I‘ll tell you where: a little over a week after the amazing story of Israel’s e-mail hijinks hit the pages of Insight, the magazine published by the Washington Times, the two “major” presidential candidates were falling all over themselves sucking up to Israel and its amen-corner in the US with neither even alluding to the biggest spy scandal in years. A less edifying spectacle hasn’t been seen in years. Such are the joys of being the “indispensable nation,” as our vainglorious secretary of state once put it.
In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), presumptive GOP presidential candidate George “Dubya” Bush set a new standard for groveling: his critique of the Clinton administration’s famously pro-Israel foreign policy was that it was not pro-Israel enough. The Clintonians, averred Dubya, were guilty of trying to hold Israel to “plans and timetables” for implementing the US-sponsored peace process. In return for pumping enough money to pay off the US national debt several times over into Israel’s socialist economy, Americans should expect . . . nothing. Not only that, but they must do nothing when it comes to trying to influence Israeli policy: “A clear and bad example” of Clinton’s alleged hostility to Israel “was the administration’s attempt to take sides in the most recent Israeli election. America should not interfere in Israel’s democratic process, and America will not interfere in Israeli elections when I’m the president.” In this, Bush was echoing the criticism leveled at Clinton by American supporters of the ultranationalist Likud party, who saw in the arrival of James Carville among other top Democratic political consultants in the camp of Prime Minister Barak’s Labor Party evidence of Washington’s heavy hand. Utterly impervious to irony, like any normal American youngster, Dubya deplored alleged “interference” in Israeli politics in front of a group whose influence in Washington has done more to utilize American electoral politics on behalf of Israel than any other and whose influence is legendary.
A TWO-WAY STREET
No more interference in Israeli elections? Okay, it’s a deal on the condition that the reverse is also true. Let’s make the principle of nonintervention a two-way street. AIPAC is, of course, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and American citizens have the right to speak out on behalf of whatever foreign policy initiatives they believe to be correct. But when such groups put the interests of a country other than the US at the very top of their agenda, when nary a sliver of daylight can be found between their stance and that of a foreign power whether it be the old Soviet Union, the principality of Monaco, or the state of Israel then Americans have a right to call them on it. Except for just one little problem: those few American politicians who have were ambushed and smeared so effectively that they were soon driven out of politics ex-Senator Charles Percy, former Rep. Pete McCloskey, and former Rep. Paul Findley come immediately to mind.
A RISKY SCHEME
The President did not hide his sympathy for Barak over the ultra-hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu who opposed the peace process from the very beginning but since we are footing Israel’s bills would it be an egregious act of anti-Semitism to seek to have some say in how the money is spent? This is not an unreasonable position to take, and would even seem to have some real political resonance but if you think Al the Bore will take advantage of any opportunity to get his foot in the door of the Oval Office, and pump up his sinking poll numbers all the while showing his loyalty to the administration then you don’t realize the power of what Pat Buchanan rightly called Israel’s “amen corner” in the US. This is one advantage the cowardly Gore would never use speaking truth to power is a little too much of a “risky scheme,” as he would no doubt put it.
ON BENDED KNEE
In a speech to AIPAC the following week, Gore got down on bended knee and proclaimed his fealty in terms that rivaled Dubya’s in their obsequiousness with an edge of viciousness the naïve Bush could never achieve (or sink to). Gore attacked Dubya’s father for supposedly trying to “bully” Israel and for ignoring the alleged pleas of the Israeli government to become ensnared in the so-called peace process: “In 1991,” he declared, “I vividly remember standing up against a group of administration foreign policy advisors who promoted the insulting concept of linkage, which tried to use loan guarantees as a stick to bully Israel.” Oh, but never fear, Gore the suck-up is here: “We defeated them,” he burbled, “we stopped them.” News reports described the ensuing applause as “enthusiastic.”
ON PASSIONATE ATTACHMENTS
In the skewed moral universe of Al Gore, if Israel uses American taxpayers’ money to build “settlements” for religious fanatics intent on driving every Arab out of Palestine, it would be “insulting” to even raise questions about it let alone cut down or even eliminate such dubious subsidies. To expect or ask the Israelis to moderate their militant policies, to attach any sort of condition to our continuing generosity, to apply the same moral and political standards by which all other countries are judged to ask anything of Israel would be a mortal insult, according to Gore. Like Bush, his love for Israel is “unconditional.” But this kind of unconditional love for a foreign nation is precisely what worried the Founders of this country, most notably George Washington, who warned in his “Farewell Address” against “passionate attachments” as well as “inveterate antipathies” to nations other than our own:
“The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. . . to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. . . . [Such a] passionate attachment . . . produces a variety of evils,. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification.”
A PERVERSE RELATIONSHIP
A more succinct and picture-perfect description of America’s relationship with Israel would be a hard assignment for any writer. But even in his worst nightmare, Washington could not have imagined the perversity of the “habitual fondness” embodied in the US-Israeli relationship. As the two major party presidential candidates were engaged in a groveling contest in Washington D.C., the site of the AIPAC confab, in another part of town an editor of the Washington Times wondered aloud why the biggest spy scandal story to come along in years had been met with a resounding . . . silence.
“Now that the FBI has confirmed the outline of an Insight exclusive that its famed Division 5 counterintelligence group was probing suspected eavesdropping by Israeli agents on top-level U.S. government telecommunications traffic why hasn’t the rest of the press followed? Especially since the FBI also has confirmed that this is still an open investigation even though, according to an Associated Press story, insufficient details had been confirmed to support the allegation. So what has the FBI been probing for nearly 3 years?”
CLINTON’S HARD DRIVE
Only the New York Times ran with a garbled version, but in the rest of the media it was as if the news had never been reported: not a single other major news source carried a word of the Washington Times story, apart from the AP (which typically ran the administration’s denials). And a shocking story it is. Israeli agents have reportedly penetrated the phone and e-mail facilities of the State Department, Defense, the Justice Department and the White House. So the Israeli cabinet gets to listen in on Janet Reno while she “negotiates” with Elian’s Miami relatives even as her stormtroopers kick down the door: and who knows what kind of e-mail they intercepted from the President’s “hard drive”? We’ve heard the Lewinsky tapes now it’s on to the Lewinsky e-mails. Will we get to hear Bill and Monica having phone sex? Nobody really cares anymore. But what I really look forward to hearing is the phone call from Hillary when she demanded the bombing of Yugoslavia as the price of her love:
“If you really really love me, Bill, you’ll do this for me. It’s either their blood or yours. Now which will it be?”
Working under diplomatic cover at the Israeli Embassy, agents of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, have the goods not only on Clinton but on his entire administration. No wonder Bush is declaring his unconditional love for the state of Israel: he could use a little “opposition research,” and under certain circumstances the Mossad might be more than willing to provide it but of course we must never interfere in their elections.
Paul M. Rodriguez, the Washington Times managing editor, trenchantly underscores the hypocrisy and groupthink of the American news media, even as it seems to baffle him:
“Consider the Wen Ho Lee case: Never has so much reporting been done with so few facts and so much speculation. That’s news but an even larger counterintelligence operation by the FBI into suspected spying on the State Department and the White House isn’t?”
ISRAEL AND THE CLINTON DOCTRINE
The hypocritical irony of the vaunted “Clinton Doctrine,” which pledges intervention against any and all instances of state-sponsored repression against “ethnic or religious minorities,” is nowhere more evident than in the Middle East, that bastion of religious and ethnic persecution and hatred. All of our staunchest allies in the region Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey ruthlessly and openly practice various degrees of religious and ethnic warfare on resident minorities. The Saudis have an outright ban on non-Islamic religious activity: US troops stationed there to protect Riyadh against the depredations of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are forbidden from wearing either crucifixes or stars of David. Turkey’s militant secularists unhesitatingly repress all Islamic parties, forbid the wearing of the chafor, and have for years carried out a pogrom against the Kurds rivaled in scope and murderousness only by their earlier slaughter of the Armenians. As for Israel, it is defined by its religious identity: the right of return is extended to all Jews, but Gentiles are excluded. The longstanding repression of the Palestinians, and the Israeli Arabs, is inherent in the very concept of Zionism as the political extension of a religious-messianic faith. Palestinians are persecuted not only for their ethnicity and political affiliations by the Israeli government, but also on account of their religion. According to the Clinton Doctrine, this is a no-no. So why isn’t Hillary on the phone demanding a blood sacrifice to the god of diversity? When can we expect the bombs to fall on Tel Aviv?
The argument that Israel is an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism, and that, furthermore, the bond between our two countries is indissoluble, held up for as long as the cold war lasted. In the worldwide struggle with the Soviet Union, Israel provided the US with an invaluable strategic base in the Middle East against the Soviet-influenced pan-Arabist movements that swept through the region in the late fifties and early sixties. The congruence of our interests, while not always perfectly aligned, were taken for granted. But the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Communist empire changed all that forever. The Israelis recognize it, which is why they insist on playing us off against China, selling AWACs and advanced missile technology to that country over US protests. Why don’t we recognize the growing divergence of US and Israeli interests?
THE FORBIDDEN SUBJECT
The reason is, in large part, because all discussion of the issue is forbidden. Anyone who raises the issue is viciously attacked as an “anti-Semite.” Pat Buchanan has been subjected to a hate campaign of tidal wave proportions for daring to point out that any organized pressure group that equates the interests of a foreign nation with our own whether it be Israel, or the Grand Duchy of Liechtenstein is not only in error but a danger to the Republic. The Middle East, and particularly the area formerly known as Palestine, is a viper’s nest of religious and ethnic bigotry, a hatred so corrosive that it has the power to reach into the very center of American political life and incite the passions of the people in ways that are unhealthy and unsustainable in a democratic society. As stories of the torture inflicted on native villagers by the Israeli-supported South Lebanon Army as reported, for example, by Robert Fisk for the (London) Independent Americans are beginning to wake up and ask a question that none of the “major” party suck-ups would dare to utter: why are we letting ourselves get dragged into this?
The “peace process” initiated by this administration, and its predecessors, is completely phony and endless. It seems like I’ve been reading about this perpetual “process” since early childhood. Always there is a “peace conference,” the shaking of hands, the photo-ops and no action. Nada, nothing, zilch. As for who is responsible for the impasse, that is the subject of another column. But essentially, it doesn’t matter, because none of it is our business anyway. In the phrase popularized by Chalmers Johnson’s excellent new book, the “blowback” from America’s unconditional love affair with Israel has been horrific terrorism directed at Americans throughout the world, regional instability, threatened oil supplies, and the ever-present threat of a Mideast war sparking a larger conflict and long ago passed the threshold of rational tolerance.
While the Republican and Democratic candidates for President declare their unconditional love for Israel, their willingness to overlook anything and everything in pursuit of a selfless devotion, such passionate attachments, as Washington knew, are dangerous and, in the post-cold war world, one could make the case that such sentiments are close to treasonous. Why is the Federal Bureau of Investigation denying that there is anything to this story while acknowledging that an investigation is indeed underway? Where is the Justice Department in all this when are they going to launch their own investigation? And what about Congress? There is some interest on Capitol Hill, but we’ll have to wait and see what develops: I wouldn’t bet the ranch on a congressional investigation, or even open hearings, although the intelligence committees of both houses have reportedly been fully briefed. But what about the American people when are they going to be fully briefed? If that job is up to the American news media, then the answer, as we have seen, is: never.