‘CiF’ contributor Patrick Seale accuses Israel of “provoking” the US to war in Syria

Patrick Seale

Whilst even before the state of Israel was reborn antisemitic demagogues like Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin characterized American Jews as disloyal “fifth columnists” who were pushing the U.S. to war for financial reasons, even after the war any temporary post-Holocaust taboos on the imputation of such malevolence to Jews soon were eroded. 

Paul Findley, a former U.S. Congressman whose book They Dare to Speak Out, an attack on the ‘pernicious’ influence of the “Israel lobby,” became a bestseller in 1985.  And, a couple of decades later academics considered to be foreign policy “realists”, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, became popular within anti-Zionist circles after their publication of ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’.  The book warned of the “stranglehold” which the Israel “Lobby” exercises over Congress; of their “manipulation of the media” and efforts to “squelch debate”.  They also argued that the 2003 Iraq war wouldn’t have been possible without the influence of Israel and the American Israel lobby.

While paleoconservative commentators in the mid to late 2000s have unsurprisingly also championed this narrative – Pat Buchanan wrote in 2008 that “Israel and its Fifth Column in [Washington , DC] seek to stampede us into war with Iran” – some liberal columnists have engaged in similar rhetoric.  For instance, columnist Joe Klein asserted in his TIME blog that Jewish neoconservatives “plumped” for the war in Iraq and are now doing the same for “an even more foolish assault on Iran” with the goal of making the world “safe for Israel.”  

Additionally, Guardian contributors have advanced the specious claim that Israel, or the Israel lobby, are primarily responsible for US sanctions against Iran, and represent a powerful and dangerous force pushing the US to outright war against the Islamic Republic. Such narratives, with varying degrees of explicitness, have been advanced by, among other CiF contributors, veteran Guardian journalists Simon Tisdall and Simon Jenkins, and the paper’s associate editor, Seumas Milne.  And, of course, Glenn Greenwald has been the most explicit promoter of the ‘Jewish necon’ cabal to take the country to war against Iran’ meme, arguing the following at his previous blog at Salon.com in 2007.

It is simply true that there are large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups which are agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests and they perceive it to be in Israel’s interests for the U.S. to militarily confront Iran.

Turning to the crisis in Syria, whilst we recently commented on suggestions made by Robert Fisk at the Indy that recent Israeli strikes on weapons in Syria intended for Hezbollah was an act which would recklessly push ‘the West’ into the Syrian war, a recent commentary by occasional Guardian contributor Patrick Seale, writing in ‘Middle East Online‘, takes Fisk’s hysterical claim a few steps further.

He writes:

On April 23, a senior Israeli officer, Brig Gen Utai Brun, head of research at army intelligence, made a serious accusation against Syria. In a lecture at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, he declared: “To the best of our professional understanding, the Syrian regime has used lethal chemical weapons against gunmen in a series of incidents in recent months…” General Brun gave no evidence for his accusation and produced no physical proof, but he added that the Israel Defence Forces believed Syria had used the nerve agent sarin on several occasions, including a specific attack on March 19.

In addition to Seale’s erroneous suggestion that it was Israel alone which charged Syria with using chemical weapons – French and British intelligence claimed on April  18 (several days before the Israeli claims cited by Seale) that “there is credible evidence that Syria has fired chemical weapons”  – his argument that such charges are without “proof” is contradicted by recent statements by the Obama Administration  charging Assad with using such weapons.

Seale’s commentary continues: 

As it happened, [Israeli] General Brun made his accusation against Syria during a three-day visit to Israel by America’s new Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel — a man whose appointment Israel’s supporters in the United States had sought to prevent. Some Jewish organisations had come close to calling him anti-Semitic. Only by eating humble pie did Hagel manage to have his appointment confirmed. He now clearly hopes to put an end to his quarrel with America’s pro-Israeli lobby.

On this his first visit to Israel as Defence Secretary, he announced that Israel was to receive a rich haul of advanced U.S. weapons — air refuelling tankers, cutting-edge radar and the V-22 Osprey ‘tiltrotor’ aircraft, an advanced plane so far denied to all other US allies. But Hagel’s generous gesture was to no avail.

Seale’s facile logic assumes that the decision by the US Defense Department to sell Israel advanced weaponry – which was part of a broader Middle East arms package which included weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – must be the result, not of deliberations by the national security apparatus of the Obama administration, but of Secretary Hagel’s wish to mollify the pro-Israel lobby.

Seale then jumps to his broader conclusion:

Although Israel was evidently delighted with the weapons, this did not inhibit it from accusing Syria of using chemical weapons — clearly in the hope of provoking a U.S. attack on that country.

Hagel was angry that Israel was putting pressure on the United States to intervene in Syria. The Israeli authorities may well have thought that Hagel, still recovering from the beating pro-Israelis had given him in Washington, would not dare dispute Israel’s assessment

Finally, Seale makes this extraordinary leap:

By insisting that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, General Brun’s aim seems to have been to persuade the United States to destroy both the Syrian regime and its Hezbollah ally

Interestingly, however, while some anti-Zionists have indeed accused Israel of siding with the rebels, many others have made the opposite claim – that Israel is siding with Assad and against the revolution in order to maintain relative peace on their northern border.  The failure of anti-Israel propagandists to stay on message aside, Israel has continually made it clear both in word and in deed that it is not at war with Syria, but primarily concerned with the threat posed by Hezbollah – an Iranian backed heavily armed Shiite Islamist terror group occupying large swaths of Lebanon.

Moreover, you’d be hard pressed to find a commentator or analyst other than Seale who has seriously argued that Israel is deviously trying to provoke the US into a Middle East war against its will. Seal’s accusation that Israel is “provoking” the US to “destroy” both the Syrian regime and Hezbollah is pure fantasy, concocted by a lazy and easily suggestible mind mired in historically based conspiratorial notions imputing enormous power to both the Jewish state and its supporters in the US.

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