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Israeli embassy tried to get alarmist Iran question into 2008 presidential debate, then coordinated Gaza onslaught’s end with Team Obama

Israel/Palestine
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At Truthout, Richard Silverstein has a fascinating post describing his relationship with Shamai Leibowitz, the former FBI translator who pled guilty to charges of leaking U.S. wire-taps of the Israeli embassy. Silverstein says he and Leibowitz decided to go public in 2009 because they were disturbed by the Gaza conflict and concerned that Israel was planning to attack Iran.

In this excerpt, read the most disturbing substance of the taps: Israel’s effort to manipulate the American political discourse in the very heart of the US political process, Congress and the presidential campaign. And Israel’s coordination of the Gaza onslaught so that it would end before Obama took office.

Note also the glancing reference to Jane Harman. (I’m still waiting for the full story on Harman‘s talks with Haim Saban)(hat tip Paul Mutter).

[Liebowitz and I] decided to go forward, but in what we felt was a discreet, controlled way. I would leak portions of the transcripts in a format designed to conceal the source and the specific identity of those individuals overheard in the surveillance tapes. I did this for about a month and published about five posts, including one in The Guardian UK’s Comment is Free.

The material published included references to Israeli diplomats briefing President-elect Obama on Operation Cast Lead while the war was being prosecuted, presumably in an effort to persuade him of the importance of continuing it, despite the pressure the incoming president was under to speak out against it. They revealed private, late-night meetings between the Israeli ambassador and a key Obama operative at which they presumably discussed how and whether the war would end in relation to the president-elect’s upcoming inauguration. Note that the war ended on January 18, and Obama was inaugurated on January 20. I’m certain this was no accident, but rather a carefully choreographed deal between the two sides. Obama never criticized the war publicly. Now we know why.

I noted that an Israeli diplomat ghost wrote some or all of a Boston Herald op-ed attacking Iran, to which a prominent Jewish attorney and community leader signed his name. In Minneapolis, the local Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) briefed the Chicago Israeli Consulate on the travel schedule and a meeting it held with Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress. Ellison, according to the tapes, was viewed as hostile to Israeli interests. In fact, the JCRC official told the Israeli diplomat that Ellison had just led a local trade delegation to Saudi Arabia (a big no-no) and was planning to join Rep. Brian Baird (D-Washington) in a fact-finding mission to Gaza in the aftermath of the war. This trip, too. was viewed with alarm by both parties in the transcripts.

“The JCRC director conceded implicitly in The American Jewish World that he monitored Ellison and reported to the consulate:

‘As part of our work fostering a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, the JCRC communicates from time to time with the Consul General’s office in Chicago … Accordingly, the JCRC’s conversations with the Consul General’s office have included discussions about members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation, including Representative Ellison.'”

In Texas, a member of Congress held a meeting with a prominent Jewish campaign donor and consular official to discuss ways of advancing Israel’s legislative campaign against Iran, including punitive sanctions and alarming the US public with the dangers posed by that country and its supposed effort to produce a nuclear weapon.

In September 2008, before one of the presidential debates, an Israeli operative attempted unsuccessfully to meet with a debate panelist in order to plant a question about war against Iran: Would the candidates take military action against that country or accept a nuclear-armed Iran? The Israelis did NOT want any question that asked what the candidates might do if Israel attacked Iran.

Israeli diplomats were heard touting pro-Israel members of Congress and bad mouthing those viewed as hostile. There were tutorials in cultivation of members. These are excerpts of a post I wrote on April 28, 2009, detailing the methods and goals of such cultivation:

… Last month, Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem, Chicago and Washington made a series of calls to review the status of relationships with the Midwest’s members of Congress. Senior diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained to Israeli diplomatic personnel that the purpose of getting to know these elected officials was to advance Israel’s agenda in Congress.

Israeli diplomats are most interested in members of Congress who serve on the intelligence, defense, foreign affairs and appropriations committees since those deal with issues of most concern to Israel. This explains peripherally, why they would devote so much time and attention to cultivating Jane Harman, since she stood to become chair of the House intelligence committee if Pelosi had agreed to retain her on the committee (which she didn’t).

The Israeli officials … were annoyed at their inability to gain access to Sen. Russell Feingold despite the fact that his sister is a rabbi and has visited Israel. Note that a trip to Israel in their view is like a tetanus inoculation bestowing excellent pro-Israel health and antibodies against “pro-Arab propaganda.”

When a diplomat described Rep. David Obey as not a great friend of Israel and borderline hostile, the DC embassy representative reminded his staff that they could schedule meetings with staff when Congress members are not available (which presumably would positively influence their boss).

… The Israelis have noted that Sen. John Thune introduced anti-Iran legislation in the last session and that Rep. Mark Kirk planned to introduce new punitive legislation targeting that country. The Israelis sang the praises of Sen. Sam Brownback, who planned a conference that would exert economic pressure on Iran. The D.C. embassy plans to follow up with him to encourage his plans.

Sen. Clare McCaskill is a particular focus of the Israelis because she is a confidant of the president and a member of the armed services and homeland security committees. The Israelis plan to establish close relations with McCaskill and her staff. Another Missouri legislator, Russ Carnahan, receives no such royal treatment. He is viewed, like Obey, as not friendly to Israel. Why? Because during a meeting with him, he highlighted to the Israeli representative his sympathy for the poor people of Gaza. The reason for this sympathy in the eyes of the Israelis? The legislator was poisoned by information from the Arab lobby.

… One Israeli diplomat said that members of the St. Louis Jewish community conveyed their “expectations” to Carnahan and reminded him on which side his bread was buttered.

Israeli diplomatic staff have noted a problematic relationship with two Minnesota representatives, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum. Though they consider Ellison, a Muslim, “not anti-Israel,” they noted he was quite attentive to the Arab lobby. Clearly they were keeping a close eye on Ellison’s schedule as they knew he was receiving an UNWRA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] briefing that very day about conditions in Gaza … The Israelis noted with displeasure that Ellison has teamed up with Washington State Rep. Brian Baird (the two visited Gaza together) …

… The Israelis are monitoring a new Indiana representative Andre Carson who like Ellison is Muslim. But it seems they’re playing “good Muslim, bad Muslim,” as Carson, they noted, hasn’t yet taken any “radical” positions and therefore might serve as a counter-weight to “bad Muslim” Ellison.

In the process of publishing this material, the Israelis became aware that their security was breached. They expressed concern about it, considered various possibilities for the origin of the leak (a mole was one theory), but continued their conversations. Eventually, Shamai thought it wasn’t a good idea to continue with our project as he didn’t wish to compromise the FBI investigation any more than necessary. He asked me to destroy the files I had, which I did by burning them.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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16 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    October 12, 2011, 12:40 pm

    I’m really intrigued. Why does Israel want to start (or have USA start) a war with Iran? Is it merely for the fun and games of war? Mode medals for generals?

    If so, cannot they just start a war with a proxy, say Hizbollah? Or are they afraid of Hizbollah? If not afraid, why not start a war? But if afraid , why less afraid of Iran?

    But if they really want a war specifically with Iran, again, why? Why not with Turkey, which has recently been rather belligerent? A Mossad chief has said a war with Iran would be long and costly. Is that a reason to favor it?

    Is it just like the story of the frog and the scorpion? Israel got a stinger and it just gotta sting, else what is life for, even if you drown on the back of the sinking frog?

    Or is all this, as so much in the Middle East seems to be, about water? After all, no-one talks about water, so it MUST be the real crux of things.

    • Mndwss
      October 12, 2011, 1:29 pm

      Yes :-)

      “Blackwater” and water pipelines from the the biggest desert water-fields in the world to the biggest markets in the world. (China, Pakistan And India).

      Who would not want to control the trade of that Water Road?

      When Iraq and Afghanistan now have been “convinced” to become US-allies only the Persians remain.

      Evil Persians. Why do you deny the thirsty cars in china a drop of water?

    • lysias
      October 12, 2011, 2:50 pm

      In a general war, Israel might get away with ethnic cleansing.

      • jewishgoyim
        October 12, 2011, 10:24 pm

        Yes! I’ve always wondered about that: what is the end game of the occupation? Is the goal a continuous state of war between Israeli and Palestinians that would keep healthy the “Jewish Nation”.

        Or is serious and thorough ethnic cleansing on the menu at some point? And if it’s the case what kind of crisis/disaster could be the trigger for “Operation Greater Israel For Real”? A war with Iran maybe? I always thought it would have to be something more extraordinary. Let’s say there is a nuclear 9/11 somewhere, wouldn’t the Israelis be tempted to proceed with a thorough ethnic cleansing invoking “security” while the world is looking elsewhere? Like Rahm Emanuel said: “never waste a crisis” or something to that effect…

    • Charon
      October 12, 2011, 4:49 pm

      Check the comments section over at Jerusalem Post. Whenever there is an article about Iran, the comments are littered with quotes from scripture. There seems to be an extremist belief that “Persia MUST burn” based on an interpretation of the Zohar which itself is a Kabbalah work, not a Jewish one. Given the shady origin of the Zohar, anybody of rational thought would know it is a hoax similar to Christian Dispensationalism (Darby and Scofield bibles).

      I’m sure the whole end-times thing plays a huge part in it in addition to waterways and the pipeline. The code for stuxnet has references to scripture pertaining to Persia. These people are nuts! There are also those who want to partition the Kurds into an independent neo-Kurdistan. Also there is Albert Pike’s reference to a “Lucifer Doctrine” involving an externally provoked conflict between what would be called Zionists (today) versus the Muslim world ending in mutual destruction. If you want to go there that is. I honestly believe there has to be some truth to it seeing as how Zionism has altered and essentially destroyed religious Judaism and decades of war and demonization are de-Islamizing (slowly) the ME. Iran was very Western until the revolution. Even though say in Iraq Islam is the official resolution, the Western-style democracy forced upon them is kind of altering it.

      • Samuel
        October 13, 2011, 6:09 am

        Charon says:

        “the Zohar which itself is a Kabbalah work, not a Jewish one”

        I hope the rest of what you say is more sensible than this. Of course the kabbalah is Jewish – the word “kabbalah” is Hebrew meaning “received (tradition)”. By Jewish tradition the Zohar was written by Shimon bar Yochai in about the 3rd century CE, but even sceptics agree that it was written by the JEWISH philosofer Moses Cordevero in the 13th century. Madonna and other trendy spoilt rich famous people don’t make kabbalah universal.

        Anyone who bothers to read the kabbalistic works, including the Zohar, will see the Jewish texts and thoughts seeping out of every page.

  2. Dan Crowther
    October 12, 2011, 12:57 pm

    Nothing to see here, move along.

    Thanks. And here I thought Feingold was “pro-Israel” through and through:

    The Israeli officials … were annoyed at their inability to gain access to Sen. Russell Feingold despite the fact that his sister is a rabbi and has visited Israel. Note that a trip to Israel in their view is like a tetanus inoculation bestowing excellent pro-Israel health and antibodies against “pro-Arab propaganda.”

    Why isnt this guy challenging Obama in a primary?

  3. Kathleen
    October 12, 2011, 1:56 pm

    “Eventually, Shamai thought it wasn’t a good idea to continue with our project as he didn’t wish to compromise the FBI investigation any more than necessary”

    One has to wonder about just who Liebowitz was truly interested in alerting? How much this leaking did interfere in the FBI’s investigation?

    • tree
      October 12, 2011, 2:35 pm

      One has to wonder about just who Liebowitz was truly interested in alerting? How much this leaking did interfere in the FBI’s investigation?

      Read the entire article by Silverstein. It makes it clear that Leibowitz’ motives were to prevent an attack on Iran by either Israel or the US. Leibowitz’s history as a strong critic of Israeli policy is solid.

  4. radii
    October 12, 2011, 2:44 pm

    we can thank Nancy Pelosi for marginalizing israeli spy and operative Jane Harmon – Pelosi shut Harmon down in the House and now Harmon has taken her million$ and moved on to make Newsweek a mouthpiece for israel

    there is ZERO upside for America or Europe to any war with Iran, only israel and Saudi Arabia would benefit

    • Charon
      October 12, 2011, 4:57 pm

      The US can’t afford another war. There is a shortage of troops and the military has been weakened due to a decade of war which is also the primary reason our economy was destroyed. The only way the neocons are going to make a case for a US-led attack on Iran (which makes zero sense and it completely unnecessary because Iran is not a threat!) is to orchestrate another 9/11. Even then, with what army? If a nuke went off within the US and the MSM attributed it to Iran, US citizens might be scared enough to support another war. If such an event ever happened though, I guarantee you that Iran had nothing to do with it. Yesterday’s ‘Iranian plot’ is scraping at the bottom of the barrel.

      • anonymouscomments
        October 12, 2011, 9:00 pm

        Clearly it is scraping the bottom, but they therefore stand likely to hit the bottom, which is another 9/11 but framing Iran, as you noted. This is unless they opt for the US follows Israel into war against Iran option, with less deadly and involves lies and propaganda to get the public on board. If they go the 9/11 route for US first strike it will take some monumental lies to a skeptical WORLD, and I think a dirty bomb in NYC might be the choice final event. Ugh.

      • lysias
        October 13, 2011, 1:54 pm

        If they go the 9/11 route again, who will believe them this time?

      • Graber
        October 13, 2011, 10:39 pm

        The US doesn’t have the launch a war with Iran. It sounds more and more as if Israel is getting the go-ahead from the US. Israel has mandatory service in the army for all citizens – plenty of foot soldiers.

        And “there is ZERO upside for America or Europe to any war with Iran” ????

        Have you not been paying attention? The people who MAKE the weapons are driving the policy! Why wouldn’t they want to have another war to profit from? More reasons for weapons sales!!! WOOOT!

  5. Les
    October 13, 2011, 1:07 pm

    Leibowitz is a remarkable immigrant and a reminder of the many Jews who fled right wing Israel over the years. I wonder if Jon Stuart will claim him as a relative.

  6. Graber
    October 13, 2011, 10:31 pm

    Does anybody have any resources on Hesbollah? Any books/articles/documentaries that give a good history of the movement and political party? Really – please reply.

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