The Israeli Lobby and the Sudan

Khalid AlMubarak/ Photo by Iqbal Tamimi

The Israeli Lobby and the Sudan: Questions and Answers that might shed some light on the relationship between Sudan and Israel

“Does it matter if Europe is not on the same page as The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)?

{jcomments on}Frankly, No”

Lord Chris Patten, The New York Review of Books, Feb 10: comments on George Bush giving Israel a free hand.

Khalid Al Mubarak puts down in Questions and Answers what might help in understanding Sudan’s stand towards Israel

Q:    Does the Sudan deny the holocaust or advocate throwing all Israelis in the Sea?  

A:    On the contrary.  The Sudan has accepted the Arab League’s offer to Israel: Recognition, conditional on withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and Jerusalem, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and justice for Palestinian Refugees. 

The far-right Israeli governments have not accepted the offer which is on the table since 2002.

Israeli hawks need more time to swallow the rest of the West Bank and make the two-state solution impossible.

Q:    What is the International Community’s response?

A:    The US is alone in open complicity with Israel.  At the UN Security Council discussion (Dec ’11)            about the settlements, even the UK and EU the closest and most trusted allies of the USA abandoned the American position of continued support for Israeli policies.

    In a positive glimpse of diplomatic integrity the outgoing British ambassador to Israel, Sir Tom Phillip gave an interview to the right-wing Jerusalem Post (1 August ’10) in which he warned his country’s ally:  “There is a drift of opinion away from Israel… this is happening with the popular mood”…”The image out there is of Israel as an occupying power.  “He described the Gaza blockade as “unsustainable and counterproductive.”  As the difference of opinion between President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu shows, there is a difference between the values and policies of Israel and the democratic values and policies of the Western democracies.  When US or UK troops misbehave or abuse civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan the matter is always investigated, with severe punishment for those condemned.  It is repeatedly explained that the abuse is not US or UK officially sanctioned policy.

By contrast, Israeli ethnic cleansing, or abuse or humiliation of Palestinians is invariably official Israeli policy.  The settlers are where they are because of generous subsidies and encouragement.  But the true Western democracies continue to reward Israel in a manner reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s “constructive engagement” policy towards apartheid South Africa.  Consequently, instead of a two-state solution we have a two-tongue solution protesting at Israeli atrocities but allowing them to continue by arming Israel and rewarding her with OECD membership.

 US support for Israeli intransigence is unwavering.

Q:    How come?  The US was a colony one day, it fought for independence and considers itself a standard bearer of freedom and democracy.  Why does it exclude the Palestinians from its protection?

A:    The formidable Israeli lobbies.

The late Robin Cook wrote in his memoirs (2003) that Tony Blair informed them at the UK cabinet that “the US Congress is now more Likud than the Israeli cabinet”.  Writing in the Jewish Daily Forward 7 Oct ’11 Larry Defner confirms that: “The Republican Party (and much of the Democratic Party) is indistinguishable from Likud”.

Q:    How does the Lobby operate?

A:    By intimidation.

J. Kampfner of the Index on Censorship put it succinctly on 12 January 09 that “The power of the message has always been strongest in the US where academics and journalists know that criticism of Israel may harm their careers!! (The Guardian 12 January 09)

Q:    Any concrete example?

A:    The ordeal of the poet Alice Goodman who wrote the libretto for “The Death of Klinghofer” 1992.  The opera was not liked by the lobby.  She could not get another commission for twenty years. (The Guardian 30 January 12)

The New York Times New Jerusalem Bureau chief Jodi Rudoren was attacked by the lobby BEFORE she took over her job.  Rachel Shabi described the lobby’s tactic as attempts “to intimidate and paralyse, choke and divert the discussion over Israel’s occupation and policies in the Middle East.” (The Guardian 17 Feb 2012).

As far as politics is concerned, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have written a well-documented book (The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy) detailing the way the lobby influences and distorts US foreign policy.

The far-right policies do not go unchallenged.  A disappointed supporter of Israel has written to the Guardian criticizing Netanyahu and Lieberman’s “militaristic and intransigent policies”.  He went on to say “many of us who were supporters of Israel and the Zionist project have become disillusioned by the injustice of the present government. (M. Ellman 11 April ’12)

Q:    Why is the Sudan a high priority for the lobby?

Four reasons:

A. In 1947-48, the Sudanese (led by a man from Darfur called Zahir Suroor Assadati) fought as volunteers on the side of the Palestinians.

B. The “Three No’s Arab League Conference” after the 1967 war was convened in Khartoum, where Nasser was greeted as a victor not loser.

C. According to the Israeli academic Avi Shlaim, Ben-Gurion devised the strategy of inciting the minorities in the Arab countries “The alliance of the periphery” (to break up their cohesion)

     (Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History  –  May 1999)

D. The pragmatic National Congress Party (which has got Christian members) has become the main party in Sudan.  Its mild Islamist credentials make it an Islamophobic bogey for the Israel lobby.

Israel supported the first Sudanese rebellion in the South (1955-1972).  The leader of that rebellion published a book in which he detailed his Israeli contacts and the help he got after he visited Israel (Joseph Lagu – Odyssey Through a State – From Ruin to Hope 2006)

Some of those who refused the 1972 Addis Ababa peace reignited the civil war in 1983 under the banner of the SPLA/M.  They received US [and inevitably, Israeli] military support through neighbouring countries (Rebecca Hamilton – The Atlantic July 11).

Q:    What strategy did the lobby employ to undermine the Sudan?  

A:     It allied itself in America ( on whose shoulders Israel stands tall) with neo-con African Americans and Evangelical Christian Taliban who support Israel in the belief that its strength is a condition of the second coming of Christ,  which will signify the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. It also played the trump card of Islamophobia.

    In their book “The Cold War on British Muslims” (2011) Tom Mills, Tom Griffin and David Miller have demonstrated that organizations spreading Islamophobia (like the Centre for Social Cohesion, Baroness Caroline Cox’s Christian Solidarity International and Policy Exchange) are recipients of Israeli financial lobbies’ donations.

    It relied on Hollywood star celebrities for oversimplification and spin, turning “a complicated and fluid situation into a compelling black-and-white narrative of good and evil, leading some to argue that the simplifications of celebrity campaigning have actually helped prolong the [Darfur] conflict. (Carne Ross: The Leaderless Revolution, 2011).

    Scepticism at the lobby’s celebrity political campaigning was also voiced by Hadley Freeman (The Guardian 28 March ’12) who pointed out that “the amount of coverage they get is so disproportionate to what they merit and is coupled with the outsize ego most celebrities possess, which makes them think that having a star on the Hollywood walk of fame is the same as having a seat at the UN…”

    The image of US democracy has not been well served by the fact that the August Senate chose to listen to the views of the actor George Clooney (not the Sudan experts at leading US universities or think thanks) when it was considering Sudan policies in March 2012.

AL - Yarmouk

Q:    What keeps the different branches of the lobby nourished ideologically?

A:    According to the Economist (13 Jan 07) the lobbies were formed to influence US policy in favour of Israel; but “often these lobbies have ended up representing not Israel, but its right-wing political establishment”. The article goes on to say that Jewish diaspora institutions should “feel free to criticize Israeli politicians who preach racism and intolerance, such as the recently appointed cabinet minister A. Lieberman”

Q:    Is it true that some of the ultra-orthodox religious parties are more extreme than Mr. Lieberman?

A:    Definitely:  Writing in the Israeli liberal newspaper Haaretz (11 July 05) Shulamit Aloni exposed the alarming fact that Mr. Israel Hess, Rabbi of Bar Ilam University wrote in the University paper: “we are all obligated to commit genocide” the article reminds readers that settlers’ Rabbis receive state salaries and that some are “bearers of a fascist spirit and blatant racism”

An article in the same newspaper (16 August 04) by Israeli historian Alexander Jacobson who teaches at the Hebrew University claims that extremist Rabbis preach that “non-Jews are not really human beings”.   They refuse to accept that “a non-Jewish person as being of equal worth”.

Q:    Are these allies of the ruling far-right Israeli coalition that has nuclear bombs at its disposal?  Isn’t that scary?

A:    This is what the Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass alluded to in his latest poem “what must be said”

    No wonder (as the right-wing Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post has reported 24 July ’11) that the Norwegian mass murderer Anders B. Breivik held fiercely anti Islamic and pro-Israel views.  He wrote in his manifesto: “Let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers…”

And no wonder that the English Defence League fascists hoisted Israeli flags in London in the demonstration about the boycott of Israeli goods (according to the Jewish Guardian writer M. Hansen  (20 August ’10) who wanted to go and confront them).

Q:    To be so effective world-wide – The Israeli lobby must be well orchestrated. Is it?

A:    In a recent book, the writer Peter Beinart who happens to be an American Jew has explained how the manipulation of the Holocaust has come about.  After the 1967 war, Israel was increasingly seen as a bully: to correct this it became necessary to remind the world and fellow Jews of the “victim status” of Jews. Thus victimhood and a new emphasis on the Holocaust became “the defining ideology of organized Jewish life” and a best tool for the lobbyist.

    In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel (2 June ’11) the Israeli historian Tom Segev confirmed the misuse of the holocaust: “The Politicians are using the holocaust more and more to create fear.”

More explicitly J Littel (who happens to be Jewish too) said that Israel uses the holocaust to justify “inexcusable acts in the Palestinian territories” (Haaretz 31 May ‘08)

However, Beinart points out that the Israeli lobbies are “sustained by a small number of rich donors and are not accountable to the community.  That implies their lack of authentic popular mandate.

Q:    What links that with Sudan?

A:    The Sudan is a victim of the manipulation of the Holocaust by the lobby fronts of the Israeli far-right.

Alex de Waal and Julie Flint (Darfur 2008) have documented that the US Holocaust Museum joined hands with the American Jewish World Service to create the “Save Darfur Coalition”, the mother organization that received anonymous donations, didn’t send a single cent to Darfur’s people but bought expensive full-page anti-Sudanese ads in leading world publications.  Yad Vesham in Jerusalem had already used the word genocide (18 July 04).  Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit by calling for divestment from The Sudan during the 07 AIPAC Conference. Save Darfur Coalition created an unprecedented campaign mostly in the US.  US presidential hopefuls were invited to the Refugee Camps in Chad.  Websites and radio stations were established (and are still running) to undermine the Sudan.  One UK cousin organization to Save Darfur Coalition called Waging Peace boasted during a discussion at the UK Islam Channel that it managed to collect signatures from Chadian refugee camps for the benefit of the ICC Bashir indictment.

Waging Peace also distributed sheets of misinformation about the Sudan to the UK Houses of Parliament this year. Another UK cousin organization that wears the mask – as expected – of genocide prevention is Aegis Trust.   It organized several events about Darfur’s alleged genocide, invited L. Moreno Ocampo personally to London on 7 May 08.

More ominously it states on its website “Administration and research for All-Party Parliamentary Groups in the UK is carried out by Aegis Trust”.   The British Advertising Authority has dealt Aegis Trust a mortal blow when it ruled in August 2007 that the inflated Darfur death numbers quoted by the trust should be presented as “opinion” not fact.

In the name of holocaust prevention Aegis Trust has introduced American style attempts to silence other voices.  On 8 February ’12 its adviser Mukesh Kapila gave a talk at the LSE.  When a Sudanese member of the audience tried to comment one of those accompanying Mr. Kapila snatched the mike from his hand.  Senator James Abu Rizek and Edward Said have experienced similar undemocratic violence in the USA.  Countless attempts to dismiss Dr. Said from his teaching post continued until his death.

The policy to bring about regime change in The Sudan has failed.  Major western democracies, including the USA are now supporting the democratic transformation and the Darfur peace, development and justice effort.  The activities of the remnants of Save Darfur Coalition, and its sister organizations run counter to the policies of democracies.  No wonder, these organizations are rooted in the ideology of the hawkish far-right in Israel that has nothing in common with the democratic values of the West.  

Addressing a racist riot in Tel Aviv on 23 May 2012, Likud MP Miri Regev called Africans in Israel (who were initially manipulated to replace Palestinian workers) “cancer in our society”.

Q:    How come organizations like the ailing Save Darfur Coalition and its British counterparts Aegis Trust and Waging Peace still score some successes?    

A:    Part of the explanation is in a letter by  Jenny Bourne of the Institute of Race Relations (The Observer Review, 4 Feb 2010): “What the Muslim community lacks in the UK are the kind of networks, community monitoring centres, spokespeople and media contacts that the Jewish community has built up over the years.”

The best example of the power of such networks is almost farcical.  Elaine Glaser was embarrassed by the extensive abuse and politicisation of the holocaust. So she wrote a gentle rebuke in which she reminded her Jewish Chronicle readers (12 December 08) of the book “Misha: a Memoir of the Holocaust Years” which was written by a Romanian called Misha Defonseca about a helpless Jewish girl who walked across Europe during the Second World War, hiding for a time with a pack of wolves.  The book became a big hit.  It was translated into 18 languages, was made into a film in France and inspired an Italian opera!! The only snag is that the author admitted that it was all a lie, fabricated by her!

While defending our country against the onslaught of the front organisations of Netanyahu-Lieberman, we salute the peace loving Israelis who share our yearning for peace and justice in the Middle East, those who defend the Palestinians of Hebron, those who sailed to break the siege of Gaza.  They give us hope for the future of co-existence.

Q:    Are you saying that there is a “conspiracy” against the Sudan?        

A:    Certainly not, conspiracies are hatched in secrecy and concealed from view.  The spin against the Sudan is sometimes subtle, but mostly open and even crude.

    The full circle has recently been exposed further when the Israeli lobby shamelessly “honoured” L. Moreno Ocampo (former prosecutor of the ICC) on 14 November ’12 in Los Angeles.

    The co-founder of the “enough” project who is currently engaged in an attempt to support SPLA/N and poison relations between the two Sudans – was there to make a speech.

Founders of Save Darfur Coalition celebrating one of their success stories with a close associate who opposed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Abuja ’06 Agreement.

Conclusion:    The destruction of the Yarmouk munitions factory on 23/24 October 12 was not an isolated aggression.  It was the pinnacle of a consistent pattern of spin, disinformation and arrogance by a state that enjoys impunity and operates outside international laws.

Dr Khalid AlMubarak  :Media /Counsellor Embassy of the Sudan /London

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