Israel Is a Friend — But What Kind of Friend?

Donald TrumpApparently, Donald Trump is now going around saying, “I watched in Jersey City, NJ, where thousands and thousands of [Arab] people were cheering” — in regard to the 9/11 attacks. (Ben Carson has said the same thing.) I’m beginning to wonder if the guy is just testing the nation. At what point will we say, “No! This is not acceptable!” I really question whether there is a bottom — at least when it comes to the Republican primary voters. There is just a hollow anger at the core of American conservatism that can’t be sated. As for Trump, I don’t think we can say whether he believes this stuff or not. He’s a narcissist and saying it gets him attention; that’s as deep as it goes.

PolitiFact looked into it and rated the claim “pants on fire.” There is no evidence of Muslims celebrating 9/11 anywhere in America. But the weird thing is that there is evidence of Israelis celebrating the attack. Five of them were arrested and interrogated for a couple of months, before being deported back to Israel. It looks like they were part of an Israeli intelligence operation. You can imagine what many people have made of that. One of the many 9/11 conspiracy theories claims that Israel knew about (and maybe even took part in) the attack. That seems about as credible as most 9/11 conspiracy theories.

But there is something that seems really interesting to me. When one of the men, Sivan Kurzberg, was questioned by the police, he said, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” I think he was telling the truth at that point. And I think that he and his comrades were celebrating the attack. I think they saw it the same way that the British saw the attack on Pearl Harbor: a great thing for their political interests.

9/11 AttackIt’s interesting, because I was listening to an interview earlier today by Max Blumenthal about his new book, The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. I’m not totally in Blumenthal’s camp. I do still see a need for a safe haven for the Jews. Just the same, I am incredibly skeptical of Zionism at this point. I really do question whether it isn’t necessarily racist and therefore violent. And I think the United States’ absolute commitment to Israel is totally inappropriate. Not only is it bad to have this increasingly fascistic state tell us what to do, in the long run, I think this is all very bad for Zionism itself. And for Jews the world over.

So right now, I’m probably too open to the idea that Israeli intelligence officers would be happy that we got bombed. That’s not to say that they were happy to see Americans killed. But people have lots of ways of justifying these things: you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet and all that. One thing is for sure: if these five Israelis had been Iranians or Iraqis, they wouldn’t have been released back to their home countries — they’d be half insane for a decade and a half of torture at Guantanamo Bay.

People can be your friends and still not want what is in your best interests. I increasingly think that of Israel. I don’t doubt that they are our friends. Just the same, they seem more like that friend who is always making trouble and getting you involved in it. It turns out that Benjamin Netanyahu — the man who has done more to harm the US relationship with Israel than any other man — is actually a centrist in Israel. That should give you an idea of just how bad things have gotten in Israel. I’m beginning to believe that the only way to save the Jews is to destroy Zionism. But I’m not quite there.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is telling people that thousands of American Muslims were dancing in celebration of 9/11. And if I had to guess the result, it would be that his poll numbers will go up.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

19 thoughts on “Israel Is a Friend — But What Kind of Friend?

  1. Win or lose, Trump has achieved something amazing. Someone once described Brooke Shields as “being a celebrity by being a celebrity” and that’s Trump all over. Who would have thought his celebrity could outlast the 1980s? Keep in mind, his fame had nothing to do with anyone liking him then. It was pure ego run amok. A fool and a charlatan who made headlines by loudly/proudly proclaiming himself the most outrageous “greed is good” huckster and marrying/dumping wives that acted like Marie Antoinette while styling themselves like gangster wives from “Goodfellas.”

    He was always a figure of fun. How far can his ego go?

    So he disappears for a few decades, then resurfaces on that nonsense “Apprentice” show, with its fifteen minutes of cultural catchphrase “you’re fired.” He’s still here! Still rude! And rudeness now is seen as “truth-telling.” Trump must have watched the rise of Fox bloviators with seething envy, thinking “I could do that. I was ahead of my time.”

    He tries out the water with his “birther” routine. (I’d be curious to know if he thought of it himself or some publicist came up with it for him. I suspect I know the answer.) It’s a hit among super-racists.

    Now he’s a potentially viable candidate for US President. This is an unbelievable testament to one man’s ability (or that of his publicists) to read the lowest forms of American culture and quite cleverly exploit them. He’s a far better fascist than he ever was a businessman.

    Reagan was a vapid intellectual sinkhole, Bush II was no better. Yet each had some political history behind them. Reagan had been reading the same speech for 20 years, Bush had family connections. Trump has no political history at all prior to the “birther” stuff. All candidates for President are egomaniacs, but even Obama spent years studying (and no doubt always planning to use/surpass) political elders.

    Trump is a candidate of pure celebrity. He’s Howard Beale without any real passion; it’s all a cynical act. (It was a cynical act for Nixon, too, but Nixon did his time building political support.) And the act is working. Christian fundamentalists would prefer a Carson or Fiorina whose policy positions match their obsessions — what they really want is 100% distilled Essence Of Mean. Somehow, someway, Trump is fulfilling their dreams, and those of every other person who wants to blame their frustrations on target groups instead of the oligarchs. Because we all want to be Winners! Winning means being able to take a shit on Losers! God forbid we create a society where people aren’t frustrated all the time.

    I have a friend I communicate with mostly via e-mail; we’ve drifted apart in recent years, not over any animosity. We used to have long, passionate phone conversations about politics. I was the liberal saying Darkness Exists in the GOP, he was the conservative saying Darkness Exists in rich liberal taste snobs. Each tried to convince the other that underlying trends showed a future which scared us; neither succeeded, but I always enjoyed the conversations.

    What would be the point of me calling him now? To say “look at your GOP, they’re insane?” I’m sure he’s as saddened by it as I am. And probably wouldn’t be able to admit that the likes of Trump or Carson scare him more than rich liberal taste snobs. (He’s from Santa Rosa, BTW.) Rich liberal taste snobs made him feel bad once upon a time, he’ll always loathe them, and observing how the GOP has gone full-on-fascist so fast would only be picking a fight to pick a fight. So I share sports articles with him and he shares sports articles with me.

    I don’t think old-school conservatism had to descend into this. It wasn’t destined. Herbert Hoover would spit on the current GOP candidates. But old-school conservatism lost all its intellectual rationale when we accepted the permanent hemorrhaging of money by the military. Until then, conservatives had a point: “why spend taxpayer money on social improvement plans that you don’t know will make things better, and might make things worse?” As a liberal, I’d argue that if injustice exists, you try to remedy it, and if one approach fails, you try another. Old-school conservatives, saying they agreed on the immorality of injustice, but doubting the effectiveness of social programs, had a cogent point. (I think they were almost always wrong, but they had a fair argument.)

    Once we accepted pissing money away hand-over-fist for the maintenance of an empire intended to benefit the rich (and it doesn’t even benefit them every time), sensible conservatism was doomed. It had to become “money wasted on the Right People is moral; money spent helping the Wrong People is unjust” (as it did) and from there to the natural conclusion, “Harm Wrong People Whenever Possible.”

    How many years did we spend effort and energy wondering if things like civil rights, votes for women, unions, a safety net, government regulations against companies making cars that kill you, were all the first steps towards Communist dystopia? Turns out that was never much of a threat. Very few people suggested that American conservatism, unshackled from its principle of “do no harm and spend very little money,” would end up fascist. But that’s where it went.

    • The fundamental problem with your friend’s argument is that the framing is all wrong. The “liberal taste snobs” is a creation of the conservatives. The elites of both parties are taste snobs. Why do you think the Koch brothers build opera houses? It’s because conservatives are singularly focused on helping the rich that they’ve had to come up with this narrative where it is really the Democrats. As I’ve argued before, all politics is identity politics. And a lot of white guys who used to vote Democrat because that was the party of unions (ie, other guys like them), now vote Republican because they “tell it like it is.” It is a very thin reed to hang your politics on, but that’s all they have.

      The reason Trump is popular is because of what he said that very first day about immigrants being rapists. I’ve heard people in my extended family pleased with him because he “tells it like it is.” Funny that these people who speak the “truth” are always speaking it to the least among us. A lot of men think they are brave truth tellers by saying that someone looks like they’ve gained a little weight. That’s not brave. That’s just being a jerk. That’s all Trump is. But even I thought Trump might have some brave truth teller in him. And then he came out with his tax plan and it was the same as all the others — but worse. At least the fascists took care of the people they defined as human. This new Trump fascism has all the bad things of old fascism and none of its good aspects. It really is the perfect form of government for the US — or for about half the US anyway.

      • I always thought the “liberal taste snobs” bit was worthless. But I’m not going to demean another person’s experience of pain. In my friend’s case, his parents were Croatian/Mexican and he was never accepted at rich kid school despite being an athlete/exceptional student. It was a liberal rich kid school, so liberals=hypocrites.

        Well, I went to a liberal rich kid school, too. I wasn’t an athlete, I was an exceptional student, and I wasn’t accepted (too white-trash-y.) I bought that BS about taste snobs for a few years (I even delved into gun culture a little bit, attended a military academy) and realized it was bunk. Liberal taste snobs are real and I resent them deeply, but they have absolutely zero political power (I’d be surprised if most of them bother to vote.)

        The turning points for me were reading Dr. Noam (per my first exposure to the Internet — thanks military academy!) and especially “What’s The Matter With Kansas.” Dr. Noam made me understand that the battle isn’t between Volvo drivers and people who own pickup trucks, it’s between rich and poor. But his scholarship was so heavy it intimidated me. Especially his oft-repeated “you can look this up” mantra. It’s true — you can look it up — but that’s very daunting for a kid who’s never read any historical material.

        In “Kansas,” Frank delivered something like (I’m paraphrasing from memory) “what is this fantasy version of liberals? The liberals I all know are poor and gripe constantly about landlords.” That sealed it for me. Gripers are my kind of people.

        Sorry to rant about Trump and my conservative friend. I’m simply astounded things went this far this fast. It’s like all our fears about the dark side of conservatism were realized overnight. I wonder if this is how it happened in other totalitarian countries.

        American Angry has a ton of things to be furious about. How those things can be blamed on blacks or Mexicans or Muslims, I have no idea. They seem very clearly to me as hardships imposed by rich people.

        No mistake, though — the GOP is straight-up fascist now. George W. Bush’s line that “Islam is a religion of peace” would get him thrown out of the debates today. Yep, “W” isn’t right-wing enough. We are seriously headed down the wormhole of crazy and I don’t know where it will end.

        • I do get that. This is why I hammer on economic issues. This MSNBC idea of liberalism being social liberalism is madness. There’s some crossover, but the economic issues are what most Americans care about. Then there are the New Democrat kind of liberals who will give us same sex marriage but not a higher minimum wage. This is probably why I find a lot of common ground with conservatives. They really do care about this stuff. And as I’ve long argued, the real problem with the GOP is the Democrats have abandoned economic liberalism.

  2. Frank, I think your targeting conservatives are blinding you to reality. There WERE people cheering the 9/11 attacks. Anderson Cooper did a story on it and even interviewed the people. Think you may want to do some FACT CHECKING before commenting on something you clearly know little about. You are just repeating “talking points” from MSNBC and CNN, who routinely lie to morons like you. Again, any time any place, you just give me the word to debate me, and Ill be there. But again, a liberal can never debate a conservative without them being destroyed. But being that you seem to not really think things through, I bet you’ll make the offer. Or just be a coward.

    • Tough talk from an internet troll. You can’t even manage a well reasoned comment on this blog. I’m wrong because you think I’ve gotten talking points from MSNBC? I’m not a coward, but you are clearly a disturbed person. And now, I have non-troll commenters to tend to.

    • Oh, THIS IS GLORIOUS. Please LEAVE it UP.

      To be perfectly honest, for about three seconds I wondered if Trump was trolling working-class Jersey folks. After all, he’s shameless, he’ll piss on anyone if his pollsters tell him it plays. It took me three seconds to realize he was suggesting the Mohammed Horde had secret (but really overt, with celebrations and everything, although kinda secret, B-cuz nobody’s known about them until now) burning-building dance parties. In Jersey.

      Anybody who does anything for public consumption wants attention. I like to think that there’s a way to want attention without being a mad person like Trump or Mussolini. Maybe it’s all the same, I dunno.

      Here’s a (badly aspect-ratio formatted) nice clip of Jersey’s hero and Elvis Costello singing:

      Bruce is locked into audience love. It’s what makes his life worth living. And he’s amazing at it. Elvis is more ambivalent about audience love. And that’s fine, too — he never sneers at audiences for liking his wonderful songs from those first few albums, he only asks that they consider his newer work as well.

      What’s the line between wanting attention being egotistical and wanting sincere appreciation for your efforts? Most of us will never have to worry about it. Bruce does, and I think it’s made him a little crazy, but in a basically good way.

      • What’s interesting is that these kind of conservative trolls always assume that liberals have the same facile understanding of the issues that they do. Thus, there is the constant attacks on MSNBC. I assume this is because they get their info from Fox News. But the truth is that MSNBC is really not very liberal. It’s a whole projection kind of thing. Of course, in the case of this particular troll, there’s also blind racism. He’s a wide ranging troll, so you can see lots of his comments. But again: projection. He’s big on complaining about liberal racism, but he would make George Wallace blush.

    • Oooh, a troll!

      Can we play with him?

      Here is the problem with your idiocy (apt name there unless the much smarter person came up with it)-the recorded videos often were from other times and dates and celebrations.

      At the end of the Clinton Presidency and before Bush could trash it, the US really did have a fairly good reputation. We were the mad bombers because we bombed pretty much anything rather than commit troops on the ground but we were pretty well thought of by the Muslim community and other countries. That is the surprisingly overlooked legacy of the Clinton years. It was not perfect after all but it was actually like how Obama is regarded now outside the US.

      There supposedly were celebrations in Palestine but they were not in New Jersey and were mostly reported by Fox. See:

      Now, if this was anyone but Trump, I might give them a pass at thinking it was in New Jersey (not that NJ looks at all like Palestine but memory can get foggy after 14 years), however it is Trump. Who should have people on his payroll to point out his errors to ensure he does not make them. This is him lying for no reason other than airtime.

      • I don’t know if IdiotFinder911 will be back. He is more the bomb throwing kind of troll. Regardless, it won’t matter. You are wrong because you disagree with him and any information you have must have come from MSNBC and Saul Alinsky. And he is an expert because he listens to Rush Limbaugh and reads a lot of white supremacist websites.

  3. Israel does not do anything for us at this point and they actively harm us. But the generation of Americans that most remembers the Holocaust is almost entirely gone and the generations coming into power are mostly remembering the stories they were told (or not told) by their grandparents or great grandparents.

    What kind of impact this will have on how the US treats Israel is going to be interesting because AIPAC is slowly, as in it makes glaciers look like sprinters, losing power over American politicians as well as donors. And honestly at this point a lot of the people who are in power are very unhappy with how much push they get from AIPAC. It is like how twenty years ago, you never would have seen anyone say nice things about Cuba but now we are starting to normalize relations with them because the Cubans who remember the revolution of 1953-9 are gone now and their grandkids are more in favor of reopening relationships.

    • If I were an Israeli, my greatest concern would be that support for the country is becoming a partisan issue. And the Republicans only support Israel for two reasons: one is because Israel must exist so that Jesus can come back and kick ass. The other is because Israel has become a proto-fascist state where Benjamin Netanyahu is actually a centrist. The Republicans would be fine with a full-scale Israeli genocide in Palestine. And that’s what we are getting anyway — just in slow motion.

    • Lord, some ex-Cubans who resented Castro were full-bore terrorists. They shot tourists, they bombed hotels, they blew up planes. Actual planes with people aboard. They were considered heroes by many Miami ex-Cubans and mostly tolerated by the US government.

      How is this not terrorism? Because the target was acceptable, I suppose.

      • Same reason that the guy who just shot up the PP clinic is “mentally ill.”
        Because when it is the proper target, it is okay to do. So the people on Twitter and Facebook saying that it was a okay for this guy to kill three people and nearly kill nine more since PP does way worse things like you know, treating women as people who have the mental capacity to decide the size of their family.

  4. Oh, and BTW — I haven’t seen anybody else mention that some Israeli agents were detained for celebrating on that day (for, as you observe, perfectly reasonable emotions from their perspective.) Amazing catch. If you’re the first to point this out post-Trump, I salute with all 21 guns, and I don’t imagine others will pick up on it.

    • I’ve seen it mentioned by a number of people (Greenwald?) but no one has suggested why they might have done that. In these cases, I’m never clear whether what I think is insightful or just obvious. But it is worth pointing out regardless.

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