In Jon We Trust?

Appalled by the Bush administration’s foreign policy, and feeling let down by a compliant news media, many young Americans turned to Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show for some critical insight into what had gone so terribly wrong with their country, as well as some light relief from the horror of it all. Ironically, it seemed to many that the comedian’s fake news show was the only place where one could learn the truth about the “war on terror” and other disastrous Bush-era policies. Summarizing the phenomenon, author Gene Healy wrote, “An enormous chunk of Generation Y, those born roughly after 1977, gets its political information from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, a comedy news program devoted to the idea that we’re led by fools.”

With Obama failing to bring the “change” that many believed in, the perceived need to tune in to The Daily Show is unlikely to waver anytime soon. But is the faith many Americans have in Stewart to help them understand their country’s problems justified? The recent interview of a Palestinian politician and a Jewish American peace activist suggests that that faith is seriously misplaced.

In the extended interview (not broadcast on Comedy Central but available on The Daily Show website) with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti and Anna Baltzer, Stewart made up to twenty factual errors. These can be broadly grouped into about half a dozen myths: Jews “returned” to Palestine after 2,000 years in exile; Israel provided a haven for Jews suffering persecution in Muslim countries; Iran is developing nuclear weapons, with which it wants to “wipe Israel off the map”; Israel is unfairly singled out for criticism, mainly due to Arab anti-Semitism; both sides are equally to blame for the conflict; and Palestinians can’t agree among themselves, so you can hardly blame Israel for not making peace with them.

Many of these myths – all of which serve Zionist interests well – are so transparently false that it is hardly necessary to debunk them all here. Instead, this article will focus on the last one: the question of Palestinian disunity. This will, it is hoped, also throw some light on the common source of America’s problems in the Middle East.

“It seems like to me that the Palestinians and the Israelis both have to fight a civil war almost,” Stewart opined, “before they can get a chance to then, I guess, fight each other.” While it is of course true that no nation is “homogenous,” his characterization of Palestinians overlooks a significant factor: the role played by Israel and its American devotees in promoting division among them.

Israel began supporting Hamas in the late 1970s as “a competing religious alternative,” a former CIA official explained, “to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO.” Almost three decades later, after Hamas won the 2006 elections, a faction within the Bush administration sought to divide Palestinians again.

The covert operation to arm Fatah so they could seize power from the democratically elected Hamas was considered foolhardy by many, however. An exasperated Pentagon official asked rhetorically, “Who the hell outside of Washington wants to see a civil war among Palestinians?” More to the point, he might have asked, Who the hell inside of Washington wants to see a civil war among Palestinians?

David Rose’s 2008 article, “The Gaza Bombshell,” in the Si Newhouse owned Vanity Fair, gives the impression that Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush were the main movers behind the plot. To emphasize the point, the caption below a photo illustration of Rice and Bush with a blood red Gaza City skyscape in the background reads: “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush, whose secret Palestinian intervention backfired in a big way.”

But there are reasonable grounds to doubt Rose’s credibility. Before the invasion of Iraq, citing a slew of unnamed intelligence sources, he suggested in a number of articles that Saddam Hussein had connections to Al-Qaeda, 9/11, and the anthrax attacks. Despite Rose’s pre-Iraq war disinformation, antiwar writer and activist Amy Goodman wasn’t deterred from featuring his Gaza article on her popular alternative news show, Democracy Now.

Digging a little deeper than Rose and Goodman, Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry, co-directors of Conflicts Forum, a London-based group dedicated to providing an opening to political Islam, locate the origins of the failed plot. In “Elliott Abrams’ Uncivil War” they write, “The Abrams program was initially conceived in February of 2006 by a group of White House officials …. These officials, we are told, were led by Abrams, but included national security advisors working in the Office of the Vice President, including prominent neoconservatives David Wurmser and John Hannah.”

In the popular consciousness, Dick Cheney came to be seen, particularly in the antiwar Left, as the Svengali who induced Bush to wage war in the Middle East in the interests of Big Oil. While Cheney’s ties to Halliburton make that narrative appear plausible, a closer examination of the facts reveals that the Vice President had more intimate ties with a far more powerful and belligerent lobby.

An advisory board member of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Cheney has long-standing ties with the Israel Lobby. Indeed, his staff was “hand-picked” by Paul Wolfowitz protégé Lewis Libby. Described as “almost part of Cheney’s brain” by Bob Woodward, Libby selected Cheney’s staff from neoconservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and WINEP.

It was these pro-Israel “scholars” not oil industry lobbyists who wrote the war propaganda for the executive branch. As Robert Dreyfuss points out in his American Prospect article on Cheney’s office, “Vice Squad,” Libby and Hannah produced “the most inflammatory and inaccurate speeches delivered by Cheney and Bush.”

David Wurmser, one of the main sources for David Rose’s Gaza article, is no stranger to propaganda either. In 1999, he wrote Tyranny’s Ally: America’s Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, in which he warned Americans about the growing threat of Iraq’s WMD.

His wife, Meyrav Wurmser, an Israeli citizen, co-founded the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) with Yigal Carmon, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence. Widely considered to be a propaganda front for Israeli intelligence, MEMRI translates and distributes, in the words of journalist Jim Lobe, “particularly virulent anti-U.S. and anti-Israel articles appearing in the Arab press to key U.S. media and policymakers.” What better way to get Americans to believe that they and Israel face a common enemy?

Both Wurmsers worked with Richard Perle and Douglas Feith on writing the 1996 “Clean Break” strategy for Benjamin Netanyahu. The plan for remaking the Middle East in Israel’s interest had to wait till after 9/11 to be implemented, however, when Bush became more susceptible to the very same advisers and their associates.

It was this neoconservative cabal that put Abrams into the position where he could instigate the Gaza coup. Writing in Salon magazine, an “anonymous” veteran foreign service officer explained how Abrams, who had been convicted for unlawfully withholding information about the Iran-Contra scandal from Congress, came to be hired by Rice. In “The State Department’s Extreme Makeover,” he wrote: “In December 2002, Wolfowitz, Feith, Wurmser and Vice President Cheney’s national security advisor, I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, acting together, maneuvered Condoleezza Rice into appointing Elliott Abrams to the position of special assistant to the president and senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council.”

Considering Abrams’ extreme Likudnik views, former CIA political analysts Kathleen and Bill Christison wryly commented on his appointment, “Putting him in a key policymaking position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is like entrusting the henhouse to a fox.”

In a revealing comment on who exactly was directing national security during Bush’s first term, “Anonymous” predicted that Rice would be the neocons’ second choice to replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State. Since the Iraq debacle was likely to militate against their first choice, Wolfowitz, they planned “to again play behind Condoleezza Rice.”

It is worth noting that Abrams is the son-in-law of Norman Podhoretz. From his bully pulpit at Commentary magazine, the neocon godfather harangues Americans into waging “a very long war” against what he calls “Islamofascism” – a disparate group of enemies that looks suspiciously like an Israeli hit list.

As to where Abrams’ own loyalty lies, his 1997 book, Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in a Christian America, is unequivocal. Jews “are in a permanent covenant with God and with the land of Israel and its people,” he claims. “Their commitment will not weaken if the Israeli government pursues unpopular policies.”

Shouldn’t Americans be more wary of national security advisers with an avowed uncritical allegiance to a foreign country, especially one which seeks to induce the United States to fight an endless war with one-fifth of the world’s population?

And instead of poking fun at convenient scapegoats like Bush, Cheney and Rice for America’s disastrous Middle East policy – as The Daily Show did for eight years to great acclaim – hasn’t Jon Stewart a responsibility to his many fans to sift the merely plausible from the hard facts? When those facts point to a handful of other Jewish Americans whose “covenant” with their tribal God endangers all Americans, to do otherwise is to make fools of his audience.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “In Jon We Trust?

  1. Thanks for this excellent article. I had not seen this show; your analysis is extremely valuable. I’ve also once written about John Stewart in regard to Israel-Palestine:
    http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/jonstewart.html

    I believe this piece generated a great many calls to him. I also faxed his office numerous pages of information about Israeli torture.

    I’m not surprised that I wasn’t invited on his show. I’ve also, despite nine years of working on Israel-Palestine, never been on Amy Goodman’s — nor have the Washington Report for Middle East Affairs editors, after almost 28 years on this issue. I suspect we’re not of the correct ethnicity.

  2. Thanks, Alison. I suspect you’re right.

    Speaking of ethnic bias, for one of the most pathetic attempts to exculpate Israel and its supporters from their responsibility for the Iraq war, listen to RawStory’s Larisa Alexandrovna on Antiwar Radio obfuscate every time the interviewer tries to mention the Israeli connection…

    http://antiwar.com/radio/2010/03/12/larisa-alexandrovna-5/

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