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Israel: Point/Counterpoint

Michael Harris:

Jeff Blankfort, a veteran anti-Zionist, seems quite upset that my recent letter in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat was reprinted in the Advertiser.

While I guess I should be flattered that I inspired Blankfort to research my background to discover that I am—GASP—a Zionist activist (and thanks for the shout-out for my book, Jeff!), he appears to insinuate that, by not providing my Zionist bona fides in my letter, I am somehow deceiving readers. Of course, there’s no space in a letter to the editor to do that. But Blankfort, in a 2500 word comment, should then have the integrity to disclose his own associations.

And what are those associations? Blankfort has presented at speaking events with Gilad Atzmon, an ex-Jew who has declared burning down synagogues to be “a rational act”, but also believes “There’s no such thing as antisemitism.”. He’s also appeared together with both Greta Berlin and Alison Weir. Berlin was a founder of the Hamas support network known as the Free Gaza Movement, which tried to bring expired medications and worn-out shoes to Gaza by boat; in 2012, she notably promoted a Holocaust denial film and then gave multiple, mutually conflicting explanations of how that happened. Weir appears to be David Duke’s favorite antiZionist (at least until Duke tweeted out his admiration for Ilhan Omar in 2019); her books have been on sale at his website. Weir is so toxic that even Jewish Voice for Peace, which promotes an astonishing litany of lies and libels about Israel, won’t work with her.

It's only who he chooses to associate with, of course; he has his own track record of hate speech. He spoke at Oct 18 2012, at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists. “Using coarse, vitriolic language, Jeff evoked the themes of classic anti-Semitism, speaking of 'Jewish power', and mockingly comparing those concerned with rising anti-Semitism 'dogs who like to roll in horseshit.' Declaring firmly ‘Our business here was to stop support of Israel’, he made no pretense of objectivity or impartially, until he concluded ‘The Jewish establishment is the biggest purveyors of untruth and disinformation you can possibly find anywhere in the world’.” 

Antisemitism is, at its heart, a conspiracy theory. No wonder that Cynthia McKinney, the disgraced former Congresswoman from Georgia whose promotion of conspiracy theories have made her a favorite of wingnuts the world over, is a big fan:

But all of this pales in contrast to the ne plus ultra of Far Left antisemitic online gathering places, the “Palestine Live” Facebook group started by Jeremy Corbyn supporters. The British activist David Collier has written at length about the old-school antisemitism rampant in that group—Holocaust denial, Rothschild conspiracy theories, links to white supremacist websites, uploads of the Protocols of the Elders of Ziyon. Of course Gilad Atzmon, Alison Weir and Greta Berlin were members. So was Jeff Blankfort, who was prominent enough to be added on the SECOND DAY of this group’s existence; nobody could be faulted if they had guessed that those were statements made by David Duke:

“Israelis like to use the terms blood libel and Jew hatred in the matter that some dogs like to roll around in horse shit, the only difference being that the dogs come out invariably smelling better.” And “How could anyone possibly connect Jews with money any more than bees with honey.” Blankfort spoke up about someone banned from the group for more extreme antisemitism (one can only imagine what could get someone banned from such a group), and posted, inter alia, “Most Jews are not semites.” (As if antisemitism is in any way an opposition to “semitism” or “Semites”; look up Wilhelm Marr, Jeff.)

So now that we have established who Jeff Blankfort is, let’s examine his response to my letter. He doesn’t straight-up assert that I am assisting the Mossad, but he does feel it necessary to spend a few paragraphs chewing over what is apparently a Hebrew neologism for those who do so, and has decided that I am indeed qualified to be one. Sooner or later, though, if you insinuate dual loyalty or even outright assistance in espionage to all Jewish supporters of Israel, you might even be correct once! Sorry Jeff, just not this time. He also cites an alleged quote from Chaim Weizmann which only appears on several quote aggregation websites with no documentation. Given that a quote such as this would have been frequently used over the decades to charge Jews with dual loyalty—especially by the KGB, which helped create the basis for modern leftist antiZionism—I would strongly suspect that this quote is just another in the very long line of deliberate misinformation known as “Pallywood”. Even if the quote were genuine, modern Zionist thought has obviously developed quite a bit over the past 100 years, and neither the State of Israel or the Zionist organizations abroad adhere to such a philosophy.

Blankfort’s rewriting of Biblical history is quite interesting. If he wants to take Genesis as literal history, he should go back and reread it. According to the narrative, Abraham indeed came from Mesopotamia but then personally went to what later became Beersheva, Hebron and Jerusalem. Everything else in the Biblical story is centered around the land of Israel.

Yet the Biblical narrative is not in any way required to understand how Jews are indigenous to Israel. Nor was it the basis for modern political Zionism, led by resolutely secular—and socialist—Jews. The land of Israel, as even Blankfort acknowledges, is where the Jewish people developed our unique identity, language, faith, and ties to a particular piece of land. Were there Canaanites, Philistines (sea people from Europe who lived on the coast), Moabites, Edomites and other tribal peoples in and around that land? Of course. But they all disappeared from history millenia ago. There are no living Canaanites who give their children Canaanite names, teach them Canaanite legends, or observe Canaanite religious practices. Yet Jews are living in the same place, speaking the same language, following the same faith, and giving their children the same names as thousands of years ago. The lie that Ashkenazi Jews have “no connection” to the Land of Israel and the Middle East is long since disproven by genetics indicating Middle Eastern origin (such markers, of course, were absent in their non-Jewish European neighbors). And despite the fact that the Khazar origin story (created by Arthur Koestler in the 1970s without any actual scientific evidence) is still worshipped by antiZionists as a way of trying to separate the bulk of world Jewry from the Jewish homeland, there is no genetic, historical or archaeological evidence to support it. How ironic that Blankfort titles his piece by referring to “Israeli mythology” while simultaneously promoting the Khazar nonsense. Let’s not forget to mention that he uses “Jewish supremacy”, a term popularized by David Duke--not a surprise, coming from an active member of Palestine Live.

Blankfort, on the basis of his extensive (4 months’) time in Israel over 2 decades, has come to the conclusion that Israeli Jews are irredeemably racist. Now let’s be clear—racism exists in Israel, and it is vile. Just as racism exists in every country in the world, and it is vile everywhere. But only in regard to Israel is it followed by “and therefore, that country should not exist” (or some variant of that). There isn’t a way, without sounding like a reprehensible bigot, to say that countries with exponentially worse human rights records than Israel towards their own minority groups—China, Russia, Iran, just to name a few—should be eliminated as nation-states. And those who come to that conclusion regarding Israel aren’t any less the reprehensible bigot. Did Israel have in its recent past have restrictions on where Arabs could rent housing? Yes. Did the US have in its recent past have restrictions on where Blacks could rent housing? Yes. Have courts in both countries taken steps to remove them? Yes. Should the US be disestablished because of this? (I'd say no, but I’m not sure where Blankfort stands on that one).

What do Israeli Arabs think about their country? In a recent survey, 60% said they had a favorable view of the country and 63% said it was a positive place to live. That doesn’t sound like a group being treated as Blankfort alleges.

Blankfort also has a problem with Israeli democracy—it doesn’t elect an Arab as Prime Minister. Arabs are 21% of the population. Jews are 74% (and 5% other, for those of you keeping score at home). While Arab parties were in governing coalitions in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Arab parties in the past few decades have been staunchly anti-Zionist and refused to serve in any coalition. That changed last year when Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am party served in the coalition that recently disbanded. Meanwhile, Arab members have been elected to the Knesset from various parties—Labor, centrist parties, even Likud-- and served as government ministers. Will an Arab be Prime Minister of the Jewish state one day? There’s no law against it. Just as Blankfort was still not able to find a single legal or political right held by a Jewish Israeli not also held by an Arab Israeli. Arabs even can—and do--live in Israeli settlements; though there's often friction arising from that, just as in multiethnic societies the world over. No, the Nation-State Law didn’t remove any rights from its Arab citizens nor add any new rights for its Jewish citizens.

Blankfort then goes on a lengthy tirade charging Israel with controlling US government policy towards Israel. Of course, if Israel really did control the US government we wouldn’t have had Reagan’s sale of AWACS to the Saudis, or George W Bush's apparent refusal to help Israel destroy Iran's nuclear weapons development program, or Obama’s JCPOA which legitimized that nuclear program while turning a blind eye to the mullahs' drive for a nuclear bomb, or his refusal to veto UNSC 2334 which overturned decades of US policy stating that final status issues of a peace agreement would have to be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians. After invoking historically antisemitic tropes about Jewish money and power, he then complains that he will be labeled antisemitic and a “self-hating Jew.” I don’t call people such as Blankfort “self-hating”. My experience is that those like him are very much in love with themselves-- and with their edgelord willingness to deploy rhetoric used to justify the persecution and outright slaughter of Jews just a few generations ago.

Blankfort and I likely agree on one thing: that the Palestinian Arabs should be able to determine their own future in their own nation-state. But his position is that, of all the peoples in the world, Jewish national self-determination is uniquely illegitimate and the Jewish state should be eradicated, to be replaced by the 22nd Arab nation-state. (Basically, it's the same position which Vladimir Putin has taken towards Ukraine, and threatens to for other nation states within what he feels is Greater Russia.) And that is, by the criteria in the IHRA definition which has been adopted by three dozen democracies as well as the US Departments of State and Education, indeed antisemitic. Not all criticism of Israel is antisemitic, of course, but that doesn’t mean that none of it is. Pre-emptively declaring in advance that this would be the response to your words doesn’t in any way mean that it’s incorrect. If you’re sharing platforms with antisemites, if you’re using historical tropes of antisemitism against the Jewish state, if you're using terms popularized by actual neo-Nazis, if you’re demanding that Palestinian self-determination and dignity require the elimination of Jewish self-determination and dignity—well then you might just get called out for promoting antisemitism.

* * *

Jeff Blankfort:

While Michael Harris may believe that his letter to the Press-Democrat regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict that the editor of the AVA chose to run upset me, it should have been evident to those who read my response that quite the opposite was true, that I appreciated having the opportunity to respond to him while providing information to AVA readers on this controversial topic that, sadly, they were not going to read anywhere else.

And he has provided me with such an opportunity again.

If nothing else, his response to my letter in the September 14th AVA, (“Unraveling Israeli Mythology”), StandWithUs’s Michael Harris confirmed the role as a sayan that I assigned to him, i.e., that of a Jew, living in another country not identified as a citizen of Israel, who carries out duties for Israeli’s intelligence apparatus, the Mossad, which would not be seen as appropriate or convincing if performed by an open representative of the Israeli spy and disinformation agency although the only thing that separates them would be their accents. Predictably, Harris pretends to be unfamiliar with the term. 

However, he just can’t help himself from providing yet more evidence to substantiate my conclusion, by brushing aside all the serious issues I raised in my letter and questioning my integrity because I failed to reveal my past “associations” with other well-known anti-Zionists in events focusing on Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, as if that kind of association can be equated with his being the head of the Bay Area chapter of the right-wing pro-Israel StandWithUs (SWU). This is in keeping with the standard Zionist MO as is the organization’s maintaining files to smear those who dare to criticize Israel in public

Let’s look again at those serious issues, beginning with the courageous conclusions of the two organizations that are generally considered, except in Israel and in the circles that Harris inhabits, the world’s most respected human rights organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, that the system of occupation of Palestinian land by Israel meets the definition of apartheid.

I write courageous because, aside from what coverage AI and HRW could expect to receive from a mainstream media heavily weighted on Israel’s behalf which turned out to be less than minimal—the news page of the NY Times ignored it--both organizations were clearly risking the wrath of a major segment of their donor population, the same socially liberal pro-Israel Jews whose bank accounts have long been the major funding source for the Democratic Party. In my previous letter I mentioned how our Jewish Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken dismissed AI’s report out of hand without reading it. But the problem went far deeper than that.

Chris McGreal, the Guardian’s Washington correspondent, writing in his paper on March 23rd quoted the head of AI’s US office, Paul O’Brien, as saying “that when the organization met with members of Congress to discuss its new report, Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians, it found that AIPAC had got there first.”

“It was an interesting experience for us to introduce a report that was about to be launched in public a week later and to get in 80 different congressional offices a public statement dissociating themselves from the findings of the report in which none of those 80 statements actually disputed the findings of the report, except to say, in broad strokes, we do not believe that this report is motivated for the right reasons or reaches the right conclusions.”

That, dear readers, is another example of Jewish power. It is worth repeating, when reading my next example, that in my previous letter I noted that, beginning with Bill Clinton, Israel has required every American president, on taking office, to sign a letter to the Israeli government pledging not to mention in public Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons nor make any effort to curb the size of that arsenal (estimated to be close to 300 weapons with some already placed on Israeli submarines prowling in the Red Sea). And the funny thing, if such a commitment to any foreign government can contain any humor, is that according to journalists who have written about it in the New Yorker and Foreign Policy, none of Clinton’s successors have had any forewarning of that exercise of submission to the Israeli state before being presented with the letter by the Israeli ambassador on taking over the Oval Office.

Now, let’s return to the reporting of Chris McGreal in the March 23rd Guardian:

“The US’s most powerful pro-Israel lobby group has been accused of putting support for Israel before American democracy after it declared its backing for the election campaigns of three dozen Republican members of Congress who tried to block President Biden’s presidential victory.

“But the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has defended the move by saying that support for the Jewish state overrides other issues and that it is ‘no moment for the pro-Israel movement to become selective about its friends.’

“In December, AIPAC launched a political action committee that enables it for the first time to spend money directly supporting congressional candidates in this year’s midterm elections. Earlier this month the committee released a list of 120 political endorsements that includes 37 Republicans who voted against certifying Biden’s victory after the January 6 storming of the Capitol.

“Among them are two members of Congress, Jim Jordan and Scott Perry, who plotted with Trump’s White House to overturn the election result. Perry has also publicly promoted racist ‘white replacement’ conspiracy theories. . . .”

That position, not surprisingly, drew criticism from some old hands within the pro-Israel lobbying community which preferred to do its work behind the scenes and guide pro-Israel donors as to what candidates were most needing of their financial largesse. 

“In the face of the growing criticism,” wrote McGreal, AIPAC’s leaders . . . sent a letter to the group’s members defending the endorsements.

“This is no moment for the pro-Israel movement to become selective about its friends,” said the letter, obtained by the Jewish Insider.

“The one thing that guarantees Israel’s ability to defend itself is the enduring support of the United States. When we launched our political action committee last year, we decided that we would base decisions about political contributions on only one thing: whether a political candidate supports the US-Israel relationship.” (Emphasis added) 

AIPAC’s new PAC went on to contribute $26 million in the Democratic primaries to candidates who promised their unswerving loyalty to Israel and they were joined at the hip to another PAC calling itself Jewish Majority for Israel which on Sept. 30 emailed in a fundraiser:

“Give now and show the country that pro-Israel Democrats are engaged and ready for the fight ahead!

“We are only able to do as much as we have -- helping elect President Biden, defeating anti-Israel candidates like Nina Turner and Marie Newman, and winning 85% of the primary races in which we endorsed -- because of supporters like you who step up when it matters most.” 

In a special election held last year to fill a Congressional vacancy in Cleveland and then in the primary this Spring, the DMFI spent $3 million in support of a pliant Shontel Brown to defeat Turner, chair of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign after she had been far ahead in the polls.

Harris objects to my comparing Jews and money to bees to honey, when it comes to politics, as if making that comparison is somehow anti-Semitic. It happens, however, to be a widely accepted fact in US political life and as the foregoing and the following clearly indicate its malinfluence continues to jeopardize what little is left of American democracy.

In 2001, Mother Jones magazine published what it labeled “The MOJO 400,”which was a list of the largest donors to the election campaigns of the previous year broken down into the business categories each of the donors represented. I was curious to see what percentage of the 400 were Jewish. The result was what I had been anticipating, that seven of the top 12, 12 of the top 20 and at least 125 of the top 250, the point where I stopped counting, were Jewish, a pertinent fact that I mentioned in an article, “The Israeli Lobby and the Left,” which was included in “The Politics of Anti-Semitism,” published by CounterPunch in 2003. 

It turned out that 75% of the money went to Democrats and 25% to Republicans. The only visible result of my mentioning the extent of the Jewish contributions was the removal of the MoJo 400 from the Mother Jones website. The liberal Left didn’t and still doesn’t want to talk about the Lobby either.

At that time, time neither Haim Saban, the Egyptian-Israeli-American billionaire, nor the late mega billionaire Sheldon Adelson, were the major donors they came to be, Saban for the Democrats, Adelson for the Republicans and subsequently Donald Trump’s major benefactor. What brought them together was their devotion to Israel and each poured millions of dollars, usually tax-exempt, into Israeli causes.

Saban was famously quoted in a New Yorker interview, saying: “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” 

Adelson was no less committed, to the point of starting Israel Hayom (Israel Today), a free newspaper in Israel on behalf of his close friend former (and about to be again) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which has since become the country’s most widely read publication.

On July 7, 2012, the first day of Israel Hayom’s publication, Adelson, addressing a group of English speaking Jews in Israel, made an extraordinary statement that can still be seen on YouTube that had the Democratic Party and the liberal US media not been under the Israel Lobby’s thumb, would have made him persona non grata in the US and not just in America’s political life.

“I am not an Israeli,” Adelson told his audience. “The uniform I wore was not an Israeli uniform, unfortunately, but an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF….” 

One can imagine how American military veterans and their families would have responded to that!

As for Saban, he and his wife each year, prior to Covid, played host to a fund raising dinner at the Beverly Hills Hilton for a tax-exempt organization, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. The existence of this nation-wide organization has been kept a secret from the American public by the mainstream and liberal media which never report on its fundraising dinners, neither those hosted by the Sabans nor those across the continent at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria. The events are competitive and the amounts they raise dwarf those of more well-known highly publicized charities.

It is obvious why for the FIDF and Israel’s sake and for the likes of StandWithUs, that news of these star-studded dinners and the millions of dollars that they raise for the welfare of a foreign army remain a secret from the public. Imagine how the people of Los Angeles, with thousands of US veterans homeless on its streets, would react if they had read in the Los Angeles Times or saw reported on their local TV stations that on the night of Nov. 2, 2018, in just a few hours, the FIDF raised $60 million, breaking the record of $53.8 million set the previous year. Had the Hollywood trade organ, Variety, not reported on these events, there would have been no public record that they even took place.

And what happens with that money? According to Variety, it “goes to support IDF soldiers, and the families of fallen soldiers and wounded veterans through social, cultural, recreational, and educational programs.” To relieve their tensions after killing and beating Palestinians, apparently, since Israel has not been engaged in a real war against another army since 1973.

Though the FIDF probably considered it chump change, it was the recipient of a $1,000,000 check from Washington to compensate for losses it suffered from Covid.

Saban played host to another significant event on December 12, 2018, a month later. This one took place on a stage in Florida, at the annual gathering of the Israeli American Council whose major funder was Sheldon Adelson. It was shortly after the mid-term elections and Saban’s guests, this time were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York’s Charles Schumer, the Senate’s ranking Democrat. Pelosi dominated the conversation, eager to tell the Israeli-American icon how her new Congressional committee chairmanship appointments would benefit Israel. This event, as could have been anticipated was also ignored by the national media but it is still there for the curious public to find on YouTube. 

Given all that, is it unreasonable to say that the mainstream media is another Israeli occupied territory? 

If Harris considers that another anti-Semitic trope, so be it. I only have to consider the source.

Harris clumsily attempts to contradict my comments of the power of the Israel Lobby, beginning with Pres. Reagan’s sale of the AWACS air defense system to the Saudis over AIPAC’s objections. The close vote, 52-48, approving the sale required Reagan twisting the arm of Republican Senator Charles Percy who had previously committed to opposing the sale but succumbed to the demands of his president. What Harris did not mention was that the closeness of the vote and that a popular president had to go all out to achieve the victory, led AIPAC’s director at the time, Tom Dine, to claim that it raised the level of AIPAC on America’s political map, especially after the lobby successfully thwarted Percy’s re-election bid.

He then faults George W Bush for choosing not to start another war for Israel by attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities and then outright lies by accusing Obama, no favorite of mine, of legitimizing Iran’s nuclear program and goes on to bash him for not exercising the US veto of the UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel’s continuing settlement policy which are illegal under international law, the details of which Harris avoids. What is a more logical conclusion is that had Hillary Clinton won the White House, the US would have vetoed the resolution as it has done similar resolutions in the past.

What is important to recall about the JCPOA was that in an effort to block the agreement, Israel’s US Ambassador Ron Dermer, a turn-coat American former Republican hack, was able to finagle a joint appearance before both houses of Congress for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak against making any deal with Iran. And in that event, just three days after dressing down the US president as if he was an errant schoolboy, he received 29 standing ovations, compelling New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, whose support for Israel can’t be questioned, to write that “Congress is bought and paid for by the Israel Lobby.”

A week later, the illustrious Ha’aretz columnist, Gideon Levy, in Washington to speak at an event at the National Press Club on the Lobby in which I also participated, expressed his bewilderment at the idea that a president of a foreign country could be invited to speak before the US Congress and attack the president. “This,” said Levy, “should be called the United States of Israel!”

In next week’s AVA, I plan to respond to Harris’s infantile attacks on me and others who have been critical of Israel. For the moment, exposing the larger picture is more important.

P.S. This just in: On Thursday, Sept. 29, Israel’s Central Election Committee, by a 14-0 vote, disqualified a major party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel from running in forthcoming elections.

The Israeli electoral body said that the Palestinian National Democratic Assembly – commonly known as Balad – had “opposed and rejected the Jewish and democratic character” of Israel.

Israel defines itself as “the state of the Jewish people“ while Balad and other Palestinian parties have long campaigned for it to be defined as a state for all its citizens.

Palestinian citizens of Israel make up over 20% of the country’s population.


  1. Michael Harris October 11, 2022

    Jeff, it’s interesting how you can write another several thousand words and not refute a single statement which I made about Israel. But your reply is an excellent demonstration of how classic antisemitic tropes against Jews are simply relabeled as now being about Israelis or Zionists.
    By the way, you can stop speaking over Israeli Arab citizens. Only 7% refer to themselves as “Palestinian”

    • Jeffrey Blankfort October 17, 2022

      Just found this, Michael, but the issue was and is Israeli apartheid and the insidious Jewish Zionist influence over the US political processes.

  2. Pat Kittle October 13, 2022


    Thanks for exposing some awful truths about the Israel lobby.

    Amazing (& much to its credit) that the AVA printed it.

    — Pat Kittle

    • Jeffrey Blankfort October 19, 2022

      Thank you! I don’t know of any other US paper that has an editor/publisher with the guts to have printed it, let alone even touch the subject.

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