Karen Greenberg’s evasion

karenjgreenberg
Karen J. Greenberg

Karen Greenberg, a leading human rights thinker and source for Max Blumenthal’s important piece on the Israelification of American security procedures, has now said that Blumenthal made up the quotes, or misquoted her, it’s not entirely clear. She did so at the auspices of the Israel lobby– Jeffrey Goldberg.

Initially, Greenberg told Blumenthal:

“After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture… The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we’re going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It’s counter-terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you could have predicted would have happened.”

Now she said to Goldberg:

“I never made such a statement. I’ve never seen any proof of this. I told him I had heard a story out there about this issue, but that he should look into it and see if he could find evidence, because I have no proof of this charge. You have to be particularly careful when it comes to torture, you have to be careful not to overreach. He was looking for corroboration but I told him I didn’t have any.”

Then she told Mother Jones that she might have said this stuff:

“What I remembered saying to him was you ought to look at these allegations that others have made about Israeli training in interrogation techniques. I did not intend to assert these allegations as fact…the entire sense of the quote is inaccurate.”

The story is at once laughable and disturbing.

It’s pretty clear, based on Max Blumenthal’s notes of the interview, which he allowed me to publish at the bottom here, that even if Greenberg was echoing others’ findings, she believes these findings to be true. Greenberg is an intellectual, and intellectuals do this all the time: they echo stuff they think is important, in their own words. Blumenthal says Greenberg brought the subject up, and as for “others,” she mentioned only one other source by name. From his notes of her words:

The Israelification of the entire security apparatus in the US is worth a book…. It’s worth some thought. After 9 11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture. The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now were gonna spread that into our cities. It’s counter terrorism creep.

Furthermore, the idea that the U.S. picked up torture techniques from Israel is not even controversial in Greenberg’s intellectual circle. A book that acknowledges Karen Greenberg’s friendship, The Dark Side by Jane Mayer (2008), addresses this issue directly. After 9/11 the CIA reached out to allies who had dealt with terror suspects. “Another former CIA official active at the time said the Agency also consulted closely with Israel….’The Israelis taught us that you can put a towel around a guy’s neck and use it like a collar, to propel him headfirst into a wall.’” Etc.

Greenberg’s own book, The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib, edited with Joshua Dratel, is aimed at documenting the Bush administration’s path to embracing torture. I haven’t read it (it’s 800+ pages) but I see that it includes a discussion of Israeli torture policy. So this book addresses the very issue she brought up with Max Blumenthal: Israeli influence on the US treatment of detainees. 

The disturbing part of this story is that any criticisms of Israel are so politically loaded that Greenberg, an insider if ever there was one, has to run away from her own views when they sneak out. That torture book, for instance, opens with an introduction by Anthony Lewis in which he praises the Israeli Supreme Court rulings on torture.

Greenberg is a leading left-lib figure in foreign policy circles because she has been so careful about what she’s said. Until this fall, when she moved to Fordham University, Greenberg ran the Center for Law and Security at NYU and ran it well: which is to say– she criticized the hell out of the United States on such matters as Abu Ghraib, but avoided direct criticism of Israel.

Here’s a list of the Center’s special concerns:

Special Topics in the Middle East and Muslim Communities Concentrating on Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; radicalization and deradicalization; and al Qaeda.

The Middle East and Islam– but let’s not talk about Israel and Palestine. I looked through the Center’s publications, and Israel and Palestine almost never come up. For instance, this issue of the center’s quarterly review that Greenberg edited on fighting terror is filled with criticism of the Bush administration, but the Israeli penchant for torture is handled with kid gloves: There is a piece by Yigal Mersel, Senior Legal Assistant to President Aharon Barak, of the Supreme Court of Israel– who at the time was a scholar at NYU. (The Israelification of academia is worth a book…)

This typifies Greenberg’s careful approach. She is a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations, which is to say part of the pro-Israel Establishment. Last year I heard her introduce a talk by Noah Feldman, a liberal Zionist, at which he said in so many words that Islam and democracy are irreconcilable. She also had Lawrence Wright as a fellow– the New Yorker writer whose trip to Gaza was so disappointing to anyone who cares about human rights.

And lately, just as Greenberg was leaving the Center, it hosted Jane Harman, the diehard Israel lobbyist, to speak. What a coup!

In the end, this is a story about how embedded the Israel lobby is in the Democratic establishment– and how craven even leaders like Karen Greenberg are as a result. Yesterday, for instance, Politico said that the Center for American Progress has Israel critics working for it– and sure enough, CAP issued a clarification by the end of the day, insisting we’re for Israel’s longterm security. I met Greenberg once with Max Blumenthal (they were friends) and remember the three of us sharing some snarky comments about Israel– it’s not a country she adores. But she’ll be damned if she says a public word against it.

Here are Blumenthal’s notes:

The Israelification of the entire security apparatus in the US is worth a book. Coordination of mayors is unprecedented. It’s not of course. It’s worth some thought. After 9 11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture. The training in iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now were gonna spread that into our cities. It’s counter terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you coulud have predicted what would have happened. Why don’t we talk about Israeli coordination in public? The reason is the kind of things they taught us would require a major discussion. After 9 11 we had to react very quickly but now were in 2011 and were not talking about people who want to fly planes into buildings, were talking about young American citizens who feel that their birthright has been sold. And were using Israeli tactics on them? If this stuff bleeds into the way we do business at large were in trouble. To put these occupiers in a category of counterterrorism is philosophically dangerous and incorrect. It has implications in terms of who decides who an enemy is. Bit by bit we’ve allowed a creeping broadening of that category and it’s become closer and closer to Americans. It suggests that the walls that we built around this definition of terrorism can be expanded to whatever we want. Kids are not terrorists and it’s inappropriate to label them that way.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics, War on Terror

{ 12 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. I trust Max and it’s disappointing instead of using this as an opportunity to jumpstart an important conversation we need to have Greenberg is shutting that conversation down with her denial.

    great post phil.

  2. RE: “The disturbing part of this story is that any criticisms of Israel are so politically loaded that Greenberg, an insider if ever there was one, has to run away from her own views when they sneak out.”

    SEE: Disengaging from Zionism, by Kristoffer Larsson, Dissident Voice, 12/07/11

    (excerpts) On 2009 the UN Human Rights Council appointed the South African Judge Richard Goldstone to head the fact-finding mission investigating possible Israeli war crimes committed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead…
    …Goldstone probably had no idea what awaited him. After the Mission published its findings and conclusions, the judge quickly became the victim of a vicious slander campaign. Israel’s Information Minister said that the Goldstone Report was “anti-Semitic.” Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz informed the listeners of Israel Army Radio that Goldstone was “an evil, evil man” and “an absolute traitor,” a “man who uses his language and words against the Jewish people.” …
    …I came to think of Goldstone’s destiny as I was reading “Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists”. The book is an anthology with contributions from 25 Jewish activists living in different parts of the world who have come to see the conflict from the Palestinian point of view. For most Jews, criticising Israel comes at a price – relatives and Jewish friends regard it as treason, they are accused of being self-hating, and in some cases even of paving the way for another Holocaust
    This culture of intolerance is well captured by American musician Rich Siegel when he describes himself as “a cult survivor.” There is something “very seriously wrong with Israel, and with the culture that supports it,” he writes.

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to dissidentvoice.org

    P.S. ALSO SEE – Sinning against Zionism: Traitor to Country, by William A. Cook , Dissident Voice, 4/21/11
    (excerpt)…The Zionist world…exists on one foundation, a solid block of ice that freezes the soul of all who bear allegiance to its creed of absolute obedience, an ancient form of tribal slavery bound by fear that shackles the soul…
    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to dissidentvoice.org

  3. Hostage says:

    That torture book, for instance, opens with an introduction by Anthony Lewis in which he praises the Israeli Supreme Court rulings on torture.

    I haven’t read the Greenberg book but the Israeli Supreme Court rulings on torture legitimized torture. In a few cases they stated that the IDF was violating the existing law, while suggesting that the Knesset could legally authorize those practices. Our Congress and Courts took a page from the Israeli playbook. Congress adopted a statute that permitted the President to adopt a legal definition of torture that differed from the one contained in a ratified international treaty on torture. So, Secretary Rice wasn’t having a “Nixon moment”. For several years “torture” in our Courts meant whatever the President said it meant – and everyone in government was given legislative immunity under the Military Commissions Act and American Service-Members’ Protection Act. The prohibitions against ex post facto laws and prosecution in the US Constitution prevent Eric Holder from doing anything about those crimes or extraditing those responsible to any other jurisdiction.

    • marc b. says:

      not that the israeli high court’s rulings have any practical effect on conduct, see e.g. the court’s rulings on the use of ‘human shields’ by the IDF.

  4. Chu says:

    she’ll learn. cant trust that liberal media…

  5. somewhere in my files I have at least one article, with photo, of israeli ‘toweling’ technique — a towel is looped around victim’s neck, he’s whip-lashed into a concrete wall, head first, multiple times.

    as i’m remembering the story, when the US went to apply the technique, they lined the space with plywood so the torturee would not get so smashed up that interrogation was no longer possible.

  6. MHughes976 says:

    ‘You have to be very careful when it comes to torture’ – the extreme care is not about making sure that no resort to torture goes unreported but that no powerful government is accused of torture without clear cut proof. This seems to be erring on the wrong side.

  7. eGuard says:

    The famous Karen “who” Greenberg? Thanks for the introduction. She must be worth it.

  8. tommy says:

    The pressure put upon Jews to renounce their Zionist heresies reminds me of the party discipline of Stalin.

  9. kma says:

    Blumenthal’s reporting is absolutely stunning.
    the Greenberg antics are a tiny sideshow compared to the reality – you don’t have to be an intellectual (or even believe Blumenthal) to have noticed long ago that the US is behaving exactly like Israel. torture is “ok”, occupations are “normal”, checkpoints, bulldozing, walls, blowing up packages at post offices, undressing airline passengers, disappearing mulsims, spying on ourselves, openly assassinating people, drones, …
    maybe I’m an odd average numbskull, but once I saw the pattern, it helped me to know what to expect next and to know where to look for some clue as to what to do about it. (no, I don’t yet know!)
    thanks to Blumenthal for the details I did not know. wow.

  10. jewishgoyim says:

    I kind of remembered Seymour Hersh touched on that on his pieces on Abu Ghraib. On the anecdotal level, I remember this picture with the soldier with a Star of David tatooed on his shoulder in the set of infamous pictures.