UN nominee Power spoke of Israeli human rights abuses and US ‘domestic constituency’ with ‘tremendous’ financial clout

President Obama has nominated Samantha Power to be his new ambassador to the U.N. The White House is vigorously walking back any and all criticisms she’s made of Israel.

Above is a clip from “Conversations with History,” an interview conducted by Harry Kreisler of the University of California, reportedly in 2002, in which Power appears to call hypothetically for imposing a solution in the Israel/Palestine conflict– in defiance of the Israel lobby, whose financial and political power she addresses, with a nervous laugh. Notice that she also speaks of the money we give to the Israeli military and of “major human rights abuses,” apparently on the part of both Israelis and Palestinians.  

Her statements come in response to Kreisler asking her to do a “thought experiment. Let’s say you’re an adviser to the president. How would you advise him to put a structure in place…[in Israel/Palestine] if one party or the other might be looking they might be moving toward genocide?”

Well I don’t think that in any of the cases a shortage of information is the problem. And I actually think in the Palestine Israeli situation there’s an abundance of information. And what we don’t need is some kind of early warning mechansim there.

What we need is a willingness to actually putting something on the line in terms of helping the situation. And putting something on the line might mean alienating [laughing nervously] a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import. It may mean more crucially sacrificing or investing I think more than sacrificing literally billions of dollars not in servicing Israel’s you know military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably also take to support I think what will have to be a mammoth protection force. Not of the old Srebrenica kind or the Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence. Because it seems to me, at this stage, and this is true of actual genocides as well, and not just major human  rights abuses which we’re seeing there– that is that you have to go in as if you’re serious. You have to put something on the line and unfortunately imposition of  a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful. I mean, it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s fundamentally undemocratic. But sadly we just don’t have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide you know our policy or that are meant to anyway. And it’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark rather than a deference to people who are fundamentally politically destined to  destroy the lives of their own people. And by that I mean what Tom Friedman has called Sharafat. I do think in that sense that both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And unfortunately it does require require external intervention, very much like the Rwanda situation– that thought experiment, if we had intervened early.

Any intervention is going to come under fierce criticism. We have to think of lesser evils, especially when the human stakes are becoming ever more pronounced.

Rightwing news orgs are on this too. So is the Times. Watch the supposed liberals scuttle. Thanks to Taxi.

Update: I changed the headline, which originally said that “Power said that Israeli human rights abuses are backed by domestic US constituency with tremendous financial clout” to what it is now after some commenters said it was a stretch.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

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

  1. frankier says:

    The donkey is already all excited :)
    Chuck Hagel anyone?

    (and that is too bad because she seemed to have the right approach: develop the economy of Palestine rather than support the already established military superiority of Israel.)

    • @Frankier – - Yes, absolutely. The money should go toward developing the economy of the West Bank with a view toward getting Israel OUT.

      • Shingo says:

        Developing the economy and infrastructure. Right. That will go down well in the US as roads and brushes are collapsing and schools and police stations closed down.

        Plus, more infrastructure simply means more targets for Israelto bomb anyway.

        • frankier says:

          @Shingo – Isn’t that ironic that nobody cares if the US gives $3B+ / year to Israel in perpetuity, but jump starting the Palestinian economy and make the US actually look a little better in the eyes of the people who want “hate us” would be subject to a lot of scrutiny.

        • @Shingo- – You oppose improvements to infrastructure in Palestine? Amazing.

        • Shingo says:

          @James- – You want more infrastructure for Israel to bomb in Palestine?

          Amazing.

  2. hophmi says:

    Oh, BS. This just shows that, like the far-right, you’ll take a statement out of context. Post the whole interview, with the question.

  3. marc b. says:

    I believe that power wrote the introduction to the 2004 printing of Arendt’s ‘the origins of totalitarianism’ according to a link provided by terri Ginsburg in her recent post. have to take a look and see what she had to say about totalitarianism/imperialism in the intro.

  4. Sin Nombre says:

    Not that it matters because Power will eat her words about the irresponsibility of Israel faster than shot goes through a goose, but boy, what’s not to like otherwise? The U.S. ought to not only expend more billions upon billions over there, but then, it’s implied, even “massively” stick our troops in harms’ way over there as well?

    Geez, I just can’t wait for that. And of course whatever we’d do wouldn’t end up being manipulated to serve Israel’s interests.

    The problems might all be from hell, but per Power all the solutions must come out of the pockets or blood of us Americans.

    But of course oh how morally superior she is; she must be right.

    • seafoid says:

      Israel is where intellectual theory means reality. There is very little intellectual insight required to describe what goes on with the lobby- it’s actually pretty basic power stuff.

      Robert McNamara is the template for a lot of these shit hot Dems who thought they could change the world when Obama was elected.
      Very few of them have the nerve to do the needful and they only really get one chance.

      Fellating the donkey, Rice style, at the UN is very tacky and a long way from “journalist and activist” .

    • Citizen says:

      @ Sin Nombre

      I think there’s an argument that supports Power notion we should divert the financial aid annually given to Israel to build up the Palestinian economy because our aid to Israel has funded the wreck that is the Palestinian economy.

  5. ckg says:

    I think the Sharafat reference is from Amos Oz not Tom Friedman–

  6. gingershot says:

    I was pretty intrigued by Power during the Obama 2008 election campaign – I was really hoping she could be a real independent thinker-type breakthrough appointment for a high level policy position or even Sec of State and really turn Israel upside down. Unfortunately she made that ‘monster’ remark about Hillary and had to resign from the election campaign.

    Her support of the Libya campaign sure was disappointing to me – and with the exception of not being actively engaged in a shooting war with Iran – I have been enormously disappointed with Obama’s foreign policy decisions – which she apparently has been involved with.

    I’m going to have to finally take a look at more of her background and writing and it sure will be interesting to watch to see her performance at the UN. It seems to me that UN Ambassadors are usually just the messengers of the administration, though I would guess they are in on the policy decisions as well. I’ve sure hated Big Mouth Bolton and Rice

    She is married to Cass Sunstein (an Ivy League legal scholar) – he was raised in a Jewish family – don’t know if he considers himself religious or actively Pro-Israel

    • Donald says:

      Power is pretty much what you’d expect from anyone in the human rights field who is lionized by the mainstream. In a word, she’s a hypocrite. She wrote a huge, widely praised (in the MSM) book about US foreign policy and genocide and yet it was almost entirely about how the US hasn’t intervened to prevent genocide. The rather obvious topic–actual US support for genocide–was something she scrupulously avoided. There were two or three sentences about East Timor, for instance, and nothing about Guatemala. I think Richard Holbrooke was one of her mentors, and Holbrooke was deeply implicated in our policy towards East Timor during the Carter years, which is when the killing reached its peak. I don’t think you get invited to soirees at the Kennedy School of Government if you point out things like that, or so I would guess.

      “Hypocrite” might not be quite the right word–I think she’s someone who simultaneously cares about human rights and also her career, and you don’t get positions in government writing the sorts of things that Noam Chomsky or Glenn Greenwald might say. So she’s got to ration out any truth-telling she might want to indulge in if she wants to satisfy any career ambitions she might have to serve in government. So it’ll be interesting to see what she says about the I/P conflict now–presumably she’ll back down from earlier positions the way Hagel did.

    • Citizen says:

      @gingershot
      Cass Sunstein’s father is Jewish. His mother is not. So how do you know he was “raised in a Jewish family?”

    • aiman says:

      “Unfortunately she made that ‘monster’ remark about Hillary and had to resign from the election campaign.”

      No doubt out of professional animosity/envy than moral truth. Power’s actions in Libya make her a “monster”. She is another power-hungry monster loose in D.C. She reminds me of Susan Rice. Race and gender have been used as propaganda tools. White or black, man or woman, they play the same old games.

  7. Can’t wait to hear what Lindsay Graham asks her during her confirmation hearings. She will have to grovel more than Chuck Hagel did.

  8. ToivoS says:

    Samantha Power is not too smart. Her suggestion here is really bad. In general her foreign policy instincts are as destructive as can be imagined. The architect of modern humanitarian war that is used by every war monger and neocon whenever they see another opportunity for more war. If the Lobby blocks her appointment for comments like these, I will not raise a finger in protest.

    • W.Jones says:

      You could be talking about something beyond her good interview here. Her response was for the question of what should happen if there was a genocide situation where the Israeli government was going to genocide the Palestinians en masse. In that case I think it would not be a bad idea for the UN to intervene directly in an important way. In fact, the UN probably should have intervened in at least some way a long time ago, considering the success of the international communities actions regarding South Africa.

  9. gingershot says:

    What if Power talked about the atrocity of decades of US support and cover for setting up Israeli Apartheid in Palestine – with the kind of language she used for her support of the ‘no fly zone’ over Libya?

    “extremely chilling, deadly and indeed a stain on our collective conscience”

    Will Power gleefully cast UN Vetoes and thereby deny Palestine UN membership at the Sec Council or in condemnation of further Israeli annexation of the West Bank – like Susan Rice actually seemed to relish doing?

    “Stain on our collective conscience” – indeed

  10. gingershot says:

    Here’s Abe Foxman on Power:

    “What may come as a surprise, though, is that Foxman, at least, was also quick to welcome the appointment of Samantha Power to replace Rice. Foxman described the former journalist and Pulitzer-prize winning author as “a true champion of human rights” who “engaged in an all-hands-on-deck U.S. campaign against Palestinian unilateral efforts in the UN to circumvent peace negotiations.”

    Hmmmm….

    from Haaretz

    • ToivoS says:

      As soon as I realized that I hoped they would block her nomination, it soon occurred that for that very reason, the lobby would realize she is an ally, even if she once expressed a deviant thought 12 years back.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      Its a wonder that that fat devil didn’t burst into flames from the sheer contradiction of praising someone for championing human rights, on the one hand, and then engaging in the denial of human rights, on the other.

  11. Hey folks….let’s get real here…. She doesn’t make any sense. What she says is gobbledygook. You can make anything you want of what she says, except sense.

    • Blank State says:

      “What she says is gobbledygook. You can make anything you want of what she says, except sense”

      I got the same take on her words. Really, she ain’t too articulate, is she??? Perhaps she’ll do better when they hand her the script. It won’t be in Hebrew, but rest assured, it might just as well be. She might wanna contact Hagel, and he can give her some tips on how to play the weasel.

  12. Shingo says:

    There’s an interesting debate between Power and Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now. Sadly, the are not debating about Palestine.

    link to m.democracynow.org

  13. ToivoS says:

    And here is Dershowitz on Samantha Power: link to huffingtonpost.com

    She is their baby, no doubt about it. There is no way that any Republicans will bring up the little transgression Phil is trying to provoke (in any case, nice try Phil, it was worth a shot). I think the lobby might still be smarting from their beating over Hagel and are using better tactics this time.

    • gingershot says:

      Dershowitz is sure excited about her alright – looks like the fix must be already be in

      “Samantha Power Will Wow Them at the United Nations” – he’s basically singing her praises thru the whole article. He seems to feel sure he has her locked up

      ‘I have discussed the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Samantha on many occasions. As a strong supporter of Israel’s security, I have a high level of confidence that she will do and say the right things.”

  14. Keith says:

    Good Grief, Samantha Power is an imperial militarist who salivates at any and all opportunities for “humanitarian” intervention. We need to bomb more countries, not less. Yet, based upon a few statements critical of Israel, you are ready to place palm leaves at her bloody feet.

    • aiman says:

      Here is Power kissing up to Boteach and the Lobby:

      link to haaretz.com

      She has recanted all those 2001 statements which are hardly newsworthy even on their own. Power lives up to her name by hungering for power like all those other crooked people like the Clinton’s, Rice’s, Obama, Cheney etc.

  15. RE: “Let’s say you’re an adviser to the president. How would you advise him to put a structure in place…[in Israel/Palestine] if one party or the other might . . . be moving toward genocide?” ~ Kreisler asked of Powers

    MY COMMENT: And, don’t forget about Israel having nukes!

    SEE: “The War Game”, By David Hurst, Guardian.uk, 09/21/2003:

    [EXCERPTS] . . . Without a ‘just, comprehensive and lasting’ peace which only America can bring to pass, Israel will remain at least as likely a candidate as Iran, and a far more enduring one, for the role of ‘nuclear-crazy’ state.
    Iran can never be threatened in its very existence. Israel can. Indeed, such a threat could even grow out of the current intifada. That, at least, is the pessimistic opinion of Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. . .
    . . . In this situation, he went on, more and more Israelis were coming to regard the ‘transfer’ of the Palestinians as the only salvation; resort to it was growing ‘more probable’ with each passing day. Sharon ‘wants to escalate the conflict and knows that nothing else will succeed’.
    But would the world permit such ethnic cleansing? ‘That depends on who does it and how quickly it happens. We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.’

    SOURCE – link to guardian.co.uk

  16. gingershot says:

    I’ve been having a recurring thought (uh oh) over the last year or so –

    For all the enablers if not actual members of the Israel Lobby – all the David Gregorys and Andrea Mitchells and Rachel Maddows and all the rest – how STUPID they have to pretend to be to leave Israel out of the story, to not see the reins of power for what they are and to even try to pretend they do not exist. How craven does one have to be, while pretending to present a coherent rationale for what’s happening in the US and the world, and NOT identify, discuss and educate about this ‘Israeli elephant in the room ‘ level of reality?

    Gee – everything happens by magic AND ISRAEL AND HER LOBBY AREN’T INVOLVED.

    Not understanding the influence of the Israeli Lobby just leaves an enormous vacuum that these idiots just have to dance around and pretend doesn’t exist.
    It’s like being a Biology professor pretending evolution doesn’t exist – or a car mechanic pretending there’s not a motor to drive the car.

    Gee – I guess everything just happens by magic in this world – it’s the ultimate deus ex machina (no, no, no – never let it be identified as the criminal state of Israel) solution for every crappy story they try to spin.

    How about some refreshing Non-AIPAC vetted explanations of reality – like we were lied into the Iraq war by the Israel Lobby and Israel – and that now the Israel Lobby and Israel are trying to lie us into Iran. How can you even discuss these matters without understanding or explaining that?

    Here’s Ray McGovern and Phil Giraldi discussing Israeli Lobby influence on US appointments – it centers around what the Lobby did to the Chas Freeman appointment.

    link to youtube.com

    It was hosted on Press TV and it’s just so refreshing to hear people talking about the realities of the Lobby and it’s influence. The other side of the coin is what seems to be happening with the Power appointment – and how the real Neocons like Dershowitz are ‘PERMITTING’ this appointment – brought it up for me.

    The Lobby not only can destroy appointments – it also can PERMIT them – like at the moment seems likely might happen with Samantha

  17. Samantha Power, Susan Rice, two rabid warmongers now in power. Proves the extremist nature of Obama.

  18. Nevada Ned says:

    The writers on this site are missing a big part of the Samantha Power story.
    It’s about Rwanda.

    Recall the standard Establishment “narrative” about Rwanda:
    The Hutus slaughtered the Tutsis, while the US did nothing to stop it. Therefore, the US should carry out “humanitarian intervention” to stop genocide.

    Instead it was the other way around. The Tutsis slaughtered the Hutus, and the US supported it. Why? Because the head of the Tutsis was a US-trained thug, Paul Kagame, and his army, the Rwanda Patriotic Front.

    One consistent apologist for this Establishment narrative is the writer Philip Gourevitch.
    Another writer is Samantha Power, who is now on the verge of holding government power.

    For details, see the article by Edward Herman and David Peterson at
    this link .

    One piece of evidence that is persuasive in my mind: the standard Establishment propaganda claim is that the Hutus were the perpetrators of genocide against the Tutsis. And yet, nearly all (95% or more) of the casualties were Hutus, so the Establishment claim makes no sense.

    I expect that many Mondoweissers are uncertain about who is who in Rwanda. So follow the link to the Herman/Peterson story in Monthly Review.

    There is an analogy to the Israel/Palestine story: what is the standard Establishment narrative?
    the powerful Palestinians and other Arabs are threatening Israel with genocide, threatening to drive the Jews into the sea. So Israel is acting in self-defense.
    And what is the single most persuasive evidence that the Establishment narrative is a lie? That nearly all casualties are Palestinians (99% in the case of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009).

    It’s a good analogy.

    Here’s another point: the role of the US media.
    Herman and Peterson write that the truth about Rwanda has been deliberately suppressed by the mainstream media. (NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc.) Does this remind Mondoweiss readers of anything?

    The views of Edward Herman are similar to those of Noam Chomsky. Both Chomsky and Herman are Jewish leftists who are longtime critics of US imperialism, and they emphasize the role of the mainstream mass media in covering up the truth. Chomsky and Herman co-authored a very important 1988 book, Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of Human Rights.
    Follow this link .
    (The 1988 book did not deal with Rwanda because that hadn’t happened yet. But it deals with Israel/Palestine and with East Timor)

    Why are Dershowitz and Foxman supporting Samantha Power? My guess: Her recent writings about “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect” are ideological justifications for US military and diplomatic and economic intervention around the world.
    She wants to overcome “isolationism” by a war-weary US public.

    The truth is that US has supported thugs in Israel/Palestine (Begin and Sharon), thugs in Africa (Paul Kagame in Rwanda), and thugs in Latin America (Batista in Cuba, Videla in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, Duvalier in Haiti, Somoza in Nicaragua, the recent military coup in Honduras, and “anybody but Hugo Chavez” in Venezuela).

    Don’t know much about Rwanda? Don’t take my word for it. Find out!

  19. Nevada Ned says:

    More information about Samantha Power and the “weaponization of human rights”.:

    (1) An article from the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA).

    (2) Noam Chomsky on Samantha Power

    (3) Ed Herman on Samantha Power.

  20. frankier says:

    Now we know that nothing will change (that is, if there were any doubt). Nossel is almost amusing… (maybe she wanted the post)

    “she could be the transformative UN ambassador that the United States needs.” NOT

    link to foreignaffairs.com

  21. gingershot says:

    UPDATE:

    John McCain, Max Boot, and all the Neocons seem to be on board for the Power nomination

    McCain: “He called her “well-qualified for this important position,” and said the Senate should “move forward on her nomination as soon as possible.”

    “Neocons praise Samantha Power pick” – at ForeignPolicy.com
    link to thecable.foreignpolicy.com

  22. Speaking of interventionists: Al Jazeera journalist asks Bernard Henri Levy, “Why is it from the people who identify themselves as liberal interventionists, why do we never hear a peep, a word about intervening to protect the Palestinians?”

    • Shingo says:

      Al Jazeera journalist asks Bernard Henri Levy,

      I wish the clip had included Henri Levy’s answer. He has to be one of the biggest morons I have ever read.

  23. The appointment of Ms Powers is supremely irrelevant!

    For so long as the United States continues with the ludicrously dangerous stratagem of ‘nuclear ambiguity’ that allows Israel, at the demand of The Lobby, to hold and increase its estimated massive nuclear arsenal, in secret and outside the inspection of the IAEA, then the START treaty becomes a nonsense and the security and peace of the world becomes increasingly dependent on the extremist right-wing Likud government of Netanyahu.

    It is a supreme irony that all our children’s lives, and ours, will in future depend on the politic agenda of a small state on the eastern Mediterranean.