Friday, December 9, 2016

Europe's "turbo boost" for war industry will benefit Israel

White supremacists are about to take up residency in the White House. Climate change deniers are mapping out the future of environmental policy. A man who seems to be constantly losing his temper on Twitter will – in less than two months from now – lead a nuclear-armed superpower.


And what are Europe’s top politicians doing in preparation for Donald Trump’s presidency? Are they asserting an alternative worldview to the heady blend of imperialism and capitalism that has intoxicated Trump’s entourage?


No, they are still parroting the old idea that the US should be constantly copied.


A new paper by the European Commission is particularly repugnant. Lamenting that the EU “lags behind” the US in military strength, it recommends steps to rectify that apparent problem.


The most troubling of the proposals would involve setting up a new scheme under which taxpayers’ money would be splurged on developing more advanced weapons. Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president, covets a “defense fund” to, in his words, “turbo boost [military] research and innovation.”


Juncker is a right-wing ideologue, who has strong-armed Greece into introducing painful and far-reaching economic reforms.


There is no public clamor in Europe for bolstering the weapons industry. Juncker and his – largely unaccountable – colleagues are driving through their proposals on military research in much the same way as they foisted austerity on Greece.


The new paper is the latest in a series of EU blueprints on military research. And Israel’s war strategists have helped shape the underlying agenda.


Juncker’s suggestion of a “defense fund” chimes with the recommendations previously made by the European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIF). Bringing together lobbyists from major weapons producers with sympathetic civil servants, that club was assembled by the EU authorities in 2007.


Why catch up?


Though Israel is not a member of the European Union, ESRIF was eager to avail of the “expertise” it had gained from oppressing the Palestinians. Nitzan Nuriel, a retired Israeli brigadier general, took part in the forum’s activities.


Nuriel has an impressive career history – for those who find cruelty impressive. He won promotion after it emerged that he had ordered troops serving in a battalion he commanded to torture Palestinian detainees in 1987.


He went on to hold senior positions in military units occupying both the West Bank and Gaza and play a prominent role in Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon.


Following that invasion, Nuriel joined Israel’s National Security Council, a body that advises the Israeli prime minister, and soon became director of its “counter-terrorism bureau.” He sat on ESRIF in that capacity.


The forum advocated that the EU’s activities on “security” research – a euphemism for innovation which may have military applications – should grow. Israel’s war industry has soaked up numerous grants from those activities until now.


Juncker’s new effort to “turbo boost” weapons innovation is essentially a sequel to a “security” research scheme which came into effect in 2007.


It is too early to say if Israel will directly get money should Juncker’s dream of a “defense fund” materialize. There can be little doubt, however, that these kinds of proposals stand to benefit Israel’s arms manufacturers.


Israel has carved out a lucrative niche for itself in the global weapons market by investing heavily in drones and cybersecurity software, both of which feature in the European Commission’s new paper.


The EU’s governments have committed themselves to the objective of having drones made in Europe’s factories by 2025. Attaining that goal will almost certainly require some Israeli technology or expertise.


France and Britain are the two EU countries to have made the greatest use of drones to date. Drones flown by both the French and British militaries were Israeli-designed.


Israel has deployed the same type of drones as those used by France in Mali and Libya and Britain in Afghanistan during its major operations against Gaza.


Contrary to the impression conveyed by the Brussels elite, none of this is necessary.


If Europe lags behind the US in military might, then why should it catch up? Why should Europe’s leaders be part of a contest to prove they can fetishize the war industry just as much as their American counterparts?


And if catching up requires cooperation with Israel, that’s all the more reason to quit the contest.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 2 December 2016.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

How EU secretly embraced Israeli ministry in East Jerusalem

European Union representatives secretly decided to cooperate with an Israeli ministry based in occupied East Jerusalem, it has been revealed.


The decision is at odds with the EU’s official stance that it does not recognize Israel’s colonization of the territories captured in 1967.


Dating from 2013 but not previously reported, the decision relied on a loophole in an EU paper on cooperation with Israel.


The paper received a hostile response from the Israeli government. It stated that activities undertaken in the settlements Israel is building in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, were not eligible for EU funding.


Although the paper was dry and insipid, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, publicly condemned it by saying Israel would “not accept any external edicts on our borders.”


Often referred to as the “guidelines,” the paper was prepared in anticipation of Israel’s involvement in Horizon 2020, the EU’s latest program for scientific research. Amid the controversy, however, a salient fact was overlooked: Israel’s science and technology ministry has its headquarters in East Jerusalem.


That point was raised in a 2013 briefing document drafted for Catherine Ashton, then the EU’s foreign policy chief.


The briefing, obtained under EU freedom of information rules, effectively told Ashton not to worry about this matter as a loophole had been inserted into the guidelines to ensure that they did not cover public authorities.


The location of Israel’s science ministry in East Jerusalem “will not obstruct” cooperation with it, the document stated.


Tainted


The science ministry is part of the Israel-Europe R&D Directorate, a body that coordinates Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020. A formal accord setting out the terms of Israel’s involement in the program was signed between the EU and Yaakov Perry, then Israel’s science minister, in 2014.


The loophole means that the entire program – for which almost €80 billion ($85 billion) has been earmarked between 2014 and 2020 – is tainted.


The EU cannot seriously claim to oppose Israel’s gobbling up of East Jerusalem if it has embraced an Israeli ministry that is ensconced in East Jerusalem.


The European Commission, which oversees Horizon 2020, trotted out a typically bureaucratic excuse when asked for an explanation as to why it cooperates with Israel’s science ministry. Pointing to the aforementioned loophole in the guidelines, a Commission spokesperson said that, as a public authority, the science ministry was “exempted” from their scope.


Different from Trump?


To all intents and purposes, the EU’s stance differs little to that of Donald Trump, the newly-elected US president, and the Republican Party.


In the platform on which they fought the recent election, the Republicans undertook to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital if Trump won the presidency. By embracing Israeli institutions in East Jerusalem, the EU is essentially doing the same.


At least, the Republicans have been more transparent about their objectives.


The EU stands accused of saying one thing in public and something quite different behind closed doors.


During her five years as foreign policy chief, Ashton issued a number of statements against how Israel was tightening its grip on East Jerusalem. Her objection to the demolition of Shepherd’s Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of the city, for example, was covered extensively by the Israeli press.


Her willingness to approve an accord with the science ministry – which is located near Sheikh Jarrah – indicates that her concern was insincere.


Worse, Ashton was hugely accommodating to firms which profited from Israel’s crimes against humanity.


Towards the end of 2013, she negotiated a deal with Tzipi Livni, Israel’s justice minister at the time. The deal enabled Israeli weapons producers to receive grants under the Horizon 2020 program.


As a result of that deal, the makers of drones and surveillance equipment tried out on Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank are currently being subsidized by the EU. Stop the Wall, a Palestinian campaign group, has documented how a major EU scheme nominally concerned with airport security may be utilizing technology that has been tested in settlements built by Israel in violation of international law.


Israel is treated as equal to the EU’s own member countries in the research program.


That Israel’s arms industry has been adept at soaking up subsidies is especially alarming given that there is a concerted push within the EU’s institutions to reserve part of a future research program for developing new weapons.


The only positive thing that can be said about that push is that it might usher in a modicum of honesty. Until now, the EU’s representatives have insisted that they only allow funding for civilian research.


That claim has become increasingly implausible as Israel’s war profiteers grab every grant they can get their bloodstained hands on.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 23 November 2016.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

U2 manager supports Israeli war crimes

The manager of U2, a rock band well known for human rights campaigning, has taken part in fundraising activities for an organization that supports Israel’s war crimes.


Guy Oseary, who also manages Madonna, attended a 2014 fundraising gala in Los Angeles, California, for Friends of the IDF.


The event – which reportedly brought in $33 million to the organization’s coffers – was held just a few months after Israel’s 51-day bombardment of Gaza that year.


Although photographs of Oseary attending the event were posted on the Internet, his participation has not drawn any criticism before now.


His participation can only be interpreted as an endorsement of the Israeli military and its activities. Friends of the IDF helps recruit for the Israeli military. It does so by sponsoring “lone soldiers” – Israeli troops with family living abroad – for the entire duration of their service.


The gala that Oseary attended featured a tribute to soldiers who had attacked Gaza earlier in 2014. Friends of the IDF assisted that offensive by supplying mobile showers, snacks, underwear and cell phone chargers to troops invading Gaza.


By giving that aid, Friends of the IDF can pose as a charity that is providing comfort to Israeli soldiers. The group has stretched the concept of “humanitarian” activities to its limit. Genuine humanitarians would be more concerned with helping the victims of Israeli aggression than meeting the personal hygiene requirements of the aggressors.


Friends of the IDF can count on support from the most powerful political and business figures in the US. Donald Trump, the president-elect, has pledged money to the group in the past – although it has been reported that someone else actually made the $250,000 donation that he promised.


Oseary did not respond to multiple requests asking how much he has donated to Friends of the IDF. The organization itself also did not reply to a request for comment.


Organizing galas is one of Friends of the IDF’s preferred methods of fundraising. Tickets for one such gala – scheduled to take place in Boston next month – are priced at $3,600 for a table of 12.


The gala which Oseary attended was hosted by Haim Saban, an entrepreneur who helped finance Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign for the presidential election.


Oseary’s support for Friends of the IDF is at odds with U2’s professed concern for human rights.


“Callous”


Since the 1980s, U2 has been vocal in its support for human rights group Amnesty International. Amnesty has accused Israeli troops of displaying “callous indifference to the carnage” they caused while attacking Gaza in 2014. According to the group, Israel’s violence against civilian homes “brazenly flouted the laws of war.”


Amnesty International issued a brief statement when asked if the organization was concerned about Oseary’s support for Friends of the IDF.


“We are not in a position to comment on a private donation made by an individual who is not a staff member or official representative of Amnesty International and would urge you to contact U2 or their representatives directly,” the group stated. “U2 are prominent supporters of Amnesty International’s work and have regularly sought to raise awareness of human rights issues.”


The band and its then manager Paul McGuinness were given Amnesty’s annual “ambassador of conscience” award in 2005.


Oseary replaced McGuinness as U2’s manager in 2013. Born in Jerusalem – though based in the US for most of his life – Oseary combines his music industry activities with investments in Israel’s technology industry.


Band of hypocrites


Sound Ventures, a firm which Oseary established with the actor Ashton Kutcher, is part owner of Meerkat, an Israeli app maker. U2 heavily promoted Meerkat’s livestreaming service during its world tour last year, using the app to broadcast clips from the band’s concerts.


While that streaming service is no longer available, the company behind Meerkat is still active and has recently launched a new video chat application called Houseparty.


Meerkat exemplifies the cozy relationship between the military and the Israeli technology industry. As part of efforts to build up Israel as a leading manufacturer of weapons and surveillance equipment, the Israeli military has devoted considerable resources to developing the computer skills of its soldiers. One of Meerkat’s founders, Roi Tirosh, is a former instructor in the Israeli military.


Oseary’s Sound Ventures has also provided funding to Moovit, the Israeli firm that boasts of inventing the world’s most popular public transport app. Moovit’s CEO, Nir Erez, is a graduate of the computer science academy run by the Israeli military.


U2 – and, especially its lead singer Bono – have long displayed double standards.


Bono has defended and personally benefited from tax exemptions for the super rich, while masquerading as a campaigner against poverty. And despite writing “Bullet the Blue Sky” – a protest song against militarism and the arms industry – Bono has lavished praise on Shimon Peres, the recently deceased Israeli politician who helped introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East and who ordered massacres in Lebanon.


Bono and U2 are not credible advocates of human rights. Amnesty should have realized that ages ago.


The clear proof that the band’s manager has supported Israel’s war crimes means that Amnesty no longer has any excuses. It is past time for Amnesty to publicly disown U2, a band of hypocrites.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 14 November 2016.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

From Brussels, I reject Israel's solidarity

I have lived in Brussels for 21 years but never considered this city as my home -- until Donald Trump insulted it.


By describing Brussels as a “hellhole” because of its sizeable Muslim population, Trump was attacking my friends and neighbors. Trump was attacking people like the cheerful Syrian I see almost every day; his daughter is in the same class as mine.


As it happens, my Syrian acquaintance was the last person I saw as I left the school on Tuesday morning. A short while later, I received a text message from my wife, telling me about the explosions. She had made it safely to work, thank God. On the way, she had traveled through Maalbeek metro station, just minutes before a bomb went off there.


We don’t yet know the identities of all the people killed. We do know, however, that they belonged to a mixture of ethnicities and nationalities. They spoke different languages. Some were probably religious, others not.


In short, they represented the thing that I like most about my adopted home: its multiculturalism.


Donald Trump’s first reaction to the attacks was to claim vindication for his “hellhole” comments. Once again, he was displaying his bigotry. The wannabe president will use any opportunity to whip up fear.


Hellhole?


It shouldn’t be necessary to spell this out but I will. Muslims in Brussels contribute massively to the city’s multicultural spirit. They help to make Brussels vibrant and convivial, the very antithesis of a hellhole. The men who carried out this week’s attacks did not enjoy any mandate from their community. Insisting, as bigots do, that Muslims prove their abhorrence for these crimes is profoundly ignorant.


Unfortunately, the Muslim community is suffering because of that ignorance. When it emerged that the Paris attacks last November had been planned in Brussels, large numbers of police and soldiers were deployed on the streets of this city. I have witnessed incidents where young men have been harassed by the police in recent months. There was no indication that the young men were doing anything illegal. As far as I could see, they were hassled solely for being Muslim.


The usual response to these kind of atrocities is that think tanks publish pamphlets about how to deal with “radicalization.” The think tank analysts rarely grapple with the causes of terror or seek to understand it (and, as Frank Barat writes in a new essay, understanding is never the same as condoning). Accepting that imperialism might be at fault is something of a taboo for such analysts, many of whom have their “research” funded by corporations and Western governments.


Right to anger


The residents of Brussels have every right to be angry about what has happened this week. We should certainly demand that the authorities do everything they can to apprehend the suspects. But we should not accept that Muslims may be bullied and stigmatized.


Let’s direct our anger at the small number of people who have set the Middle East ablaze. The terror of Islamic State is a direct consequence of war declared against Iraq in 2003. If it wasn’t for that illegal invasion, there would not have been an attack on Brussels on Tuesday, or Istanbul on Saturday or Baghdad last month.


Two men were ultimately responsible for the invasion and destruction of Iraq: George W. Bush, then the US president, and Tony Blair, then the British prime minister. Why are they still at large?


Most of the messages sent to the people of Brussels this week were heartfelt and appreciated. A few, however, were cynical. One was contemptible; it came from Israel.


The Israeli government claimed it “stands with Brussels.” As a resident of Brussels, I refuse that solidarity.


Ofir Akunis, the Israeli science minister, tried to play politics. He suggested the attacks occurred because, rather than fighting terrorism, Europe was too busy placing labels on goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.


His comments are too inane to merit a detailed rebuttal. And besides, the labeling idea is an initiative taken by the political elite. Many ordinary Europeans have gone beyond demanding labels: they are too busy boycotting all Israeli goods and campaigning against companies who seek to profit from the occupation.


We shall remain busy. The most fitting tribute to victims of violence is to tackle its root causes. That means fighting imperialism, bigotry and inequality. It means defending multiculturalism, a beautiful idea that Israel has rejected.


·First published by The Electronic Intifada, 23 March 2016.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Israel lobbyist doubles up as adviser to European Parliament

A pro-Israel lobbyist is playing a direct role in organizing some of the European Parliament's key activities on the Middle East.


Nuno Wahnon Martins, a representative of the European Jewish Congress, describes himself as an adviser to Fulvio Martusciello, the Italian right-wing politician who chairs the Parliament's committee for relations with Israel.


Since assuming that "title" in late 2014, Wahnon has been so prominent during the committee's meetings that he appears to be "running the show," a well-placed source told me on condition of anonymity.


His prominence raises fundamental issues about the independence of the committee (or "delegation," as it is officially known).


The European Jewish Congress routinely puts pressure on the EU to adopt positions favorable to Israel. Has it succeeded in parachuting one of its lobbyists into a post within one of the EU's most powerful institutions?


When I emailed Wahnon with some questions, he offered to meet me. Over coffee, he said that he works as a freelance consultant for the European Jewish Congress, even though he is listed as the organization's director of European affairs


Wahnon claimed he does not draw a salary for his work in the Parliament but that he has twice had expenses of around €100 reimbursed. He admitted that he is acting as an adviser without the approval of the parliament's administration.


The Parliament's rules have no provisions on the recruitment of advisers -- as opposed to research assistants or secretarial staff -- by its elected members. "Officially, these positions [advisers to committee chairpersons] do not exist," he said.


Transparent?


He claimed that there is no conflict of interests involved and that he has been open about his activities. A note on his Twitter account, for example, states that he is an adviser to Martusciello.


"It would be much easier not to say anything," Wahnon added. "But it would be much less transparent."


The Parliament's delegation to Israel recently hosted a visit to Brussels for what it described as "young political leaders, mainly from Israel and Palestine." On the program for that visit, Wahnon was named as an "assistant" to Martusciello.


I asked the Parliament's administration if it regard the hiring of a professional pro-Israel lobbyist by its delegation to Israel as a conflict of interests and if it would investigate the matter. Marjory van den Broeke, a spokesperson for the administration replied: "Mr. Martusciello has no assistant on the payroll of the European Parliament called Nuno Wahnon Martins."


I then informed her that Wahnon's own Twitter account describes him as an adviser to Martusciello and enquired if the parliament pays advisers to chairpersons of its committees. "No, it does not," she replied.


Dismissive


Her dismissive attitude is symptomatic of a wider problem. The European Parliament overlooks how lobbyists with destructive agendas shape many of its policies and activities.


In my book Corporate Europe, I documented how members of the Parliament signed and proposed amendments to financial sector regulations that were drafted for them by banks and hedge funds. As many of these amendments were approved by a parliamentary majority, the effect was that proposals supposedly intended to prevent an economic crisis of the type Europe is still enduring were altered by the gamblers who caused the crisis in the first place.


A similar thing is happening with regard to the parliament's relations with Israel.


Because of his position, Fulvio Martusciello commands respect from the Israeli elite. He uses the platforms afforded to him to express views that are at odds with both public opinion in Europe and, on occasion, with EU policy.


According to The Jerusalem Post, he has argued that an EU decision that goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank be labeled as such amounts to "criminal discrimination" against Israel.


"Europe is loud about Israel, but quiet about 200 other conflicts around the world," Martusciello has also said. The opposite is closer to the truth, by the way: last year the EU imposed an arms embargo on Russia but refused to even entertain the idea of halting its weapons trade with Israel.


In a personal capacity, Martusciello should be free to say whatever he wishes. Yet he is not entitled to invite a pro-Israel lobbyist to effectively hijack part of a public institution.


The European Jewish Congress is not the voice of Jews across this continent, despite how it may give that impression. Rather, it is a highly partisan lobby group. By habitually taking a pro-Israel stance, it does a disservice to the numerous Jews horrified by Israel's belligerence.


Wahnon, a qualified attorney from Portugal, has made a career out of promoting Israel in Brussels. He has previously worked for two other pro-Israel groups, B'nai B'rith and European Friends of Israel.


Wahnon confirmed to me that his access badge for the parliament's buildings categorizes him as an intern. This morning, I phoned Martusciello's office asking to speak to Martusciello himself. Instead, my call was transferred to Wahnon.


I don't believe that he just happened to be in that office. It is much more likely that the pro-Israel lobby is paying him to be there in an effort to buy influence.


This is a squalid case of democracy being undermined by supporters of Israeli apartheid -- and of the powers that be not giving a damn.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 10 December 2015.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Brussels terror expert has applauded Israel's atrocities

These are busy days for the Brussels-based "terrorism expert" Claude Moniquet. Ever since it emerged that a few men from Belgium took part in the recent attacks on Paris, his "analysis" has been much in demand by the media.


Any time I have seen Moniquet on TV lately, he has always been given softball treatment by his interviewers. As a result, he is presented an earnest figure, who has amassed considerable knowledge on extremism both through his past career with the French external intelligence agency and his subsequent research. Viewers are never told that this "terrorism expert" has applauded atrocities perpetrated by the State of Israel.


In 2004, Moniquet described Israel's assassination of Ahmed Yassin, a founding member of Hamas, as "good news." Yassin was 66-years-old and paralyzed from the waist down.


Seven other Palestinians were killed in the Hellfire missile attack on Yassin. According to Amnesty International, Israel's actions violated international law.


Moniquet has worked closely with some of Israel's most dedicated apologists in Brussels.


He has been a long-standing member of the Atlantis Institute, a "think tank" established by Joël Rubinfeld.


A veteran lobbyist, Rubinfeld has strived to bolster Belgium's relationship with Israel.


That relationship was strained in the early years of this century as Ariel Sharon, then Israel's prime minister, was sued in Belgium over massacres in Palestinian refugee camps during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Under pressure from Israel and its supporters, Belgium soon diluted its "universal jurisdiction" law to shield Sharon and other war criminals from prosecution.


Parroting propaganda


Moniquet heads the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. One of his former employees at this "terrorism" watchdog is Dimitri Dombret, with whom Moniquet has written a paper on the "threat" posed by Iran.


A former secretary-general with the lobby group European Friends of Israel, Dombret now runs his own consultancy firm. The firm's main client in recent years was Teva, an Israeli drugs-maker.


The website for Moniquet's center lists "lobbying" as one of its activities. While I was undertaking a research project about Israel's supporters in Brussels last year, Moniquet told me that neither the Israeli government nor any Israeli company was paying his center for advice.


Nonetheless, Moniquet has been known to parrot Israeli propaganda.


During Operation Cast Lead -- Israel's bombardment of Gaza in late 2008 and 2009 -- he called Palestine solidarity activists "pathetic." In an opinion piece, he accused those who protested against Israel of "selective indignation," asking why they were not so exercised about human rights abuses in Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Congo and Zimbabwe.


Conveniently, he overlooked two salient facts: Israel has much stronger political and commercial ties to the West than the countries he listed and many of the protesters he dubbed "pathetic" were calling out their own governments as accomplices to Israel's crimes.


Defying logic


Moniquet cannot be regarded as an expert on terrorism in any real sense.


A genuine expert would help us understand how Islamic State emerged. He or she would take us through the history of Western meddling in the Middle East that spawned this monstrous organization.


He or she would join the dots between the 1916 Sykes-Picot accord (a secret deal to carve up the Middle East between Britain and France), the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Syria and the deadly machinations of the Saudi elite.


Rather than offering the kind of incisive commentary that is so sorely needed, Moniquet reinforces stereotypes. He has, for example, helped to stigmatize the entire community living in the Brussels district of Molenbeek based on how a small number of extremists have lived there.


In a weekend appearance on France TV, Moniquet distorted the truth. In his warped mind, an effort by the local authority in Molenbeek to make its Muslim inhabitants feel welcome was transformed into a "tacit pact" with "Islamists."

Such rhetoric closely resembles that of right-wing Belgian politicians who are trying to capitalize on the Paris attacks.


Moniquet has also been known to defy logic. Not long before the Paris attacks, he wrote about how those involved in recent acts of extremist violence in Europe were already known to the police. Yet rather than making the case for greater scrutiny of known extremists, he praised France's introduction of "massive digital surveillance."


Although Moniquet indicated that the new surveillance rules would be used to keep an eye on suspects, their breadth represents a clear erosion of civil liberties.


Despite the patently dubious quality of his analysis, Moniquet is able to charge money for his services. Last year, he told me that his center's annual budget is between €1 million and €1.5 million and its clients include police agencies and foreign ministries.


Will his recent media appearances help him drum up more business? I fear that they might.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 26 November 2015.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Columnist Melanie Phillips defends Netanyahu's lie about the Holocaust

Few pundits have defended Benjamin Netanyahu's by now infamous claim that a Palestinian leader gave Adolf Hitler the idea of exterminating Europe's Jews. One exception is the right-wing British columnist Melanie Phillips.


Writing in The Jerusalem Post this week, Phillips contends that the Israeli prime minister was "fundamentally correct."


As "support" for her assertion, Phillips refers to a statement made by Dieter Wisliceny, an associate of Adolf Eichmann, the Holocaust's architect. During the 1946 Nuremberg trials, Wisliceny alleged that Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, was "one of the instigators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry."


Phillips neglected to remind her readers that Netanyahu himself had cited Wisliceny last week while the prime minister was trying to "clarify" his accusations about the mufti. That damage limitation exercise had been criticized by historians and even by hawkish media outlets.


Baseless


The Times of Israel, for example, states: "It is not some, but rather most, serious historians who doubt the veracity of Wisliceny's account." That website quotes "Israel's preeminent Holocaust scholar" Yehuda Bauer, who pointed out that the mass killing of the Jews had already been underway for six months before Hitler met the mufti in 1941 and who called Netanyahu's version of events "entirely baseless."


By coincidence, I found some fascinating papers about the mufti in the UK's national archives a few days ago.


In an October 1936 letter, Arthur Wauchope, then Britain's high commissioner for Palestine, signaled there were differences of opinion between himself and John Dill, the newly-appointed commander of British troops in Palestine, over whether or not the mufti should be deported.


"Children, savages and RAF [Royal Air Force] intelligence officers love creating bogies," Wauchope wrote to the Colonial Office in London. "They are now getting Dill and others to believe that the mufti created, organized and was solely responsible for keeping going the strikes and disorders."


Wauchope was alluding to the Palestinian Arab revolt which kicked off that year. A general strike in April 1936 was called without the mufti's involvement. It was only afterwards that he assumed the presidency of a committee bringing together the various Palestinian Arab political factions.


The administration led by Wauchope behaved in a brutal manner. By ordering the large-scale demolition of Palestinian homes -- notably in Jaffa -- it ushered in a form of collective punishment that Israel still practices in 2015.


Despite how he downplayed the mufti's role in the revolt, Wauchope regarded al-Husseini as a bitter foe. In the same letter, Wauchope complained of the mufti's "hatred of Zionism" and expressed a desire to "clip his wings." Less than a year later, Wauchope relayed to London a request that Britain "took some action against this Frankenstein monster created by Samuel" (Herbert Samuel, the first high commissioner in Palestine, had appointed al-Husseini as mufti).


Trend


Yet what struck me about Wauchope's papers was how he recognized as early as 1936 that the mufti had become a bogeyman.


By blaming al-Hussaini for the Holocaust, Netanyahu therefore seems to be following a trend set by British imperialists.


Netanyahu's lies are too much for Israel's scholars to swallow. But that does not negate how the mufti has long been Israel's bogeyman.


I noticed such a distortion of history on my first visit to Palestine in 2001. On that occasion, I accompanied an EU "peace" mission on a trip to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. There, I was astonished to see a whole section devoted to the mufti's brief encounter with Hitler.


Although my knowledge of Middle Eastern politics was superficial at that time, I knew enough about the Holocaust to discern how something that should really be a footnote had been elevated to an event of central importance. The Palestinians were being held responsible for the crimes of Nazi Germany.


The demolition policy that Britain introduced has been invoked by Israel as part of its mythmaking over the Holocaust.


In 2009, Avigdor Lieberman, then Israel's foreign minister, tried to "justify" the construction of a Jewish-only settlement on the site of the Shepherd's Hotel in occupied East Jerusalem by pointing out that it once hosted the mufti's headquarters. Lieberman went so far as to instruct diplomats to circulate a photograph of Hitler's meeting with al-Husseini.


It was a typically crude attempt to manipulate the past so Israel could get away with ethnic cleansing.


Melanie Phillips last year urged Israel to think seriously about its propaganda. While visiting Jerusalem, she said that Israel was hampered by a "strategic failure on the battleground of the mind."


Her willingness to applaud Netanyahu suggests that the truth has no place on whatever battleground she was talking about.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 30 October 2015.