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Flashpoints with Dennis Bernstein on KPFA -The Squad and Bernie Sanders Could Cut Israel Aid, but Won't - 5/21/2021

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Dennis Bernstein: From Pacifica Radio in San Francisco, this is Flashpoints, I’m Dennis Bernstein today on the show...could the Congress cut off funding to Israel by acknowledging that it's a nuclear renegade? All this coming up straight ahead on Flashpoints, stay tuned.

...We're going to start off with Israel. There's obviously there's a lot of attention given to the fact that there was one more slaughtering  attack on the Gaza Strip a, a battle between Israel and Hamas, that continues to destroy the sort of open-air prison that the Gazans are forced to live in now every once in a while. The Israel is sort of, they call, it “mowing the lawn.”  And then there’s a war.

We are in the middle of a ceasefire. We're hoping that it holds because the suffering is out of control, but Israel is a muscle that’s out of control and not everybody believes that it should be getting the massive amount of armed support for arms and weaponry that the United States gives them. Joining us to talk about Israel and some ways to restrain it in terms of its nuclear muscle.

Joining us is Grant Smith the director of the Washington DC based Institute for Research Middle East policy author of "Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby Moves America.” Grant Smith, welcome back to Flashpoints. It's good to have you with us.

Grant Smith: Hi Dennis, thanks so much for having me back.

Dennis Bernstein: Well, we are glad to have you. It is interesting. This seems to be a moment in history, although you wouldn't know it from the press conference today, that people are starting to ask more questions about Israel, about the way in which they use force against the Palestinians.

The disproportionate force that many people now call a war crime. We have seen one more of these sort of wars, because everybody knows that Gaza is locked down. It's 2 million people. Half of them are children, and every once in a while, the Gazans just get fed up, the rockets fly, and then Israel carries out a slaughter or they create so much tension and so many attacks and they take so much land and expanding the ethnic cleansing that in the West Bank people just can't take it anymore, and the resistance continues. and we're going to talk about that with grants with grant. Welcome back to fresh points, tell us about first of all, can you prove that Israel has a renegade nuclear weapons program? How do we know they do they?

Grant Smith: We did prove that. We sued under the Freedom of Information Act report and got a Department of Defense report a couple of years ago showing that they had all of the facilities and active programs to manufacture nuclear weapons. It's been confirmed by President Jimmy Carter, and it's also been released in a CIA report from 1974 about not only the nuclear weapons that they have, but also the range of the Jericho missiles at that time, they could deliver those nuclear weapons.

So there's really no question that Israel has nuclear weapons. The real question is, and this is something that the Institute for Public Accuracy was interested in, Is the two laws, but one in particular, laying around, why is it that members of Congress who voice opposition to what's going on with the use of US weapons against Gaza, which is you correctly state, is an extremely concentrated parcel of humanity, which is pretty much locked down from moving, whether it's by sea or land or air, why is it that these tools to block such weapons transfers, we can't really call them weapons sales, aren't being used, particularly by the squad.

Dennis Bernstein: Well, it's interesting. We had the rapporteur from the United Nations on yesterday responsible for looking at the occupied territories, occupation and evaluating the way in which Israel is treating the occupied population but we found out from the rapporteur that he actually, Israel doesn't allow anybody in to evaluate the way in which they're treating the occupation, and the way in which they are occupying and caring for a population, or lacking thereof.

You know, so they also are nuclear renegades. They're not going to let anybody in and see if they've got 100 or 200 or 300 nuclear weapons. We went to war against Iraq for fake weapons that they didn't have.

Grant Smith: Right. And we were being urged to go to war before the JCPOA was signed in the Obama administration for alleged, you know, “on the brink” Iranian development of nuclear weapons.

So, you know Israel and its US lobby are constantly pointing to other countries as being potential nuclear adversaries and in need of immediate U.S. sanctions and military action. But the whole question of Israel's nuclear weapons has been kept off the table and again we would argue that because the Arms Export Control Act specifically states that the United States cannot provide foreign aid to countries that are developing nuclear weapons and are not signatories to the NPT, the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty like Israel, because it's in our law that the US cannot deliver foreign aid to those countries absent some pretty difficult waivers, that this is a huge issue and a huge tool in the toolbox that could be used to prevent this sort of thing from happening and really pressure Israel in terms of not allowing it to use US weapons and curtailing this sort of violence, which is continual.

So under USC 2799 we as a country, thanks to Senator Stuart Symington and John Glenn, have said that we're not going to sell weapons to, you know, nuclear renegades like Israel. And the funny thing is, is that this is a binding and extremely important law, and when Congress was first informed of a planned sale of highly sophisticated weapons smart bombs essentially back in April, any member of Congress could have raised questions about, “well, you know, we know Israel Is a nuclear power. Where is the waiver and why are you pushing this through? When we, as Congress are prohibited from providing aid to countries that have the status that Israel does. They had every opportunity during a 15-day window to object to the sale on that basis of these joint direct attack munitions. In the end there I just said sale. It's actually a gift, under the $3.8 billion in aid we give them every year.

And who stepped up at that time in Congress? To say, “we would like to raise the issue of this section of the Arms Export Control Act, and we object to the sale on that basis, we think that it doesn't support the humanitarian sort of mission of our squad and our progressive team and we also object to the fact that it's illegal under the statute which has been on the books since the mid-70s.”

So why didn't that happen? And the question of why is really something that is going to continue because what we see with things kind of going back to normal and you know, slight movements toward a ceasefire, is that these core issues of the United States, violating its own laws, politicians kind of gaslighting their followers, saying “no, we really are going to do something about this situation,” but then ignoring all the tools laying around, is going to continue. It's kind of like what you've mentioned. Nobody was able to hide what was going on in Gaza, or Sheikh Jarrah. Even after the Israelis bombed the Media Center, covering all of this for Al Jazeera and stringers in the West and excellent alternative news media that didn't stop the images from pouring out. But the real question is, all of these members of the squad back in June of last year received a very detailed set of information about how they could use existing law to promotes their stated values in terms of not allowing human rights violations to go forward and not a single one of them has effectively taken up these tools to actually try to get progressive change.

Dennis Bernstein: Well, talking about chutzpah, might as well use that word, I am the grandson of a great rabbi who wrote prayer, but uh, in the nature of the field of huge chutzpah, it is interesting that you've got Israel driving the situation in the Middle East, threatening that they might have to nuke Iran if Iran has a nuclear program, But since nobody can admit that Israel has nuclear weapons, I guess they can threaten to attack Iran, but you know, when they make that threat everybody knows they got the nuclear weapons. So, it's not an idle threat.

Grant Smith: Yeah, they've got the platforms to deliver them too. Whether it's Jericho missiles or the long-range fighter aircraft that the US has provided for free or even their Dolphin class submarines from Germany. So, it is absolutely not an idle threat at all. They could essentially utterly change the situation in the Middle East and the US would inevitably be sucked into any conflict like that.

Dennis Bernstein. Wow, well we're running out of time, so have you attempted to get some of these congresspeople who are interested in.

There's some new legislation coming around. Some people are for the first time, willing to talk a little bit about trying to restrain Israel, and they are #1 recipient of aid from the United States.

Where's the story? Have you tried attempted to get these congresspeople who are interested, there is some new legislation coming around. Some people are talking for the first time about how to restrain Israel and say, “hey you got a way to do this?”

Grant Smith: Yeah, we're in ongoing contact with them. We do a big event every year right before the meeting of AIPAC in Washington and we invite them, and we provide information to them. And we talk to their staffers. When we get back to them and say look, you're putting out resolutions. And you could very easily put a hold, Senator Bernie Sanders, who's really come around on this issue, put a hold on some of these aid packages, put a hold on some of these aid packages that are disguised as US Israeli collaborative ventures and say, “look, this situation and this constant ‘mowing the grass’ as they call it and threatened annexations. That has to stop, and you have to start being serious.” But all they're willing to do at this point is issue resolutions. And as you and I know, resolutions really don't have the teeth and the impact that actual holds, which is something again, a senator can put on, we've seen Rand Paul do it endlessly, it seems, but they're not willing to take up the tools available to them, whether it's the Senate hold or during these key review periods when the administration is announcing which particular weapons are being given away freely to Israel, even though it's they say it's a sale and saying “look, we have a real question. Apparently, you have not filed proper waivers to give this to a rogue nuclear state under 22 USC 2799.” So those are the things we're asking them, but again, it's going to take more than us and more than sort of beltway insiders who follow this stuff all the time, to motivate them to do it.

They keep saying they want to hear from the grassroots. They want to hear how people want them to put forward these values. While this is certainly one way.

Dennis Bernstein: It's interesting, uh, there was press conference with the US President and the leader of South Korea. We're about to talk about that. And if you watch the CNN inversion you know in the press conference that Joe Biden repeated the mantra. “Israel has the right to exist.”

We're seeing one more slaughter, but you know, they talk about, you know these Republicans, denying that there was an attempt to overthrow the US government. And everybody flabbergasted is like, "Can you just see what we got the video?" Who will get the video with terms of Israel's? treatment of Palestine. But you know, you bring that issue up and I'm interested. You know, watching the CNN version, are you surprised that after Biden made that statement in the press conferences over the only thing that a main commentator Wolf Blitzer could talk about is the fact that, Biden acknowledged that Israel has the right to exist? Why would he be so? Interested in if this is a press conference about Korea? Why is a Wolf Blitzer talking about Israel for the whole “after discussion?”

Grant Smith: Well, Wolf Blitzer has always been very concerned about Israel, and he's been the editor.

Dennis Bernstein: Did he write the lobbyist newsletter for APAC? Didn't he write the newsletter?

Grant: The Near East Report.

Dennis Bernstein: Under a different name, yes, I believe. Didn’t he write the introduction to Ariel Sharon's autobiography?

Grant Smith: Uh, yeah, he's also written [a book] about Jonathan Pollard, so he's really vested in the Israel mythology I would call it, that most people are familiar with, “the struggling nation, constantly, on the verge of being pushed into the sea.” He's really had a long record of sort of promoting that mythology, and so it's not surprising. He's going to throw out questions that tend to try to sustain what is a very false narrative and is a narrative that's collapsing around AIPAC. It's collapsing around CNN and Fox News. I mean, it's essential. I think in this particular conflagration to realize that the trust in the mainstream for delivering any sort of relevant news on this has collapsed and because people can now bypass it, whether it's through Twitter, sometimes, Facebook all sorts of incredible podcasts, or people like Aaron Mate and others who are saying, “look this is what's happening. We're talking to, heaven forbid, leaders in Hamas who are explaining what's going on from their perspective we're talking with the Israeli B'Tselem and other organizations that are on the ground, and I think people recognize quality when they hear it, and they recognize horror when they see it. And so, it's going to be tough for Wolf Blitzer and CNN and Fox News to keep the lid on this. And if anything, that is the fundamental change that's taken place.

Dennis Bernstein: Yeah, well, we're going to watch it very, very closely. Grant Smith, how do people follow your work? And what's the best way to check in with what you're up to?

Sure, you can. Check out our on the web. You can go and check out all of the great speakers who come to our annual like Gideon Levy and others who come year after year to give us a briefing of what's going on and what's going on with the lobby we've got, Roger Waters coming to our next event in 2022, when the National Press Club finally opens up. So, check out and subscribe to our podcasts. We're rebroadcasting right now. Richard Falk, John Dugard and all sorts of other great speakers who spoke at our April conference so people can check that out as well on the podcast, but these alternative voices and I know you're mining them as well. They're starting to get a much bigger platform.

Dennis Bernstein: Well, we're going to launch it closely. As I said, Grant Smith. Thanks for joining us on Flashpoints again.

Grant Smith: Hey Dennis, happy to do it. Thank you.


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