Jeffrey Blankfort is an American photojournalist, radio producer and Middle East analyst. He is a well-known pro-Palestinian activist whose articles and writings have appeared on many progressivist publications.
He currently hosts radio programs on KZYX in Mendocino, CA and KPOO in San Francisco. Blankfort was formerly the editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin and co-founder of the Labor Committee of the Middle East. In February 2002, he won a lawsuit against the Zionist organization Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which was found to have been spying on the American citizens critical of Israel and its expansionistic policies.
Jeffrey joined me in an exclusive interview to discuss the influence of the Israeli lobby on the decision-makers of the U.S. government, Israel’s illegal, underground nuclear program, the prospect of Israeli – Palestinian conflict and the imminent threat of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Blankfort is quite outspoken in his criticism of the apartheid regime of Israel and believes that Israel is the most immediate threat to the future of our planet.
Kourosh Ziabari (*): In your article “The Israel Lobby and the Left: Uneasy Questions”, you elaborately explore the dominance of the Israeli lobby over the U.S. administration and cite good examples of the influence of well-off Zionists on the multinational companies and mainstream media in America. My question is what are the root causes of this enormous power and immense wealth which the Zionists have possessed? How did the Jews take over the vast resources of power and money that has made them capable of framing, modifying and overturning the political equations in the United States?
Jeffrey Blankfort: That question requires a long and complicated answer. In short, an important, well organized segment of the American Jewish community emerged after World War II that has been dedicated to the establishment and prospering of a Jewish state in historic Palestine in which the lives and well being of the indigenous Palestinian Arabs were of no consequence.
That this segment did not — and has never — represented the majority of American Jews has been more than been made up for by its concerted activity on Israel’s behalf in every critical sector of U.S. society and at every level of the nation’s political life. Its success would not have been possible, however, were it not for the fact that within its ranks have been a sizeable number of wealthy Jewish businessmen who have been quite willing to expend the funds necessary to either purchase the support of the U.S. Congress as well as virtually all of the state legislatures or intimidate Israel’s would-be critics into silence.
Well before the birth of the first Zionists, Jewish bankers and capitalists had established themselves in Europe and the United States so it was not surprising that a number of them, beginning with Lord Rothschild in the early part of the century, became supporters of the Zionist project. Now, far and away, they make up the largest segment of individual donors to both political parties.
The media, as could be expected, was one of its primary targets, and that avowedly pro-Israel interests, although not exclusively Jewish, such as Rupert Murdoch, now thoroughly dominate it at every level is, unfortunately, proved on a daily basis.
While there should be no question that this Israel support network, euphemistically described as a “lobby,” has been a major force in shaping U.S. Middle East policies overall, and the determinant factor in dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict, its power has its limits. While it was able, through its agents in the White House and the Pentagon, to push the U.S. into a war on Iraq, it has yet to get Washington to bomb Iran or, apparently, to sanction an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities. It is clear that there are important elements within the Pentagon as well as the intelligence agencies which know that an attack by either the U.S. or Israel on Iran would more likely than not lead to a global catastrophe.
Kourosh Ziabari: In your articles, you’ve alluded to the conflicts and struggles between the U.S. and Israel administrations during the past decades in which U.S. Presidents, starting from Richard Nixon, tried to curb the expansionistic policies of Israel and bring about an improved living condition for the oppressed nation of Palestine. Should you believe that there have been such efforts on the side of U.S. administration, what has led to their failure, having in mind that they’ve repeatedly proclaimed their commitment to the security of Israel?
Jeffrey Blankfort: There has not been the slightest interest on the part of any US president, I suspect, in improving the living conditions for the Palestinians. Halting Israeli expansion and getting Tel Aviv to withdraw from all the territories it conquered in 1967 has been seen as being in the U.S. national interest.
All the past efforts have failed because none of the presidents have been willing to spend the domestic political capital that would be necessary to force an Israeli withdrawal and particularly so when they know their efforts will be opposed by the overwhelming majority of both houses of Congress irrespective of party affiliations as well as by the Zionist dominated media.
The only one who made a serious effort and who was willing to confront the Zionist network and Congress was George Bush Sr., when he denied Israel its request for $10 billion in loan guarantees in 1991 and again in 1992 but even he was eventually forced to surrender.
Kourosh Ziabari: Israelis are used to employing the label anti-Semitism to defame and vilify whoever dares criticize their belligerent, aggressive policies and actions. They accuse whoever criticizes them of being anti-Semitist. This makes the politicians and opinion-makers hesitant and demoralized in talking of Israel negatively. Is there any solution to reveal the futility of the anti-Semitism label and educate the public that the criticism of Israel is different from criticizing Judaism?
Jeffrey Blankfort: The allegation of “anti-Semitism” leveled against critics of Israel does not carry the weight it once did but it still is extremely effective, particularly, when the accused is employed by the mainstream media as we have seen recently in the case of Helen Thomas, Octavia Nasr and Rick Sanchez, and in the film industry which has long been a Zionist bastion and which was brought into existence by Jews in the last century, although none at the time were Zionists.
The power of the accusation of anti-Semitism to bring public figures to their knees will continue to exist until there is a sufficient number of prominent Americans who are willing to challenge it. When that will be I won’t begin to speculate.
Kourosh Ziabari: Although undeclared, it’s confirmed by the Federation of American Scientists that Israel possesses up to 200 nuclear warheads. Being a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel has never allowed the IAEA to probe into its nuclear arsenal. We already know about the destiny of Mordecai Vanunu who swapped his freedom with the expression of truth. What’s your viewpoint about the destiny of Israel’s nuclear program? Will Tel Aviv continue enjoying immunity from responsibility?
Jeffrey Blankfort: As long as the Zionist support network controls Congress and as long as no American president as the courage to even mention the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons, and while the U.S. continues to hold the purse strings to the UN, Israel will continue to enjoy both immunity and impunity. Had the leadership of the now non-existent anti-nuclear movement in the US, like the “peace movement” not been also Zionist-dominated, there might have been some debate on the issue but because it was, the subject was considered off limits.
Kourosh Ziabari: Let’s turn to Iran. Iran’s is being portrayed by the U.S. mainstream media in a distorted and hypocritical way. Many Americans who even hadn’t heard the name of Iran before are now exposed to a horrifying and dreadful image of the country presented to them by the Zionist-led media outlets. They aren’t aware of the historical civilization of Iran and its unique cultural, social features. How is it possible to unveil the concealed realities of Iran for the Americans who don’t find the proper opportunities to get familiarized with the misrepresented Iran?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Most Americans would have a problem finding Iran or any other country in the Middle East, or for that matter, anywhere in the world on a map. They are, for the most part, what can be called “geographically challenged,” as well as historically challenged. There is no antidote to that on the horizon which is why Washington is able to get away with making war on countries and peoples that have never done them harm. If there was a military draft as there was during the Vietnam War, neither the war in Iraq or Afghanistan would have gone on as long as they have and there would be opposition to an attack on Iran.
When Nixon cleverly halted the draft of 18-year olds in the early 70s, that took the backbone out of the anti-war movement and that is the reason that as hard pressed as the U.S. is today to maintain an army large enough to fight multiple wars, Washington will not bring back the draft. Hiring private contractors became the alternative. Without the fear of 18-year olds that they will be taken into the army, there is no anti-war movement and there is none worthy of the name at this moment in the United States.
Kourosh Ziabari: Many people around the world have come to believe that the media in the United States are unrestrictedly free and can express whatever they want to, without any impediment or obstruction imposed on them by the administration. It’s almost accurate to say that the U.S. government does not have any direct involvement in the media-related affairs; however, there seems to be an implicit pressure on the media not to cross the red lines and violate the unwritten laws, including criticism of Israel. Can you elaborate on this more precisely?
Jeffrey Blankfort: It is not the government that prevents criticism from Israel in the media but fear of the repercussions that are guaranteed to follow any genuine criticism be it written or in cartoon form in the U.S. media, even when that criticism is leveled by a Jewish journalist. There are several organizations, most prominently the Anti-Defamation League, CAMERA, and HonestReporting which are able to unleash at a moment’s notice a torrent of emails and letters to the editor, and in certain cases, visits to the offices of an offending newspaper, to make sure those in the media know what they can and cannot write. Since there is no corresponding pressure from Israel’s critics in the public, most editors choose to avoid a fight.
There was a time when a number of columnists in the mainstream press did write critically of Israel and got away with it. But that was 20 years ago and they are no longer around
Kourosh Ziabari: As the final question, what’s your prediction for the future of Israel? Will it continue to determine the U.S. foreign policy and rule the American politicians? Is it capable of maintaining the blockade of Gaza? After all, will Israel succeed in surviving politically?
Jeffrey Blankfort: As long as Israel’s supporters, or agents in the U.S., are able to control the U.S. Congress and intimidate whoever happens to be president and as long as those same forces dominate the media there will be no change in the U.S. or in the situation in Gaza. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, while slowly growing in the U.S., does not have the intensity that it has elsewhere and its targets are limited to what Israel and U.S. companies do in the West Bank so, realistically, there is unlikely to be any meaningful pressure coming from the U.S.
What Israel does, however, may produce changes that are unpredictable at the moment. Having twice been defeated by Hezbollah, Israeli officials keep threatening another war on Lebanon and since the U.S., Europe and the UN have let them get away with all their previous wars on Lebanon, they are likely to try again.
Unlike the Palestinians, the Lebanese are able and willing to aggressively fight back as the Israeli soldiers know all too well, from their resistance to occupation and their halting of the vaunted Israeli wehrmacht in 2006. Should Israel find a way to attack Iran, the repercussions from that might be sufficient to send Israel on the road to what will ultimately be viewed as self-destruction. At the moment, thanks to the unconditional backing by the U.S. for all it crimes, and given its arsenal of nuclear weapons, I consider Israel to be the most immediate threat to the future of the planet.
(*) Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian freelance journalist and media correspondent. His articles have appeared on a number of media outlets and newspapers including Tehran Times, Salem News, Palestine Think Tank, Press TV, Foreign Policy Journal, Islam Online and Middle East Online. He is a member of Tlaxcala Translators Network for Linguistic Diversity. Read other articles by Kourosh.