Taking Names for Israel

In a scene reminiscent of the movie The Godfather the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told the world on December 20 that the US would be "taking names" of countries that voted in the UN to reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. It’s all part of the pattern of condescending arrogance which is the leitmotif of Trump’s call to "make America great again." He and his fawning disciples are providing the answer to the question posed by GW Bush – "Why do they hate us?"

On December 8 Haley tweeted that Washington "will not be lectured to by countries that lack any credibility when it comes to treating both Israelis and Palestinians fairly" which was an insulting rejection of international reaction to Donald Trump’s declaration. She did not mention the unpalatable fact that the Security Council "has adopted a number of resolutions, dating back 50 years, aimed in part at preventing Israel from claiming sovereignty over all of the holy city."

In 1968 the world instructed Israel, by UNSC Resolution 252, to annul actions aimed at changing the status of Jerusalem, "including expropriation of land and properties thereon" and to "

rescind all such measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any further action" in regard to the city. It could not be more clear that Israel’s current actions continue to add to its flagrant illegalities of decades.

Exactly a year ago, Resolution 2334 unequivocally condemned Israel for building yet more settlements in Jerusalem and other occupied territories because construction "has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution."

Only a few minutes after this Resolution, President-elect Trump, due to enter the White House a month later, angrily tweeted that "As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20th." We had been given fair warning that the new American President would ensure that the Middle East policy of the United States, always pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian, would crash into top gear and destroy all hopes that a peaceful solution could be reached about the appalling situation in Israel’s colonies. Trump would support Israel, come what may.

As with so many important matters of international policy, Trump rode roughshod over the hopes and aspirations of yet more millions of people and scornfully ignored the entire world, with the exception of one country. He told Prime Minister Netanyahu in February that "I’d like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit," which was an absurd and meaningless statement. He knew perfectly well that Netanyahu and the Zionists would continue their policy of persecution and illegal occupation, and now they’re going at full speed.

As noted by the analyst Jonathan Freedland, "The Old City of Jerusalem contains the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest mosque in Islam, to say nothing of its enormous significance to Christians, meaning that even the slightest move there is felt by billions."

Those who support Trump’s deliberately disruptive decision are "mostly anti-Islam European leaders holding little political power." They include the president of the Czech Republic and two of Europe’s most rabidly bigoted right-wing extremists, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands and Hans-Christian Strache of Austria’s Freedom Party. The small countries who voted for him at the UN have simply caved in to his arrogant bullying.

Trump’s malevolent provocation has been condemned most forcefully in Europe, with Britain, France, Sweden, Germany and Italy issuing a joint statement condemning their American ally’s position, saying it was "not in line with Security Council resolutions and was unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region."

The strange thing, however, is lack of public condemnation within the United States, especially as a Brookings Institution survey released on December 1 found that 63 per cent of Americans are against the move of the embassy to Jerusalem and only 31 per cent in favor. A handful of legislators criticized Trump, but as reported by Israelʼs Haaretz newspaper, although there some Democrats disagreed, it was apparent that "members of the Republican Party overwhelmingly expressed support for the move". Brookings, moreover, found that only 34 per cent of Americans thought their government should "lean towards Israel" in "mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Which leads to the matter of Israeli influence in the United States. If over 60 per cent of American citizens are opposed to the Trump decision, how can it be that their elected legislators are so much in favor?

One answer lies in the money.

Open Secrets records that "The Republican Jewish Coalition spent $80,000 lobbying in 2016, and J Street [an Israel lobby] spent $400,000. But topping them both was the longtime giant in the arena, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC], which poured more than $3.6 million into lobbying efforts for the year." The amounts of money donated by pro-Israeli groups and individuals to politicians seeking election are immense. Legislators have been bought by people supporting Israel, and they are not going to raise any questions about Israel’s blatant violations of Security Council resolutions. Of equal significance, these pro-Israeli proxies were interfering with the electoral process of the United States.

During presidential and Congressional election campaigns, AIPAC and other agents working on behalf of Israel attempted to influence candidates at the behest of a foreign power. And they succeeded – as demonstrated by the lack of protest in Washington about Israel’s flagrant violations of international law.

It is therefore not surprising that last January it was reported that "the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan measure that rebukes the United Nations for criticizing Israeli settlements." The House resolution "declares unwavering support for Israel and insists that the United States reject any future UN actions that are similarly ‘one-sided and anti-Israel’."

But little critical appears in the US mainstream media about reasons for the unconditional support for Israel on the part of the legislators in Washington. And it is not only Congress and Trump who so ardently stand up for Israel, for, as the Jerusalem Post reported on December 12, Vice President Pence was "one of the most enthused advocates of the [Jerusalem decision] – one warmly welcomed by the Israeli government. His trip there [intended for December 20-23, but then canceled] will be a triumphant tour and defense of the policy from a true believer who has supported recognition of Jerusalem for many years." Before becoming vice president, as a Republican representative for Indiana, the true believer Congressman Pence scored $206,192 in donations from pro-Israel sources.

As reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in March 2017, when Vice President Pence spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual convention, attended by 18,000 AIPAC activists, he was lavish in his praise of Israel. Not only that, but he recognized the massive influence that Israel had exercised over the 2016 elections and declared "Thanks to the support of so many in this room, President Trump won a historic victory. . . The United States will no longer allow the United Nations to be used as a forum for invective against Israel."

America’s mainstream media has been devoting enormous energy and time to examining alleged interference in the 2016 elections by other countries. But it is intriguing that it doesn’t inquire into the impact that Israel has had and continues to have on the democratic processes of the United States. It seems that unconditional support can be had for cash.

It is Israel and the United States against the world, and the Bush question "Why do they hate us?" has rarely been so easy to answer.

Brian Cloughley is a British and Australian armies’ veteran, former deputy head of the UN military mission in Kashmir and Australian defense attaché in Pakistan.

Read more by Brian Cloughley