The United States is set on a collision course in West Asia with the rest of the world looking on helplessly. Russia's overture to Hamas and China's bid for friendship with Arabs are reassuring signs. But neither will go beyond a point to risk American ire, least of all would India. It is locked in so close an embrace with Israel that it has abandoned its rhetoric of former years.
Realpolitik is understandable. Not so, intellectual dishonesty. Reporters and analysts owe a duty to their readers. They are guilty of a sordid betrayal when they become propagandists for the state. Recently two American academics of the front rank eminently discharged the duty which their noble calling imposes on them. On March 23, 2006, the London Review of Books published an essay titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy". John Mearssheiwen [sic] of the University of Chicago is a leading "realist", so is Stephen Walt of Harvard. They posted a longer 83-page version of the essay on the web site of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. If they invited, predictably, the charge of anti-Semitism, it is not because of their thorough exposure of the Israeli lobby in the U.S., nor because of their documented criticism of the U.S' blind support for Israel even to the detriment of its own interests; nor for exposing the lobby's malign influence on domestic issues and the integrity of the political process. It "stifles debate (in the U.S.) by intimidation". The techniques are carefully described.
It is because they have said home truths, which few outside Israel say. Israeli intellectuals censure the U.S. for its blind support to the right-wing regimes in Israel. An Israeli columnist in Ha'aretz, described American foreign policy advisers Richard Perle and Douglas Feith as "walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments... and Israeli interests". Jerusalem Post described Paul Wolfowitz, the former Deputy Secretary of Defence and now World Bank chief, as "devoutly pro-Israel".
Daniel Levy, former adviser in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, suggests that "Israel would do well to distance itself from our `friends' on the Christian evangelical right" and the "policing of academia by groups like Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch". It would serve Israel "if the open and critical debate that takes place over here, in Israel, was exported to the U.S."
What is the raison d'etre of this liaison? Tony Judt of the New York University remarks: "It will not be self-evident to future generations of Americans why the imperial might and international reputation of the U.S. are so closely aligned with one small, controversial Mediterranean client state. It is already not at all self-evident to Europeans, Latin Americans, Africans or Asians. Why, they ask, has America chosen to lose touch with the rest of the international community on this issue?"
He does not answer the question. Affinity between the religions (Christianity and Judaism) is a partial explanation. The secret lies in the affinity of interests between a Western outpost in a region which the West knew was surcharged with nationalism. Not all its rulers could be bought. Those bought had a limited shelf life. British Prime Minister Lloyd George and Foreign Secretary A.J. Balfour laid the foundations of Israel in 1918 before the Holocaust. After 1945, the U.S. took over and supports its client even if it means alienating its friends elsewhere.
What the former Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr. Mahatir Mohamed said at the Organisation of Islamic Conference on October 17, 2003, reflected a universally felt opinion in the Third World. "It is not surprising that they should excise Muslim land to create the state of Israel, to solve their Jewish problem." He is a noted moderate.
Hendrik Weiler, a correspondent, summed up in The Economist (October 4, 2003) "the three key grievances that drive political Islam. First is the history of Western imperialism, which denied Muslims independence and freedom for well over half a century. Second was the solution to the Holocaust perpetrated by Europeans on European Jews handing the British colony of Palestine to Jewish colonists, who then perpetrated their own programme of ethnic cleansing. Third was the exploitation of oil by the West, carried out with the connivance of local puppets who traded the independence of their people in return for being kept in power and skimmed off part of the oil profits for themselves (after the Western oil firms took their massive cuts). Historical grievances, not religious ones, are expressed today through religion - the only political route allowed."
It is a desperate situation. Ariel Sharon wrecked the Oslo accords and the U.S' much-vaunted road map. William Pfaff points out that his retreat from Gaza was "a military tactician's withdrawal from a vulnerable position, in exchange for international acquiescence in a further partition of the Palestinian territories that incorporated East Jerusalem into Israel by means of the security wall.
"After the Gaza withdrawal, he refused negotiations on the effectively defunct `road map' toward two states, on grounds that the Palestinian Authority has failed to disarm Hamas and crush resistance to its own authority. Collapse of the Authority would be to Israel's interest, from Sharon's perspective evidence to the world that Palestine is ungovernable, and that negotiating with Palestinians is futile." (International Herald Tribune, January 7, 2006).
President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's Hamas are locked in a confrontation. International donors boycotted the Palestinian Authority after the Hamas won the polls, to the U.S' chagrin.
Stephen Hadley, Bush's National Security Adviser, told the prime member of the Israeli lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), on October 31, 2005, that, "The spread of democracy will make the Middle East [West Asia] a safer neighbourhood for Israel." Hamas' victory at the polls induced second thoughts.
The results would be no different if free elections are held in the entire region [sic] The secular Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish told Le Monde (February 12, 2006): "If there were free elections throughout the Arab-Muslim world, the Islamists would win everywhere. It's as simple as that, The Arab-Muslim world lives with a deep feeling of injustice for which it holds the West responsible. And the West responds with a form of imperial fundamentalism that only strengthens that feeling."
This is the context in which the exposure of Israel's lobby appeared. Such voices had been heard before, to be sure. The first author to warn against its pervasive influence was Paul Findley, a Republican Congressman, in his stunning book They Dare to Speak Out. It was first published in 1985 by Lawrence Hill Books. Publisher after publisher had rejected the manuscript. Its theme was "too sensitive". It recorded how the AIPAC had pilloried Adlai Stenvenson, Charles Percy, J. William Fulbright and a host of others. The essay, however, touches a raw nerve by recalling that Israel was born in sin though the authors themselves hold its birth to be justified. "The country's creation was undoubtedly an appropriate response to the long record of crimes against Jews, but it also brought about fresh crimes against a largely innocent third party; the Palestinians." Appropriate even if it entailed seizure of others' lands? Why not a state in the U.S.?
David Ben-Gurion told Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress: "If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country... We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see the thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?"
Israeli leaders have repeatedly sought to deny the Palestinians' national ambitions. Not even Yitzhak Rabin was willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state. Ehud Barak's purportedly generous offer at Camp David would have given them only a disarmed set of Bantustans under de facto Israeli control. "The tragic history of the Jewish people does not obligate the U.S. to help Israel today no matter what it does." (Flonnet.com)
--To be concluded