Matt Duss on Herzliya, or: ‘Neocon Woodstock’

If you haven’t already, head over the website of the Nation and read every last word of Matt Duss’s report from Herzliya, the biggest annual Israeli security conference. The event is best known for being where Israeli rightists and U.S. neocons swoon over each other.

Just look at some of the Americans who took the trip this year: Noah Pollak, Jennifer Rubin (whose trip was paid for by Pollak’s organization), Judith Miller, Scooter Libby, Danielle Pletka, Reuel Marc Gerecht, and so on and so on.

Duss tells it better than I could. Marvel at the madness:

To be sure, drumbeating on Iran still dominated the official conference agenda. But, as if to demonstrate that everyone has limited bandwidth for worry, almost every discussion eventually circled back to Egypt. There was growing anxiety that while Israel continued to confront the threat from the East—the growth of a “poisonous crescent” (as one member of the Israeli government put it to me) consisting of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon—the peace on its western border could no longer simply be taken for granted. Egypt was raining on everything.

The drummers were already going to have trouble keeping the beat in the wake of outgoing Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s recent statements that efforts at sabotage and international sanctions had likely delayed an Iranian nuke for several years. Egypt only made things more complicated. Still, it was odd to hear neoconservative doyenne Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute dismiss as “propaganda” former Mossad head Efraim Halevi’s assertion that “the US and Israel are winning the war against Iran.” “If Iran is losing, I’d like to be that kind of loser,” Pletka said, reminding the audience that, “Khomeini referred to Israel as a one-bomb country.”

“What I’m saying is not propaganda,” Halevi shot back. “The danger is believing the propaganda of others.”

Now that you’ve read the excerpt, go back and read the whole thing. Really. Think about when an Israeli general says, “In the Arab world, there is no room for democracy.” Ask yourself is these are the people we should be listening to about bombing Iran.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. Professor Stephen Zunes good friend Berel Rodal, who is the vice chair of Peter Ackerman’s International Center for Nonviolent Conflict also likes to attend the Herzliya Conference. As I wrote last year in a ironic celebration of their commitment to ‘peace’ activism:

    “One should note that such Zionist-orientated peace work has benefited from Peter Ackerman’s subtle pressuring of Zionist elites at the Herzliya Conference in Israel, which Ackerman and Rodal attended in 2008 in order to help spread the good word about nonviolence. (Having eased his way into this conference in 2008, Rodal penetrated it yet again in 2010.)”

    As a follow-up I published a further article last week that examined Ackerman’s ‘aid’ work for the US ‘war’ effort for a group called Spirit of America (at which he is a board member). I started by writing:

    “Spirit of America is a privately run nonpartisan group that was formed eight years ago and that ‘helps American military and civilian personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as people who call to Americans for help in their struggle for freedom and democracy.’ Does anyone smell fat-cat shit? Anyway, that is the self-description/deception given on their Web site, but essentially Spirit of America is an aid organization that works in collaboration with the US war machine in Iraq and Afghanistan to improve the efficiency of their counterinsurgency operations. …”

  2. Michael Barker’s guilt-by-association attacks on Stephen Zunes and Peter Ackerman — which he leaves like droppings on window sills all over the blogosphere — are getting rather silly, inasmuch as they all depend on his allegation that Ackerman’s center on nonviolent resistance is aimed at bringing down regimes that the U.S. doesn’t like. Having ignored evidence that the center has done workshops for West Saharans, West Papuans, and numerous times for Palestinians — all of whom are opposing regimes that the U.S. supports — Barker also seems unaware of, or has conveniently ignored, even more visible evidence that Ackerman’s center has educated Egyptians over the past several years in nonviolent resistance:

    Oh, goodness, might it be that Ackerman is actually not an agent of imperial power after all? Fear not, Barker is sure to invent an even more convoluted conspiracy theory to explain this, though he’ll have to leave Rodal out of it, since he seems no longer seems to be with that center, as can be seen by a glance at its web site:

    As for Barker’s logic about Zunes, More than twenty years ago, I once sat next to Timothy Leary at a planetarium in San Diego. Richard Nixon said that Leary was “the most dangerous man in America.” Alas, that does not mean that I am now dangerous.

  3. I will believe Rodal when he stops providing credence to the neocons by attending this kind of conference.

  4. Dear Mr Paine

    RE: Your Successful Demolition of Straw Men

    In the past you made exactly the same misleading accusation about my “droppings,” and as before I do not expect that you will bother seriously engage with the actual content of my work.

    That said, it would be useful if you could drawn attention to the worst parts of each of the two articles I referred to in my last post, highlighting where you deem think I use guilt-by-association to ill-effect. Moreover, as you think that my work has little value beyond shit, it would be super if you could draw my attention to my most conspiratorial use of guilt-by-association.

    I promise I will reply in full to your criticism, as I have done for all of Stephen Zunes’ criticisms of my work: something he has singularly failed to do with regard my own legitimate concerns.

    I will look forward to hearing from you,

    Your Thankfully

    Michael Barker

    P.S. If you would care to check my web site, you would see that I have addressed the minor role that Stephen Zunes and the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict have played in training Egyptian pro-democracy activists at a centre that has long received funding from the imperialist National Endowment for Democracy. As you may recall you defended Zunes for training these activists when I mentioned it nearly three years ago here,

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