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2 September 2004 --- MER is Free
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Washington Scene:

'Eocons' on the March
(Christian Evangelicals + Jewish Neocons)

Bush Speaks to American Jews

American Jews Rally to AIPAC Israel

"As the FBI intensifies its investigation of Washington's pro-Israel
lobby, Jewish organizations are charging elements of the
government with orchestrating a borderline-antisemitic smear
campaign against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The community's wall-to-wall defense of the pro-Israel lobbying
powerhouse comes in response to media reports..."

Late Breaking Bush News:
The Republican campaign gets ready for shock waves, as the former Texas official who says he pulled strings to get George W. Bush into the Air National Guard finally goes public...
Ben Barnes, the former lieutenant governor of Texas, will finally break his silence and talk to the press about what role he played in helping Bush get a coveted slot in the Texas Air National Guard in 1968. Sources say Barnes has already sat down for a "60 Minutes" interview that will air next week... Barnes made headlines last week when his videotaped comments that he was "very ashamed" of getting Bush into the National Guard began circulating on the Web. He said the remorse was prompted by a recent visit to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, where he saw the names of thousands of other young men who did not enjoy the connections of the Bush family. Barnes made his comments in May and the video was posted on a pro-Kerry Web site in June, but word of it only began to spread widely last Friday...

MER - Mid-East Realities - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 2 Sept: The American Republican Party -- today a uniquely dangerous coalition of far right-wing Christian evangelicals and far hard-line Jewish Zionist neocons -- is running hard on 9/11 and it's double-headed Christian-Jewish crusading zeal. The extremist ideological contradictions and realities of it all are shielded by incessant nauseating repetition of the numbing words 'freedom' and 'democracy' coupled with the paralyzing slogan 'The War on Terrorism'. All the great social issues and the truly important things that will determine the strength and cohesion of American society in the future are being both neglected and short-changed. For crass short-term political gain those who now control the Grand Old Party (GOP) of today's flag-waving patriots is seriously undermining the standing of their country in the world at large and the basic underpinning structures and cultural fabric of their nation at home.
And yet many Americans are so simple-minded, so nationalistically xenophobic, and so Chrisitian bible evangelical, that this unprecedented 'Eocon' alliance may well pull off the November election and retain the power of the world's only current superpower. Though the cost to the basic cohesion and stability of international society is considerable, and though the cost in squandered resources and credibility of the American empire itself is huge, the Eocons march on heavily mortaging the future of us all.
Though they refuse to even discuss the historical realities, it is in fact primarily past U.S. and Israeli policies that lead the world to 9/11 and then transformed regional conflicts into a much more virulent general world conflagration. And now it is in fact current U.S. and Israeli policies that are fanning the flames of the world fire leading us all to either a world of unending conflict or an eruption into some new kind of 'modern-day' World War III.
As George W. Bush prepares to outline his 'vision' and 'agenda' to the American nation tonight from besieged New York City he today published the following appeal to American Jews in The Forward newspaper. Ironically, in the same issue of The Forward, the latest Israeli and Jewish Lobby spy scandal gets much play including the additional article below:

Ensure Stability in Middle East By Building Just, Free Societies

For more than a generation, the United States and Israel have been steadfast allies. Our nations are bound by our shared values and a strong commitment to freedom. These ties that have made us natural allies will never be broken.

Israel and the United States share a common history: We are both nations born of struggle and sacrifice. We are both founded by immigrants escaping religious persecution in other lands. Through the labors and strides of generations, we have both built vibrant democracies, founded in the rule of law and market economies. And we are both countries established with certain basic beliefs: that God watches over the affairs of men and values every human life.

September 11, 2001, awakened Americans to the knowledge that we can no longer depend on geography to protect us from the heinous acts of terrorists. We experienced the horror of a brutal attack on our own soil terror flooded our streets, and entered our places of work. With this experience came a better realization of the struggles borne every day by the people of Israel, and we developed an even stronger determination to defeat terrorism and to eliminate the threat it poses to free people everywhere.

Terrorism has many faces, but all those who use terror as a weapon against free people burn with the same hatred and the same will to destroy. To build the lasting peace that we both seek in all corners of the globe, we must use every resource to defeat terror and ensure our security. America has led a relentless global campaign against terrorists and their supporters, and we are glad to have Israel at our side.

We are pursuing a global strategy to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

We have already stopped shipments of chemical precursors and components bound for states that sponsor terror. By standing up for our principles, countries like Libya have renounced their weapons of mass destruction programs. And other nations will follow.

We are mobilizing the international community to join in our efforts to eliminate the threat of nuclear proliferation that Iran poses to the Middle East and to the world, and we have already seen results. Through the influence of European countries, we have obtained a commitment from Iran to comply with the additional International Atomic Energy Agency protocol. And the IAEA is beginning to take stronger action against Iran, bringing us closer to ending its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.

For the sake of peace and security, we ended the regime of Saddam Hussein. That regime cast a dark shadow of aggression over the Middle East for decades. The regime invaded its neighbors and used weapons of mass destruction not only against its neighbors, but also against its own people. This terror-sponsoring regime defied the demands of the free world for more than a decade. We acted to end its reign of terror, and because of our actions, America and Israel are more secure, the Middle East is growing more stable and the world is better off.

The peace we seek depends on defeating the violent, but the mission we pursue throughout the world is so much greater: the ideology of terrorism must be conquered and overcome. Terrorists find influence and recruits in societies where bitterness and resentment are common, and hope and opportunity are rare. Our best hope for lasting security and stability across the Middle East is the establishment of just and free societies. And so across that vital region, America is standing for the expansion of human liberty.

Freedom is at the heart of our approach to bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. My administration is strongly committed to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state.

For the sake of peace, we are committed to helping the Palestinian people establish a democratic and viable state of their own. Israel will benefit from a truly responsible partner in seeking to achieve peace. The Palestinian people deserve democratic institutions and responsible leaders. Progress toward this vision creates responsibilities for Israel, the Palestinian people and Arab nations. It is essential to the successful establishment of peace that all parties renounce violence and mutually pursue the war against terror.

Security is the foundation for peace. All parties must embrace democracy and reform and take the necessary steps for peace. I am troubled by the violence in Gaza and it underscores the need for all parties to seize every opportunity for peace. I strongly support the plan announced by Prime Minister Sharon to withdraw military installations and settlements from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. This plan is a bold and courageous step that can bring us closer to the goal of two states Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

Sharon's disengagement decision has given the Palestinian people and the free world a chance to take bold steps of their own toward peace. We must now call upon the Palestinian people to reject their corrupt and failed leaders and insist on a leadership committed to reform, progress and peace. When they renounce the terror and violence that frustrate their aspirations and cost so many innocent lives, they will have the opportunity to build a modern economy, creating the institutions and developing the habits of liberty. The Palestinian people deserve a better future, just as the people of Israel deserve a better future. And democracy will deliver this future to us all.

A lasting peace in the Holy Land has been both a shining vision and a venerable international goal for generations. Our vision is a Middle East where borders are crossed for purposes of trade and commerce, not crossed for the purposes of murder and war. Our vision is a Middle East in which the shadow cast by terror is removed, and where fear and threats are only a distant memory. This vision is within our grasp if we have the faith, the courage and the resolve to achieve it.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to peace is found in the hearts of men and women. The Jewish people have seen, over the years and over the centuries, that hate prepares the way for violence. The refusal to expose and confront intolerance can lead to crimes beyond imagining. So we have a duty to expose and confront anti-Semitism, wherever it is found.

Anti-Semitism is not a problem of the past; the hatred of Jews has not ceased. This intolerable hatred can still be found in the Middle East, and our nation will continue to call upon Arab governments to end libels and incitements. The demonization of Israel, using anti-Zionist rhetoric, can be a flimsy cover for anti-Semitism, and can contribute to an atmosphere of fear in which synagogues are desecrated, reputations are slandered, and people are threatened. I will continue to call upon our friends around the world to renounce and fight any sign of anti-Semitism in their midst.

We are living through historic times. And together, the United States and Israel are being called to do important work in the world. We will stand together against bigotry in every land and every language, and we will not rest until we have defeated the violent men with patient, determined justice. Through our resolute efforts, human freedom and the peace that freedom brings will prevail.

The people of Israel should know they have a friend in the United States. We remain dedicated to peace and security in the Middle East and in every corner of the globe.

* George W. Bush is president of the United States.

Groups Rally to Lobby's Side as FBI Intensifies Israeli Espionage Probe

2 September - WASHINGTON As the FBI intensifies its investigation of Washington's pro-Israel lobby, Jewish organizations are charging elements of the government with orchestrating a borderline-antisemitic smear campaign against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The community's wall-to-wall defense of the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse comes in response to media reports that the FBI is investigating the possibility that a Pentagon analyst passed classified material on to Aipac officials, who then handed the information over to the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Early in the week, many Jewish communal officials were advising a relatively muted response, hoping the scandal would blow over quickly. But in recent days, law enforcement officials have told reporters that the FBI's investigation is intensifying, arrests are imminent and the case has been assigned to federal prosecutors. In addition, according to one top GOP congressman, the House could end up launching its own probe of the allegations.

Depending on how the investigation plays out, Jewish communal insiders said, the allegations could severely undermine the influence of Aipac, the most influential pro-Israel organization in Washington and one of the country's most powerful lobbying groups. In turn, they added, the scandal could damage American-Israeli relations and hamper efforts to stop Iran's push for nuclear weapons. With the stakes running so high, Jewish communal leaders are rallying to Aipac's defense.

Several Jewish organizational leaders are expressing outrage over reports that an Israeli diplomat and Jewish organizational officials were under FBI surveillance. Others are also calling for a federal probe into what they describe as an unfounded campaign of government leaks aimed at smearing Aipac and Israel in order to weaken neoconservative officials in the Bush administration.

"The leaks are more serious than the charges because once you look at the charges, they don't amount to anything," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "When things quiet down, we should be calling for hearings and investigations into the leaks."

The ADL director also blasted the apparent surveillance being conducted by the FBI. "We wake up in the morning to learn that the American government is surveying a registered diplomat based on what? And then the case grows because he happens to have lunch with a bureaucrat and a Jewish organization?" Foxman said. "All that is very troubling. I hope if there is an investigation or hearings that we will come to some understanding about who set this in motion."

A spokesman with one Jewish group said it was likely that other Jewish organizations were also being monitored.

The FBI refused to answer any questions about its ongoing investigations or surveillance targets.

In an August 27 dispatch for CBS News, Leslie Stahl reported that the FBI has been investigating for more than a year whether a Pentagon analyst passed to Israel secret materials about White House deliberations over Iran, using Aipac as a conduit. The probe was described as an espionage investigation. But press reports during the weekend suggested that the suspicions were less severe and that they may involve an unauthorized leak of confidential information rather than spying.

This week, however, Justice Department sources have been painting a more ominous picture in leaks to reporters. According to some press reports, the FBI was surveying an Israeli diplomat and Aipac officials for more than a year and a half, on suspicions of spying. The surveillance, reportedly, included phone tapping and photographing. There was no indication of what may have triggered the probe.

In the course of the investigation, more than a year ago, FBI agents were reportedly monitoring a meeting between an Israeli diplomat and an Aipac official at a Washington restaurant. As the two were talking, Pentagon official Lawrence Franklin, the head of the Iran desk at the Department of Defense, joined the two. Franklin, who was previously stationed in Israel as a specialist for the U.S. Air Force Reserve, soon became the focus of the probe, and at one point reportedly was seen trying to pass a classified document on the administration's Iran policy to an Aipac staffer.

Two Aipac staffers were mentioned in press reports in connection to the investigation: Steve Rosen, the group's veteran director of foreign policy affairs, who is considered second in seniority to Aipac's executive director, Howard Kohr, and Keith Weissman, who handles Iran, the Persian Gulf and oil issues.

The two were reportedly interviewed by FBI agents August 27, as the story broke in the media. The interviews were reportedly halted when the two asked to talk to a lawyer. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the FBI interviews of the two Aipac officials will resume shortly, but for now it appears unlikely that either man will be accused of any wrongdoing. Neither has been advised that he is a target of the investigation, and government officials said that the men's legal status remained uncertain, according to the Times.

Aipac spokesmen refused to comment on the identity of the officials implicated.

The Israeli diplomat whose name was mentioned Naor Gilon, the Israeli Embassy's political adviser is spending the summer in Israel. He told Ma'ariv that he did nothing wrong. "All my activities were well within the parameters of accepted norms and procedures," he said.

Franklin, a non-Jewish polyglot who friends and colleagues at the Pentagon described as a neoconservative and a staunch supporter of Israel, is reportedly cooperating with investigators.

According to one congressional leader, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, a congressional probe is possible. Blunt, a Missouri Republican, issued a statement saying: "While the House will want to look carefully at any allegations that might endanger our national security, it will begin that look with a record of great confidence in our relationship with Aipac."

Blunt's press secretary said that "should the allegations prove to warrant" such a probe, there was talk about a possible "congressional investigation" or "an informal fact-finding" look into suspicions of wrongdoing by Aipac employees and Israeli officials. But other congressional leaders said they were unaware of the possibility of such a probe, adding that one would be unlikely as long as the FBI investigation has not produced conclusive evidence of wrongdoing.

In a conference call Monday with Kohr and Aipac's president, Bernice Manocherian, Jewish communal leaders from across the political spectrum voiced staunch support for the organization and expressed confidence that its officials had done nothing wrong. During the 45-minute call, as well as in public statements, Jewish communal leaders did not ask Aipac executives to lay out their version of the facts or to explain reports that the group had been under FBI surveillance for more than one year.

In several public statements, Aipac has not denied that its staffers held meetings with Franklin or relayed information from him to Israeli officials. Instead, the organization has insisted that it did not knowingly receive or pass along any classified information.

This explanation seemed to satisfy many Jewish communal leaders, as well as the dozens of influential lawmakers who showed up for Aipac events in New York during the Republican convention (please see story on Page 9).

Several participants in the conference call said they believed that the allegations were part of an effort by certain elements in the CIA and the State Department to undercut the influence of neoconservative officials in the Bush administration.

Aipac's defenders attempted to poke a slew of holes in the version of the case against the organization being put forth in the media. For example, Aipac supporters said, Israeli officials and Aipac executives are in a position to contact Franklin's superiors directly about the administration's debates over Iran policy. They also asked why, if the FBI had such explosive evidence of espionage, as its agents have suggested in leaks to the media, the bureau has not acted on the information after a year of investigations.

Some participants in the conference call Monday suggested launching a media counterattack, but were convinced by several of the more experienced communal leaders that a better press strategy would be to keep a low profile in hope that the story would fade away. "We all believe that this story will quietly deflate," said the head of one Jewish organization. "If it doesn't, however, and the accusations will really amount to crimes, that would be devastating... for the whole community."

In several ways, Jewish community leaders said, the scandal is bound to cause damage to Israel and Aipac, as well as to the United States-Israel relationship. American officials are likely to be worried about the FBI monitoring in their contacts with Israelis. Aipac, an organization that to a large degree is successful because of its image of virtual omnipotence, is weakened when portrayed as vulnerable. Cooperation between Israel and the United States in stopping Iran's quest for nuclear weapons also may suffer.

In the short run, Jewish activists said, the greatest damage could be the re-emergence of the specter of Jonathan Pollard, the American Jewish Navy analyst who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying on the United States for Israel. His case raised new questions in certain quarters of the defense establishment about the loyalty of Jewish employees. "In one way this is different, because Franklin isn't Jewish," said a prominent American Jewish activist. "In another it's worse: Aipac is caught in the middle, and that casts a shadow over Jewish agencies and institutions." With reporting from Ami Eden, Marc Perelman and E.J. Kessler in New York.

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