The snakepit of corruption that is Washington, D.C., is writhing and roiling these days with the news that super-lobbyist and Republican fundraiser Jack Abramoff has pleaded guilty to bribery, fraud, and other charges that could embroil Capitol Hill in the biggest corruption scandal in recent memory. As many as 60 members of Congress may be implicated in the massive network of payoffs, phony nonprofit foundations, and other criminal activities up to and including murder. None of this is especially surprising, and certainly libertarians, such as myself, are hardly shocked at the sight of public officials and private deal-makers enmeshed in a Dionysian orgy of brazen greed. There is one aspect of all this, however, that is especially interesting to foreign policy aficionados, and that is Abramoff’s connections to the far right wing of Israel’s Likud Party, the “settler” movement, and, here in America, Israel’s amen corner in the conservative movement.
According to a report by Michael Isikoff in Newsweek, Abramoff was soliciting funds on behalf of a shady organization known as the Capital Athletic Foundation (CAF), which was supposed to be funding sports programs and imparting “leadership skills” to inner-city youth. Instead, CAF funneled millions scarfed up from Indian tribes not only into Abramoff’s own pockets and the pockets of his cronies, but also to ultra-right-wing Israeli “settlers.” Isikoff reports:
“More than $140,000 of foundation funds were actually sent to the Israeli West Bank where they were used by a Jewish settler to mobilize against the Palestinian uprising. Among the expenditures: purchases of camouflage suits, sniper scopes, night-vision binoculars, a thermal imager, and other material described in foundation records as ‘security’ equipment. The FBI, sources tell Newsweek, is now examining these payments as part of a larger investigation to determine if Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribe clients.”
The fraudulently obtained money funded a paramilitary outfit based in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, a large community annexed after the ’67 war and the site of renewed building in open violation of the American-sponsored “road map.” The conduit for the money was one Schmuel Ben-Zvi, an old buddy of Abramoff’s who, like so many Americans, was recruited into the rabidly expansionist Israeli “settler” movement. A series of e-mails between Ben-Zvi and Abramoff illustrate the agenda that energized and inspired the Abramoff crime family. While Newsweek reports Ben-Zvi “heatedly denied” that he had any connection to Abramoff, other than being a high school bud from Abramoff’s Hollywood days, the e-mails, featured as exhibits in a Senate Indian Affairs committee hearing, tell a different story. In a missive of thanks from Ben-Zvi to Abramoff, the former writes:
“I feel like the tank commanders in the Yom Kippur war, who when hearing over the radio that reinforcements were coming, felt so great that they raised their seats higher out of the tank hatch and went forward.”
Abramoff replied: “If only there were another dozen of you the dirty rats would be finished.”
The “dirty rats” are Palestinians: according to fanatical Zionist ideologues like Abramoff, Ben-Zvi, and the “Christian” dispensationalists who make up the activist wing of the neoconized Republican Party e.g., Abramoff associate and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed the Palestinian people are a subhuman species who must be ethnically cleansed from the Biblically defined land of Israel. Greed greased the wheels of the Abramoff money machine, but ideology played a role, too. It is characteristic of the neoconservatives that they often manage to combine their policy proposals with profit-making activities that invariably accrue to their own accounts.
Abramoff clearly sees himself not as a scandalous figure who will come to embody the naked avarice and power lust that motivates the “official” conservative movement, but as a misunderstood idealist. In an interview with the New York Times Magazine last year, he tried to give his empire a gloss of religiosity:
“I have spent years giving away virtually everything I made. Frankly, I didn’t need to have a kosher delicatessen. That was money I could have bought a yacht with. I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. I felt that the resources coming into my hands were the consequence of God putting them there.”
While blaming it all on God may satisfy his most ardent defenders, and may even be a precursor to an insanity plea, Abramoff was clearly a believer in the principle of “In God we trust, all others pay cash”: he sought to write off his contributions to Ben-Zvi’s Palestinian-elimination program as “charitable” donations. This put a scare into his accountant, and Abramoff sought suggestions from Ben-Zvi as to how to make this write-off credible. An Abramoff assistant forwarded some of Ben-Zvi’s more creative advice:
“He did suggest that he could write some kind of letter with his Sniper Workshop Logo and letter head. It is an ‘educational entity of sorts.'”
“No, don’t do that,” replied Abramoff. “I don’t want a sniper letterhead.”
Abramoff, although partially motivated by ideology, isn’t crazy like his fellow “super-Zionist” Ben-Zvi: a sniper letterhead would have been a dead giveaway. Yet the links between the War Party and Abramoff are there, for any enterprising journalists who care to look into them: the connection is not very well-hidden, either. One investigator, eager to obtain information about the neocon-sponsored “Reform Party of Syria,” led by one Farid Ghadry, the Syrian version of Ahmed Chalabi, stumbled on the Abramoff connection:
“When repeated calls to [Ghadry’s] organization went unanswered, I visited the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the RFP. Reform Party of Syria is [in] the office of ‘super-Zionist’ lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Middle Gate Ventures, Abramoff’s ‘political advisory company’ partners with RFP.”
The Reform Party of Syria is a front organization for Israeli interests in the Levant, and is supported by an impressive constellation of neoconservative stars. Regime change, effected by a U.S. invasion and occupation of Syria and Lebanon, is the one and only item at the top of this gang‘s agenda, and it comes as no surprise that Abramoff’s ill-gotten gains went to funding it.
In response to the news that money fraudulently obtained from Indian tribes went to subsidize fanatical Zionists from Brooklyn out to grab more Palestinian land, tribal lawyer Henry Buffalo opined:
“This is almost like outer-limits bizarre. The tribe would never have given money for this.”
Welcome to the Bizarro World of 2006, where the laws of morality are inverted and the political atmosphere has reverted back to, say, 1986 the year of Iran-Contra. That was the scandal that rocked the Reagan administration, in which money that went to buy missiles for the Iranians in exchange for the release of American hostages was diverted to fund the Nicaraguan contras yet another neocon act of adventurism, where personal profit, interventionist ideology, and clandestine government rogue operations converged in a nexus of criminality.
No, “the tribe would never have given money for this.” And, no, the country would never have gone to war if Americans hadn’t been convinced by a pack of lies that those “weapons of mass destruction” existed. In any case, the Israeli connection to the Abramoff scandal is potentially much more extensive than related here. By way of deception thou shalt make war the slogan of Israel’s Mossad is worth recalling, in this context, as key to understanding the neocons’ modus operandi.