Petraeus’ Cry

"Jewish Settlers Live High While GIs Die" is what Gen. David Petraeus is saying if we strip away the niceties. Is Petraeus’ formulation anti-Semitic?

Perhaps it would be better to talk of "Israeli settlers." But that portrayal is not accurate. The minority of Arab citizens of Israel, even though suffering so many forms of discrimination, do not move to the West Bank of the Jordan, which would be a jump from frying pan into fire. Nor are the settlers exclusively Israelis. They are Jews come from all over the world, and the most aggressive and racist appear to be from the United States – and Russia. So it seems that the slogan is accurate when put "Jewish Settlers Live High While GIs Die."

Do Jewish settlers, or more precisely colonists, live high? The whole world knows about the apartheid highways, smooth and fast, walled off from Palestinians who are forbidden to travel them. The few pictures of the settlements available reveal a suburban paradise for Jewish settlers complete with swimming pools adjacent to parched Palestinian dwellings, and even at least one dude ranch, where games of "cowboys and Indians" are staged. (Apparently the dude ranch owners, the settlers, and the tourists see no irony in this; perhaps they hire Palestinians to play the "Indians." Or perhaps they have never looked over the apartheid walls to see that there is a real shoot-out with real guns and a real indigenous people gradually being exterminated.)

One can make the argument that what applies to the settlements applies in spades to the rest of Israel. Even the mainstream punditry is discussing this. Thus Dan Ephron of Newsweek, quoted by Tom Friedman in the New York Times of March 28, writes:

"An improved security situation, a feeling that acceptance by Arabs no longer matters much, and a growing disaffection from politics generally have, for many Israelis, called into question the basic calculus that has driven the peace process. Instead of pining for peace, they’re now asking: who needs it? …

" Tourism … hit a 10-year high in 2008. Astonishingly, the IMF projected recently that Israel’s GDP will grow faster in 2010 than that of most other developed countries.

"In short, Israelis are enjoying a peace dividend without a peace agreement."

And Friedman goes on to take up the theme:

"Now, in the same time period, America went from having only a small symbolic number of soldiers in the Middle East to running two wars there – in Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as a global struggle against violent Muslim extremists. With U.S. soldiers literally walking the Arab street – and, therefore, more in need than ever of Muslim good will to protect themselves and defeat Muslim extremists – Israeli-Palestinian peace has gone from being a post-cold-war hobby of U.S. diplomats to being a necessity."

Will it be long before Petraeus’ cry rings across the majority of the citizenry fed up with America’s wars in the Middle East? And will this not put a sharper edge on the limp calls for Israel to think twice about continuing its apartheid policy, its relentless ethnic cleansing of Palestine? Does this not begin to pose the question of "Us or Them" for the American populace?

This writer has long contended that Israel has been risking a serious backlash in the U.S. When it erupts, it may not be pretty. And it may be especially dangerous given the long policy of crying "wolf" over anti-Semitism. It would seem very wise for American Jewry to boot out the neocons and Israel-Firsters from their midst and hasten back to the morality of the secular, humanist Judaism which was dominant in the U.S. not so long ago. It may not be simply a matter of morality but of self-interest.

Read more by John V. Walsh

Author: John V. Walsh

John Walsh is a scientist who lives in Cambridge, Mass. He is a frequent contributor to CounterPunch.org.