Yesterday the New York Times ran a great piece of journalism on the political crisis in Israel. We have long complained on this site that the Times is hiding Israel’s extremist intolerant face from its readers. Ronen Bergman’s piece went against that pattern entirely. Here are some of the truths that Bergman dared to tell:
–Israeli military leaders “detest” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, because he sought “belligerent solutions” to problems and is motivated not by the country’s interest but by “religion, ideology,” and his own political ambitions.
— Netanyahu launched one war these leaders opposed — the 2014 slaughter in Gaza that killed 500 children — and had a “plan” to launch another one, an attack on Iran six years ago, that was “illegal,” because he would have circumvented his own cabinet. “The military and intelligence leaders believed that the prime minister’s plan to attack Iran’s nuclear installations was politically motivated by electoral considerations and would embroil Israel in a superfluous war.”
–The man Netanyahu has lately installed as Defense Minister — Avigdor Lieberman — is “an impulsive and reckless extremist… known for ruthlessly quashing people who hold opposing views.” Lieberman has threatened to blow up the Aswan Dam.
–There could be a military coup in Israel, if Lieberman acts out. “[T]he possibility of a military coup has been raised — but only with a smile,” Bergman reports from his conversations with military leaders. “It remains unlikely.”
The shocking picture Ronen Bergman, a military and intelligence correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, gives Americans is of a country that sounds a lot more like a third world dictatorship than the only democracy in the middle east. The country’s military leaders think Netanyahu pursues “dangerous, aggressive policies.” Anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of dealing with the man wants nothing to do with him. We readers can’t tell if Netanyahu is a crazy dictator or a tribal ideologue or a man of overweening ambition, but we know that Israeli experts say they can’t trust him.
Read Bergman for yourself, then ask yourself: Why was it such a daring move by Bernie Sanders to say, “Netanyahu is not right all of the time”? Why does Hillary Clinton say that she would invite Netanyahu to the White House in her first month as president? And why, if Netanyahu’s judgment is so inflamed by personal ambition and “ideology”, was Clinton “swayed” by Netanyahu to oppose any dealings with Iran, back when American negotiations began? Why did Clinton surrogate Neera Tanden fawn over Netanyahu in a progressive space last year?
The answer to these questions is that the American discussion of Netanyahu is distorted by propagandists. We are not allowed to assess this person’s statements in the way we would any other foreign head of state. We are all supposed to close our eyes and act like he’s a normal leader. And if you don’t do that, you’re an anti-Semite. Many brave journalists have tried to warn us about Netanyahu, but the mainstream press under the influence of the Israel lobby has blocked that understanding. So when an honest eminent journalist– James Fallows– supported the Iran deal last year by saying “I am deadset against my country drifting into further needless unwinnable wars,” a pro-Israel website promptly attacked Fallows as an anti-semite and Holocaust-dismisser, who was indifferent to the fact that “the Jews of Europe were exterminated en masse in living memory.”
That was when Netanyahu was lobbying the Congress to oppose the Iran deal, taking on the president inside the Capitol; but the New York Times failed to report what it is telling us now: that he can’t be believed when he is making claims about Israel’s security. His own top generals were opposed to the slaughter he launched in Gaza; he did so for political and “ideological” purposes; and that he had a plan to launch an illegal and dangerous war on Iran a few years before. And of course he told Congress in 2002 that if we only invaded Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein, the Middle East would be transformed. Hillary Clinton was “swayed” then too.
As you read Bergman’s account, ask yourself: Would President Obama ever call the family of a soldier, shown on video to the eyes of the world to be a tribal executioner, and stand by that soldier? Of course not. That kind of thing doesn’t happen in a real democracy. But it’s just what Netanyahu did, enraging his military command, who have the job of running an illegal occupation.
Probably the most telling sign of Bergman’s honesty was this: that he dared to inform readers about the Lavon affair.
In 1954, military intelligence initiated, out of sight of Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, a series of terrorist attacks in Egypt with the aim of causing a rift between that country and the United States and Britain.
So NYT readers could actually go online and learn that in July 1954 Israeli secret agents in Egypt, ok’d by the acting defense minister Pinchas Lavon, planted bombs in American and British libraries and offices, and in cinemas showing western movies, in an effort to scuttle the growing acceptance of the Nasser government by the U.S. and the British. That’s right. A wildeyed defense minister undertook crazy covert military activities in other countries so as to manipulate American foreign policy.
Pro-Israel propagandists will never tell you about the Lavon affair. Just look at Dennis Ross’s recent book about how the Israel-U.S. relationship is vital to U.S. interests. He has to mention the Lavon affair because it helped bring down an Israeli government. But he lies about it– simply describing it as “failed and embarrassing espionage operations.”
Bergman’s honesty about the madness of Israeli leaders and the liabilities of the U.S. Israel relationship is echoed by Israel’s top television military analyst saying he’s not sure he wants his children to stay in Israel. And it reminds us of the journalist who is yet to weigh in on the crisis in the Israeli government: Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, the leading propagandist for Israel in the United States. Goldberg has had nothing yet to say about events that completely undermine the image of Israel he projects to the west. Why just last year, Goldberg berated Secretary of State John Kerry over the Iran deal by saying he was underestimating the threat of a second holocaust posed by the Ayatollah Khamenei. And Goldberg cited this statement of Khamenei’s as evidence– a statement that says nothing about exterminating Jews, it only says that Khamenei wants a one-state solution, which is today the position of many on the left. While Goldberg is silent about Israel’s new defense minister– “an impulsive and reckless extremist” who once threatened to blow up the Aswan Dam, as the New York Times informs us. That is news.
Finally, consider this paradox. Numerous American leaders have come out against the international campaign to “delegitimize” Israel as some kind of sinister and anti-semitic conspiracy. Ronen Bergman has just done more to delegitimize the Israeli government than anyone holding a placard outside an Israeli consulate. It’s time that American politicians begin to reflect this understanding.