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Who Are You With?

iheartberlin.de

It is my belief—shared, it seems, with a growing number of observers, scholars, and ordinary folks—that the coming midterm elections of November 2018 would be of importance, and of consequences, unparalleled in our lifetime. Certainly in my lifetime as a citizen of this country, pushing thirty years. While this may sound to some of you as an exaggeration, or as something you’ve heard before in regard to an upcoming elections, I’m going to try and make the case that that isn’t so. That this coming elections are, indeed, crucial not only for the survival of this country as a democracy, but to liberal democracy—as opposed to guided, managed democracy—elsewhere in the world, including in Israel.

Lately, I’ve heard some pundits, and also some people with vast experience in military, intelligence and politics, men and women of quality and impressive credentials, stating that if we—i.e. liberal, democrats, progressives, and even like-minded republican-conservatives—won’t go to the polls this November on mass, and change dramatically the political landscape of this country, namely the congress, then it might be the last free election to be held in this country for years to come. And while this assessment and predicament—unleash the ‘Big Blue Wave’ or else—is a bit overblown in my estimation, the essence of it, and the fear that inspires it, are not.

A couple of months ago I was riveted to a Netflix drama, titled ‘Babylon Berlin’. Produced in Germany, it was one of the best shows on TV I’ve seen in years, and I highly recommend it if you have access to Netflix (not for the faint of heart, though). The story takes place in Berlin in 1929 and on into the early thirties, and while the plot is intriguing and the characters engrossing, and the scenery fascinating, what stood out for me above all was the reality of the depiction of Berlin—the center of cultural Europe at the time—and the political forces at play. Mostly: What made it possible for Hitler and his followers to—democratically!—prepare the ground for the ultimate, disastrous takeover of the country and most of Europe.

Yes, it happened ninety years ago or so in Germany. And yes, so many things are different, in culture and government from here in America. But oh boy, how much they’re also very similar. The ‘Golden Führer’ that is currently presiding and ruling over this country, won’t go down without a fight. And as he has proven already, he won’t give a damn if while fighting, he’ll destroy civility, democracy, and the economic, ecological future of this country. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we will rise for the occasion. The ‘Resistance’—as I pointed out in an article right after the 2016 election—need to be just as fierce. This might be our best chance to turn things around, and clear our skies from this menacing dark cloud. Not only for the sake of this country and its people, but the world at large.

And that includes Israel and the Middle East. Because, as things stand now, continuation of the Trump’s rule in America will mean continuation of the rule of Netanyahu in Israel, Sissi in Egypt, Assad’s in Syria. All these dictators (to various degrees and progress, especially in Netanyahu’s case), are in effect threatening the rule of law and free press. You might reproach me and say: “C’mon man, things have never been better in Israel.” The American Embassy is in Jerusalem; Israel is getting all the weapons the IDF needs and then some; America withdrew its support of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and putting tremendous economic pressure on that country; Egypt and Saudi Arabia are joining the Iran fight and support Israel; economically and even culturally Israel is entering the year of 5779 in a very good shape.

And yet, the other side of the coin is: Democracy in Israel has never been in a worse shape, and Israel’s democracy is now ranked lower in the latest ‘Democracy Index’ compiled by the ‘Economist Intelligence Unit’. Both USA (ranked 21) and Israel (ranked 30) were downgraded from “full democracies” to a “flawed democracies,” together with Botswana (ranked 28). The rule of law is teetering, as proved by the fact that the country’s Attorney General is dragging his feet in issuing a verdict on the Police recommendations to charge PM Netanyahu on bribery and fraud; A ‘Shin Bet state’ is in progress where Israeli citizens and American Jews with opposing views are stopped at entry ports to the country for interrogation, warning, and who knows what’s next, maybe torture.

You might ask yourself, so what? Things are good, otherwise. Well, let me tell you what. First, as the Palestinian issue and conflict has proven since Israel’s independence, it’s not going away anywhere. Ever. It is here to stay. Second, with the death of peace comes war. Whether with Hamas, Hezbollah, or Iran. It’s coming. Third, with the death of the Two-State solution, only one solution remains: One-State solution. And with the rule of Trump in America, and Netanyahu in Israel, that means Israel is in serious danger of becoming an ‘Apartheid State.’ Ruling over other people for more than fifty years, and now also issuing laws making the Arabs and Druze second-class citizens of the state. “The authoritarian/messianic clock in Israel is moving closer to midnight,” wrote Aryeh Cohen recently in ‘Tablet’. It’s up to us, even here in an American elections, to try and reverse that clock’s progress.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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Scoop of the Year: Proof of a Collusion

theweek.com

The post you are about to read—friends and foes, left and right—is a bit unusual. Unusual for this blog; unusual for this blogger; and unusual for you the reader. If you will join me for the ride, however, I believe you’ll be rewarded handsomely. And in the most unusual of ways. But first, let’s start with the word ‘scoop,’ which among other meanings and usage, is described in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary simply as “information especially of immediate interest.” For the purpose of our post here, at this time, this description will suffice. As for how convincing a case I’ll be making, and how newsworthy it’ll turn out to be, you’ll be the judge.

You may ask yourself also: What business does this blog have—a blog dedicated normally to the politics and culture of Israel, America, American Jews, and the interaction between these three entities—to the question of a possible ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and presidency, and Putin’s Russia? Well… let me tell you. Because it all starts with a new book, written by a well-known Israeli investigative journalist, Ronen Bergman, titled ‘Rise and Kill First, The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.’ The book is getting rave reviews for its “authoritative and exhaustive history of Israel’s targeted killings of its enemies, the most robust streamlined assassination machine in history,” (Washington Post, January 26), and asks “at what point does violence in the name of self-defense become an end in itself, so addictive to its practitioners… that it undermines the very values it is meant to preserve?” And yet, though this book is serving as our springboard here, it—and the important questions it raises—is not really our business today.

What our business is, here and now, concerning an interview given by the book’s author—who’s highly regarded for his deep knowledge and inside sources of Israeli intelligence—to the NPR program ‘Fresh Air with Terry Gross,’ on January 31. And especially a segment, an exchange towards the end of that most interesting interview (conducted that day by Dave Davies), which is very much related to the question we are probing today, and which is also, to my mind, the business of every person living and working in this land. For that purpose, since you might have missed that interview (which you can probably still find on the NPR website), here’s a short transcript of part of it—limited and condensed (not altered though) to the crux of the matter at hand—as related to our investigation:

Bergman: “… a group of American intelligent officers, in a regular meeting with their Israeli counterparts, just before Trump was elected, and before the inauguration, they suggested that the Israelis stop giving sensitive materiel to the White House. They said we are afraid that Trump or someone of his people under leverage from the Russians, they might give sensitive information to the Russians, who in their term will give that to Iran… And the Israelis were shocked… that the Americans will say something of that kind about their chief in command, about their president… Few months after that, it turned out that all the predictions that the American have made to the Israelis as warnings… everything came to be true! And President Trump apparently gave secret information, and I know the nature of that information: it is indeed delicate, and very, very secret.”

Davies: “… You know of specific information that the U.S. shared with the Russians that is not being revealed publicly and that you are not revealing publicly?”

Bergman: “The nature of the information that President Trump revealed to Foreign Minister Lavrov is of the most secretive nature. And that information could jeopardize modus operandi of Israeli Intelligence.”

Davies: “You are referring to something we don’t yet know?

Bergman: “Most of it we don’t yet know.”

Well, if that’s not a collusion, I don’t know what a collusion is. If that interview is not a proof of it, then I don’t know what proof is. Or what kind of proof is still needed. Worst of all: If that’s not an admission of the leverage the Russians have had, and are probably still having, on President Trump—”under leverage from the Russians,” Bergman said—then I don’t know what leverage is. And therefore, as in the beginning, I will resort again to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which defines ‘collusion’ as a “secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.” I’m not a legal expert, far from it, but for our purpose here, exposing the possibility, if not the certainty of collusion—and conspiracy, complicity, involvement, agreement, knowledge, all words associated with collusion—this will do. And the rest is history.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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