The American media is known primarily for its sobriety and even-handedness, especially concerning Palestinian rights, which is why I’m deeply surprised that the latest controversy out of Israel hasn’t been covered by any American media outlets at all.
Electronic Intifada is reporting that Israel has stolen as much as $2 billion from Palestinian workers since 1970:
Over the past four decades Israel has defrauded Palestinians working inside Israel of more than $2 billion by deducting from their salaries contributions for welfare benefits to which they were never entitled, Israeli economists have revealed.
A new report, “State Robbery,” to be published later this month, says the “theft” continued even after the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 and part of the money was supposed to be transferred to a special fund on behalf of the workers.
According to information supplied by Israeli officials, most of the deductions from the workers’ pay were invested in infrastructure projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territories — a presumed reference to the massive state subsidies accorded to the settlements.
The report was compiled by two human rights groups — the Alternative Information Centre and Kav La’Oved — who go on to say that their estimate of the total fraud is very conservative, and could in fact be much larger. The report won’t be released until later this month, at which point I’ll try to follow up on the reaction, if there is one.
If the reaction to the Goldstone report — which accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during last year’s Massacre of Gaza, but was proportionally critical of Israel — is any indication, don’t expect this latest report to radically alter the dialogue in America.
It’s also worth remembering that one sees far more willingness to criticize Israeli policies in the Israeli press than in the American press. H’aaretz published an op-ed today by Gideon Levy, whose rather explicit headline reads:
The message is clear: Israel must not strike Iran
Levy goes on to say:
[The diplomat’s] message was clear and razor sharp – Israel must not attack Iran. This would only cause harm. If anything could bring Iran closer to the bomb, it would be an Israeli offensive, which seems imminent. The European diplomat is convinced that Iran does not intend to produce a nuclear bomb, only to walk on the edge and prepare for the option of developing it. This has become a matter of national honor for the Iranians.
An Israeli attack, on the other hand, which in his view would put off the bomb by merely two years, would only spur the Iranians to develop it. Tehran knows that the United States wouldn’t have dared to invade Iraq and Afghanistan had these countries had nuclear weapons. The Iranians are sure that this goes for them as well. So their way to maintain the regime, if it feels threatened, is to develop the bomb. The threats to attack Iran will only push them toward this. [emphasis added.]
We also need to keep alive the prospect that Israel could do something crazy. I don’t favor Israeli military action against Iran and hope we’re telling Israel that privately. But I do believe that U.S. officials, particularly the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, need to stop saying that publicly. Gates is a smart power player. He knows better. If any U.S. official is asked for an opinion on whether Israel should be allowed to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, there is only one right answer: Refer them to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2005 comment that Israel “might well decide to act first” to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and say nothing else. [emphasis added.]
What great advice! And how muscle-y and brave. That’s what passes for enlightened political thought in this country, and until Friedman — and all those like him, ie, the American Punditry Class — is acknowledged as the blood-thirsty hack that he is, the limits of debate will remain destructively small.
If this report follows the same path as the Goldstone report, expect it to be cast as anti-Semitic and to languish on the back burner of public opinion while we excitedly look forward to more and more war.