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State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State
Palgrave/MacMillan, October 2013
Reviewed by Shari Hillman
Last November, 138 members of the U.N. General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinians’ presence in that body from “observer entity” to “non-member observer state.” (Germany, Australia, and the U.K. were among the 41 abstentions. The U.S., Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, and Micronesia were among the nine “no” votes.) This unilateral push in the U.N., rightly condemned by the U.S. and Israel, was the latest effort by the Palestinian Authority to move forward the issue of Palestinian statehood.
In State of Failure
, Jonathan Schanzer has written the first in-depth examination of a question that badly needs asking: Are the Palestinians prepared for statehood? Or more specifically: Is the PA “an efficient, transparent, or financially viable authority that is prepared to function as a government for the Palestinian people?”
Clearly it is not, as news reports from time to time demonstrate, but that hasn’t deterred international donors and supporters of the PA.
One example: a leaked European report
revealed in October that the Palestinian Authority squandered nearly $2.7 billion in European aid between 2008 and 2012. Less than a week after that news broke, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Mahmoud Abbas and reiterated Europe’s commitment to pouring yet more aid into the PA.
Such policies only encourage the corruption and dysfunction in the PA and ultimately hurt the Palestinian people.
Schanzer provides us with a detailed history of the Palestinian Authority that examines how its leaders have failed their people by not developing the infrastructure and political culture that could support an independent state. He holds the U.S. and Europe accountable for their contributions to these failures. (The idea that the PA was the antidote to the even more terrible Hamas did not move Palestinian state building forward.) And while the author does not minimize the difficulties that Israeli occupation and security needs posed and continue to pose for the Palestinians, his focus in this unique book is on the internal issues that have kept the Palestinians stateless and suffering.
First among them is the fact that the Palestinian Authority was born out of the PLO, a terrorist organization. Led by Yassir Arafat from 1969 until his death in 2004, the PLO was built on deception, corruption, secrecy, violence, and fierce loyalty to the leader, not exactly the characteristics needed for efficient government administration. As head of both the PLO and the PA, Arafat kept control through short chains of command that all led back to him, chains that were based on family ties, tribal alliances, patronage, and force. All money flowed through his hands to those he favored, all power was granted by him.
That singular control over money has been one of the most serious problems for the Palestinians and for the donor countries that have supported them. Top PLO leaders have been fantastically enriched while the average Palestinian got nothing. Salam Fayyad, who served as finance minister and later as prime minister, tried earnestly for years to find and account for Arafat’s assets, to set up a national PA treasury, and to bring PA finances up to accounting standards. The U.S. and other donor states were reassured by his efforts and by his personal integrity. Ultimately he was defeated by the PA’s political culture and Arafat’s monopoly on power, and later by Abbas’ enmity.
Schanzer offers some recommendations that perhaps should be obvious to an objective observer of Palestinian history: don’t expect terrorists to turn into administrators; develop private enterprise to replace foreign aid; require the Palestinians to allow a free press, to establish an independent judiciary, and to allow real economic development not dependent on patronage relationships. The Palestinians need not only a functioning government and a viable economy, he writes, but a legitimate public administration and an active civil society. None of these are currently in place.
As long as the U.S. and Europe continue to send billions in aid to the PA while failing to hold the Palestinians accountable for state-building, for ending incitement and terrorism, and for responsible financial practices, the Palestinians will be left either stateless or with a failed state. Their story will continue to be one of corruption and human misery instead of development and peace.This review first appeared in the September-October 2013 issue of the
RJC Bulletin, our bi-monthly newsletter for contributing RJC members who are current in their dues. To receive the
Bulletin, please make your membership contribution or renew your membership here.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
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By: RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks
Comparisons of Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter are not meant as a compliment to either man. But it is inevitable to compare them, especially when examining their foreign policies. These two presidents share a perspective on America’s role in the world that is at odds with the idea of strong, confident American leadership. Both reduced American power in the world, contrary to America’s national interests and moral principles.
In the 1970s, Carter believed that America’s options in foreign policy were limited by what he saw as the inexorable forces of modernization shaping events in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Given our “detente” with the Soviet Union, he felt it was time to move the U.S. away from worries about Soviet expansionism and toward a new role: Acting as “midwife” at the birth of new, modernizing democracies led by “populist,” progressive movements.
In practice, he undermined traditional autocracies that had been stable governments, friendly to the U.S., and allowed their countries to fall to armed insurgents, mostly financed and trained by Moscow. Because of his flawed ideology, he misread the intentions, values, and worldviews of other international political actors, as Jeane Kirkpatrick noted at the time. His policies created more dangerous problems for this country. Carter opened the door to communist expansion into Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Southeast Asia and to the fall of the Shah of Iran to Khomeini’s theocrats.
Obama’s ideology is likewise flawed. He is convinced that America’s foreign policy options should be limited, in humble penance for past crimes, real or imagined, that America committed (particularly those he can blame on President George W. Bush). Obama rejects the idea of American exceptionalism. He wants to pull the U.S. out of military entanglements and shrink the size of our military, preferring the process of negotiations and “diplomatic solutions” to the use of American power.
His policies have led to a string of bad outcomes in the Middle East. We have abandoned the Iraqis and the Afghanis to the anti-Western sectarian forces with the biggest guns. Obama’s inexplicable preference for the Muslim Brotherhood over both Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian military leadership has helped fuel great instability in Egypt, including pogroms against Christians. His handling of the Syrian civil war did nothing to help the 100,000 civilians killed there and the millions of refugees. Instead, he strengthened Assad by turning him into a nonproliferation partner and gave the Russians the kind of foothold in the region they haven’t had since they left Egypt in 1973. And most frightening of all, Obama’s insistence on pressing Congress not to enact tougher sanctions on Iran, coupled with his starry-eyed view of the new president, Hassan Rouhani, has allowed that country to move its uranium and plutonium processing to a point where they may be weeks, rather than months or years, from developing nuclear weapons. Our long-time allies in the region, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, are rightfully deeply concerned about U.S. policy and what it means for them.
Obama has withdrawn the U.S. from pursuing its own national security interests and from standing with its allies. He has left the field to the wolves — Russia, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaida.
In World War II, the United States took up the mantle of world leadership. It has made us the main target of anti-Western, anti-democratic forces (the “Great Satan”) and the envy of our allies. We accept these facts because we are the only country with both the physical ability and the philosophy to lead on a global scale. Our strength — military, diplomatic and economic — has helped liberate whole countries, contributed to a strong global economy and improved the daily lives of millions of people around the world. We have not acted solely for our own gain, but out of moral principles grounded in the truths that all men are created equal and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” We are, in fact, an exceptional country.
At an international “town hall” forum sponsored by MTV in February 2002, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell was challenged with this question: “[H]ow do you feel about representing a country commonly perceived as the Satan of contemporary politics?”
“We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated fascism. We defeated communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.
“And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, ‘Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us?’ No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.”
That statement reflects a self-understanding of America that has shaped our foreign policy for most of the last century, through both Republican and Democrat administrations. The exceptions have been the Carter years and the Obama years.
The criticism of Obama’s foreign policies, like that of Carter’s before him, is not about the bumbling mistakes of someone new to the international stage. It comes from an understanding that the core ideology on which those policies are based is deeply flawed. By making the U.S. smaller in the world, we do not endear ourselves to old opponents or old friends. We empower our enemies and weaken our friends. Ultimately we endanger ourselves physically and leave others unprotected. That is not the American way.
This article was published in the Washington Jewish Week, November 7, 2013.
Washington, D.C. (November 5, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) congratulates New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on his landslide reelection. Christie demonstrated an ability to win broad-based support, including strong bipartisan support in the Jewish community.
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RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Governor Christie has brought significant, positive change to New Jersey, including education reform, tax relief, and pension reform. He did it by reaching across the aisle and working with Democrats in the state legislature for the benefit of the people of New Jersey. Democrats in Washington could learn something from the success of that cooperation in Trenton."
He continued, "Under Governor Christie's leadership, New Jersey has demonstrated that Republican ideas work. Today, the voters thanked him by choosing him to continue to lead the state. We commend the Governor on bringing people together to improve the lives of the citizens of New Jersey and we warmly congratulate him on winning reelection."
Washington, D.C. (October 25, 2013) - The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today responded to news that the Obama White House is urging Congress to delay a new Iran sanctions bill.
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RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Despite President Rouhani's 'charm offensive,' Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons capability continues unabated. By moving aggressively to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran, Congress enhances the prospect that the regime will alter its dangerous course."
The House of Representatives passed a bill tightening restrictions on oil sales in July and the Senate Banking Committee has already delayed consideration of comparable legislation once at the Obama administration's request.
"The Obama administration continues to waffle and send mixed messages in its dealings with the Iranian regime, and that has emboldened the regime while stirring deep concern among our allies," Brooks observed.
"When the Senate reconvenes next week, we hope that Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson and Majority Leader Harry Reid will press forward on strong sanctions against Iran. We cannot soften the U.S. position on sanctions unless and until the Iranian regime stops talking and takes measurable, concrete action to end the pursuit of nuclear weapons."
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President Obama’s health care law goes into effect on January 1, 2014. The state exchanges where individuals would be able research and purchase health insurance plans are scheduled to be in place by October 1. But it seems certain that important elements of the law won’t be ready for on time, creating a PR nightmare for Democrats before the 2014 elections.
Many provisions of the law appear headed for serious problems or have already been set aside as unworkable in the existing time frame.
Around the July 4 holiday this year, the administration announced that the employer mandate would be postponed until January 2015. That has given employers with 50 or more employees a reprieve from the requirement to provide health insurance to employees or pay a $2000 per employee fine. The confusion and high costs associated with the mandate made implementing it on schedule impossible.
The President unilaterally set aside one major pillar of the law, with no legislative authority to do so.
At around the same time, it was reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would not require states to verify the income of people who apply for a government subsidy to obtain insurance in the states’ exchanges. Systems could not be put in place fast enough to do the verifications, so millions of dollars in subsidies will be distributed on an “honor system” basis. The potential for fraud is enormous, with no way to compare income tax or other data with the applications for subsidies.
Another basic element of the law has been delayed until 2015: the consumer cost cap intended to protect consumers from sky-high deductibles or out of pocket limits. Actually, that provision was set aside in February; the public only heard about it in July.
The very sophisticated information technology needed to coordinate data between state and federal agencies and to operate the state insurance exchanges is a vital element in the Obamacare roll-out, and it’s nowhere near ready. Since February, administration officials have been reassuring Congress and the public that the technology for the state exchanges would be in place and secure by October 1. But in June, the HHS Inspector General issued a report showing that firewall and other security testing is behind schedule and may take place only days before the exchanges are set to open. The report also raises the possibility that the exchanges will open without appropriate user verification protocols, meaning that users would be open to identity theft and other abuse of their personal information.
It was not an encouraging sign last month when the web site to answer consumers’ questions about Obamacare went live and then crashed 2 hours later.
The human element of getting people signed up for the state exchanges opens up other serious security concerns. HHS has been forced to cut back the training of Obamacare “navigators” by 33 percent and background checks and other security processes in hiring these counselors will not be complete when the exchanges open. At the same time, HHS posted a notice in the beginning of August, looking for vendors to provide translation services for the exchanges. The government wants translators to support over 100 languages, as mandated in the law. The contractors must not only be trained in health care and health insurance terminology, but they will be trusted to maintain the security of the confidential personal information they will be handling.
Uncertainty about how and when Obamacare’s provisions would be implemented has already given rise to negative effects for the economy and for health care. For example, some major insurers have refused to join state exchanges and even stopped doing business in some states in order to avoid them. In California, Anthem Blue Cross, United Health Care and Aetna have pulled out. The second largest insurer in South Carolina has left the state. Aetna has also pulled out of Maryland.
Anxiety about the employer mandate has caused many businesses to reduce workers’ hours and hire fewer new workers to avoid Obamacare’s requirements and penalties. In addition to fast-food chains and small businesses, state and local governments have reduced staff and cut work hours. Adjunct professors in community colleges, local school district employees, city seasonal and part-time workers, and many others have seen their hours cut to prevent the $2000 per employee penalty from kicking in.
When October 1 rolls around, a huge, nation-wide system for purchasing health insurance and managing health care for every American will begin operations. President Obama’s claims about affordable insurance, greater fairness in the distribution of health care, and an improved economy will be put to the test.Coming soon: we’ll examine Republican proposals for alternative ways to reform health care.
This article appeared in the July-August 2013 issue of the RJC Bulletin
. The Bulletin
is sent to contributing RJC members 6 times a year. To renew/upgrade your membership and receive the Bulletin
, click here
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Washington, D.C. (September 3, 2013) - The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) issued an Action Alert
today to our 45,000 members, calling on them to reach out to their elected officials in the House and Senate, to ask them to support the upcoming resolution authorizing the use of military force against the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria.
The Action Alert
stressed the moral threshold that has been crossed by Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own people.
We also emphasized that it is in America's vital national interests that we continue to be able to project - in Syria and elsewhere - a credible military deterrent.
The RJC believes that this not a Republican or Democrat issue. We encouraged our members to reach out in a bipartisan fashion to Republican and Democrat officials to ask for their support of the resolution.See the RJC Action Alert here.
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TO: RJC Members
FROM: RJC Legislative Affairs Committee
SUBJ: Syria Use of Force Resolution
On Saturday, President Obama announced that he would ask Congress to pass a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Bashar Al-Assad's regime in Syria.
There is much debate and discussion as to the merits of various strategies going forward, as well as how the U.S. got to this juncture.
However, for Congress, there is only one question that must be answered: Is it in our national interest to respond to the violation by Syria of the international norm against the use of chemical weapons?BACKGROUND
- For more than three decades, the U.S. State Department has classified Syria as a terror-supporting state.
- The Syrian dictatorship has built stockpiles of chemical weapons and used such weapons on its own population.
- Additionally, Syria's regime has killed more than 100,000 people in the course of a civil war that has turned millions of Syrians into refugees.
- Syria is a critical regional ally of Iran and a conduit for Iranian aid to anti-Israel terrorists, most prominently Hamas and Hezbollah.
- As Iran's regime moves ever closer to its goal of obtaining a nuclear weapons capacity, the Tehran regime and others around the region are watching closely to see whether the American people will stand behind international commitments - both threats against adversaries and assurances to allies.
It is imperative that the U.S. preserve its ability to project a credible military deterrent.
This is not a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans must work together to avoid the loss of moral standing and diplomatic credibility that would result if Congress denies our military the support it will need to execute its mission successfully.TAKE ACTION
Call your Congressman and U.S. Senators - whether they are Democrats or Republicans - and urge them to support the authorization of force resolution when it's voted on (probably some time next week).
Information about how to contact a Congressman can be found athttps://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
(you will be directed to a site where you can identify who your Representative is and send him or her an email) -- or by calling 202-224-3121.
Information about how to contact your U.S. Senators can be found HERE
or by calling 202-224-3121.Members of Congress are more responsive to their own constituents, so we encourage you to alert friends and family members in other states and ask them to contact their Senators and Congressmen as well.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
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By: RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks
When President Obama came into office in 2009, he had big plans: close Gitmo, strengthen the economy, cut unemployment, make friends with the Muslim world, make peace in the Middle East, and bring about the day when “the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal…”
Many of those plans, including the ones about making friends with the Muslim world and bringing peace to the Mideast, failed miserably in Obama’s first term. His second term is looking pretty tough, too. So like many an embattled president, Obama has called his old-time friends to the White House, to circle the wagons and advise him at the highest levels of government.
There are half a dozen old friends of the President who became Cabinet members, were nominated to a Cabinet post, or were chosen to be a top advisor in his second term. Some of these names were too controversial to put forward for Senate confirmation before, but here they are today, to reassure the President that his early ideas were the right ones and to “have his back” in the policy fights to come as he tries to flesh out his administration’s legacy. The record of each one’s relationships with Pres. Obama and especially his or her record on Israel and Middle East issues raise serious concerns.
Robert Malley is reportedly a frontrunner for the post of deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs and special advisor on Syria. Malley went to Harvard Law School with Barack Obama. He served in the Clinton administration and was a member of Clinton’s Mideast policy team during the Camp David talks in 2000. Malley blamed Israel for the lack of success of those talks. Later he acted, in the Obama presidential campaign’s words, as an informal advisor to candidate Obama. The campaign severed ties with Malley in May 2008 after the British Times newspaper reported that Malley had met directly with representatives of Hamas, a group on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Malley has long advocated for bringing Hamas into the Mideast peace process. Malley served on J Street’s Advisory Council.
Samantha Power has written and worked extensively on human rights and genocide, which brought her to the attention of then-Senator Barack Obama. She was a senior advisor to Obama’s presidential campaign until March 2008, when she resigned in the backlash to having called Hillary Clinton “a monster” in a public interview. She joined Obama’s State Department transition team and became a special assistant to the President on the National Security Council regarding human rights. She was the first head of the President’s Atrocities Prevention Board, which was silent on the violence in Syria and in South Sudan, and other conflicts. She has made several controversial anti-Israel remarks in the past. She was nominated to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, replacing Susan Rice in that post.
Susan Rice served on the National Security Council under President Clinton and later went to the Brookings Institution. She was a senior policy advisor to presidential candidate Obama and was on his transition advisory board. President Obama restored the position of ambassador to the United Nations to a Cabinet level post when he chose her for that job in 2008. Rice was a controversial ambassador who was criticized for missing important U.N. sessions. In an official statement explaining the U.S. veto on a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, she said, “Our opposition to the resolution before this Council today should therefore not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity. On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity… Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace.” Rice famously lied on the Sunday morning talk shows about the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. She became the symbol for the administration’s evasions and lies about what happened that night. In the subsequent uproar, she withdrew her name from consideration for Secretary of State. President Obama has now named her national security advisor, a post that does not require Senate confirmation.
Chuck Hagel and Barack Obama became friends as members of the U.S. Senate. As a veteran Senator, Hagel advised freshman Senator Obama on various issues. He served as an advisor to presidential candidate Obama. After retiring from his Senate seat in 2008, Hagel entered academia. Pres. Obama nominated him to be Secretary of Defense in January 2013. Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran caused the RJC and several other major groups to protest his nomination in the strongest terms. Hagel reportedly called the State Department “an adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office” and said, “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up [in Congress].” Hagel opposed sanctions against Iran and called for direct negotiations with the Iranian regime. He has also advocated for direct talks with Hamas and Hezbollah in the past. All but four Senate Republicans opposed his Defense nomination, but it was approved with unanimous Democrat backing in February.
Michael Froman went to Harvard Law School with Barack Obama and was on the law review with him. He advised then-Senator Obama on economic policy and was central in helping presidential candidate Obama develop his economic team. Froman served as national security advisor for economic affairs. He was nominated to be U.S. Trade Representative in May 2013 and was confirmed in June.
Penny Pritkzer is an old Chicago hand, part of a very influential family known for having owned the Hyatt hotel chain, the TransUnion credit bureau, and the Royal Caribbean cruise line, among other prominent holdings. Pritzker chaired the national finance committee for the Obama campaign in 2008. Thanks to her business connections and strong support for Obama, she raised the millions of dollars that helped get him elected President. She was considered a top choice for Secretary of Commerce in 2009, but was involved at that time in the breakup of Pritzker family-owned Superior Bank, in the subprime home mortgage meltdown. It was thought too controversial to put forward the owner of a large failed bank as a possible commerce secretary. She remained in the finance world until President Obama tapped her for commerce secretary in May 2013. She was confirmed on June 25.
In a second term, Presidents feel they have “more flexibility” to do what they want, whether the voters would approve or not. In this instance, President Obama has nominated some people who were too hot to nominate in 2009, but whose ideas and past statements are no longer a political issue. Some of those ideas – like Robert Malley’s take on the peace process, Susan Rice’s thoughts on Israeli policies, and Chuck Hagel’s views on Iran – raise particular concern about the trajectory of Obama administration policies in the next three years.
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Washington, D.C. (July 9, 2013) - The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement today in response to the announcement that Ron Dermer will be Israel's next Ambassador to the U.S, replacing current Ambassador Michael Oren.
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "The RJC extends warm congratulations to our friend Ron Dermer on this well-deserved honor. Ron is known for being a trusted and effective aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Responsibility for maintaining the Jewish state's most vital international alliance is a heavy one, but knowing Ron as we do, we are confident that he is up to the job.
"A visit with Ron has been a highlight on the itinerary of recent RJC delegations to Israel. We look forward to reciprocating his hospitality during his posting in Washington, DC. Mazel tov, Ron.
"This is also a moment to thank Ambassador Michael Oren for four years of exemplary service during which he advanced the cause of U.S.-Israeli friendship in countless ways. We wish Ambassador Oren well in his future endeavors."
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Washington, D.C. (June 5, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement today in response to the announcement that President Obama intends to name Samantha Power as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, “Samantha Power has a record of statements that are very troubling to Americans who support Israel. We urge members of the U.S. Senate to question her closely about her past statements and writings. She must respond to the strong doubts about her views raised by that record. Senators should also examine her tenure as head of the President’s Atrocity Prevention Board to see what results, if any, came out of her time there.
“The U.S. has an important role to play in the United Nations to defend freedom, Western values, and our democratic allies. We need an ambassador who will fight for U.S. interests in the international arena. Samantha Power must show the Senate and the American people that she can fill that role.”Background:
In 2008, as an academic who taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Samantha Power suggested
that the U.S. should invade Israel militarily to impose a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and protect “a new state of Palestine.” Her writing and public appearances reflected her views that special-interest
lobbies in this country (read, the “Israel lobby”) have too great an impact on our foreign policy in the Middle East.
More recently, she served as the first director of President Obama’s new Atrocity Prevention Board. In her months in that role, the APB was silent about the thousands of civilians killed by the Syrian government, the attacks by the Sudanese government of the Nuba tribes in South Sudan, and other crises around the world. The APB has no web site or social media presence
, and has not responded to letters from human rights activists
and genocide scholars
regarding ongoing atrocities.