Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Why the U.S. is bad for Israel

The Israel Lobby by Mearsheimer and Walt should be in bookstores by September 4, but it was released on Amazon on August 27 and has already shot up to #89 on their sales ranking.  The early reviews are favorable -- as I consult the site, the six initial reviewers all gave the book four or five stars.

The New Yorker's David Remnick has a piece in the current issue which pans the book, describing it as a "symptom" of "our polarized era."  Remnick, in turn, inspired Time Magazine's Tony Karon to reflect on Mearsheimer and Walt, the Israel Lobby, and David Remnick.

On the flip, some interesting bits from Tony Karon's reflection.

Perhaps the central point of Mearsheimer and Walt's analysis (judging from the original London Review of Books article) is that the US relationship with Israel is strategically bad for the US.  In the article, they wrote that Israel had become a "strategic burden" for the US, and they cited experiences from the Iranian Revolution and the first Gulf War to back up that assertion.

A secondary point they make, however, is that the relationship as it has developed over the years is also bad for Israel.  Karon picks up on that point, and expands on it:

Like the tech-bubble and real estate-bubble, Washington’s "Israel bubble" is unhealthy and dangerous — in fact, it not only jeopardizes U.S. interests throughout the region and beyond (by serving as Exhibit A for any anti-American element anywhere in the Islamic world to win the political contest with America’s friends), but it is also exceedingly bad for Israel: Particularly over the past decade, the U.S. has essentially enabled Israeli behavior so self-destructive that it may have already precluded any chance of it being able to live at peace with its neighbors.

This a major theme Karon develops throughout the essay, even though he's mostly interested in challenging Remnick's interpretation of the Mearsheimer and Walt thesis.

Karon does disagree with how Mearsheimer and Walt portray the Israel Lobby.  He says their "analytical approach [is] often static and institutional; [sic] insufficiently dynamic and, dare I say it, insufficiently dialectical."  He's not convinced that the US's pro-Israel bias is due to the "machinations of a lobby" but rather develops from "deeply-entrenched tropes in US political and civil society -- tropes which now function quite independently of the lobby's interventions."  In his critique of Remnick he gives some specific examples of what he means by "tropes"; here, I just wanted to lay out the foundation of the analytical differences with Mearsheimer and Walt he alludes to in this next passage:

U.S. policy on Israel and its neighbors is grotesquely biased in favor not only of Israel, but of Israel’s most self-destructive impulses. As such, it is a policy dangerous to U.S. interests and ultimately to those of Israel itself. This biased [sic] is maintained and policed in substantial part by an aggressive lobbying effort by an elaborate pro-Israel political infrastructure. Despite its analytical weaknesses, [the book] is a refreshingly candid and courageous (given the all too common fate of those who tackle this taboo — just take a look at the important logging of this stuff at Muzzlewatch) embrace of what has long been the "third rail" of American foreign policy, insisting that a debate be conducted where none has been tolerated until now.

Karon notes that unconditional support of Israel's occupation of the Palestinians by the US makes it "virtually impossible for any Arab leader to openly associate with U.S. goals."  In the long run, given the strategic importance of the Arab world, this might eventually lead the US to distance itself from Israel.  Karon goes on:

It was precisely this recognition of Israel’s limited strategic value to the U.S. in a post-Cold War world that led Yitzhak Rabin, a longtime hawk, to embrace the Oslo deal presented to him by Shimon Peres. Like the leaders of apartheid South Africa in the late 80s, Rabin had come to recognize (particularly in the era of the first Bush administration) that Israel could no longer count on unconditional U.S. backing given Washington’s interests elsewhere in the region. As a result, it was compelled to seek an accomodation with the Palestinian national leadership. Of course, this was an exceedingly good thing. Unfortunately, Rabin needn’t have worried, because the changing domestic political atmosphere in the U.S. — the success of the Israel lobby beyond its wildest dreams, particularly as a result of the backing of perhaps its latterly most important constituent, the Evangelical Christian Zionists, had meant that Israel could count on U.S. backing regardless of its behavior in relation to the Palestinians. M&W are simply pointing out that this does not accord with an accurate reading of U.S. national interests.

In the end, Karon states, "U.S. support for Israel is unconditional, settlements and all.  The sad fact ... is that the occupation is not some aberration on Israel’s part; there really is no longer any real distinction, in practice on the ground, between Israel and its occupation of the lands it captured in 1967."

Karon concludes, following Henry Siegman in the London Review of Books, that "Israel quite simply has no inclination to withdraw from the occupied territories."  Not everyone agrees with that assessment -- Daniel Levy over at Prospects for Peace, for example, has a long post up analyzing the potential for Bush's planned November peace summit between Abbas, Olmert, and some Arab states.  Levy isn't exactly optimistic but he does see some basis for hope.

Even as it prepares for the November conference, however, the US proceeds apace with its destructive and destabilizing "Dayton Plan."  Badger over at missing links cites Lebanon's al Akhbar:

The question of Palestinian control of the West Bank has become a responsibility of Washington, which is making plans for the establishment of five Palestinian battalions for deployment throughout the West Bank, and this comes at a time when Hamas is accusing the caretaker government headed by Salam Fayyad of coordinating with Israel in the closure of over 100 charitable organizations, targeting thereby the social arm of the movement (Hamas).

Badger also provides his own analysis of what he thinks is going on:

The move to shut Hamas-affiliated social-assistance groups is a corollary of [the Dayton Plan's aim to deliver "a strong political blow to Hamas"], and what the Al-Akhbar reporter is doing with is calling attention to what you could call the coherence of the Dayton Plan: Shifting the balance militarily to the faction friendly to America and the Israeli occupation, while at the same time shifting the balance in terms of "supplying the Palestinian people with their immediate economic needs..." and it is clear that the corollary of that is shutting down social-aid groups that are affiliated with Hamas... What is important for Americans to understand is that the closure of Hamas-affiliated voluntary organizations is tantamount to an attack on Palestinian civil society, and that this is part and parcel of the plan that also includes military aid for the Abbas-Fayyad "government".

In other words, the US continues to favor the most intransigent Israeli position -- divide the Palestinians in order to avoid any serious concessions in the peace process.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Israel Should Finally be Happy

The outcome that Israel has been wanting for a long time - that it has been manipulating and conniving to bring about - has finally come to pass. The Palestinians are fighting each other.

Israel has long been wanting someone else to fight and kill the Palestinians. It couches its desire in terms of "fighting terror," but what it really wants is for one element of the Palestinians to turn on the others on Israel's behalf. Whenever the Israelis impose preconditions on the Palestinians, in order to prevent peace from breaking out, they have always included this requirement to "fight terror."

Now, the Palestinian factions may not be "fighting terror," but they are at least finally fighting each other, and not Israelis.

Beginning just about a year ago, I have written a series of essays arguing that the election of Hamas to control of the Palestinian Authority might be the last hope of peace in the region, but that Israeli policy was instead driving the factions towards civil war and anarchy.





As usual, I was right. By choking off the resources that Hamas would have needed to govern, by arming the al-Fatah party, discarded by the Palestinian people for corruption and ineffectiveness, Israeli policy successfully undermined the ability of the Palestinian government to control the giant prison that is Gaza. Not only were the two largest parties intermittantly fighting each other, the resulting power vacuum emboldened the armed clans to conduct operations on their own, or in concert with other marginal groups.

The situation had gotten so bad that the only relief could come when the warring factions turned their attention to attacks on Israel instead of each other, with unifying consequences as they recalled who their real enemy is. Indeed, there have been those in Gaza who actually welcomed the Israeli air strikes as a relief from the shooting in the streets. Some have actually voiced the heretical proposal that Gaza would be better off under Israeli occupation again.

But now things are different. Hamas has gone on the offensive against Fatah and taken control of Gaza. Now there may be order. Now there may be a single authority that can establish and maintain control. At least, this seems to be what Hamas has in mind.

Hamas fighters issued an ultimatum to a number of the Gaza Strip's powerful clans to hand over their weapons and submit to interrogation today, as the Islamists attempted to assert their complete authority on the war-torn area after their military takeover.

As the last of Fatah's defeated fighters fled over the strip's southern border with Egypt, the Islamists today demanded that the multitude of different factions, clans and groups which oppose it, and operate within the territory, hand over weapons and ammunition.


Hopes have been raised that kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston may soon be released as Hamas, eager to aviod alienation, has warned those holding him to free him immediately.

Hamas, who have now taken control of most of Gaza from President Abbas's Fatah forces, vowed to secure the reporter's quick release.

In a press conference in Gaza this morning, spokesman Abu Obeid said: "We will not allow his continued detention."


So Israel should finally be happy. There is now going to be law and order in Gaza. Hamas will be too busy establishing its rule to bother with petty operations like shooting rockets across the border into the desert, which it no longer needs to distract the people from the failures of its rule. It should even be in a position, at last, to control the notoriously uncontrollable rocket-shooters.

Ismail Haniyeh has offered to establish talks with Israel on the subject of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

But Israel, predictably, is not happy. Israel looks at Haniyeh and says, "There is no one to talk to." Instead of saying: Oh, good, at last there is a stable government in Gaza, Israeli is squawking: Hamas! Terrorists! The sky is falling! and doing everything it can to destabilize the situation again by funneling weapons and funds to Mamhoud Abbas and the Fatah party, and looking around for Yet Another s/u/c/k/e/r party to do their dirty work by fighting Hamas:

Livni: Gaza multinational force must be willing to fight Hamas
A proposed multinational force deployed along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt must be willing to fight the Islamic militant group Hamas to stop weapons smuggling in the area, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Friday.

At a news conference during an official visit to Portugal, Livni said Israel was not interested in any proposal involving a monitoring force for the Philadelphi corridor where Hamas uses tunnels to bring in weapons. Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip on Thursday after days of heavy fighting with Fatah forces.

"Those who are talking in terms of international forces have to understand that the meaning is not monitoring forces but forces that are willing to fight, to confront Hamas on the ground," Livni said.

"The question is the effectiveness of these (multinational) forces. We don't need monitors to come in to tell us about the (smuggling), we need someone to stop it," she said.


It is hard to know what Hamas will do now, in the currently unstable situation, but one thing we can bet on is that Israel will be sure to make things worse. Israel never recognizes when it's better off.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pariah State

Once again, the Israeli government is asserting that Palestinian politicians are legitimate targets for arrest and assassination:

Naser el-Deen al Shaer was arrested by soldiers who knocked at the door of his home in the city of Nablus, his wife said.
He was among several senior Hamas members who were detained by Israeli troops.
A former Cabinet minister, Abdel Rahman Zeidan, two lawmakers and the mayors of the towns of Nablus, Qalqiliya and Beita were also arrested.
An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that an "arrest operation" had taken place.
The emergency discussions between Mr Abbas and representatives from the five parties involved in inter-factional fighting came hours after Israel carried out more air strikes, hitting what it said were buildings used by Hamas militants to store weapons.
Israeli officials have repeated threats to widen their list of targets to include Hamas political leaders.

These recent events are further evidence of efforts by the Israeli government and the Bush administration to delegitimize and undermine the elected leadership of the Palestinian people. These efforts are most clear in their treatment of the Palestinian Prime Minister, Isma’il Haniyeh.

A friend of mine, after overcoming many obstacles, was able to visit Gaza and meet with the Palestinian Prime Minister a few months ago. I share with you some of his experience, with his permission.

Scott Kennedy recently visited Gaza at the end of a visit to Israel and the West Bank, where he had been one of the leaders of a
from the Interfaith Peace-Builders.

Interfaith Peace-Builders sends delegations to Israel/ Palestine so that U.S. citizens can see the conflict with their own eyes. Participants have the opportunity to learn directly from Israeli and Palestinian nonviolent peace/human-rights activists, to spend time in Palestinian and Israeli homes, and to experience the situation of Palestinians living under military occupation. The delegations focus on seeing, listening to, and recording the experiences and perspectives of a wide range of Palestinian and Israeli voices.
Building on a long history of delegation work in the Middle East, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) began Interfaith Peace-Builders in 2000 as a response to the intensified violence of the second intifada. Since that time IFPB has consulted and worked in partnership with Palestinian and Israeli organizations. We stand in support with Palestinians and Israelis striving to end the occupation of Palestine, working to ensure the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, and advocating an enduring peace with justice for both peoples.

IFPB, which was last able to send a delegation to Gaza in 2003, carries Scott’s report about his individual trip:

“Pariah State"
Meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh

By Scott Kennedy

Gaza is the second most dangerous place in the world for an American to visit,” a highly placed US State Department official commented to a friend and me two weeks ago (November 15, 2006) in Jerusalem.

I first visited Gaza in 1968 and have returned more two dozen times, including many study groups and fact-finding delegations. My most recent visit was in April 2002. Since then, Israeli authorities have prevented our visiting Gaza. I was eager to return, to renew friendships and see for myself the changes that have taken place. I also wanted, if at all possible, to convey my support for those courageous people who continue to work for human rights, democracy and a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They persist despite formidable obstacles. It is imperative, therefore, for them as well as for us, that those suffering such extreme isolation are not forgotten and that their voices still be heard.

But visiting the Gaza Strip is no easy thing. After Hamas won control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in January 2006 elections, the Bush Administration determined that the Islamic movement represents a key thread in the web of global terrorism. Israel in turn decided Hamas constitutes a mortal threat to its survival. European and other nations followed suit by supporting both a US-led international diplomatic and economic boycott of Hamas and Israel’s military siege of the Gaza Strip. By all but official Israeli accounts, these factors have created a severe humanitarian crisis for the 1.5 million people crammed into Gaza’s 140 square miles and surviving on less than $2.00 per day.

Two months ago, a friend told me he wanted to gain a first hand view of what is happening on the ground in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. I suggested that we visit Gaza. I also told him that the US and Israeli governments would put up as many bureaucratic obstacles as possible to our going to Gaza. And then, if we persisted, they would try to scare us out of going. Nevertheless, before leaving California we had received “permission” to enter the Palestinian territory for three days through his contact at an Israeli consulate in the USA. The American government for its part was determined to dissuade us from visiting the hellhole of a fourth world country known as the Gaza Strip.

The Jerusalem diplomat spoke in a lifeless monotone during our half-hour meeting. Mustering as much gravitas as possible, he emphasized just how dangerous Gaza is. Second most dangerous place for Americans to visit in the world, in fact. Who beat out Gaza, I mused? It must be Baghdad. Or maybe Tehran or Kabul. But I wasn’t sure. Perhaps it is St. Louis, named “murder capital” of the USA during the recent World Series.

The diplomat and his head of security detailed the recent kidnapping of two Fox News personnel in Gaza. The cameraman, who happened to be from New Zealand, apparently persuaded his captors to look at a world map. He tried in vain to convince them that New Zealand is not part of the United States. No matter how unimportant we might be, and it was clear from the diplomat’s demeanor that he considered us altogether unimportant, we would surely be “prime targets” for kidnapping or worse, just because we’re Americans.

We also learned that if we were taken prisoner, our government could do nothing to help us. He forewarned that the US no longer has any contacts in the Gaza Strip and we’d be on our own should anything happen. We were to believe that the sole Superpower is incapable of communicating with groups operating in or influencing events in Gaza.

We listened with more than a bit of skepticism to the American official as he tried to prevail upon us not to visit Gaza.

The final straw, however, came later that day during a phone conversation with Washington, DC. An official at the Department of State told my friend, “Were you to travel to Gaza, you will almost certainly be killed.” That night, my friend explained his decision against Gaza, “If we were rescuing hostages or something, I might be able to justify making such a trip. But I would be going just for my self-education. It doesn’t seem to be worth the risk.”

I was not entirely surprised, but disappointed in his decision of course. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to counter, “But there are 1.5 million hostages in Gaza!” Since the capture of an Israeli soldier early this summer, the Gaza strip had suffered a devastating blockade and complete isolation that made it nearly impossible for anyone to visit. Growing hunger and despair reveal a civilian population held hostage to political power games by the Palestinian factions, Israel and the United States.

I resolved that night to make the trip to Gaza on my own.

Three days later, an hour-long taxi drive from East Jerusalem brought me to the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza. A half dozen journalists and I were the only people seeking entry into Gaza. The crossing seemed old hat to them, while for me it was an adventure. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had assured me the day before that my name was still on the list of those permitted to enter Gaza. The young solider behind the counter staring lazily at the computer screen before him, however, first told me that my name was not on the list and made a phone call. He next said that my name was on the list, but I had to wait while they checked things out. Another phone call. Still later, I was told that my name was on the list but my permission had expired on May 15, 2006. (I had only applied for permission in October, a month previously.) A few more people filtered into the transit room as I waited patiently. Still later, after checking by phone with higher ups for the umpteenth time, the soldier smiled, handed me my passport, and stated without any explanation that there was no problem for me to enter Gaza after all.

Finished with the Israeli army step, I next handed my passport to another soldier six feet down the counter. She asked my reason for visiting and advised me it was unsafe to travel to Gaza. When I told her I was visiting a non-governmental organization, she asked why I would do that. I told her I supported their work. She asked if I work for them and if I have any friends in Gaza. Finally, she wanted to know if I had a business card demonstrating that I work for an NGO.

I handed her a personal business card with no mention of a non-profit organization. She looked at it quizzically, raised her eyebrows, handed it back to me, and said, “Have a nice trip!”

I had permission to pass through Erez into Gaza and there was almost nobody else at the crossing facility. Still, it took me over an hour and a half to clear the Israeli procedures. All of this fuss was occasioned by my entering a territory from which the Israelis had “disengaged” more than a year ago. I understand the need for nations to control who enters their country. It’s not entirely clear, however, why Israel would be so concerned with my visiting Palestinian Gaza. If they thought I was smuggling Qassam rockets into Gaza, they would at least have looked into my bag. Instead, the civilian employee from a private security firm simply waved me past without so much as a glance into my shoulder bag.

I passed through a series of turnstiles and then made my way several hundred yards through a concrete corridor. The two lane street was lined by the same eight meter high concrete sections that Israel uses to build the “separation wall” through the West Bank. There were concrete benches as part of the foot of the wall for long sections, should one tire, and corrugated iron provided cover from the heat or rain. As I approached the Palestinian end of the passageway, the wall was lower and funkier. A single Arab porter waited at the halfway point with a neon vest and a wheel chair.

At the other end of the course way, uniformed Palestinian border officials were sitting around a simple table under a metal awning with a couple of men in civilian clothes. They were chatting and drinking tea. As I approached, they smiled and welcomed me to Palestine without getting up, then wrote my name by pen in a lined register book. Getting into Gaza, as opposed to leaving Israel, took all of two minutes. They weren’t concerned the least bit about what I might be carrying into Palestine, and didn’t ask to look in my bag.

A translator and guide from the Gaza Community Mental Health Program and the Union of Women’s Health Committees in Gaza, along with a police escort, waited for me on the Palestinian side of the border. They motioned for me to sit in the front passenger seat of a small white station wagon. For the next two days, I traveled with a police car in front and a heavily armed security detail from the Palestinian Authority’s Interior Ministry in a pickup behind. With blue lights flashing and sirens blaring, I’m still not sure if I was any safer for all the effort. But anybody gunning for me definitely knew we were coming. Children rushed to the street to see the passing attraction. They must have been disappointed to see only me waving back at them.

We made stops at a demolished mosque in the town of Beit Hanoun, at a home where 19 people had been killed ten days before and a hospital in Jebaliya Refugee Camp, and Gaza City. We rushed from site to site because I was scheduled to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismai’l Haniyeh shortly after noon. When we pulled up in front of a tall office building in busy Gaza City, armed security milled around with a dozen members of the press awaiting our arrival. Several dozen other curious passersby waited to see what was going on. The Prime Minister’s staff greeted us and led us quickly up two short flights of steps and into the building. I noticed several men on their knees in prayer in a room off to the right as we hurried by, lest I forget that I’d soon be meeting with the elected head of the Hamas government. The elevator failed to move for several minutes despite multiple pushes of the button. We joked nervously when the elevator not only failed to rise but the door wouldn’t open to let us out. Finally, the man accompanying us hit the red button and a loud alarm sounded. I imagined an onslaught of armed security forces converging on the elevator, but no one seemed to notice. We soon exited the elevator on an upper floor into a spacious office suite with golden brown rug and overstuffed sofas and men in suits standing around. A few minutes later I was ushered into the Prime Minister’s office.

After shaking hands, Prime Minster Haniyeh motioned for me to sit next to him at one end of a rectangular office. A Palestinian flag stood behind us. Another faced us from the far reach of the office where four men in dark suits sat chatting and answering cell phones during our meeting. Introductions later revealed they were the Palestinian cabinet members, representing the Ministries of Information, Transportation, and the Interior, and a spokesperson for the PA.

Haniyeh turned to face me and through an interpreter welcomed me warmly. He wore a neat gray suit, a freshly pressed shirt opened at the neck. I introduced myself and explained that I was visiting the region on behalf of three pacifist organizations that oppose violence by all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I had come to express my opposition to the United States’ campaign to isolate the PA because of Hamas’ victory in the January 2006 elections and to oppose the killing economic sanctions against Haniyeh’s government and Israel’s military siege of the Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Haniyeh said how pleased he was to have a visitor from the United States and that Hamas bears no ill will toward the American people. He noted with irony that those calling for the spread of democratic society didn’t respect the results of the Palestinian elections, even though the January elections were universally viewed as fair. “I was shocked by the US response to the Palestinian electoral process,” he added.

Haniyeh acknowledged that I had already seen some of the evidence of the Palestinians’ suffering and the destruction brought about by Israel’s “incursions” into Gaza. “The Gaza Strip is under total siege by sea, air and by land. This has resulted in tremendous humanitarian suffering.” He said the military escalation culminated in the recent massacre in Beit Hanoun in which 19 people from one family were killed by Israeli artillery. I had met two young survivors earlier in the day. The week before my visit, the USA vetoed a UN Security Council condemning the accidental killings in Beit Hanoun. Haniyeh said the US veto gave a green light to Israeli aggression against Gaza. The veto also sends messages that Israel is above the law and Palestinian lives are worth less than other lives.

Many commentators say that Hamas had not expected to take control of the Palestinian government. This view is widely shared by those I met in Gaza. Hamas ran on a platform of “reform and change” and the Islamic movement’s candidates benefited from the moribund peace process, deteriorating economic situation in Gaza, and widespread corruption in the PA dominated by Arafat’s Fateh Party. Their political strength is rooted in an Islamic social program that has developed over a decade and a half. A secular woman activist told me that the Hamas political program largely focuses on the role of women in society. She described a recent attempt to alter Palestinian law in order to permit polygamy according to Hamas’ reading of the Koran. The proposed change was withdrawn after meetings with a broad coalition of grassroots human rights and women’s organizations. Hamas does not have a strong “foreign policy” agenda. They choose instead to fold themselves within the Palestinian consensus. Hence Haniyeh’s indications that Hamas will live with a political accommodation with Israel.

I pressed the Prime Minister about the question of Hamas making peace with Israel. Haniyeh said that the problem remains that Israel has yet to determine its position towards the Palestinians. Despite all of the peace talks, “We have received no real offer” of peace from Israel, he said. Instead a series of demands have been made of the Hamas-led government: that they recognize Israel, honor agreements previously entered into by the PA, and renounce violence. He asked rhetorically whether the same demands are made of Israel. Answering his own question, Haniyeh argued that Israel must first recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including a clear statement about what borders the Palestinian state will have. Only then will Hamas be able to clarify its position.

Haniyeh reiterated his oft-stated position that Hamas is willing to enter into a ten year interim peace agreement with Israel and perhaps longer term truce to enable the Palestinians and Israelis to build a new relationship. For the past eighteen months, they had observed a unilateral cease-fire with Israel. He covered the same points he has made elsewhere, "We are strongly in favor of direct talks between Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the PLO and the head of the government, and the prime minister of Israel, Olmert.... If they reach an agreement in their discussions that's acceptable to the Palestinian people, we will accept it, also. Hamas will."

There is an international consensus in support of a Two State Solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. This solution calls for an exchange of “land for peace” and creation of a Palestinian state consisting of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, that Israel occupied in 1967. Support for a Two State Solution has been officially adopted by every Arab state, the European Union, the United Nations, the nonaligned countries, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, and every other significant grouping of world nations. Sheer exhaustion, if not a change of heart, has brought the Palestinian people to accept the international consensus in support of a Two State solution. Hamas would have had to bend to domestic Palestinian pressure and the international consensus, just as the grizzled guerilla leader Yasser Arafat had been compelled to do. Sadly, the US gave Hamas no grace period to come to terms with this Palestinian consensus.

Meanwhile Israel’s continued annexation of Palestinian land threatens to render the “land for peace” formula meaningless and the Two State solution irrelevant.
I can’t claim the same gift George Bush professes -- the ability to look into a man’s eyes and size up his soul. But I did look squarely into Haniyeh’s eyes during much of our half-hour conversation. There was no evasion and no shifting of eyes. He seemed to be a kind and thoughtful person.

When I asked Haniyeh about the so-called “clash of civilizations” that has dominated American understanding and discussion of global events since the September 11th terrorist attacks, I sensed a deep sadness. With a clear and determined voice, he slowly laid out his position on a question he obviously had answered many times: “We believe in dialogue between civilizations and not the clash of civilizations.... We know how special the relationship is between the US and Israel. We don’t look to stop this strategic alliance. We are only asking for a more balanced position.” He lamented the fact that after September 11th, the US missed a real opportunity for cooperation and coordination between East and West, based on mutual respect. The USA missed another opportunity when it chose to oppose the democratically elected government of Hamas. “Hamas is moderate and pragmatic and realistic.... We are not a terrorist organization just because we are part of the Islamic world. We can be a bridge between the US and the West and Islam and the Arab World. Instead, the US has pushed Hamas into a corner….”

Haniyeh rose to prominence after his mentor Sheikh Yassin and other Hamas leaders were assassinated by Israel. Immediately after his election, Israel and the United States moved decisively to bring about his downfall. I couldn’t help but wonder whether this soft-spoken man is well-suited for the job. When I shared my assessment of their prime minister, my guide and translator said that Haniyeh is known among the people in Gaza as a very thoughtful and kind person both before and after his election as prime minister. His stature was enhanced in recent days when he offered to step down as Prime Minister if necessary for Israel and the United States to lift the devastating siege on the people of Gaza.

President Bush would have none of this talk of building bridges or lifting sieges. His administration decided immediately after the election of Isma’il Haniyeh to bring down the Hamas government. Taxes that Israel has collected from the Palestinians are withheld from the Palestinian Authority in defiance of written agreements and international law. International aid has also been suspended. 150,000 government employees including teachers and police have not been paid for more than eight months.

Standard operating procedure for the Bush Presidency includes breaking off communication with those who won’t go along with our nation’s global agenda and trying in turn to bring down governments we stigmatize as “terrorist.” Syria fought alongside the US in the first Gulf War, was taken off the list of “terrorist nations” and the US publicly thanked Assad’s regime for their active cooperation combating terror after 9/11. Bush helped force Syria out of Lebanon and then watched as that country slid into chaos and war with Israel. Now the Bush Administration faults Damascus for the situation in Lebanon and Iraq and shuns Bashar al Assad along with Iran and North Korea.

The net effect is that relations with these countries continue to decline and drift towards escalated conflict and war. Meanwhile, the United States grows more isolated. 156 countries, including the European nations, voted for a UN General Assembly resolution expressing sympathy for the Palestinians killed in the Israeli attack on Beit Hanoun. The resolution also opposed Palestinians firing rockets from Gaza into Israel. Seven nations abstained, but only half a dozen nations, including several Pacific island nations, joined the US in voting against the resolution.

In the five years since the World Trade Center attacks, President Bush has squandered global solidarity and support for the USA and the American people by fomenting an unprecedented anti-American sentiment around the globe. For the first time in my four decades visiting the region, I experienced explicit anti-American feeling in my two weeks in Israel and the occupied Palestinian West Bank. This rising anger at the American people for their government’s actions prompted the heavy security arrangements in Gaza, the likes of which I have never experienced before.

In his effort to isolate Hamas as a “pariah state,” Bush has achieved quite the opposite effect. The US is increasingly isolated on the world stage and it is our nation that is viewed as bullying and warlike. The US’s continued backing for Israel, no matter how heinous its crimes, reinforces the general deterioration in world esteem for our nation and its people. Bush may very well have succeeded within our own borders in defining Hamas and other political movements as terrorist groups. But there is little doubt, from the perspective of the broad international consensus about how to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is the United States that has become the pariah state.

President Bush sits by while Israel effectively destroys the possibility of a Two State solution, the only basis for a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that enjoys an international consensus and offers a diplomatic rather than a military solution. He may in the short run bring down the Hamas government, but at what long term cost to regional stability and peace?

“Scott Kennedy coordinates the Middle East Program of the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz, California. He was elected to three terms on the Santa Cruz City Council and served twice as mayor. Kennedy was elected national chairman of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and founded and chaired the FOR's Middle East Task Force. He has traveled to the Mid East four dozen times since 1968 and most recently in November 2006 when he co-led a delegation for the Interfaith Peace-Builders”.

Pictures of Scott Kennedy’s recent visit in Gaza are also available.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


In January of 2006, to the surprise of most parties, including Hamas, the Islamic party won a clear majority in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Here was an opportunity aborted at birth. Instead of accepting the results of the democratic process, instead of respecting the will of the Palestinian people, the neocon axis of Israel and the US turned on the Hamas government before it was even officially established, determined to strangle, to starve it to death before it could perform a single official act.

The short-sightedness of such a policy is wonderful to contemplate. With the primitive reflex of the reptile brain, the axis was not capable of thinking beyond the single simplistic equation: Hamas = terrorist. A strong Hamas government, according to this equation, could only mean stronger terrorist attacks on Israel. This, despite the fact that both before and since the election, Hamas had proposed and adhered to a cease-fire with Israel. Rejectionists among the Israelis and their supporters rejoiced at the outcome, as it automatically served as a perfect excuse to call off, Yet Again, the farcial "peace process." No negotiation with terrorists, was the immediate cry. No talking with terrorists. Just to make sure that peace could not possibly arise, the rejectionist axis declared a set of demands – concessions Hamas would be required to make before they would consider recognition, concessions they knew quite well Hamas would refuse to make, particularly under such circumstances.

In keeping with this reptile-brained policy, the axis proceeded to cut off all funding to the Palestinian government and to pressure the rest of the world into joining this embargo, so that it could not pay the salaries of its security services and public servants. They also suborned the leaders of the Fatah party, whom the people had rejected for their corruption, to undermine and contest the results of the election by force. The Hamas government was duly weakened, as the axis had intented. But what they entirely failed to consider were the consequences of a weakened government in Palestine. Already last year, there were clear signs that the Palestinian body politic was sliding head-first down the slope to civil war as a direct consequence of axis policies.

I wrote about these possible consequences in an essay just about a year ago: that by weaking Hamas, Israel is opening the doors of possibility to al-Qaida taking its place. And the likelihood of this outcome has not diminished at all.

Sun May 21, 2006

A previously unknown group that links itself to al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for a failed attempt Saturday to kill the chief of the Palestinian Authority intelligence service in the Gaza Strip, General Tareq Abu Rajab, according to a Web statement posted Sunday.
The group, called the Qaida Organization of the State of Palestine, also vowed to target other senior officials, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Of course this report must be taken with a grain of skepticism. It is quite possible that this previously-unknown group might be a mask for rogue or actual Hamas agents acting against Fatah, which has officially denied responsibility for the attack. But the possibility of al-Qaida activity in Gaza has been growing ever since the American occupation of Iraq, which functions as an international recruiting center for terrorist groups. And just as Israel did everything in its power to destroy Fatah, only to discover that Fatah was maybe not all that bad in comparison to Hamas, it may soon discover that its attempts to destroy Hamas have opened the door for the rise of a Palestinian al-Qaida, in contrast to which, Hamas may start looking not all that bad in comparison.

The latest pronouncement from Osama bin Laden attempted to link his cause with that of the Palestinians. Hamas was quick to repudiate this unwanted support from al-Qaida. Hamas has no interest in international jihad. Its aspirations have never extended beyond the historical borders of Palestine. A strong Hamas would be the best possible bar to the rise of al-Qaida in the territory. But the more Israel succeeds in weakening Hamas, in rendering the Hamas government ineffective, the more it encourages the potential support for the al-Qaida alternative.

The point is Israel's persistent and active attempts to bring down the Hamas government, to make it unable to rule. And where there is no rule, there is anarchy. Where there is no rule, there is a vaccuum where worse forces can enter and took root. The fact is: there is a group claiming to be al-Qaida operating in Palestine. The fact is: fomenting civil war is the same tactic al-Qaida is using in Iraq. The fact is: Palestine is devolving rapidly towards a state of civil war, towards becoming another Iraq. Israel ought to remember - Abbas ought to remember, and Hamas ought to remember - to be careful what they wish for. When they get it, they are likely to get something worse, along with it.

That was a year ago. When we look at Palestine now, and particularly the open-air prison that Israel has made of Gaza, what do we find? Anarchy. Or, in Arabic, falatan. In the absence of a strong ruling Hamas government, Gaza is increasingly in the hands of armed gangs, clans, and warlords – still including some who call themselves al-Qaida. Hamas itself is fragmenting, its various wings turning on the others. There is the political group in Syria, headed by Meshal, there is the political group in Gaza, headed by Haniyeh, there is the military wing – Izzadin al-Qassam – that has declared it no longer considers itself bound by the official partial truce. It was this group, along with members of several other Palestinian resistance organizations, including one calling itself the Army of Islam, that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June of 2006 – a month after I wrote the above. This incident was the excuse for a major Israeli onslaught of violence against Gaza, which left it in ruins, without sufficient electricity or potable water for the needs of the population.

Now, a year later, as Hamas has grown weaker and more divided, conditions in Gaza have only grown worse. Not just the physical and economic conditions, but the anarchy, the all-pervasive violence, the rise of independent warlords and bandits that no one is able to control, not even Hamas. In March of this year, there was yet another abduction, this one of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. Hamas spokesmen claim that they know who is holding him but are unable to free him – so far has the situation devolved into anarchy and the rule of gangs, including the so-called Army of Islam, which turns out to be no more than one lawless clan among many, still in the abduction racket.

As Gaza burns

By Avi Issacharoff

[Clan leader]Mumtaz Durmush was also apparently involved in the abductions of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. "Everyone in Gaza knows who is holding Johnston," a Palestinian officer who is a member of Fatah says bitterly. "But no one dares to take action against them. The Sabra neighborhood where the Durmush clan members live looks like a giant army camp. Hamas and Fatah are busy fighting each other rather than preparing a plan to take over Sabra."

...According to data released by the Ramallah Center for Human Rights, since the start of 2007, 63 Palestinians have been killed and some 400 injured in clashes because of the chaos in the security situation. Most of the casualties were in the Gaza Strip, which is beginning to resemble the Somalian capital of Mogadishu. Tens of thousands of men armed with light weapons and RPGs do whatever they think fit; the Palestinian police are not effective and the courts are not functioning. In armed feuds between clans, the Palestinian security forces do not get involved at all.


Tuesday was a relatively quiet day, compared to the last few weeks in Gaza: Unknown assailants attacked and seriously injured a resident of Khan Yunis, hitting him over the head with a blunt instrument, and armed gunmen shot at the car of Majdi Arabeed, head of the Voice of Freedom radio station in Gaza, but there were no casualties. Two years and three months ago, Arabeed was very seriously wounded by shots from an Israel Defense Forces unit operating in the Gaza Strip while he was filming a report together with Channel 10 correspondent Shlomi Eldar. He recovered and went back to work. But in recent days he has once again become a target - this time of Palestinian armed men. It is not clear whether they are from one of the Islamic movements or one of the rival clans. "There is no law in Gaza," he says. "No one talks any more about negotiations or about freeing prisoners. They are all busy with the question of who killed whom and how. The police are afraid of the gunmen because if they try to arrest them, they will immediately be depicted as collaborating with Israel. In addition, the competition between the various forces of Fatah and Hamas has become destructive from their point of view, and their image is negative. Everyone stores up weapons at home to defend themselves. Even if the state prosecutor publishes an arrest order against a resident of Gaza, who is able to arrest him if he and his family are armed?" Arabeed claims that the responsibility lies with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's Hamas government, which is not able to function. Some analysts in Gaza believe that Hamas' decision to fire Qassam rockets at Israel on Independence Day was an attempt to make the Palestinian public forget the movement's failure to restore order in the streets of the Strip. It seems as if Hamas is trying to remind the Palestinian public once again of its "good old" image as a terrorist organization that fights Israel fearlessly. But the chaos in Gaza has also had an effect on its ranks. "They have become like us," one Fatah activist says. "They fight over everything: money, positions, ranks, who will be director general and who will be captain in the offices and the security mechanisms that they are responsible for. There is no longer one leader who decides everything. The authority of Khaled Meshal, the head of the political bureau, has been badly eroded since the Mecca agreement. Their message to the Palestinian people is not uniform; all of a sudden, they sound like a supermarket of different ideas, just like Fatah was at one stage: [Hamas co-founder] Mahmoud al-Zahar speaks about destroying Israel, while Haniyeh broadcasts a moderate message. The military wing does whatever it wants."

There are some among the enemies of the Palestinians who will gloat at the reports of this anarchy. To them, it proves the essential depravity of the Palestinian people, it proves there is "no partner for peace" among them, it justifies the harsh regime of repression and isolation that has caused this situation. To others, the weakening of Hamas is regarded as a success of their policies; they busy themselves shipping arms to Fatah and promoting the overthrow of Hamas by force, as if Fatah, any more than Hamas, would be capable of taking control over the chaotic situation.

None of them seem capable of lifting up their eyes to see how very much conditions in Gaza are coming to resemble those in Iraq, where gangs that call themselves al-Qaida are also running loose, where there is no power capable of checking them, where even some of the Shi'ites are wishing that Saddam Hussein was alive again.

When Gaza reaches this point, there will be many in Israel who wish that Hamas was in power again. But it will be too late.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Israel, Palestine, Means and Ends

We at Evenhanded Democrats, while having many differences in style and political opinion, are united in our goal of reforming the Democratic Party's policies in the Middle East. Together we are involved in seeking this change by trying to influence the debate at Progressive and Democratic blogs with reality-based arguments about Israel and Palestine. For the most part, our diaries on this site are cross-posted at Daily Kos and related sites -- blog communities in which we value being members.

We have come to a parting of the ways with one of the contributors to this blog, shergald. While we continue to share some goals with shergald, we do not wish to share some of his chosen means. His diaries will no longer be carried on this site.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Democrats standing up to Olmert??

Only in an Israeli newspaper:

When Speaker of the House Nancy came back from her Mideast trip, I wrote briefly about her frustration with the Israeli government and the way it handled her visit to Damascus: "Pelosi", I wrote, "didn't like the Israeli clarification. It made her look slightly ridiculous, like a rookie in foreign policy." I also mentioned that it was not her first frustration with Olmert. He knows how politically sensitive are the issues of American policy in the region but "nonetheless decided to present an explicit Israeli policy regarding Iraq identical to that of Bush in a speech to AIPAC."

And this wasn't even the first time that Olmert marched into this mine field. Visiting the White House in November, right after the Midterm elections, he felt the need to say that he is "very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East." snip

As Guttman wrote Thursday: "Israeli officials and Democratic lawmakers are working to mend fences", and the Waxman-Ackerman statement is a first sign. Sources in Washington told me today that next week, when all the Democratic Presidential hopefuls will appear before delegates to the National Jewish Democratic Council conference, we will see more of this conciliatory tone coming to fore.

However, this source said, "even as our leadership is working to calm things down, the rank and file Democrats are getting tired of these Israeli maneuvers." If Israel doesn't "get its act together" and doesn't reciprocate these pacifying moves - "if Olmert keeps doing such irresponsible things" - it will get more "difficult for Democrats who do care about Israel" to defend their position.

It almost sounded like a threat.

I know Bush does not seem to care that the democrats won Congress....but someone needs to tell Olmert.

I believe Bush had Sharon's blessings to go into Iraq...and that Olmert is having problems backing away from that position.

Here is the line up for the conference on Israel and Terrorism:

Senator Hillary Clinton
Senator Barack Obama
Senator John Edwards
Senator Joe Biden
Senator Christopher Dodd
Governor Bill Richardson
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

And who are they? What is their mission statement? Sounds like they could be a close mirror imagine of AIPAC:

Founded in 1990, the National Jewish Democratic Council is the national voice of Jewish Democrats. Informed by our commitment to those values shared by the Democratic Party and the vast majority of American Jews - including the separation of church and state, a strong US-Israel relationship, and reproductive freedom - NJDC's singular set of priorities includes:

* Educating Jewish voters about the very real differences between their Democratic and Republican candidates for elected office through special reports and voter guides. NJDC has distributed more than 250,000 informational guides to Jewish households in recent election cycles.
* Informing candidates for public office about the need to address and support issues of concern to the Jewish community.
* Advocating on behalf of Jewish and Democratic ideals on Capitol Hill and in Jewish and national media.
* Fighting the radical right agenda at every turn through research and reports, grassroots advocacy, working directly with lawmakers in Washington, and educating journalists.
* Engaging and cultivating a new generation of young Jewish Democratic leaders by replicating our highly successful Washington-based Young Leadership program in other major cities, including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Cleveland and South Florida.
* Expanding Jewish awareness of critical legislative activity through quarterly and biweekly publications, as well as Breakfast Roundtables and Domestic Issues Forums featuring congressional and executive branch leaders.

Their articles tend to focus on Israel more than internal issues, for example: Robert Novak...(our one Anti-Israel neo-con?).

Why Won’t Prominent Republicans Criticize Novak
for Anti-Israel Writings?

Today, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) called on Republican party leaders to offer a public rebuke of right wing pundit Bob Novak’s harsh anti-Israel stance and string of unbalanced columns.

In recent columns, Novak has suggested Israel’s policies are "worse than apartheid," implied that Israel is oppressing Christians, claimed that terror organization Hamas wants peace, and chastised President Bush for failing to pressure the Israeli government. [Washington Post, 4/9/07, 4/16/07 and 4/5/07]

"This is a major example of Republican hypocrisy," said NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman. "Republicans jump up and down and paint Democrats with a broad brush whenever anyone on the left says anything remotely questionable about the Middle East. Yet, here is right wing pundit Bob Novak writing a series of awful columns and the silence from Republican leaders is deafening."

snip Novak has also blamed Israel for the Iraq war. [Newsday, 12/7/01; Townhall.com 4/18/05; CNN 12/23/03]


And their message to Olmert last year:

As NJDC's leadership noted in the letter, "The leaders and supporters of the NJDC are committed to doing everything in our power to preserve the longstanding friendship and strategic military alliance between the United States and Israel. We look forward to continuing our work with you and your administration as Israel continues its quest for lasting peace and security."
We at the National Jewish Democratic Council pledge our full cooperation in working to uphold the ever-strengthening relationship between America and Israel.

I wonder what they are thinking of Olmert now.

Meanwhile another excellent article from Harretz, Olmert does not need to negotiate from a position of strength to end the conflict...he just has to show-up.

Olmert does not need to be an outstanding rhetorician or even a statesman to market the Arab initiative. It almost sells itself. The way in which it is now presented by the Arab leaders offers a plan with two floors of the same building: immediate tactical conditions for initiating Arab negotiations with Israel - not only Palestinian negotiations - and strategic conditions for establishing full relations, including normalization. The tactical conditions entail freezing Israel's policy vis-a-vis the territories - including a halt to construction in settlements and the separation wall - a return to the status quo of September 2000, lifting the boycott on the Palestinian people and stopping the excavations near Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The first several conditions do not require negotiations; most of them are even included in the road map proposed by the Quartet. They constitute a gesture of goodwill, with the aim of building trust and generating momentum for the start of Arab-Israeli negotiations. The familiar strategic conditions are a full Israeli withdrawal, a solution for the status of Jerusalem, and a resolution of the refugee problem. Saud al-Faisal, who elaborated on these conditions, did not speak about the right of return and did not draw a map of the Holy Basin - everything is subject to negotiation.

There is a bonus attached to these conditions. They constitute a paved route to the ultimate vision, as defined by the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa: "There is no normalization free of charge. But the Arabs are prepared, in accordance with the initiative, to enter into a final peace process and to regard the Israeli-Arab conflict as a thing of the past if we carry out and they carry out the mutual obligations."

Here are the explicit words: the end of the conflict.


Until further notice...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

This week Puerto Rican peace activist Tito Kayak and Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan participated in peace demonstrations in Palestinian village of Bilin, where a wall continues to be build taking valuable farm land from the Palestinian owners.

Corrigan, who won the prize in 1976 for her work in encouraging a peaceful solution to the Northern Ireland dispute, was hit in the leg by a rubber bullet and was transferred to a hospital for treatment. She was also said to have inhaled large quantities of teargas.

Policemen and soldiers used teargas grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the routine Friday protest against the security fence near the Palestinian village of Bilin and were confronted by a hail of stones.

"I salute the residents of Bilin for their peaceful struggle in a region that is so violent and I call on the Israeli public, whom I know
is for justice and peace, to support the residents' struggle,"
Corrigan told Ynet.

"I want to say that this separation wall, contrary to what the Israeli say, will not prevent attacks and violence. What will prevent attacks and violence is a peace agreement between the two peoples, and I sure the Israeli people, like the Palestinian people, wants peace," Corrigan added.

Kayak was a key figure in the sucessful 1999 Navy-Vieques protests in Puerto Rico against the US Navy's use of the Vieques Island for bombing exercises. The navy was forced to end the use of the island.

"All I did was to express my identification with the villagers against the wall which is believed to evil and illegal by the whole world and many leaders like Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and the United Nations," Kayak said.


As previously been noted, the Palestine economy is failing and the children suffer most:

'Malnutrition common for Gaza kids'

About 10 percent of Palestinian children suffer permanent effects from malnutrition, according to a survey published Wednesday, a result of widespread poverty in the West Bank and Gaza.

The root cause is poverty, according to Khaled Abu Khaled, who directed the study for the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. He said the numbers are up slightly over the past two years.

One obvious effect of malnutrition is stunted growth among children, which has increased about three percent in the last two years, he said.

"This is chronic. Even with interventions, the rates don't go down fast," he said.

I wrote a diary last week on the power of the settlers/coloniziers in the West Bank The Cottage Industry of Settlements in the West Bank and their influence over Israeli politicians. Some kossacks said the settlers have little power, well an Israeli newspaper differs in opinion.

In the year that has come and gone since last Independence Day, the settler showdown, which was really the basis for the political change the current government was relying on, was all but forgotten. New troubles pushed out the old. Preoccupation with the war in Lebanon and political corruption created a distraction. Moreover, the art of distraction is a field in which Ehud Olmert excels: He gave up the "convergence plan," on the strength of which he was elected, almost parenthetically. His colleagues in the Labor Party accepted the shelving of this plan with the same meek indifference with which they accepted the National Union as a coalition partner and the systematic rejection (until recently) of every peace plan or proposal for withdrawal.

It is no coincidence that Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin, the toughest of our generals, dared to stand up to the settlers. Both were cut down, and the battle ended with their fall, perhaps forever. What Sharon never managed to do is not going to be done by someone else. And we don't need a slippery wimp like Olmert and his bewildered ministers to understand that. Who is going to be the "bulldozer," and move something around here? Olmert? Ophir Pines-Paz? Benjamin Netanyahu? Beilin, who yelled "Crazies, go home" at the settlers this week, like some grouchy neighbor?

A year has passed, and everyone has gone back to being themselves - the settlers, brazen and defiant; and the politicians, shuffling and weak. The statement by the Yesha Council (of Jewish settlements) this week about the "great strategic importance of the house in Hebron" and the important link it provides in "territorial contiguity," issued in that same overlording tone, was a victory whoop to remind us who the real boss was for 40 out of the 59 years that Israel has been around. Was, and still is.

I hope in our new budget for Israeli foreign aid, not one penny for the Wall (easily marked for security), or loan guarantees the settlers.

With permission:

Hagit Borer: There is little question in anybody’s mind about the special relation between Israel and the United States. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid to the tune of more than $3 billion dollars a year, plus miscellaneous additions like surplus weaponry, debt waivers and other perks. Israel is the only country that receives its entire aid package in the beginning of the fiscal year allowing it to accrue interest on it during the year. It is the only country which is allowed to spend up to 25% of its aid outside of the United States, placing such expenditures outside US control.

Apart from financial support, the United States has offered unwavering support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians, and has systematically supported Israel’s refusal to make any effective peace negotiations or peace agreements. It has vetoed countless UN resolutions seeking to bring Israel into compliance with international law. It has allowed Israel to develop nuclear weapons and not to sign the nuclear anti-proliferation treaty and most recently it strongly supported Israel’s attack on Lebanon in July of 2006. Support for Israel cuts across party lines and is extremely strong in Congress where criticism of Israel is rarely if ever heard. It also characterizes almost all American administrations from Johnson onwards, with George W. Bush being possible the most pro-Israel ever.

What is the reason for this strong support? Opinions on this matter vary greatly. Within strong pro-Israeli circles, one often hears that the reason is primarily moral: the debt that the United States owes Israel in the aftermath of the Holocaust; the nature of Israel as the sole democracy in the Middle East; Israel as the moral and possible strategic ally of the United States in its War on Terror. Within circles that are less supportive of Israel and which are less inclined to view Israel and Israel’s conduct as moral, opinions vary as well. One opinion stems from the position of Israel being a strategic ally of the United States – its support is simply payment for services rendered coupled with the stable pro-American stance of the Jewish Israeli population. Noam Chomsky, among others, is a proponent of this view. According to the opposing view, the United States’ support for Israel does not advance American aims, it jeopardizes them. The explanation for the support is to be found in the activities of the Israel Lobby, also known as the Jewish Lobby, or as AIPAC (the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee), which uses its formidable influence to shape American foreign policy in accordance with Israeli interests. The opinion as most recently been associated with an article published in the London Book Review, co-authored by Professor Merscheimer of the University of Chicago and Professor Walt of Harvard University.