ending conflict.

In an exclusive interview, The Express Tribune Magazine spoke to him about the role of AIPAC, and how left-wing Jews like him believe that AIPAC has harmed US politics. The interview was conducted in two parts — as the November war between Gaza and Hamas in November took place, and a few days after the ceasefire agreement was agreed to.

For Rosenberg, there were two defining moments that led to his split with AIPAC. The first came when he witnessed the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin shake hands with Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat on the grounds of the White House in 1993.

“I was at the White House lawn and [the handshake] indicated to me that the conflict was over,” says Rosenberg in a telephonic interview. Two years later, Rabin was assassinated by the Jewish extremist Yigal Amir at a rally held in support of the Oslo accords and it seemed as if the peace process died with him.

“The final breaking point was when the Camp David negotiations of 2000 collapsed,” says Rosenberg, adding that “the nature of Ehud Barak’s statements made after the collapse of the talks between him and Arafat,” made it clear that Rabin’s dream of peace did not outlive him.

ET: What makes AIPAC so influential in US politics?

Rosenberg: It is important to understand that American politics is entirely governed by money. Presidential campaigns cost billions of dollars and its primarily the Democrats who rely on the Jewish donors for the money to run their campaigns. Republicans can afford to rely on big business, and have all kinds of billionaires making sizable campaign contributions. They don’t need the pro-Israel crowd as much as the Democrats do. And what the Democrats seem to believe is that every Jew who gives money to President Obama is giving it to support Netanyahu — that’s not true. Jews are liberals, and always have been, even before there was an Israel. What AIPAC has done is to convince the Democrats and Obama that the reason he got 72 per cent of the Jewish vote is because he supports Netanyahu. Now if the US had public financing, and if political campaigns were paid for by taxpayers, you would see Congress and Obama taking a different position. It’s all about the money.

ET: How do you think AIPAC viewed this current conflict? There are reports coming out that the US will block the UN resolution on Gaza?

Rosenberg: I think AIPAC, and more importantly rich donors associated with AIPAC, are on the phone with the State Department and the National Security Council and with members of Congress to make sure the US blocks the resolution.

I think that this war, is going to help convince the people of Israel to think that this [approach by Israel] is only going to lead to the next war, and the yet another war. And in every encounter, the Palestinians are getting stronger. Who would be believed they had rockets that could reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem? Next time they’ll have guided missiles. This is not what the Israeli people want. Netanyahu is desperate to get a ceasefire because the Israeli people are going to start turning on him. Within the next few years, Israel is going to have to deal with whomever the Palestinians choose as their representative. Public opinion polls say that the number of people supporting Israel in this war is much lower than before. Less than half of the Democrat voters supported Israel this time around.

Unfortunately, many innocent people are going to die before this realisation takes hold. There has to be some kind of arrangement before the round of conflict. I don’t know what that’s going to be but ultimately Israelis and Palestinians will have to live together, and I think that can be done. Sadly, the leadership to advance that idea is not there, and certainly not on the Israeli side. Hamas would like to achieve a long-term ceasefire, but Israel may not want that. If the Gaza blockade is ended, if Israel stops its targeted assassinations in Gaza, and Hamas stops shooting rockets into southern Israel you will have a true and total ceasefire. I think that’s a good enough situation for now. But anything less than that, and especially if Israel is going to maintain its blockade of Gaza all it will get in return is missiles.

Graph

ET: There has been a lot of talk about a war between Israel and Iran. What do you think is AIPAC’s role in that?

Rosenberg: AIPAC will push for a war with Iran, it is obsessed with the idea. In light of the Gaza attack, it can go one of two ways: One is that they’ll look at how different this (the Gaza conflict) was and think: “We’ve used up all the goodwill, and we can’t do another war”. Or, it’ll be: “Look at how President Obama backed us 100 per cent without any criticism; we can get away with anything.” At this point I think Obama’s view on Israel is: “I’m giving you Gaza, so don’t attack Iran.” I thought he knew what side he was on, that he stood for peace and security. I may have been wrong.

ET: Why haven’t other people like yourself been able to be an effective opposing voice to AIPAC?

Rosenberg: There aren’t so many of us. You have a situation whenever people like me, whenever there’s a war, they line up behind Israel with very few exceptions. The lobby group J Street is for peace, but they go to solidarity rallies for Israel as well. It’s a fallcy to think that Congress listens to Jews, because many Jews don’t support Netanyahu. The only people Congressmen really listen to are wealthy AIPAC donors. All that really counts in money, and not just in this issue. Every issue is determined by which side has how much money.

ET: Then how does J Street differ from AIPAC?

Rosenberg: It differs in the fact that J Street prefers a two-state solution and is pushing Israel for a negotiation. The difference between J Street and AIPAC is that J Street prefers pushing both sides towards a two-state solution. AIPAC favours the status quo, AIPAC and the Israeli right feels that the last war wasn’t won, and that there are ways to win it this time. So there is a significant difference. In J Street’s heart it wants peace from the conflict, and AIPAC doesn’t. But they can only be effective if President Obama is interested in what they have to say. It’s possible that Obama has come to his senses on this.

ET: Since we last spoke, there has been a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. What do you think about the agreement?

Rosenberg: First of all it is a bit ambiguous as to how it was achieved. It appears that President Obama and Secretary Clinton joined with President Morsi and put pressure on the Israelis. If that narrative is true and it holds, it’s a significant shift in the US. Also, this was a recognition of Hamas. I don’t want to be overly optimistic as to whether this indicates a shift in American policy as it’s too early to know for sure.

We have to see what happens at the United Nations when the Palestinian Authority asks on November 29 for observer status. If the US says it’ll cut off aid if it asks for observer status then nothing has changed. We’ll know over the course of this week — it could be a significant shift.

One thing that is clear is that the Israeli right-wing and Jewish right in the US are very unhappy about the ceasefire in general. An indication of this is the contrast between the cheering and dancing in Gaza City, and the quiet in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

This is not what [the Israeli right] wanted. Israel initiated this war, when you initiate a war, you want a victory. Instead what they got is this. All along, they could’ve had a deal with Hamas: end the blockage and target assassinations, and in exchange Hamas would stop shelling Israel — they could’ve had all of that without this war.

And this is going to hurt Netanyahu, but it remains to be seen to what extent. The main thing is that the AIPAC crowd is miserable, and Jews like me are very happy about the ceasefire, even though we are sad about the loss of life.

ET: How is it that AIPAC is able to influence foreign policy to the extent to possibly damaging the US?

Rosenberg: Well, they do in fact damage the US, but they claim to believe and they have made most of Congress believe that whatever Israel benefits from, benefits the US. To wit: if it’s good for Israel, it’s good for the US. And it’s very cynical, but that’s the line that they sold Congress. As far as members of Congress are concerned, they are less concerned about national security and more about campaign financing.

ET: If the status quo continues, where do you see Israel in five years?

Rosenberg: If this continues I see Israel engulfed in Intifada in five years time. It would not just be a war with Gaza, but with the West Bank as well. And if it continues for five years, the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship will join in as well and it just won’t be sustainable for Israel. For many years Palestine expected nothing, but that has now changed.

Israelis won’t put up with it for five years despite their hawkishness and even now certain Israelis may have started seriously thinking about an Israeli initiative in exchange for peace. I don’t see a viable peace anytime soon, but it could happen. Rockets landing on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv changed a lot, and the next time will be worse. Hizbullah has tens of thousands of missiles and there could be one gigantic Intifida that involves all Palestinians and Hezbollah as well. What I pray for is that Israelis come to their senses, like Yitzak Rabin did.

Israel lobbies and activist groups

The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a powerful lobbying organisation that exerts considerable influence in the legislative and executive branches of the American Federal Government.

Supported by an estimated 100,000 supporters from all political parties, AIPAC aims to improve relations between America and Israel, and since its founding in 1953 has grown to become one of the most powerful and controversial lobbyist groups in the United States.

It frequently urges sanctions against countries seen to be actively anti-Israel and also works to secure foreign aid to Israel.

americans

Americans for Peace Now (APN) was established in 1981 to mobilise support for the Israeli peace movement, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), and has since developed into the most prominent American Jewish, Zionist organisation working to achieve a comprehensive political settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

jewish

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) was formed in September, 1996 by Julia Caplan, Julie Iny and Rachel Eisner.

It is a United States Jewish organisation which describes itself as “a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights to support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.”

JVP seeks “an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem” and opposes Israel Defence Forces operations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and supports Israeli refuseniks.

adl

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an international non-governmental organisation based in the United States. Describing itself as “the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency”, the ADL states that it “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all,” doing so through “information, education, legislation, and advocacy.”

Historically, the ADL has opposed groups and individuals it considered to be anti-Semitic and/or racist, including: Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin(leader of the Christian Front), the Christian Identity movement, the German-American Bund, neo-Nazis, the American militia movement and white power skinheads (although the ADL acknowledges that there are also non-racist skinheads). The ADL publishes reports on a variety of countries, regarding alleged incidents of anti-Jewish attacks and propaganda.

jstreet

J Street is a nonprofit liberal advocacy group based in the United States whose stated aim is to promote American leadership to end the Arab–Israeli and Israel–Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. It was founded in April 2008.

J Street describes itself as a pro-Israel organisation, which supports peace between Israel and its neighbors. Some Israelis, including several public figures, have said that J-Street is anti-Israel, particularly in relation to key challenges facing the Jewish state. Several US Jewish leaders have expressed reservations about J Street’s position on Israel, and some have publicly disassociated themselves from the organisation.

J Street states that it “supports a new direction for American policy in the Middle East — diplomatic solutions over military ones”, “multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution”; and “dialogue over confrontation” with wider international support.

ajc

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) was established in 1906 by a small group of American Jews concerned with pogroms aimed at Russian Jews.

The organisation’s mission statement is “to safeguard the welfare and security of Jews in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world; to strengthen the basic principles of pluralism around the world, as the best defense against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry; to enhance the quality of American Jewish life by helping to ensure Jewish continuity and deepen the ties between American and Israeli Jews.”

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 2nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • The Khan
    Dec 2, 2012 - 12:57PM

    Wow.
    A very enlightening report. If you can control US congress, you control the world.
    Tribune, can you also publish a report about the Saudi-GCC and Indian lobby and tell us how much in bed are US and Saudi Arabia together.

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  • Arindom
    Dec 2, 2012 - 1:22PM

    It is a reality – but the Saudi Lobby is the most powerful of them all – by a long long distance!!

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  • PakArmySoldier
    Dec 2, 2012 - 1:43PM

    Rubbish. I’m not discounting the leverage of Israeli lobby but their influence is the function of unequivocal support for Israel ingrained in the American culture.Recommend

  • Genius
    Dec 2, 2012 - 2:19PM

    Read also: Defiers beat the Deniers 138 to 9 at UN ref: http://www.iraqwar.mirror-world.ru/article/281851

    Recommend

  • Genius
    Dec 2, 2012 - 2:20PM

    Well done Express Tribune. Read also: Defiers beat the Deniers 138 to 9 at UN ref: http://www.iraqwar.mirror-world.ru/article/281851

    Recommend

  • DownWithZionists
    Dec 2, 2012 - 2:20PM

    I agree with the writer. This “underhand” Zionist lobby is an integral part of US foreign policy that dictates US as a “boss” to accomplish its ‘dirty’ missions through war and other tactics. They, directly or indirectly, govern US government and President. The US president is just like a puppet fully remote-controlled by an invisible Zionist lobby. Federal reserve bank of USA is not state-owned. Zionist own a major portion of Federal Reserve of US and they were behind the assassination of Lincoln Abraham and John F. Kennedy. The later was murdered by Zionist for issuing Executive Order 11110 on June 4, 1963. JFK wanted federal reserves to be under state-control but this E.O could never be carried out due to this Zionist conspiracy.

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  • Muhammad Hasnain Gilani
    Dec 2, 2012 - 3:22PM

    ET you have won by provided us with a unique and creditable information on the conflict.

    Please continue with the good work.

    A Peshawary

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  • Muhammad Hasnain Gilani
    Dec 2, 2012 - 3:23PM

    ET you have won by provided us with a unique and creditable information on the conflict.

    Please continue with the good work.

    A PeshawaryRecommend

  • Tch tch
    Dec 2, 2012 - 3:54PM

    MJ rosenberg is a gem. A Spinoza almost. His twitter feed is a revelation.

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  • Syed Hasan Atizaz
    Dec 2, 2012 - 4:44PM

    now where are all the zaid hamid haters ? – the man was saying from a long time and nobody believed him. :)

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  • Truth detector
    Dec 2, 2012 - 4:45PM

    @PakArmySoldier .. Your are absolutely wrong. It IS a function of strong lobby nothing else. Ordinary public is not that enthusiastic about Israel. What you see in the corporate media is not reflection of true feelings on the ground.

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  • IceSoul
    Dec 2, 2012 - 5:31PM

    @Truth detector: Don’t know about the US, but in the UK at least, I found people to be highly supportive of Israel? And they weren’t Mossad spies in disguise.

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  • Dec 2, 2012 - 6:06PM

    Looks like there is full force assault on Israel and neocons by Globalists and their media outlets ever since they jeopardized Obama re-election bid with Anti Islam film and Benghazi killing of US ambassador and Obama’s memo “National Insider Threat Policy and Minimum Standards for Executive Branch Insider Threat Programs”.

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  • Kamran Rashid
    Dec 2, 2012 - 6:44PM

    Who can convince Arabs to have counter lobby chain against AIPAC for them these million USD are peanuts.

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  • Cautious
    Dec 2, 2012 - 7:03PM

    Yeah – money influences politics – has and always will. But the Israeli lobby is a small potatoes compared to other lobbies that really influence USA politics – suggest the author do some research into defense, health care, banking/finance, pharmaceuticals, unions etc/ who’s financial and political clout exceed the Israeli lobby by a thousand fold.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Dec 2, 2012 - 8:09PM

    @Kamran Rashid

    Who can convince Arabs to have counter
    lobby chain against AIPAC for them
    these million USD are peanuts.

    Demonstrates that money doesn’t buy you everything. American politicians learned many years ago that terrorism isn’t popular with American voters and like it or not American’s associate Muslims with terrorism.

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  • Dec 2, 2012 - 8:31PM

    I am not convinced. You have pulled up some information from unreliable sources and made a big statement. For your readers, it may be perfect as it seems from the comments.
    Learn some basic research before you write anything as dumb.

    MJ Rosenberg

    GET UPDATES FROM MJ Rosenberg

    Like
    531

    M.J. Rosenberg is Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. Previously, he worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years. He was also a Clinton political appointee at USAID. In the early 1980s, he was editor of AIPACs weekly newsletter Near East Report. From 1998-2009, he was director of policy at Israel Policy Forum.

    M.J. Rosenberg is Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. Prior to this, he worked on Capitol Hill for 15 years for various Democratic members of the House and Senate.[1]

    Rosenberg was also a Clinton political appointee at USAID. In the early 1980s, he was the editor of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s weekly newsletter Near East Report. From 1998-2009, he was director of policy at Israel Policy Forum.[1]

    He left Media Matters for America after controversy surrounding an article[2] he wrote used the controversial term “Israel Firster,” which some have suggested is anti-Semitic.[3]

    Source: wikipedia.org

    …and I am Sid Harth@elcidharth.com

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  • Hafeez
    Dec 2, 2012 - 9:36PM

    I wish you could publish this in some urdu newspapers as well for the wider readership.

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  • Raj - USA
    Dec 2, 2012 - 10:00PM

    @Cautious:
    “Demonstrates that money doesn’t buy you everything. American politicians learned many years ago that terrorism isn’t popular with American voters and like it or not American’s associate Muslims with terrorism.”

    It used to be that Americans were associating Muslims with terrorism. Now, at least for the last 2 – 3 years, Americans are associating Pakistani Muslims with terrorism. In election campaigns, Pakistan is mentioned more than any other Muslim country. Even Muslim countries are disassociating and differentiating themselves from Pakistani Muslims. Kuwait and Iraq have specifically singled out Pakistani Muslims to deny visas. After all, no one other than Pakistani Muslims have brought so much shame to Muslims around the globe by their unique way of converting young girls by rape, digging up the graves of Ahmedis, destroying Imambargahs, mosques, Churches and Temples, execution of Shias & Hazaras, and carrying out many atrocities in the name of religion. In the recent years, over 90% of the desecration and destruction of mosques have happened within Pakistan and that too carried out by none other than Pakistani Muslims themselves. When all these happens with the support of its Institutions and Constitution and an overwhelming population support and encourage such acts, it is no wonder the result is what we see today. We saw muslim countries like Bangladesh and Malaysia and even Turkey shunning Pakistan in the recent D-8 Summit. How long is Iran’s opportunistic relationship with Pakistan last and when was the last time we heard Chinese describing their friendship with Pakistan poetically. Of course none of this is exclusive. As much as others like to disassociate themselves from Pakistan, an overwhelming population of Pakistan also have hatred for Indians, Chinese, Iranians and Afghanis. Anyone would know this if they have been following Pakistan’s TV and news channels.

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  • PakArmySoldier
    Dec 2, 2012 - 11:05PM

    The ET gestapo amended my earlier comment by taking out the last sentence. Either post the full comment or don’t post it at all. You can’t amend my comment without permission.

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  • Someone
    Dec 2, 2012 - 11:31PM

    @Raj – USA: Looks like you’ve had an overdose of Shiv Sena/Bal Thackeray rhetoric. It’s okay, it is a characteristical trait among Indians and happens frequently in outbursts. Medical cure for this irregularity: None, unfortunately.

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  • Mirza
    Dec 2, 2012 - 11:33PM

    The imp question here is that Israel is not the rich country like many Muslim Arab countries. Yet what are they spending to help support their cause. We should learn from the dedication of Israeli supporters and stop talking. Muslim writers do not write as much, they do not spend as much, they do not show the dedication required and keep whining and complaining.

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  • Raj - USA
    Dec 3, 2012 - 2:12AM

    @Someone:
    You are correct. I am generally balanced but what keeps happening in Pakistan (the recent news on the destruction of Hindu Temple) and such continued acts regularly would make anyone think like me.

    However, I do appreciate your polite reply although my comments were bursts of anger.

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  • Truth Hurts
    Dec 3, 2012 - 7:20AM

    @Raj – USA: You are a typical Indian with a typical cheap Indian mentality! For you Indians Pakistan and the ISI are the cause of all problems! What are you doing in the USA? You should join Shiv Sena, they are desperately looking for a new Thackaray!

    Recommend

  • Slider
    Dec 3, 2012 - 11:01AM

    Very informative. Money really does make the world go round…

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Hasnain Gilani
    Dec 3, 2012 - 11:33AM

    Diplomatic lobbying, what about Mansoor Ejaz? Where does he stand in this Scenario? Israel has institutionalized it where as Pakistan behaved in childish manner. We have grow with time.

    A Peshawary.

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  • JohnWV
    Dec 3, 2012 - 9:22PM

    Besieged Palestinian Gaza is an experiment in provocation. Stuff one and a half million people into a tiny space, stifle their access to water, electricity, food and medical treatment, destroy their livelihoods, and humiliate them regularly…and, surprise, surprise – they turn hostile. Now why would you want to make that experiment? Because the hostility you provoke is the whole point. Now under attack you can cast yourself as the victim, and call out the helicopter gunships and the F16 attack fighters and the heavy tanks and the guided missiles, and destroy yet more of the pathetic remains of infrastructure that the Palestinian state still has left. And then you can point to it as a hopeless case, unfit to govern itself, a terrorist state, a state with which you couldn’t possibly reach an accommodation. And then you can carry on with business as usual, quietly stealing their homeland.

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  • JohnWV
    Dec 4, 2012 - 12:26AM

    Since Imperial Rome, it has happened again and again. Jews enraged their neighbors and repeatedly suffered disastrous pogroms. Excesses of Weimar Germany’s monied Jewish minority led to the most recent which Israel promotes, actually advertises, as justification for its apartheid malevolence. “Never again” is lost on Netanyahu’s Israel. Blind to history, its paranoid pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and supremacist empire in, and beyond, the Mideast ensures “again” on a far grander scale. Abandoning and aggressively isolating the Jewish state would force it abandon its grandiose aspirations and thereby avert its destruction. There is no greater or kinder support that America could render to both the Mideast and its “inseparable Mideast ally.”

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  • Steve
    Dec 23, 2012 - 11:59AM

    MJ Rosenberg is gestapo trash who has figured out that going around trying to demonize Israel and promoting hate and destruction of the world’s only Jewish state pays the bills nicely.

    I wouldn’t trust a single word this vile scum writes.

    Every single day Rosenberg exists is a day the nazis are gaining more power in this world.

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