The six words that got Marc Lamont Hill fired from CNN
Hill’s dismissal highlights how pro-Israel lobbying groups control the US discourse on Palestine and Israel.
09 Dec 2018 12:27 GMT
When you boil it down, he was fired for the use of six words: ‘from the river to the sea’ – a reference to the territory of historical Palestine, situated between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean prior to the creation of Israel in 1948. The reference was deemed anti-Semitic.
“When Marc Lamont Hill says ‘a free Palestine from the river to the sea’, he is acknowledging that Palestinians aren’t just clustered in the West Bank and Gaza but in fact we are from places like Akka and Yafa and Magdal and the Galilee and all parts of Palestine,” explains Susan Abulhawa, Palestinian writer and author. “And the significance of this is that Israel has always sought to erase this historic fact. They are not just objecting to use of the words ‘from the river to the sea’ but ‘Palestine’.”
Hill’s dismissal came on the heels of a seemingly coordinated attack by pro-Israel groups that have come to have a large say over what constitutes acceptable discourse on Palestine in the United States, by wilfully conflating legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, and convincing news outlets to do the same.
It is crucial for people to understand the magnitude of the threat to free speech in the form of denying the ability of pro-Palestine activists to be part of the narrative in the United States.Omar Baddar, deputy director, Arab American Institute
It wasn’t long ago that CNN adopted the slogan “facts first”. When it comes to Israel though, it’s much more complicated than that, as some facts are clearly more inconvenient than others.
“In terms of what Marc Lamont Hill said, I think CNN was thinking probably about viewers and about the Jewish community and saying, well the majority of the community view this as a deeply problematic, as something that threatens their very existence, and so they made that decision based on that,” says Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor at The Forward.
By firing Lamont, who used to balance out the discussion on Israel-Palestine, “CNN essentially perpetuated this narrative, this false dichotomy,” explains Abraham Gutman, opinion writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“This idea that you have to choose don’t critique Israel or be anti-Semitic. It’s even more problematic because of the positive role that it could play in this conflict and this narrative. That discussion will not be on CNN because they fired Dr Hill, but that will be a perfect place and a perfect opportunity to have this discussion.”
CNN’s treatment of the Middle East conflict can be measured not just in the pro-Israel voices it pays to provide punditry, like former Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren, ex-US Senator Rick Santorum and lawyer Alan Dershowitz, but in the airtime they are given.
Even the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has said Oren’s opinions verge on conspiracy theories, yet he’s still a paid CNN contributor and is often interviewed by Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer’s bio on CNN’s news site is as revealing about the network as it is about him. It’s extensive, a detailed list of his career going back 40 years, but nowhere does CNN mention that in the 1980s, Blitzer worked at AIPAC as a paid lobbyist for Israel.
“It’s institutional, it’s embedded in the fabric of CNN,” points out Abulhawa. “All these people get to stay on CNN and Wolf Blitzer, who is an ardent Zionist and with a history of working for the Israeli lobby, he gets to frame the story and rarely do Palestinians ever get a voice on CNN.”
Omar Baddar, deputy director of the Arab American Institute, says it is “crucial for people to understand the magnitude of the threat to free speech in the form of denying the ability of pro-Palestine activists to be part of the narrative in the United States. We are facing a very serious threat to free speech in the form of denying the right to speak honestly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the right to advocate on it.”
Source: Al Jazeera
Watch the film the Israel lobby didn’t want you to see
The Electronic Intifada
2 November 2018
The Electronic Intifada has obtained a complete copy of The Lobby – USA, a four-part undercover investigation by Al Jazeera into Israel’s covert influence campaign in the United States.
The film was made by Al Jazeera during 2016 and was completed in October 2017.
Although Al Jazeera’s director-general claimed last month that there were outstanding legal issues with the film, his assertions have been flatly contradicted by his own journalists.
In March, The Electronic Intifada was the first to report on any of the film’s specific content. We followed this in August by publishing the first extract of the film, and shortly after Max Blumenthal at the Grayzone Project released others.
Now The Electronic Intifada can reveal for the first time that it has obtained all four parts of the film.
You can watch the first two parts in the video embeds above and below.
To get unprecedented access to the Israel lobby’s inner workings, undercover reporter “Tony” posed as a pro-Israel volunteer in Washington.
The resulting film exposes the efforts of Israel and its lobbyists to spy on, smear and intimidate US citizens who support Palestinian human rights, especially BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Censored by Qatar
The film was suppressed after the government of Qatar came under intense pressure not to release it – ironically from the very same lobby whose influence and antics the film exposes.
Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s head of investigations, revealed in an article for The Forward in March that Al Jazeera had sent more than 70 letters to individuals and organizations who appear in or are discussed in the film, providing them with an opportunity to respond.
Only three did so. Instead, pro-Israel groups have endeavored to suppress the film that exposes the lobby’s activities.
In April, Al Jazeera’s management was forced to deny a claim by the hard-right Zionist Organization of America that the film had been canceled altogether.
In June, The Electronic Intifada learned that a high level source in Doha had said the film’s indefinite delay was due to “national security” concerns of the Qatari government.
As revealed in a clip published by The Electronic Intifada earlier this week, the film shows Julia Reifkind – then an Israeli embassy employee – describing her typical work day as “mainly gathering intel, reporting back to Israel … to report back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.”
She discusses the Israeli government “giving our support” to front groups “in that behind-the-scenes way.”
Reifkind also admits to using fake Facebook profiles to infiltrate the circles of Palestine solidarity activists on campus.
The film also reveals that US-based groups coordinate their efforts directly with the Israeli government, particularly its Ministry of Strategic Affairs.
Run by a former military intelligence officer, the ministry is in charge of Israel’s global campaign of covert sabotage targeting the BDS movement.
The film shows footage of the very same ex-military intelligence officer, Sima Vaknin-Gil, claiming to have mapped Palestinian rights activism “globally. Not just the United States, not just campuses, but campuses and intersectionality and labor unions and churches.”
She promises to use this data for “offense activity” against Palestine activists.
Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, claims in the undercover footage that his organization uses “corporate level, enterprise-grade social media intelligence software” to gather lists of Palestine-related student events on campus, “generally within about 30 seconds or less” of them being posted online.
Baime also admits on hidden camera that his group “coordinates” with the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs.
Baime states that his researchers “issue early warning alerts to our partners” – including Israeli ministries.
Baime’s colleague Ian Hersh admits in the film to adding Israel’s “Ministry of Strategic Affairs to our operations and intelligence brief.”
Baime describes how his group has used anonymous websites to target activists.
“With the anti-Israel people, what’s most effective, what we’ve found at least in the last year, is you do the opposition research, put up some anonymous website, and then put up targeted Facebook ads,” Baime explains in part three of the film.
“Canary Mission is a good example,” he states. “It’s psychological warfare.”
The film names, for the first time, convicted tax evader Adam Milstein as the multimillionaire funder and mastermind of Canary Mission – an anonymous smear site targeting student activists.
The Electronic Intifada revealed this in a clip in August.
Eric Gallagher, then fundraising director for The Israel Project, is seen in the undercover footage admitting that “Adam Milstein, he’s the guy who funds” Canary Mission.
Milstein also funds The Israel Project, Gallagher states.
Gallagher says that when he was working for AIPAC, Washington’s most powerful Israel lobby group, “I was literally emailing back and forth with [Adam Milstein] while he was in jail.”
Despite not replying to Al Jazeera’s request for comment, Milstein denied that he and his family foundation “are funders of Canary Mission” on the same day The Electronic Intifada published the clip.
Since then, Josh Nathan-Kazis of The Forward has identified several other groups in the US who fund Canary Mission.
In March, The Electronic Intifada published the first details of what is in the film.
We reported that it showed Sima Vaknin-Gil claiming to have leading neoconservative think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies working for her ministry.
The undercover footage shows Vaknin-Gil claiming that “We have FDD. We have others working on” projects including “data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organizations, money trail. This is something that only a country, with its resources, can do the best.”
As noted in part one of the documentary, the existence of the film and the identity of the undercover reporter became known after footage he had shot for it was used in Al Jazeera’s The Lobby – about Israel’s covert influence campaign in the UK – aired in early 2017.
Since then, Israel lobbyists have heavily pressured Qatar to prevent the US film from airing.
Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s head of investigations, first confirmed in October 2017 that the network had run an undercover reporter in the US Israel lobby at the same time as in the UK.
Swisher promised the film would be released “very soon,” but it never came out.
Multiple Israel lobby sources told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper in February that they had received assurances from Qatari leaders late last year that the documentary would not be aired.
Qatar denied this, but the paper stood by its story.
Swisher’s op-ed in The Forward was his first public comment on the matter since he had announced the documentary.
In it, he refutes Israel lobby allegations about the film and expresses frustration that Al Jazeera had not aired it, apparently due to outside pressure.
Several pro-Israel lawmakers in Washington have piled on more pressure by pushing the Department of Justice to force Al Jazeera to register as a “foreign agent” under a counterespionage law dating from the 1930s.
The Israel lobby goes to Doha
They have included some of the most right-wing and extreme figures among Israel’s defenders in the US, such as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America.
Swisher wrote in The Forward that he ran into Dershowitz at a Doha restaurant during one of these visits, and invited the professor to a private viewing of the film.
“I have no problem with any of the secret filming,” Swisher says Dershowitz told him afterwards. “And I can even see this being broadcast on PBS” – the US public broadcaster.
Yet it appears that Israel lobby efforts to quash the film were successful – until now.
Watch final episodes of Al Jazeera film on US Israel lobby
The Electronic Intifada
6 November 2018
He discovered a network of organizations acting as fronts for the Israeli state to spy on, disrupt and sabotage USsupporters of Palestinian rights – especially BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
In the final two parts of of the film, Tony gets a deeper look at Israel’s covert influence campaigns during his internship for The Israel Project.
Watch parts three and four in the videos embedded above and below.
In part three, Al Jazeera interviews Bill Mullen, a professor of American Studies at Purdue University in Indiana, and a leading activist in the BDS movement.
As The Electronic Intifada reported in 2016, Mullen and his family found themselves targeted by an organized smear campaign, starting in March of that year.
Several anonymous websites sprang up, containing fabricated accounts of sexual harassment by Mullen, supposedly by a student.
In the film, Mullen describes the campaign as an attempt to destroy his marriage. His wife, also a professor, was sent a link to one of the sites.
The smear campaign seems to have been manufactured by Israel’s agents in the US.
“These people will do anything”
“One of the [anonymous] accounts explains that in the process of supposedly putting my hand on her, I’d invited her to a Palestine organizational meeting. And I thought, you’re sort of putting your cards on the table there,” Mullen says, explaining how he came to realize that pro-Israel actors were behind the smears.
Mullen recounts how the anonymous websites also used the name of his daughter, which he says was the worst moment for him, when he realized “these people will do anything, they’re capable of doing anything.”
A Students for Justice in Palestine activist who Mullen worked with, speaks anonymously in an interview with Al Jazeera.
She too was targeted by an anonymous smear site, which falsely claimed she engaged in “partying, drinking” and “promiscuity.” She recounts how this led to tension and upset at home, with her parents telling her to end her SJP involvement.
Smear tactics have been common features of “advocacy” for Israel for decades. Israel lobbyists know they cannot win open debate on the actual issues.
Such attempts to target and sabotage activists’ personal lives represent an escalation in tactics in recent years, led by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs.
These tactics are more reminiscent of Israeli intelligence services’ actions against Palestinian resistance organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the usage of blackmail, disinformation, rumors and sabotage.
This is not entirely surprising considering that the Ministry of Strategic Affairs is largely staffed by Israeli spies.
“It’s psychological warfare”
In undercover footage seen in episode one, the Israel on Campus Coalition’s Jacob Baime admitted to coordinating with the Israeli ministry.
He described his approach as “modeled on General Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq,” explaining that they “copied a lot from that strategy that has been working really well for us, actually.”
Although Baime seems confused about the country – the US general’s “counterinsurgency” effort was focused on Afghanistan, not Iraq – McChrystal’s strategy emphasizes “offensive information operations.”
In episode three, Baime explains how his organization applies this against “the anti-Israel people” by putting “up some anonymous website” along with targeted Facebook ads.
Baime explains that as a result activists “either shut down or they spend time responding to it and investigating it, which is time they can’t spend attacking Israel.”
“It’s psychological warfare, it drives them crazy,” he claims.
He later states that the Israel on Campus Coalition has a budget of some $2 million for “research” for such smear campaigns alone.
As previously reported by The Electronic Intifada, episode three also names convicted tax evader, and multimillionaire Israel lobby financier Adam Milstein as the founder of secretive blacklisting site Canary Mission.
It also reveals the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as another agent of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs.
The foundation’s Jonathan Schanzer admits in undercover footage that “anti-Semitism as a smear is not what is used to be.”
“The foundation that AIPAC sat on is rotting”
Episode four reveals how Israel is working against the Black Lives Matter movement.
Israel’s consul-general in Atlanta is seen in undercover footage complaining that “the major problem for Israel is with the young generation of the Black community.”
The Israel Project’s successful attempts to influence American mainstream media are also detailed, with former CNN journalist Jim Clancy describing it as “propaganda.”
Also in episode four, Tony goes along for the ride with a comically unenthusiastic group of young, conservative think tank fellows, who are compelled by their bosses to join a protest against a Students for Justice in Palestine conference.
Max Blumenthal at the Grayzone Project previously released clips from these scenes, but all the footage can now be viewed on this page.
In the undercover footage, the fellows admit to Tony that what they are doing is “astroturfing” – a term for fake grassroots activism orchestrated or paid for by an interest group.
This feeds into the film’s ultimate conclusion, in the words of Eric Gallagher, Tony’s boss at The Israel Project.
Gallagher admits that the fortunes of AIPAC, Washington’s most powerful Israel lobby group, and his former employer, are not what they once were.
“The foundation that AIPAC sat on is rotting,” he laments.
“There used to be actual widespread public support for Israel in the United States. So I don’t think that AIPAC is going to remain as influential as it is.”
He adds: “I don’t think that AIPAC is the tip of the spear anymore, which is worrisome, because who is?”