tothepointanalyses
tothepointanalyses

Israel

A Case of Decency Deficit – An Analysis (8/20/10)

It is true that in any given population there will always be a range of decency. Some might use the term morality instead of decency, but morality is loaded with too many disputed meanings. The term decency, hopefully, has a broader recognizable footprint. At the lowest end of any range of decency are those who are so egocentric or perverted that they not only act in ways that are harmful to others, but they do so as a form of enjoyment.

In extreme cases, such people usually end up in prison, or even asylums for the criminally insane. They have committed serial murders or some other form of horrible physical abuse. They have robbed their elderly neighbors for the fun of it or set fire to the local hospital or what have you. Yet, it is a strange quirk of our way of doing things that such degenerates can actually find a place in society were there is an accepted scope for their particular attitudes and actions. That place would have to bring them into contact with people outside the community and toward whom their society is hostile. Where the “rules of engagement,” as the phrase goes, is much more flexible and fuzzy than back home. That place is the military in times of war. This is not to say that every soldier is suffering from a severe case of “decency deficit.” However, if one has been in the military, particularly in a combat environment, one will most likely recognize the type. While everyone else is scared and counting the days until they can get out of an essentially inhuman environment, these people are enjoying themselves.

There has been a recent case of moderate decency deficiency involving a 20 year old female Israeli soldier by the name of Eden Abargil. Ms Abargil had her picture taken as she “guarded” Palestinian prisoners who were bound and blindfolded. She stands there with her rifle and smiles at the camera. She is not the only one who comes away from serving in Israel’s occupation army with such photographic trophies. What makes her special is that she posted this and other pictures on Facebook, under the title “The Army, the best time of my life.”

According to the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence, these sort of trophy pictures are such a “widespread phenomenon” that taking them constitutes “a norm.” Why so? Because it is the “necessary result of a long term military control of a civilian population.” No doubt this is true, though if you are sufficiently decency deficient your exposure does not have to be “long term” at all.

Ms. Abargil gave an interview on Israeli Army Radio on August 17. She proclaimed herself “mystified” by those who were upset at the postings. She asked the audience, “what is wrong with that [putting the pictures on Facebook]?” After all, she continued, “there was no violence in the pictures” and “they reflect the military experience.” Abargil seems to have decency deficit problems. If nothing else she cannot see that there is in fact violence in her photos. The Palestinian men whom she is so gleefully guarding have obviously suffered violence simply by being bound and blindfolded for resisting illegal occupation. In fact, these scenes scream violence to anyone who can see them within a context of an occupation which itself is violent on a daily basis– anyone who is aware of the Geneva conventions, U.N. resolutions, the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, plain human decency. Yet, that is the rub. Eden Abargil cannot see it. Why not?

Well, her problem might be a personal one. That is, she may be one of those small number of people found worldwide who are incapable of recognizing the difference between right and wrong. If so we can compare her to another young lady whose psyche might qualify for this condition. This woman was also in the military, but she is a 28 year old American. Her name is Lynndie England. She was one of eleven soldiers court marshaled in 2005 for the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Here too it was trophy pictures that exposed the smiling England romping among horribly abused captives. Ms. England said that she was just following orders.

In the case of Eden Abargil there is yet another possibility. How can you tell if you have a behavior problem or are simply misunderstood by outsiders, when you live in a community were decency deficiency is normal? After all, if Breaking the Silence, and other Israeli Human Rights organizations (whose memberships are quite small but collectively an important humane voice) are right, the taking of trophy pictures is “a widespread phenomenon, not an aberration caused by a single soldier.” In this regard it should noted that the IDF appears upset with Abargil, whose action it has labeled “crude,” not because she had “the best time of my life” posing for such pictures, but because she was indiscrete enough to display them to the world via the web.

To clarify the above question, consider the environment in which Eden Abargil was born and raised. It is an environment in which most Israelis are taught from childhood that the world is against them. When informed that her facebook postings might “injure Israel’s image in the International arena” Abargil responded, “We shall always be attacked. Whatever we do, we shall always be attacked.” Many Israelis are convinced that the Palestinians are barbarians, “beasts walking on two legs,” who want to “push the Jews into the sea.” The answer to this alleged threat is to convince the Palestinians that they are “a defeated people.” Yet they never seem to get this message and so Israel’s destructive power never gives its citizens the security they crave. On the other hand, many Israelis believe that to compromise with the enemy is to encourage them to keep trying to “push the Jews into the sea.” So they just continue on an illogical path of trying to humiliate the Palestinians into total surrender. The majority of Israelis have this problematic worldview reinforced throughout their lives by their parents, their schoolmates and teachers, their friends and co-workers, and their compatriots in the military. They even get it from their rabbis. Under the circumstances it is very difficult to avoid the taint of racism. So, is Eden Abargil’s decency deficiency a personal problem, or is she simply an acculturated, “normal” member of a society that is collectively deficient of decency?

If it is the former, the answer might be therapy, parole of one year to live in an Arab-Israeli town, or just keeping Ms Abargil indefinitely away from guns and cameras. If it is the latter, the first step to a cure is the isolation of the entire Israeli society on the model used against apartheid South Africa. Personally, I agree with Breaking the Silence. The problem goes beyond Eden Abargil. In fact she is only the latest public symptom of an indecent state and ideology (Zionism). For a long time both have done nothing but harm to the Jewish people and religion. It is for their sake, as well as for the long suffering Palestinians, that the treatment of isolation must be attempted.

The Boycott of Israel is “Gaining Speed” – An Analysis (9/7/10)

On September 5, 2010 the Israel newspaper Haaretz published an article the headline of which read “Anti-Israel Economic Boycotts are Gaining Speed.” The subtitle went on to state that “the sums involved are not large, but their international significance is huge.” Actually, what seems to have triggered the piece was not international. Rather, it was the decision of a “few dozen theater people” to boycott “a new cultural center in Ariel,” an illegally settled town in the Occupied Territories. This action drew public support from 150 academics in Israel. The response from the Israeli right, which presently controls the government and much of Israel’s information environment, was loud and hateful.

Though this affair was domestic, it provided a jumping off point for Haaretz to go on and examine the larger international boycott of Israel which is indeed “gaining speed.” It noted that Chile had recently pledged to boycott products from the Israeli settlements and Norway’s state pension plan had divested itself of companies involved in construction in the Occupied Territories. The Haaretz article pointed out that these incidents (and there are others that can be named in such countries as Ireland and Venezuela) are signs that the boycott movement –so long the province civil society– is now finding resonance at the level of national governments. The Israeli paper declared that “the world is changing before our eyes. Five years ago the anti-Israel movement may have been marginal. Now it is growing into an economic problem.”

The article puts forth two explanations for this turn of events one of which is problematic, and the other incomplete. Let’s take a look at them.

1. “Until now boycott organizers had been on the far left. [Now] they have a new ally: Islamic organizations….The red side has a name for championing human rights, while the green side [the Islamic side] has money.” I have some personal knowledge of the boycott movement and I find some of these particulars to be, at best, exaggerations. The term “far left” must be based on some arbitrary Zionist definition of the political spectrum. Worldwide community support for the growing boycott movement has gone beyond political alignments. Today, it is a reflection of real united front seeking the promotion of Palestinian human rights (in this Haaretz is on the mark). As for the “green side” there is certainly an understandable affinity here. Muslims too are concerned about the human rights of Palestinians (including the Christians ones). However, the claim of any significant flow of cash is, as far as I know, another exaggeration. The Haaretz piece cites the example of the aid flotilla to Gaza, with its link to Turkey. But this is just one case in a worldwide movement. And, there was nothing illegitimate (despite Israeli propaganda) about the involvement of Turkish charities. It might come as a surprise to the Israelis, but you can run a boycott movement without heavy outside funding–as was the case of the boycott against South Africa.

2. Haaretz continues, “but then came the occupation, which turned us into the evil Goliath, the cruel oppressor, a darkness on the nations.” The article suggests that this is such a contrast with the righteous stand that helped convince the West to support the original formation of Israel that many have turned away from Israel in disappointment. “And now we are paying the price of presenting ourselves as righteous and causing disappointment: boycott.” No doubt there is much disappointment. The horrors of Israeli expansionism and occupation are such that they draw worldwide attention. And rightly so. But, they are symptoms of some deeper cause. What might it be? The state of Israel was founded on an ideological program called Zionism. That program called for the establishment of a state designed to serve the exclusive interests of one religiously identified group. While the Zionists felt this aim was justified by the centuries of persecution suffered by European Jews, it actually carried within it the seeds of its own corruption. The simple truth is that you cannot successfully design a state for one group only unless you found it on some desert island. If you put it down in a place that is occupied by others who are not of your group, what is the most likely next step? You turn into racists, ethnic cleansers, or worse. The Zionist adherence to their ideology and its program is the cause of their turning into “cruel oppressors.” The means dictated by their end made it so.

The Haaretz article does not go beyond these points, but there is plenty more to say. Those who wonder whether they should support the boycott should certainly consider the horrors of the Israeli occupation and its ghettoizing of the people of Gaza. They might also consider the following:

1. The non-Jewish population of Israel proper, that is Israel within the 1967 borders (the “Green Line”) are subject to segregation and economic and social discrimination that is both de jure and de facto. Their overall standards of living are lower than the Israeli Jews, their educational facilities inferior and their economic prospects poorer. This is to be expected. If you are running your state based on a racist principle, by definition discrimination must infuse the home front. This fact does not appear to fit with the often heard claim that the Israelis are “just like us” Americans. However, in a rather anachronistic way they are “like us” – that is like the United States prior to our civil rights legislation. In other words, Israel is like, say, Georgia or Alabama circa the 1920s.

2. The second factor worthy of consideration is the negative international impact of Zionist ideology, for the harm Zionism is not confined to either Israel or its Occupied Territories. The fact is that Zionist influence spreads far beyond Israel’s area of dominion and now influences many of the policy making institutions of Western governments, and particularly those of the United States. This influence is corruptive if only because it distorts both official and popular notions of national interests in the Middle East. When you have a powerful and single-minded lobby that is able to manipulate your government in such a fashion that it pours its national treasure into a racist state, arms it and protects it to the point of becoming an accomplice to its crimes, and by doing so willfully alienates 22% of the world’s population, you know that your notion of national interest has been seriously mangled. This harmful influence makes it imperative that Israel’s oppressive behavior be singled out as a high priority case from among the many other oppressive regimes that may be candidates for boycott.

So no one in Israel, the U.S. or anywhere else should be surprised that the boycott against Israel, in its many manifestations, is “gaining speed.” If you are not yet a supporter you should become one. To join the boycott is good the world’s future in general. It is certainly good for the Palestinians, and yes, it is good for the Jews too.

Israel Classifies its Past as Top Secret – (An Analysis 7/30/10)

Israel is a land built on myths. It is, of course, not unique in this. Indeed in this way Israel is very much like its patron, the United States. In order to build and maintain a mythical status a nation must create a picture of itself from its very inception and pass that picture down generation upon generation. For the U.S. it is the idea that the nation is a beacon of both democracy and capitalism unto the world and what it does in terms of foreign policy, and even when at war, is always done altruistically. For Israel, the myth is that the nation is democratic and the last bastion of safety for the world’s Jews. Everything it does, even when that amounts to imperial expansion, is done defensively.

In order to maintain these myths one must control history. The story line must be taught in the schools and supported by the nation’s multiple media sources. One must raise up a population that is so well inculcated with its mythic worldview that if something occurs which contradicts it, it can be readily dismissed as an exception to the rule. In the case of the United States, two hundred years of indoctrination and a long term status as a great power has allowed its myths to survive, in the minds of its own people, the horrors of Viet Nam, Iraq and now Afghanistan. Israel is a much younger nation with only three or so generations of indoctrination under its psychological belt, so to speak. And, while it may be a regional superpower, its reputation in the Middle East is built on fear. With the rest of the world that reputation is associated with equally unstable and temporary attitudes, like Holocaust guilt. In essence, apart from the convinced Zionists, Israel’s sustaining national myths are still fragile.

A number of years ago Israel applied its law that required the government archives to be opened for public review and research following a thirty year waiting period for political affairs and fifty years for military affairs. This brought many of the government documents referring to seminal years of 1947 and 1948 into the open. The result was a serious, evidence based, revision of the founding legends of Israel. In other words, the state lost momentary control of its own history. The result undermined the nation’s mythic self-image amongst observers outside of Israel and caused significant unease within the country. So powerful was the reaction of the elites against this revised interpretation of the past that the “new historians” who brought it forth are now either teaching abroad or have, as in the case of Benny Morris, recanted.

In the interim things have only gotten worse for the Zionist defenders of the idealized Israel. Multiple invasions of Lebanon and the essentially defenseless Palestinian cities and towns, the slaughter of the innocent, the reduction of Gaza to an open air prison, the on-going confiscation of land and property in the Occupied Territories, rampant settler violence, and the repeated election of racist governments have resulted in a worldwide civil society effort to isolate Israel and induce it to reform itself in the same manner as South Africa. Except in the United States, Israel’s claim to act only in self-defense is not seen as credible and the accusation that all who disagree are anti-Semites not taken seriously. Yet outside disenchantment, as dangerous as it might be in the long run, is not nearly as threatening as the erosion of one’s domestic population’s adherence to their national myths. That adherence must be maintained at all cost otherwise the nation will metamorphose into something that no longer supports its present elites. The fate of the “new historians” has demonstrated just how determined the Israeli establishment is to prevent that sort of erosion.

That being the case, Israel’s present Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has extended for an additional twenty years the period during which government archives can remain closed. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/state-archives-to-stay-classified-for-20-moreyears- pm-instructs-1.304449 . The Haaretz article announcing this decision says that the Prime Minister acted because of “pressure from the intelligence agencies,” but Netanyahu probably did not need much convincing. The period of time for which documents will now remain classified include such events as the 1954 Lavon Affair, the 1956 Sinai invasion, and the 1967 war which saw the heinous attack on the USS Liberty and the seizure of the Golan Heights. The State Archivist, Yehoshua Freundlich told Haaretz that “some of the material was selected classified because ‘it has implications over [Israel’s] adherence to international law.’” This is probably an understatement. To add insult to injury, Haaretz reports that there is a good possibility that the government’s decision to classify much of Israel’s past as top secret will mean that “archives that had already been made public would again be hidden away.”

If you study the new historians’ revisionist history of Israel you are struck by the Machiavellian behavior of men like David Ben Gurion who made a profession of being “economical with the truth.” So devious were many of Israel early establishment figures that their political competitors, such as the neo-fascist Ze’ev Jabotinsky and the terrorist Menachem Begin, appear almost refreshing in their frightful honesty. Today we have the worst of all worlds in Israel– leaders who are both terrorists and shockingly devious. Now by their own admission, today’s Zionist leaders must hide away their nation’s sins lest the entire world turn away from Israel, and perhaps even their own citizens begin to fear that their national myths cannot stand honest and objective examination.

Israel Talks Itself Into War – An Analysis (June 23, 2010)

There was an article in The Christian Science Monitor the other day (June 22, 2010) entitled “Why Iran vs. Israel rhetoric could escalate into war.” Almost all of the rhetoric was coming from one source, and that was Israel. Once more, the war talk reflected the peculiar and really pathological nature of the Israeli worldview. Here is example of it:

1. Former Israeli intelligence chief Shabtai Shavit, a fellow who still has the ear of Israel’s leadership, laid out the situation as the ruling elite sees it. He did this while at a conference at Bar Ilan University. “Since there is an ongoing war, since the threat is permanent, since the intention of the enemy in this case [he was referring to Iran] is to annihilate you, the right doctrine is one of preemption and not of retaliation.” Does any of this match up with reality? Well, not really.

– There is no official, or even any actual unofficial, state of war between Israel and Iran.
– There is no such thing as a “permanent” threat (even to the Jews) unless you see the world in a permanently paranoid way.
– The Iranians are not out to annihilate the Jews of Israel. No such threat has ever been made, at least not by Amadinejad. I assume that Mr. Shavit (who is suppose to be an expert at accurately interpreting “intelligence”) is working from the infamous New York Times mistranslation of the Iranian President’s statement in May 2007. An accurate paraphrased partial translation of what Amadinejad said at that time runs as follows, the world can expect the passing of the Zionist regime from the “pages of history” in the same way as the Soviet Union disappeared. In the meantime the Iranian president has warned Israel away from Lebanon and railed against its oppression of the Palestinians. Just recently it unfortunately dispatched an aid ship to Gaza. What this all means is that Israel can no longer throw its regional weight around in a totally free fashion. Is that what is making Jerusalem so mad?
– Of course this is counter balanced by the Israeli insistence that Iran’s desire to generate enough nuclear fuel to treat the country’s cancer patients is really a dark conspiracy to build nuclear bombs in order to destroy an Israel which is itself armed with over hundred nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them.
– The only way one can justify an act of war (a preemptive attack by Israel on Iran) from all this is if you have twisted each of these imaginings into a string of “existential threats.” Apparently, the Israelis are very good at that sort of thing.

2. As a consequence of this kind of talk from people in or close to the government there are a good number of Israeli civilian analysts who are getting worried. For instance, Haggai Ram who is an Iran expert at Ben Gurion University, says that the “rhetoric from both sides, because it is so intensive, and involves so many emotions…can just become reality.”

– Israeli analysts who actually know something about Iran play down the threat and some even say it is non-existent. However, the last time any government official agreed with them was September 9, 2009 when Ehud Barack admitted that Iran was not an “existential threat” to Israel. Since then they have been largely ignored. They don’t make the newspapers and they don’t normally walk the halls of government. As Trita Parsi, an American Iranian scholar, points out those Israelis who have had dealings with Iran in the past and “know the country quite well are less and less in the bureaucracy .” The result is an ever greater risk of “skewed calculations” that can turn into a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

– All of this should sound very familiar to Americans. It is just like the situation during the Bush Jr. administration that led the US to invade Iraq.

3. One has to observe that The Christian Science Monitor article itself does not hesitate to indulge in its own fantasy. Following an argument for nuclear deterrence laid out by Martin Van Creveld, a military historian at the Hebrew University, the piece raises the possibility that the Iranians are “irrational and cannot be deterred.” That is a very strange thing to say when the reportage offered by the piece so strongly suggests that it is the Israeli leaders who are crazy.

– The truth is that Iran has not attacked another country in centuries unless it itself was first attacked. Another truth is that the Iranians find themselves surrounded by hostile forces, first and foremost Americans, while having a recent history of other countries starting wars against them. If there is any country out there that has a good rational reason to possess a nuclear deterrent it is Iran. Yet there is no real evidence (except in the opaque minds of the Israelis and their Zionist supporters in the US) that they plan to actually build a nuclear bomb. This is not to say that the present Iranian regime is nice. It isn’t. But its brutality has been directed at its own people, not at Israel.

I am afraid that here in the West we have things reversed. Iran is not the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East or anywhere else. That position is clearly held by Israel. It is Israel that is expansionist, not Iran. It is Israel that has evaded literally dozens of peace proposals from Palestinians, Americans and Arabs for decades. And it is Israel, not Iran, that has its proxies seducing American Congressmen and Senators into positions that run counter to US national interests. Since World War II there have been a lot of loose canons out there all threatening the peace and security of millions of folks who just want to be left alone to live out their natural life spans. Too often the United States itself has been the most destructive of these loose canons. However, Israel has always been, and continues to be, an ambitious runner up.

Israel’s Naval Inquiry into the Mavi Marmara – Life in the Military Box (An Analysis – June 20, 2010)

One of humanity’s perennial problems is that soldiers almost never think “outside the box.” Indeed, they are trained to think about the most effective way to carry out orders. The orders always define the box and so it becomes difficult, even dangerous, to think critically about the orders themselves. The result is that, from the highest to the lowest, soldiers are locked into a system where to think about the legitimacy, the legality, the rationality of one’s orders is like challenging a god. You are going to end up harshly punished if you do. So you usually don’t. That helps to explain why often apparently ordinary people end up doing very horrendous things– they can and do always claim that they were just following orders. And, this soldiering business, according to most people’s perceptions both past and present, is “an honorable profession.” Go figure!

The Israeli naval officers who did the internal investigation of the Mavi Marmara debacle came forth with their report today (June 20, 2010) and both the findings themselves, and the words chosen to express those findings, all display the hopeless, in the box, psychology that has gotten Israel (among others) into such hot water. Here, according to Haaretz, is some of what the report said. The italics are mine and inserted for emphasis.

1. The “commando unit” was “inadequately prepared, lacked sufficient intelligence” and did not go into the action using proper tactics. This seems to have happened despite the fact that “Operation Sky Winds 7…was carried out according to standard operating procedures established during a mock exercise with more than fifty soldiers.”

2. The possibility of a “mass offensive” being initiated against he Israeli commandoes “was not taken into account.” Israel’s naval command did not expect anything beyond “the resistence like we encountered in Bil’in.” Thus, “they [the commandoes] “wanted to wear their ceremonial uniform(s)” and “expected to engage with the passengers in conversation.” The report concluded that this expectation “was a defect” in the planning of the operation.

3. The Israeli navy’s “general consensus” is that there was need for “greater mental preparation of the force before the operation’s execution” based on the fact that what they encountered was not “disorderly conduct that deteriorated. This was a planned terrorist attack.” Elsewhere, the naval investigators explained that “we did not know that we would be coping with tens of rioters.”

4. “The raid on the ship should have only been conducted after hosing the attackers downs with water hoses and [using] smoke grenades.”

5. However, “in light of the situation that developed they [the commandoes] acted accordingly.”

What is depressing about this report is that there is nothing unusual about it. The American, the British, the French, the Chinese, the Canadian, the Pakistani, the Egyptian military investigators, ad nauseam, would have rationalized away similar situations in exactly the same way. It might be the case that some of the Israeli soldiers feel “ill used” by the incompetent handling of the operation, but they would never question whether the assault itself was necessary. “Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do or die.” This is one of the incredibly stupid aspects of the military mind worldwide.

Let’s take a closer look at this report. Not that we will learn anything very new about the Israeli military mind, but because it is worth noting how their mental box shapes their conclusions.

A. The passengers on the Mavi Marmara are never described in terms accepted as accurate by the those having a humane understanding of the Gaza blockade. They are never humanitarian aid activists, the are never passengers on a ship in international waters. They are either “terrorists” or “rioters” who had pre-planned an “attack” on the Israeli commandoes! Now, of course, this is the sort of thing soldiers do. They have to defame those they are attacking in order to justify the inevitable violence. That is part of the box they live in. Sometimes the other side might be doing the same thing back to them, but that is not the point. The point is that what average soldiers see as real is not based on any effort to understand the situation from a humane perspective. Reality is simply a tactical issue. That is why most of them can usually live with all that “collateral damage” they cause.

B. They thought it was going to be just like Bil’in and so wanted to wear their “ceremonial uniforms” and “engage the passengers in conversation.” What the heck is that all about? First of all, Israeli soldiers don’t spend their time at Bil’in “engaging the [protestors] in conversation.” They use real violence. Those “rubber bullets” are really steel pellets with a black vinyl coating. And, they have this curious habit of firing the tear gas canisters at the protestors’ heads. But then the Israeli navy does not operate at Bil’in, so maybe the naval planners and investigators really think that Bil’in is the site of some sort of civilized debating club.

C. The notion that the commandoes were in any way justified in their actions, or that their officers and government were justified, can only be believed if you discount international law. That is, at the very least, the Mavi Marmara was sailing in international waters when it was attacked by the Israeli navy. Since the Israel government has long ago concluded that international law is just for sissies, it should come as no surprise that their soldiers did not give it much thought. But it is more basic than that. Very few soldiers, the world over, give the law much thought. And, when I make this assertion I am not just referring to international law. I mean they don’t give much thought to any kind of law.

I once spent a semester teaching a history course on an American army base. It was a revealing experience. During that time the following sort of scenario repeated itself over and again. If you were in a room with privates you could hold a relatively normal conversation. If a sergeant entered the privates almost immediately deferred to his opinion. If a lieutenant entered the room both the privates and the sergeant would then defer to the opinion of the lieutenant and so on it would go. Of course, this was not necessarily true if what you happen to be talking about was the food in the cafeteria. However, it always was true if you were talking about the Viet Nam War that was waging at the time. And none of them, under any circumstance, would talk about the issue of international law relative to that war, or the notion that President Johnson might have misled the country into war. They were all trained to see the world from the military box. And, of course, to fear punishment if they strayed outside the box.

That’s the way it is with the honorable profession of soldiering. And, if you haven’t noticed, the civilians generally believe that this is what keeps their world safe.

Israeli Rabbi Outdoes Amadinejad – An Analysis (September 1, 2010)

Back in October of 2005 the Western media, starting with the New York Times, mistranslated a speech by Amadinejad. The Iranian President had called for regime change in Israel, a practice American Presidents indulge in repeatedly in terms of countries like Cuba, Sudan, and Iran itself. In this case, Amadinejad’s statement that “the occupying regime over Jerusalem” will one day “vanish from the pages of time” somehow became a desire that Israel should be “wiped off the the map.” Almost immediately all hell broke loose in the United States as every devout Zionist and their supporters in and out of the government decided that Iran (allegedly seeking nuclear weapons) had now revealed itself as an “existential threat” to Israel. It was quickly pointed out that the NYT had made a mistake, that in any case Iran did not have the power to actually “wipe Israel off the map,” that the Iranian nuclear program was, according to all objective intelligence reports, not aiming to produce such weapons, etc. but it made no difference at all. To this day, not only the Zionists and their supporters in Congress, but a good many American citizens (to say nothing of the Israeli public) believe that Iran wants to commit genocide against Israel.

Now let us fast forward to August 29, 2010. On that day the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on a speech made by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader the Israeli political party, Shas. Shas is a major political movement in Israel. It represents the religiously observant Sephardi Jewish population of that country. It has eleven seats in the Knesset, is a key part of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition government, and one of its members (Eli Yishai) is the current Minister of Internal Affairs. He is the one leading the effort to ethnically cleanse in East Jerusalem. Shas’ power means Rabbi Yosef is an influential political player in today’s Israel. That is why Haaretz paid attention to his speech of the 29th. So, what did he say?

Rabbi Yosef said that the Palestinians and their leaders are “evil and damnable.” That “God should strike them with a plague.” And just in case God doesn’t get them all, Israel “must send missiles to them and annihilate them.” He finished up with “Abu Mazen (aka Mahmoud Abbas) and all these evil people should perish from this world.” One is tempted to ask if the spiritual leader of Shas was trying to mimic the New York Times’ distorted image of Amadinejad?

The U.S. State Department was quick to condemn Yosef’s “inflammatory” remarks and note that they “hurt the cause of peace.” Coming just days before Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas are to begin face to face “peace talks” that is probably Yosef’s intent. Rather than see Israel achieve a compromise peace, the Rabbi would prefer to see the Palestinians “ wiped off the map,” so to speak. It is no surprise then that Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for the Palestine Authority, concluded that Rabbi Yosef’s speech was “incitement to genocide.”

The Israeli Prime Minister’s office released a statement (see State Department link above) emphasizing that Yosef’s remarks, as influential as they must be on the Shas party and its minister in the cabinet, “do not reflect Netanyahu’s views, nor the stance of the Israeli government.” Nonetheless, it is interesting that Haaretz felt it necessary to add that Netanyahu’s comments “stopped short of a condemnation.” Back here in the U.S. The Jewish Week noted that the American Jewish community’s response had been rather anemic. J Street ‘s Hadar Susskind said that Israeli leaders as well as Palestinian leaders should refrain from incitement, and Abe Foxman (who on this side of the water is an inciter par excellence) released a statement saying that the ADL was “outraged” by Yosef’s remarks, coming as they do “on the eve of the Jewish New Year.” From all those in Congress who regularly label Amadinejad as a racist and a madman, there has been silence.

It appears that we live in a world permeated with double standards. Indeed, it may very well be that we are born with a genetic predisposition for them. Even while claiming adherence to “universal” sets of ethical teaching (such as the Ten Commandments), we regularly accept and/or excuse behavior by blood relatives that we would condemn when practiced by those to whom we are unrelated. We extend this to our ‘cultural relatives’ by holding one set of standards for our community and another set for those that are alien. What is terrorism? It is something the ‘other’ does, not us. Where is mass murder committed? It is in Rwanda, in Darfur, in Bosnia, but not in Iraq or Vietnam or Nicaragua. Who are the torturers? Not us. President Bush told us that waterboarding does not count, and those that wrote the memos saying “intensive interrogation” was legal while international law was obsolete, now teach at our most prestigious universities. We are good. They are bad. We deserve to live. They deserve to die. This practice of double standards is old and very persistent.

Now Rabbi Ovadia Yosef shows us that Israeli Jews, and Zionists in general, are just ordinary hypocrites like the rest of us. Has the “light unto the nations” gone out? Well not completely. There is still a tiny little flame that is kept alight by the Jewish minority who understands that Zionism has been very bad for the Jews and Jewish values. There have always been such ethical Jews around, but they have been shouted down by the majority who insist that immorality somehow turns moral when practiced by Israel. But now, thanks to the spiritual icon of Shas, the minority has been proven right. As a consequence, it is now clear–if the world is looking for a madman and a racist with influence over people who possess nuclear weapons, Iran’s Amadinejad (who has no such weapons) cannot logically be high on the list. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, however, seems a most suitable candidate.

Israel’s “Independent” Probe of its Attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla – An Analysis (June 14, 2010)

With the help of the United States, Israel has set up what Haaretz describes as a “public independent investigation” of its May 31st attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla. As we all know the Natanyahu government had rejected a United Nations proposal for a truly independent investigation. That rejection was no doubt prompted by fear of a repeat of the Goldstone Report on Israel’s massive attack on Gaza in December of 2008.

Israel’s “investigation” will be known as the Tirkel Committee because it is headed by former Israeli Supreme Court justice Yaakov Tirkel. Since Natanyahu personally approved of the Israeli members of the panel nothing much is to be said about them. They are “safe” from the Israeli point of view. In addition, a deadline for the committee to finish its work was not mentioned as of the June 14 reports, so this might conveniently drag on for some time. Finally, Netanyahu and his advisors have set the mandate for the committee. Here are its goals:

1. “Examine the security aspects of the blockade of Gaza and adjust it in accordance with international law.” This is a sort of half-hearted admittance that there might be a gap between Israeli behavior and the law when it comes to the blockade. However, that is all right, the committee will claim to have tweaked future engagement protocols if necessary.

2. Examine Israel’s actions to enforce the naval blockade and the May 31st flotilla action with respect to international law. This may be a little harder to finesse, however there might be an out provided by #3.

3. Examine the actions of the organizers of the Gaza flotilla and identified participants. Here is where the committee can shift the blame onto the victims.

4. Examine whether Israel’s investigation of itself regarding possible “violations of the laws of war” during the flotilla engagement “corresponds to the country’s obligations vis-a-vis international law.” This point is conveniently confusing. Somehow the Israeli government must feel that self investigation is legal (if not logical) or they would never have allowed this point.

According to Netanyahu all of this is to be looked into in order to provide “credible” responses to questions raised by the international community, while at the same time “maintaining a free hand” for the IDF to do the sort of thing it has been doing in regard to Gaza.

To achieve these two aims the Israeli government has to prearrange the outcome of the committee’s investigation. The only wrinkle here was the White House insistence on two “notable” international “observers” be assigned to the panel. But not to worry, these two were pre-screened by Natanyahu as well. So who are these two “notables”?

1. David Trimble of Northern Ireland. He is former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and a past First Minister of Northern Ireland. Presently, he sits in the UK’s House of Lords. He helped negotiate a stand down of the violent civil war in Northern Ireland and for that he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was also among a group of international leaders who met in Paris (on the very day that the Israelis were shooting up the Mavi Marmara), to establish a “friends of Israel Initiative.” Trimble, who earlier advised the European Quartet to “stand firm on Hamas,” joined with others in Paris to express “outrage and concern about the unprecedented delegitimation campaign against Israel, driven by enemies of the Jewish state.” Trimble and his colleagues went on to explain that Israel is “part of the Western world. In fact, today Israel is a fundamental actor for the future of the West.” So just how objective is this fellow likely to be? Not objective at all. And that, of course, is why he is assigned to the committee.

2. The other international “observer” is former Canadian Judge Advocate General (that country’s top military judge) Kenneth Watkin. If you go to the web site of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and look to see what they have to say about “The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects” dated July 29, 2009, guess who they are quoting in order to excuse the myriad civilian deaths in their Gaza rampage of late 2008? You guessed it, Kenneth Watkin. Here is how it goes, “As Kenneth Watkin, the Canadian Judge Advocate General, has explained, ‘Although civilians are not to be directly made the object an attack, humanitarian law accepts that they may be killed or civilian property may be damaged as a result of an attack on a military objective.’” How Watkin figures this is part of “humanitarian law” is beyond me. But then, I have always had some trouble fathoming the military mind.

Natanyahu’s government still has to give its final agreement to the committee but that seems a formality. Why shouldn’t they? The fix is in. The deal here is to create a cover story with the facade of international approval. Then, the Israelis will retreat behind it, like a shield, until they shock the world with their brutality once more. We should not have long to wait.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren’s editorial in the New York Times (May 3, 2010)

Michael Oren has given up diplomacy for propaganda. Diplomat’s are suppose to be realistic and honest. Appearing on the editorial page of the New York times, Israel’s ambassador shows himself to be so out of touch with reality that one must conclude he has switched careers. Here are some of the things he says:

1. The folks on the Mavi Marmara cannot be “peace activists” because they acted violently against the Israeli troops who took over the vessel.

This is nonsense. The reaction of the passengers to the hijacking of the ship has nothing to do with their status as peace activists, or for that matter their support for the Palestinians. It was a legitimate act of self-defense against pirates who were also Israeli soldiers under Israeli command. That makes Israel akin to the Barbary states of the early 19th century. The young United States went to war to suppress those pirates.

2. Oren magically transforms the people who defended themselves and their ship into “religious extremists embedded among those aboard” and were “paid and equipped to attack Israelis.”

Oren supplies not one shred of evidence for this allegation. So why should we believe him? Because the Israeli government are a bunch of boy scouts who always tell the truth? What if I told you there were Israeli provocateurs aboard the Mavi Marmara and they encouraged the reaction of the civilians so Israeli soldiers could shoot them, and thereby make an example of them that would stop further attempts to reach Gaza by sea. Would you believe me? My assertion (which I simply made up) is as plausible as Oren’s.

Quite frankly it makes no legal difference if every one of the passengers on that boat were Iranian, members of Hamas, devout Muslims, or for that matter, little green men from Mars. They had a perfect right to defend themselves and their vessel from an illegal attack while sailing in international waters. Why someone of ambassadorial rank can’t get that straight is a serious question.

3. Oren makes other allegations about lots of money, mysterious “spent cartridges, and videos of injured people, etc. found on board the Mavi Marmara. These are just too fantastic. One suspects that he and his government are desperately trying to muddy the waters. After listing all these “discoveries” he makes one of those typical Israeli Orwellian statements, “The investigation of all this evidence will be transparent, in accordance with Israel’s security needs.” That, Mr. Oren, is a contradiction in terms.

4. Oren asserts that the real purpose of the flotilla was “not to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, but to create a provocation that would put international pressure on Israel to drop the Gaza embargo.”

If the flotilla didn’t want to deliver aid why had it spent so much money on acquiring and loading all that aid material? Actually, there is no contradiction between delivering aid and putting pressure on Israel to stop the embargo, so that part of Oren’s charge makes no sense. And, the only people who seem to see the delivery of aid to Gaza as a “provocation” are the Israelis.

Just for the sake of argument, lets say that the flotilla organizers wanted to be provocative toward Israel. So what? Does Mr. Oren think that those who sought to destroy the injustice of segregation sat in at Alabama restaurants because they just wanted a meal? No. They did it to be provocative in the cause of justice. Like segregation, the Gaza embargo, and indeed the entire racist apparatus of Zionism, is equally unjust and deserves to be provoked.

5. Oren repeats the same allegation as did PM Netanyahu, that the “real intent of breaking the embargo is to allow rockets to be transported to Gaza. In my analysis of Netanyahu’s speech I dealt with this missile thesis. But right now I just want to ask how Oren knows this assertion to be so? Certainly, there were no missiles in the flotilla they attacked. Of course he is not going to tell us the basis for this accusation. We just have to take his word as a supposedly honest and realistic Israeli diplomat. I don’t think so. Indeed, anyone who can tell us with a straight pen (we can’t see his face) that “there is no shortage” in Gaza cannot be trusted at all.

Finally, I want to come back to the real point we have to keep in mind. Israel is in the process of maintaining over one million Gazans in a state of destitution. They are doing it by an embargo. That embargo is not just of weapons, but rather includes everything that might make the people of that enclave happy and prosperous. Of course Oren denies this, but he and his government stands accused of pauperizing the people of Gaza, and many of those on the West Bank as well, by every respectable human rights organization (including those in Israel) on the planet. Ambassador Oren you are simply a propagandist. I just wonder if you know it, or are you thoroughly self-deluded?

Ambassador Oren’s Invisible Israel – An Analysis (October 21, 2010)

Michael Oren is the Israeli ambassador to the United States. This means he stands in a line of foreign diplomats who are often quite out of the ordinary. For one thing they may well be ex- Americans. Oren (nee Bornstein) was born in upstate New York and grew up in West Orange, New Jersey. He switched countries in 1979. For another, Israeli ambassadors do not hesitate to engage in public debates aimed at swaying American public opinion. Actually, this is very undiplomatic behavior and you don’t see the ambassadors from China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Mexico, Paraguay or Liechtenstein, ad finem, doing that sort of thing. Yet Oren has done this several times by sending op-eds to the New York Times. On October 13 he did so again with one entitled, “An End to Israel’s Invisibility.” It is an odd title, for if there is one thing Israel is not, it is invisible. But the ambassador is arguing from a peculiar point of view. Essentially, he claims that the Palestinians have yet to officially acknowledge that Israel is a “Jewish state.” For Oren it is the Jewish aspect of Israel that remains “invisible.” As odd as this sounds, the ambassador’s complaint echos a current theme across the political spectrum in Israel. At the same time that he put out his op-ed, Ari Shavit, the center right contributor to Haaretz, published a piece that made a similar argument but extended the failure of recognition accusation to Europe and beyond. It appeared on October 14 and is entitled “The Core of the Conflict.”
All of this might appear as something of a mystery. Doesn’t the entire world already know that Israel is a “Jewish state?” Oren, however, expresses profound insecurity over the issue. “The core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the refusal to recognize Jews as a people, indigenous to the region and endowed with right of self-government.” Here Mr. Oren, who is certainly not “indigenous to the region,” is practicing a bit of plagiarism by taking a long standing Palestinian argument and asserting it as an Israeli one. Thus, for 62 years the Palestinians have claimed that the core of the conflict is the refusal of Israel to recognize them as indigenous to the region and endowed with the right of self-government. At this point the mystery takes another twist. For Oren insists that this recognition of the Palestinians has already been pledged by Israel and now it is the Palestinians’ turn to reciprocate. “Just as Isreal recognizes the existence of the Palestinian people with an inalienable right to self-determination in its homeland, so, too, must the Palestinians accede to the Jewish people’s 3,000 year connection to our homeland and our right to sovereignty there.” No doubt the first part of this sentence is a reference to the Oslo Accords, which the Israelis have spent at least the last ten years describing as a dead and buried. So are we to believe that the ambassador now takes this pledge seriously? Hardly. The assertion of recognition of Palestinian rights is but a weak red herring. The only way the Israelis recognize the existence of the Palestinian people is by evicting them daily so as to clear the way for their illegal colonization of conquered land. Finally, why should millions of Palestinian refugees buy into the ambassador’s insistence that “Jewish right to statehood is a tenet of international law”? Every one of Israel’s governments has made a profession of violating international laws such as those embodied in the Geneva Conventions. So, this claim is simply hypocritical . Why should anyone give credence to Israel’s assertion that it be accorded rights it has systematically denied others? So, what is going on here? Why, at this particular time, do we get an evidently improvised emphasis on Israel as a “Jewish state?” Perhaps we should see it as a negotiation tactic. If you can get the Palestinian Authority to buy into this recognition you automatically negate, at least in prospective treaty terms, the right of return. And indeed, the Israelis have come pretty close to pulling off this gambit. Thus, Mahmoud Abbas stated on October 17 that once the Palestinians have a state of their own in the lands occupied by Israel after 1967, they will “end all historic claims against Israel” within the 1967 borders. One would think that if the Israeli government is serious about the Jewish recognition issue they would take Abbas up on this offer and negotiate non-stop to close the not very large gap between the two positions. To date there has been no move in that direction. That certainly undermines the negotiating tactic argument and supports those who say the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is not designed to shape negotiations, but to end them.
That last interpretation might have some truth to it, but I do not think it tells the whole story. There is still another way of interpreting the recognition theme that is presently being promoted. A suggestion of this alternative motivation comes in the Shavit piece mentioned above. Shavit offers “seven reasons why the demand to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is a legitimate one.” None of them are any more convincing than Oren’s arguments, but one does stand out as revealing. Shavit claims that the recognition being demanded will cause a halt to the assault on the legitimacy of Israel. It will stop a process that has caused “Ehud Olmert’s Israel” to be seen as less legitimate than “Yitzhak Shamir’s Israel.” Shavit describes this process as an “avalanche” implying that he sees the attack on legitimacy as getting worse as time goes by.
What this means is that the present emphasis on Israel as the Jewish state is aimed not only at complicating negotiations with the Palestinians, but also at undermining the growing boycott movement that seeks to isolate Israel and call into serious question the legitimacy of a state designed exclusively for one ethnic or religious group. The efforts of Oren, Shavit and others are testimony to the fact that the boycott movement is working, and the Israeli government knows it.
To tell the truth, Oren and Shavit have it wrong about Israel. It is not a Jewish state. Rather it is a Zionist state. For 93 years (counting from 1917 and the Balfour Declaration) the Zionists have sought to make the two synonymous. But they are not the same. Judaism is a religion that, at its best, demands tolerance and acceptance of the other. Zionism is a political ideology the ethnic exclusiveness of which leads, almost inevitably, to apartheid. More and more Jews are coming to understand this and that too is part of Shavit’s feared avalanche. In the end it is the practice of Zionism, and not lack of recognition of its alleged Jewishness, that is causing Israel’s legitimacy crisis. Demanding that the Palestinians, or indeed the whole world, call Israel the Jewish state cannot mask its real nature.

Netanyahu & Abbas: What are the Possibilities? An Analysis (8-24-10)

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has announced that direct “negotiations” between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas will begin on September 2, 2010. It is reported that Abbas agreed to these talks only after heavy pressure from both the United States and the European Union. As part of the pressure President Obama is said to have told Abbas in June that the U.S. could do more to help the Palestinians if direct negotiations were ongoing. George Mitchell, the United States special Middle East envoy, vowed that Washington would be an “active and sustained partner” and when necessary would offer “bridging proposals” to move the negotiations along. Abbas, who is the head of Fatah, has agreed to enter the negotiations without preconditions. The only proviso he has put forth is that if Israel suspends its “settlement freeze” he will stop participating in the talks. We shall see.

These sort of diplomatic exercises have happened before. To take just one example, in 2000 Yasir Arafat was pressured by President Bill Clinton to attend Camp David II. Arafat, who was a more skillful leader than Abbas, knew that there had not been a proper groundwork laid for a successful summit between himself and then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. But the Americans got him to the table by promising to be “active” and “impartial” in the process and also not to lay blame on any one party if the talks failed. Barak showed up with a list of “redline” non-negotiable items and demands that foredoomed the meeting. Clinton was active all right, but most of his activity was directed at twisting Arafat’s arm to give in to the Israelis. When, despite a number of compromises on the part of the Palestinians, the talks failed, Clinton betrayed his promise to Arafat and publically blamed him for the failure.

Abbas is in an even weaker position than Arafat was. At least Arafat was a respected statesman and the elected leader of the Palestinian people. Abbas is not generally supported by his people as witnessed by the fact that his Fatah party was defeated in free and fair elections by Hamas in January 2006. Despite the fact that Obama and the Europeans act like Abbas is the head of a Palestine government, he represents almost no one but a largely corrupt cabal armed and financed by the Americans and the European Union–which might have a lot to do with their ability to get him to the negotiating table.

Even though Abbas’s status as the leader of the Palestinians is open to question, Obama will try to do to him what Clinton was not able to do to Arafat, that is brow beat Abbas into signing an agreement with the Israelis. Assuming that this is accomplished, the question is how would Abbas implement the agreement? There is a small middle class element of Palestinians on the West Bank who are understandably exhausted and fed up with the situation they find themselves in. If guaranteed some peace and quiet and the ability to do business, they may go along with the apartheid deal that Netanyahu has in mind. The Palestinian government bureaucrats and militia mercenaries (trained and armed by the Americans), are financially dependent on the Fatah regime, and they too might go along as well. But the bulk of West Bank Palestinians–shop keepers, day laborers, agriculturists, etc.– would probably take to the streets in protest. Would Abbas use his party militia to violently suppress the opposition’s outrage? And, would the militia soldiers fire on the crowds if ordered to shoot? Could very well be. The Israelis would, of course, offer to use their American Apache helicopters as air support for Abbas. Yasir Arafat must truly be turning over in his grave at the possibilities.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has proclaimed that an agreement with the Palestinians is “doable.” But that just means he sees Abbas as weak and vulnerable and therefore more easily cheated out of a Palestinian homeland than any prior Palestinian leader. Netanyahu holds all the cards. The Palestinians cannot hurt him, the Americans will not hurt him, and so he is free to play to the only force that may indeed hurt him–the right wing parties that hold his government coalition together. He will settle only for a deal he can sell to them. And, if Abbas does balk, Netanyahu can always say he tried and, once again, it is all the fault of the Palestinians. At that point he would probably haul out the old Israeli saying that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

And what does President Obama get out of this exercise? Well, he is able to say that he too is trying really hard to settle this seemingly endless conflict. He promised to try to do so, and here he is keeping his promise. That should carry him through the November elections. Further down the line, however, he has made the political mistake of promising to present his own peace plan if, after one year of negotiating, the Israelis and Palestinians have not made serious progress. If things actually work out this way, Obama might find himself, by virtue of his peace plan, in the midst of political turmoil just as he prepares for reelection. After all, how does the President implement any prospective plan? By waving a magic wand and making all the political obstacles presented by the Zionist lobby go away? Or does he just put it on the table and then run away from it?

Just to vary the perspective, here is a possibly relevant comparative case. At the beginning of 1918 Leon Trotsky, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Policy in the new revolutionary Soviet government, sat in the city of Brest-Litovsk (located today in Belarus) trying to negotiate a peace treaty with the aggressive representatives of imperial Germany. World War I was still raging and the German armies had been consistently victorious on the eastern front. As a result, the Russian army was in a state of collapse. For their part the Bolsheviks were desperate to end the war so that they could concentrate on consolidating power in a struggle against competing Russian forces. In other words, at Brest-Litovsk the Germans held all the cards. So they demanded that Trotsky stop lecturing them on the dialectical nature of class conflict and accept terms that essentially turned most of western Russia into a satellite of the German Empire. Trotsky was appalled. But the pan-European revolution that was suppose to tip the balance of power in favor of Communism had not materialized, and Vladimir Lenin decided that to not accept peace on German terms would mean the eventual collapse of the young Soviet government in Russia. Lenin forced the Bolshevik Central Committee to accept the draconian treaty terms laid down by the Germans. The catch in all of this is that the Germany went on to lose the war on the western front which meant that the balance of power in the east finally did shift in favor of the Soviet regime. The men in Moscow were very lucky.

Is there a lesson here for the Palestinians? The Palestinian struggle is also a two front affair. There is Palestine proper and then a worldwide front where a movement of civil society seeks to isolate the Israeli government because of its barbarous behavior and policies. If the fate of South Africa is an applicable precedent, that front should gain strength and eventually raise the cost of occupation and apartheid in Israel to a point where the Israeli government seriously considers a change of policies. In the meantime, what should the West Bank Palestinians do? Should they make amends with Hamas and continue to resist as best they can for however long it takes to wear the Israelis down–assuming that can be done? Or should they cut their losses and sign a draconian treaty with the Israelis in the hope that, when and if, Tel Aviv loses the war on the worldwide front, the treaty terms can be favorably restructured? Of course, moving in that direction raises the question of whether such a deal might not take the wind out of the anti-Israel boycott movement, and thereby weaken the second front? Then there is the question, what does Abbas and his Fatah party followers really want? Do they want a just peace for the Palestinians, or like Lenin, do they want to consolidate their power even if it is in a diminished Palestine?

It is a complicated affair and there are no clear cut answers to any of these questions. My own feeling is that Abbas could not make a Brest-Litvosk style settlement stick even if he is inclined to sign such an agreement. Things have gone too far for the majority of Palestinians, both inside and outside of Palestine, to accept it. Abbas would become the Palestinian version of a Quisling and he would not die in bed. Whatever happens, those of us outside of Palestine must hunker down and push the worldwide front. That seems to be our only viable choice.

Professor Ian Lustick Advises Israel to Make a Deal with Hamas – An Analysis

The University of Pennsylvania political scientist Ian Lustick had an insightful piece published on the Forbes.com web site on June 17th. The title of the piece was “Israel Could Benefit From Hamas.”
http://www.forbes.com/2010/06/17/israel-hamas-middle-east-politics-opinions-contributorsian- s-lustick.html Here are some of Professor Lustick points presented in interpretive form.

1. The Israeli government equates Hamas with Al-Qaeda and claims it is defending the Western World from this twin terror threat. But the truth is that Hamas is not al-Qaeda. If they wanted to Israelis could live with Hamas.

2. Things are moving in a direction that is not in Israel’s favor. So, “while we can easily imagine a Middle East without al-Qaeda,” it is much harder to imagine the region without Islamic fundamentalists. And how about Israel? Lustick points out that among the people of the Middle East, the answer to the question, ‘can they imagine the region without Israel?’ is “increasingly, yes.” In a certain way this matches the Israeli wish that their country was located somewhere else. Israelis see the Middle East as a “bad neighborhood” a “Jungle” and, being there is like being stuck in “muck.” Nevertheless, Israel is in the Middle East despite both Israelis and Arabs wishing it elsewhere.

3. And how should Israel react to this situation? Lustick advises that its leaders should seek the same “modus vivendi that Egypt, Jordan and other secular Arab regimes have reached with their local versions of Hamas.” He notes that Hamas has recently offered the Israelis just such a deal. “Competitive coexistence for a generation or two.” And, “at this point it is probably the best deal Israel can get.”

4. Unfortunately “Israel is not buying it.” They would rather hold tight to their idea that, as a country, they alone stand against the terrorism allegedly inherent in Islam. The Zionist actions that have stemmed from this attitude has not changed the region in the direction Israel had hoped and, in their frustration, they have built walls and threatened to bomb Iran, etc. However, as Lustick tells us, this reaction is “a temper tantrum, not a sustainable national policy.”

5. This is a real problem because Islamic fundamentalism is deeply embedded in the Arab world and that means “Israel will ultimately have to choose between constant war with an adversary that cannot be defeated, or a long-term competitive relationship whose outcome cannot be guaranteed.” If it chooses the former it is doomed in the long run to a “competition in brutality that the Jews will definitely lose, not because their ethics are stronger, but because more Jews than Arabs have foreign passports.”

I think Ian Lustick is right. So why do I also think that the politicians and soldiers in Jerusalem are incapable of accepting his analysis or taking his advice? Here is a short list of reasons.
A. The majority of Israelis live in a world of their own and it is quite different from the rest of the planet. As Uri Avnery recently confessed, “Israelis normally live in darkness as far as seeing the world.” They have been raised with a warrior outlook, a fortress mentality and overweening national hubris. In many ways their grasp of reality is quite shaky. As we have all seen for years, Israeli leaders have a hard time making what we would recognize as rational decisions

B. Another very big reason why Israeli decisions often turn out to be irrational is that they are driven by the goals of Zionism as lived out by increasing fanatic leadership cadres. The folks presently at the helm in Jerusalem are a combination of Likud expansionists, Russian racists and Sabra political opportunists. They are dedicated to an expansionist and anti-Arab policy that they will not give up. Back in 1990, the Israeli Prime Minister Yizhak Shamir declared that “the past leaders of our movement left us a clear message to keep Eretz Israel from the Sea to the River Jordan for future generations…for the Jewish people, all of whom will be gathered into this country. Most Jews no longer believe this will ever happen, but the Zionist’s ideological impetus to retain the land strongly persists.

C. To the extent that Israelis understand their national ideology of Zionism as one demanding the control of the Holy Land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river, they all become active or passive allies of settler fanatics. And the sine qua non of the Hamas deal that Professor Lustick (and I too) favors is that the Israelis go back to the Green Line.

Thus, the sad fact is that, as things stand now, the Israeli mind-set favors endless war and “competition in brutality.”

Spotlight on Israeli Textbooks – An Analysis (June 25, 2010)

As many of you might know there is a long standing controversy over Palestinian textbooks. The Israelis, their Zionist supporters, and even the U.S. government has lined up to complain loudly and bitterly that Palestinian textbooks do not include Israel on their maps, or they show an Israel that is geographically small. They speak of Zionism as an “enemy ideology” and the IDF as a conquering army. They describe Israeli settlers as “illegal immigrants” or worse. And, particularly in the complaints offered by US government, there is a demand for greater emphasis on “peace and tolerance.” The Palestinian text books have to change, according to the critics. Indeed, all of Palestinian education has to be “reformed.”

Such complaints may well strike an outside observer as utterly surreal. It is one thing for the ideologues on the Texas state school board to insist on playing fast and loose with the American past. After all, the children of Texas will not exit their school houses into a reality that affirms or contradicts the questionable changes that right wing collective have in mind. On the other hand, the captive audiences in the Palestinian Occupied Territories live within an everyday context that would make instant garbage of the content and style demanded for their textbooks by the occupying power. It is so absurd that only the Zionist mind can think that such changes would “contribute to peace.” All they would do is breed even stronger confirmation that the occupiers have their fingers in every aspect of their victims’ lives.

Now comes an interesting revelation about the other side of the coin, about the textbooks of the Israelis. In an article published by Haaretz entitled “First Lebanon war, Oslo Accords missing From Israeli Textbooks” (June 25, 2010) we learn that there are a number of important recent historical events, like Israel’s first war in Lebanon (which gave rise to such organizations as Hezbollah) and the existence of the Oslo Accords (which was a signed “peace” agreement between Israel and the PLO) that are simply missing from that country’s newly issued high school level history books. No Oslo Accords? Well, do the books say anything about the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin? Who knows? No first Lebanon war? Well, I guess they can’t mention Shabra and Shatila, can they. An equivalent of this sort of manipulation would be if those Texas state school board members left out the Viet Nam war.

How could this happen in such an “open,” Western society as Israel? Well, Haaretz’s reporter Or Kashi tried to find out. Here is some of the reasons Kashi got:

1. The Education Ministry said that ‘naturally, not all historic events could be included in the curriculum.” However, the program does include “the formative historic events of the Jewish people…and [those] which continue to remain relevant today.”

2. We are doing better than we use to. “In the past, the Education Ministry generally avoided teaching recent history” at all! The argument here is that “it takes 20 or 30 years to arrive at historical perspective suitable for teaching young people.” Now, we are teaching about such things as the peace accords with Egypt and Jordan and Jewish immigration into Israel since 1970.

3. The new history curriculum was put together by the country’s “best historians.” Their committees “argued and deliberated before they agreed on a program.” And they also took into account “the fewer number of teaching hours allocated to history lessons.”

4. A “veteran teacher” gave Haaretz a slightly different explanation. “The Education Ministry doesn’t like [to address] controversial issues. It’s not necessarily political, its more of a desire to avoid confrontation and keep things quiet.”

So here we have it. All that complaining about Palestinian textbooks was and is just sheer hypocrisy. The Israelis are, and no doubt have long been, doing the same thing as their adversaries. They are using an idiosyncratic view of history to “map out reality”– that is, to construct a reality that fits their prevailing ideological and nationalist point of view. Why they bother to deny it is beyond me. Using the schools to manufacture simple minded patriots is not such an unusual thing.

What, in the end, is going to help bring down the Zionist state is their consistent use of implausible deniability. It seems there is nothing that the Israelis do, no matter how imbecilic, evil, or just bad in a mundane sort of way, that they do not try to hide with some flimsy cover story. And it is usually so flimsy that only their ideologue supporters and bought off politicians manage to stomach it whole. When I was growing up Jewish in Elizabeth New Jersey the assumption was that Jews were really smart. They valued education and even had “genes for smartness.” Their kids excelled and became doctors. That sort of thing. And, of course, a lot of American Jews were and are smart, as are those in Europe and South America, etc. But Israel seems to be an increasingly notable exception. Go to Israel, become a Zionist, and all the smart areas of one’s brain erode and the resulting vacuum is filled with ideological nonsense. Of all the facts that “continue to remain relevant today” that is the one the Ministry of Education missed.

Lawrence Davidson
Dept. of History
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383

Disturbing Incident at al-Arakib – An Analysis (8-3-10)

I. The Bedouin Village of al-Arakib

On July 26, 2010 Israeli police armed with tear gas, a water canon, and two helicopters forced the 200 Bedouin residents of the southern Israeli village of al-Arakib out of their homes. Most of the furniture was then removed from the 45 buildings of the village and bulldozers used to flattened the buildings. It is to be noted that the victims of this act are not residents of the Occupied Territories. They are non-Jewish citizens of the state of Israel.

The news of these home demolitions made it to CNN in a short report entitled Bedouins Evicted from Village in Southern Israel. The Bedouin families explained that this was ancestral land on which they had lived for generations going back to the days of the Ottoman Empire. They even have their original land deeds. Israeli government officials explained that they did not care because they chose not to recognize the Bedouin claim. Why not? Well, all the land of Israel is reserved for the Jewish people and these folks are not Jewish. As far as police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld was concerned, that meant they were living there “illegally.” The government expects the Bedouin to move to “reservations” that have been set aside for them.

This sort of thing happens all the time in “the only democracy in the Middle East.” According to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions over 24,000 Palestinian homes have been torn down or blown up in the Occupied Territories alone. The vast majority of similarly destroyed homes in Israel proper are also those of Palestinians, making Israel’s law of eminent domain a racist weapon. In the case of al-Arakib, the Israeli government says it will be turning the village land into part of a new “Jewish National Fund forest.” But there is every indication that the area will eventually be opened to Jewish settlement, with preference given to “young couples in the army.” Sometimes the Bedouin serve in the IDF, but they won’t qualify for this future perk.

So far this is a story that can be replicated thousands of times and thus just another day in the life of Israel’s segregated non-Jews. So why draw attention to the quite ordinary fate of the 200 people from al-Arakib? The answer to this question comes from the following line in the CNN report, “the Israeli forces arrived in the village accompanied by busloads of civilians who cheered as the dwellings were demolished.” This makes the whole incident a ‘sit up and take notice’ kind of event.

II. Israel’s Teen Age Police Volunteers

This sentence in the CNN report caught the eye of members of Ta’ayush, a small movement within Israel that organizes joint Palestinian-Jewish resistance to the Israeli occupation. They wanted to identify who the “cheering civilians” might be and so sent a delegation to al-Arakib soon after the demolitions took place. There they interviewed the village leaders and others, all of whom are now camped out in tents at the site of their demolished homes. The report of what they learned, accompanied by pictures, is now posted on the web. Here is some of what it says:

1. The cheering civilians were all Israeli Jewish high school students who had volunteered as “police civilian guards” to take part in this assault.

2. These teenagers did more then cheer. “Prior to the demolitions, the student volunteers were sent into the villagers’ homes to extract their furniture and belongings.” In the process they vandalized the sites, “smashing windows and mirrors…and defacing family photographs.” With the furniture piled up outside, the students “lounged around” on it while waiting for the bulldozers. This was done “in plain sight of the owners.”

3. While the bulldozers were doing their work, the teens “celebrated.”

III. What Does it All Mean? The incorporation of Israeli youth into the racist and destructive pattern of behavior exhibited in this incident is almost inevitable. You simply cannot raise up generation after generation within an environment of officially sanctioned racism and not get many of the young seeking confirmation of their place in the community through unjust socio-political actions. We can expect to hear more about this sort of officially organized youth thuggery in Israel. It is a logical tactic for the state to use, particularly at a time when the country is becoming increasingly criticized and isolated.

Nor is this sort of thing historically unique. Reading about this incident one can see intimations of the youth organizations of Fascist Italy and Spain, Nazi Germany, and Communist China during the Cultural Revolution. More explicitly though, one can see in this two more immediate precedents. The first is Vladimir Jabotinsky’s youth movement Betar. Up until his death in 1940 Jobotinsky was the leader of the Zionist Revisionsts, the most militant, and often most terror prone, of pre-1948 Zionists. Likud and its kin are successors of the Revisionist movement. As part of this history, Betar was founded in 1923 in order to “educate its members with a military and nationalistic spirit.” The teens at al-Arakib are a good match. The second precedent, and one noted in the Ta’ayush report, are the youth involved in the violent Israeli settler movement. The Ta’ayush investigators observed that the behavior of the teenage volunteers at al-Arakib was “strikingly reminiscent of the behavior of settler youth in Hebron who pelt Palestinian shopkeepers in the old city with eggs, rocks and human waste. If there is a distinction between the two cases, it is that the Hebron settlers act as vigilantes while the teenagers of the Israeli civilian guard vandalize Arab property as agents of the state.”

I will end this analysis on a personal note. I grew up in a liberal and secular Jewish American household that adhered to the values of equity and justice in their idealized American forms. At the time we all thought that these were perfectly compatible with Jewish teachings. Following from those values, as a teenager I involved myself in the civil rights movement and the resistance against war in Viet Nam. It seemed not only the right thing, but also the natural thing to do. On rare occasion some of my adult relatives used negative Yiddish terms to refer to African- Americans, but that was the closest I ever came to experiencing illiberal sentiments among Jews. Then in 1972, as part of a wider visit to the Middle East, I spent ten days in Israel. It was a real culture shock mainly because for the first time I met openly racist Jews, many of them Americans of my own age.

The shock of those ten days has worn off long ago. But it was replaced by a lasting conviction that Zionism is bad for the Jews in exact proportion to its negative impact on the Palestinians. As the Zionists ethnically cleanse and otherwise destroy Palestinians and their society, they destroy Judaism and mutate themselves, and all others who support them, into barbarians. That includes those teenagers at al-Arakib. It is a matter of ends equaling means and so cannot be otherwise. That is why all Jews would do well to heed the words of Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), an emancipated American slave and fighter for African American dignity, “You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.”

The Barbarian in a Suit – An Analysis (June 29, 2010)

The French philosopher Simone Weil once observed that barbarism should be “considered as a permanent and universal human characteristic which becomes more or less pronounced according to the play of circumstances.” Historically, there is no doubt of the accuracy of this statement. As the 20th century so aptly demonstrated, civilization is a very fragile state. And with weaponry getting ever more destructive the fragility of our civilization and the potent potential of barbarism increases proportionately. So, in the 20th century we had two world wars, a large number of smaller ones, the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing on a grand scale, and a “cold war” kept from getting hot by the fear of nuclear cataclysm. One can only say that humanity is very lucky there is anything like civilization left and, obviously, we have continued to push our luck, so to speak, in the first decade of the 21st century.
One other way of measuring the precarious nature of our civilization is by observing how many “barbarians in suits” lead our nation states. You can point all the fingers on both hands at those so called “rogue state” leaders, but any objective observer would have to conclude they have nothing on men like George W. Bush, Dick Chaney and Donald Rumsfeld. For sheer body counts these American “leaders” are right up with the worst of them. It is most unfortunate that Barack Obama and a majority of the Democrat party seem determined to slip and slide down a similar bloody road.
I mention these American notables so as not to be accused of ignoring my own national breed of “barbarians in suits” as I turn my attention to another particularly ugly example, Avigdor Lieberman of Israel. I suspect that the idea of a Jewish barbarian was unthinkable before the rise of Zionism. But since that ideology has managed to tie Judaism (or what is left of it) to an obsessively ethnocentric nation state all the requirements for modern Jewish barbarians are in place and, sure enough, up they pop. There was Begin, Ben Gurion, Sharon and many more who have indulged in terrorism, ethnic cleansing and assorted massacre. Now we have Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman is Israel’s Foreign Minister, as well as deputy Prime Minister, so he usually is seen wearing a suit. But he is a barbarian nonetheless. His particular style of barbarism is racism. For instance, on June 22, 2010 Lieberman put forth a “blueprint for the resolution of the [Israeli- Palestinian] conflict” that demands the ethnic cleansing of Israeli Arabs. It is to be noted here that there are other non-racist “blueprints” on the table that can resolve this conflict. The most important one is that put forth by the Arab League (often referred to as the Saudi Plan) as early as 2002. This would normalize relations with Israel in return for the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, Israel has turned its nose up to this proposal. Instead we are offered the Lieberman alternative.
What Lieberman wants to do is strip Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of their citizenship, and force them to become citizens of a future Palestinian “state.” He puts this in terms of “land swaps” which implies that part of present day Israel will be shifted over into a future Palestine in exchange for the West Bank territory now occupied by Israeli “settlers.” But I think this is a ploy. The Israelis are presently “settling” on two fronts. They are expanding on the West Bank (and this process will accelerate after September 2010) and they are expanding the Jewish population in the Galilee and other areas of Israel proper where the residents are now mostly Palestinian. My feeling is that if Lieberman’s plan is adopted Arab Israelis will find themselves in variations of the same crowded bantustans now being created for the West Bank Palestinians. Why should anyone take Lieberman’s uncivilized racist proposal seriously? The answer to this is suggested by Michael Warshcawski, founder of the Alternative Information Center, a joint Israeli-Palestinian advocacy organization. Warshcawski explains that Israel is now more isolated than anytime in the past and the resulting pressure has narrowed the options of its ruling elite. That elite “knows that the only solution to the conflict acceptable to the international community is an end to the occupation” and the realization of a two-state solution. However, “none of them, not even Ehud Barak [head of the Labor Party] are ready to accept this….” Instead, most of the country’s leaders are of the same mind as Lieberman. That is, Israel should “push ahead” and create a pure Jewish state by absorbing a good part of the West Bank and confining the Palestinians, including those who are now Israeli citizens, to bantustans. This means abandoning the so-called peace process and accepting whatever international repercussions come along. Israel’s present Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is likely in favor of some variant on the Lieberman plan. Netanyahu sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a zero-sum game. Thus, if you give credence to a Palestinian state you de-legitimize the Israeli state. For an outside observer this is, of course, nonsense. But that is how Netanyahu sees it. So what Israel’s leadership wants–and have always wanted since the founding of the Zionist state–is a pure Jewish state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river. Ben Gurion accomplished but half of that task and the Netanyahu-Lieberman team believes that it is within grabbing distance of finishing the job. If you don’t like this policy direction you are just an anti- Semite. This is the mentality and the policy of barbarians. Actually, the Israelis have been behaving like little barbarians for a long while but in such a way that the rest of the world has been able to turn a blind eye. Now, Israel’s elite is pondering the possibility of going overtly public and so becoming, recognizably, big barbarians.
It is something of a relief to learn that the Israeli leadership is considering coming out of the closet. Just be done with it and let the world know that you are barbarians and elected ones at that. Just like Bush, Chaney and Rumsfeld who, after all, were so fond of the Israelis. Also, it will be very much easier to organize civil society against outed barbarians than closeted ones. So, “los locos dicen las verdades.” It is time for the fools to speak the truth about themselves.

Israeli Public Opinion and the Gaza Aid Flotilla Disaster – An Analysis (June 15, 2010)

A short time ago I did a piece on the impact of Israel’s Gaza flotilla attack on American public opinion. As I interpreted the numbers, there appeared to be some serious questioning of Israel’s actions by a growing minority of Americans. It is now time to take a look at how the attack and its subsequent diplomatic crises impacted Israeli public opinion. A Princeton company called Pechter Middle East Polls has released their recent findings (June 11, 2010) and they show overwhelming, militant, support for Netanyahu and his government. Indeed, the debacle seems to have driven the Prime Minister’s satisfaction rating up rather than down. The Pechter poll indicates that 84% of Jewish Israelis support the government’s attack on the flotilla and agree that all future ships bound for Gaza should be stopped “whatever it takes.” Only 7% of Jewish Israelis say that aid ships should be let through. Just 22% of Jewish Israelis are willing to see “humanitarian aid shipments” of any sort go to Gaza. From a non-Zionist, outside point of view, this reaction appears harsh to the point of barbarism. Six years ago I wrote an essay entitled “Orwell and Kafka in Israel-Palestine” (Logos, 3.1 Winter 2004). In that piece I speculated about the Israeli mind set. I think what I wrote then still holds today and goes a long way to explaining the poll numbers reported by Pechter Middle East Polls. Here, with a bit of editing for the sake of space, is what I wrote in the winter of 2004,
—–
“Israelis dwell in an Orwellian world of inbred perceptions and unanalyzed assumptions. These appear to make sense from inside Israeli society, but from the outside seem suggest that Israelis have lost touch with reality. The inside “reality” is dominated by the complex concept of fortress Israel–that is Israel against the world. This mental paradigm is assimilated from childhood and taught to you by your family and your teachers at school. It is a community belief, and thus reinforced by your neighbors, your coworkers, the newspapers, television and radio, and those with whom you do your military service. It is a constant part of your consciousness and defines patriotic thought.
“Yet the belief in fortress Israel is fraught with Orwellian contradictions. Here are some of the things this paradigm teaches (as against what reality looks like from outside of Israel): the Palestinian Arabs are eternal enemies and want to push the Jews into the sea (even though it is the Palestinians who are being slowly but surely pushed into bantustans or exile). Given half a chance the Palestinians can accomplish this new holocaust with the help of allied Arab hordes (even though Israel is the fourth strongest military power on the globe and is allied to the world’s only superpower). Arafat was the devil incarnate and also “the greatest obstacle to peace” (even though, since 1988, he had tried repeatedly to make peace with the Jewish state. All these efforts have been replaced in the Israeli collective memory by Arafat’s refusal to accept the treaty offered at Camp David II. Israeli rejection of all previous Palestinian efforts at peace have been forgotten). Israel is just a little place with “fragile” borders (which since 1947 have repeatedly expanded, as David Ben Gurion predicted they would). Only war can bring us peace (which characterizes the thinking and policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon [here we can readily substitute Natanyahu]. Finis opus coronat (“the end crowns the work). “These beliefs approach the strength of a religious doctrine in Israel. They also restrict the range of thought, and narrow the possibilities for action for many Israelis. Most have also shown an inability to critically examine Israel’s behavior and how it has resulted from this world view. Those few who, for a variety of reasons, do break free of these nationally sanctified blinkers and publically contradict accepted doctrine are seen as heretics or traitors and risk social isolation and the ruination of their careers.
“What we have here is tightly constructed thought collective made pathologically inbred by a closed information environment. The Israelis have bound themselves almost exclusively to internal references. These references are so self-serving that one’s major sources of information function like sycophants telling you only what supports and rationalizes your actions. Information that undermines or contradicts a priori points of view remain unseen, unheard, or magically reinterpreted to fit the set parameters in one’s mind.”
—–
All of this goes beyond the generic rally around the flag reaction to an outside attack. The Gaza aid flotilla was not carrying any weapons and when perceived sanely represented no danger to Israel. Indeed, when perceived sanely, the Palestinians (including Hamas) represents no real danger, much less an “existential” one, to Israel. But objectivity has nothing to do with this. The Israeli reaction is a function of 63 years in an Orwellian world and we can probably push that back further for the Zionists in general. This also gives you a more nuance perspective on the ever more frequent pleas by sane Israeli Jews for rescue by the outside world. This all suggests continued tough times. These deep set, ideologically driven thought collectives usually do not start to crumble except in the face of catastrophe. When all the assumptions that underpin your world view are proven by harsh events to be unsupportable, most will begin to rethink them. That seems to be the path down which the Israelis are slowly moving. Let’s hope our own politicians are not so stupid as to take us off the cliff with them.

The Strategic Asset Sham – An Analysis of the Position of Anthony Cordesman

Anthony Cordesman occupies the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Washington, D.C. CSIS claims to “provide strategic insights and policy solutions to decision makers in government, international institutions, the private sector, and civil society.” With all due respect to Mr. Cordesman, if his recent offering (June 2, 2010) on U.S. – Israeli relations entitled “Israel as a Strategic Liability?” (http://csis.org/pubication/israel-strategic-liability) is a sample of what the CSIS is telling folks in both our own and the Israeli government, we haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing progressive change. It is a naive, superficial and misleading treatment that tries tell the US government it can scold the Israelis into being more cooperative. Here is what Mr. Cordesman has to say.
1. “The real motives behind America’s commitment to Israel are moral and ethical. They are a reaction to the horrors of the Holocaust, to the entire history of Western anti-Semitism, and to the United States’ failure to help German and European Jews during the period before it entered World War II. They are a product of the fact that Israel is a democracy that shares virtually all of the same values as the United States.”
A. I think this is a cover story that most Americans, including Mr. Cordesman, have repeated so often that they now really believe it is true. However, it isn’t so. The real reason the United States backs Israel, even when that country spits in our national eye, is due to inordinate lobby power. I recommend that Mr. Cordesmen, and anyone else who is interested, read my book entitled “Foreign Policy Inc. – Privatizing America’s National Interest (University Press of Kentucky, 2009). I trace the history of lobby influence on foreign policy since the founding of the nation. While after World War II there was sympathy for Europe’s surviving Jews it was not sufficient to turn the U.S. into Israel’s protector from the end of Harry Truman’s presidency and the Six Day War of 1967. After 1967 what did turn us in that direction was a fully matured Zionist lobby (both Jewish and Christian). The Holocaust and anti-Semitism angles go down better with the public, but inside the beltway they are not what motivates policy.
B. The claim that we pour billions of dollars a year into Israel because that country is a democracy and one that shares our values is an even flimsier cover story. Anyone who has taken an honest look at Israeli democracy knows that the closest it comes to a U.S. model is predesegregation Alabama. Israeli treatment of 20 % of its population is outright illegal by U.S. standards. There is hardly a hairs width separation between church and state in Israel. So where are the shared values? This is just a myth that the American people have bought because they have no contextual knowledge by which to judge the claim.
2. “The U.S. commitment to Israel is not one that will be abandoned….at the same time the depth of America’s moral commitment does not justify or excuse actions by an Israeli government that unnecessarily make Israel a strategic liability when it should remain an asset.”
A. This is just whistling in the wind. Cordesman’s similar pronouncements to the effect that the U.S. has not the “slightest interest in supporting Israeli settlements;” that the United States should not be “passive when Israel makes a series of major strategic blunders;” that “it is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States…and that it becomes more careful about the extent to which it tests the limits of U.S. patience….” are equally bluffs. They are bluffs because when it comes to Israel, our foreign policy is not driven primarily by what the Israeli government does. It is driven by what the Zionist lobby here in the U.S. does. As long as Israeli barbarism and colonialism are not voting issues for the U.S. public, and as long as there are not effective competing lobbies that can outplay the Zionist lobby, the U.S. government, particularly the U.S. Congress, will support the madmen in Jerusalem no matter what they do. That is the way it has been since the Johnson administration (remember the USS Liberty), and that is the way it still is.
B. So when Mr. Cordesman sternly addresses the Israeli government and says they should “act on the understanding that the long-term nature of the U.S. strategic relationship will depend on Israel clearly and actively seeking peace with the Palestinians” he is really missing the point. The strategic asset argument is a sham. It is another cover story dreamt up during the Reagan administration. Hardly anyone used the term before that. No doubt Ronald Reagan and his neocon advisers came to believe their own story and so has establishment analysts since then. But it remains unexplained in Mr. Cordesman’s analysis just how Israel can be simultaneously a strategic asset and a strategic liability. And, why Israel’s “major strategic blunders” which add up to multiple violations of international law and the mass pauperization of over a million people, don’t make a wit of difference to the U.S. Congress.
3. “It is time to return to the kind of strategic realism exemplified by leaders like Yitzhak Rabin.” A. Well, it is nice to know that Mr. Cordesman agrees with Yasser Arafat on what a great “partner for peace” (Arafat’s words) Rabin was. In my estimation they are both wrong about Rabin. Oh he was certainly to be preferred to Menachem Begin or Yitzhak Shamir or Ariel Sharon. But Rabin had no intention of using the Oslo agreements turn the West Bank and Gaza into a Palestinian state. Indeed, he started backtracking on those agreements almost immediately. The people who killed him did not do so because he accepted the inevitability of a Palestinian state. They killed him because he dared to even negotiate with the Palestinians and the killers did not wait around for him to explain how little he planned on giving them. In the end, Mr. Cordesman and the rest of the establishment analysts mislead us and themselves with their semi-tough talk about Israel moving from an asset to a liability. The only asset that matters is the Zionist lobby’s status as an asset to American politicians on the domestic front. If, ever that lobby really becomes seen as a liability by American voters, then the politicians will, as they say, “turn on a dime” and Israel’s influence will collapse overnight. In the meantime Mr. Cordesman is looking in the wrong direction.