The Israelis military is killing kids in the Gaza Strip – like, on the regular. You wouldn’t know it though; not unless you watch the BBC or Al Jazeera, that is. The uncomfortable truth is this: most Americans, frankly, don’t care. Most of the populace and a bipartisan coalition of nearly all policymakers are so reflexively pro-Israel that any critique of Israeli militarism is immediately labeled as anti-Semitism.
Nevertheless, Americans should start paying attention. We in the U.S. are, after all, veritably obsessed with our national security. So much so, indeed, that Washington has waged a perpetual "war on terror" across the Greater Middle East and Africa, restricted some civil liberties, and garrisoned the globe with hundreds of foreign military bases. The problem is that none of this expeditionary military action has made the homeland safer or lessened the appeal of violent jihadi Islam.
Two factors mainly explain this phenomenon of counter-productivity in US foreign policy. First off, folks simply don’t respond well to foreign military occupation in their countries. Thus, the very presence of US service members often enflames local passions, nationalism, and fundamentalist Islamism. The result: terror attacks, guerrilla warfare, and – sometimes – the outbreak of an outright insurgency. Need evidence? See the following exhibits: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, West Africa, and on and on.
The second factor is the (accurate) perception – across the Islamic world – that Washington arms, funds, and otherwise enables an extreme right-wing Israeli regime that has systematically constructed an apartheid-like regime in the Palestinian Territories (to the extent they exist) of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians live as second-class citizens, under essentially military rule. They are restricted to separate roads, different water sources, and alternative civil/political structures. They are walled off, subjected to ubiquitous military checkpoints, and colonized by illegal Israeli Jewish settlements.
That’s just the daily structural injustice of Palestinian life. Matters have only deteriorated from there. For several months now, (peacefully) protesting Gazans have been slaughtered in droves along the border fences. At least 40 children have been killed, along with women, old folks, and unarmed young men. More than 168 Palestinians have been fatally shot and thousands more wounded. It’s a humanitarian tragedy – a borderline war crime. The Israeli military has little sense of proportionality. Even though Israeli leaders label all the protesters – even the babies – as Hamas terrorists, the casualties are so lopsided between the Palestinian and Israeli sides as to be absurd. Which leads us to a logical conclusion: either A) the protesters are the least effective terrorists of all time (since barely any Israelis have been killed), or B) some Israeli politicians are lying to the world and being completely dishonest. The rational analyst would have to conclude the latter.
Which gets back to the US media (or really entertainment) industry. You hardly hear about any of this, even on the "liberal" network – MSNBC. Palestinian lives, even children’s lives, just don’t garner much sympathy in the U S of A. It’s obvious, and, understandable. The American populace is treated to distraction media: obsessions with President Trump’s every move, the Kavanaugh hearings, heck – even Kanye’s bizarre visit to the oval office. There’s precious little air time left over for any mention of foreign policy; of the fact that the US is at war in at least seven countries, that Yemeni’s are being starved and bombed by a Washington-backed Saudi coalition, and that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been shooting down Gaza civilians for several months now.
Here’s the kicker though: you know who doesn’t forget? Global Muslims. US policy towards Israel and Middle East more generally is, and has been, radicalizing a generation of impoverished, frustrated Muslim youth from West Africa to South Asia. This is a genuine national security threat partly of our own making. Poll after credible global poll indicates that the international public considers the United States to be the greatest threat to world peace. Not North Korea, Syria, Russia, or China – nope, America. That’s a problem and, obviously, a threat to the US homeland.
What’s more, there’s little sign that Washington will reverse policy or reign in Israeli violence. To understand the cynicism of Israeli policy, consider that the Israelis are crafting a burgeoning partnership with the extremist, Wahhabi state of Saudi Arabia. That’s right: the keepers of the holy places of Mecca and Medina, the Saudis who ostensibly support the Palestinians (but don’t really give a darn about them), and who spread their fundamentalist version of Islam across the region are making a deal with Israel. And as for those Saudis, the US shows no sign of pulling support from this murderous regime any time soon. The Saudis have briefly, if controversially, entered the news cycle after (probably) murdering a dissident journalist, but the safe bet is the US will stick with the Saudis and close that $110 billion arms deal.
This one-sided policy will have consequences. New terrorists will be motivated to attack the US in response to its pro-Israel policies. Even General David Petraeus – far from a lefty pacifist – once even caused a stir by admitting that America’s Israel policy motivates radical jihadis.
Washington loves to tout Israel as the "only democracy in the Middle East." That’s not strictly true, of course. The inconvenient truth is that Israel may either be a Jewish state or a democratic state – it may not be both, since a large portion of its population remains Arab and Muslim. If the US continues to enable Israeli violence and the structural disenfranchisement of the Palestinians, it will reap the whirlwind. And, when we are attacked, we’ll revert to our usual cry: "Why do they hate us?"
I can think of a few reasons.
Danny Sjursen is a US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.
[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]
Copyright 2018 Danny Sjursen