The collapse and seemingly imminent demise of Yasser Arafat once again draws our attention to the plight of the Palestinian people at the hands of their Israeli occupiers: just as the Jewish state keeps an entire people captive in the twin concentration camps of Gaza and the West Bank, so Arafat was himself incarcerated, physically confined to his headquarters in Ramallah. Surrounded by Israeli tanks and sharpshooters, the constant recipient of open death threats uttered by Ariel Sharon, the history and present condition of the Palestinian nationalist leader underscores the significance of Arafat as metaphor. Perhaps we will kill him this year, or perhaps not: the Israelis love to torture and berate the Palestinian leader far too much to let him die a natural death. Which is why his probable demise, in bed, may be a kind of victory.
The Israelis have been on a rampage since 9/11: it was as much of a green light for them as it was for our own War Party. They didn’t waste much time before unleashing their U.S.-armed and amply subsidized military on the largely helpless civilian population in the occupied territories. Whereas before the U.S. had often acted as a restraining force, chiding the Israelis when their brutality reached a fever pitch and cooling them down with threats of a (temporary) reduction in aid (or, more accurately, a reduction in the annual increase they feel is owed to them), the post-9/11 era saw George W. Bush in the role of practically egging them on. Brent Scowcroft, George H. W. Bush’s former national security advisor, told the Financial Times that Bush II is “mesmerized” by Sharon, and that, as a consequence, the U.S. stance toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is skewed:
“When there is a suicide attack [followed by a reprisal] Sharon calls the president and says, ‘I’m on the front line of terrorism’, and the president says, ‘Yes, you are. . . ‘ He [Mr Sharon] has been nothing but trouble.”
“Mr Scowcroft also cast doubt on Mr Sharon’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, which last week Dov Weisglass, a leading Israeli adviser, said was intended to prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state.
"’When I first heard Sharon was getting out of Gaza I was having dinner with Condi [Rice] and she said: ‘At least that’s good news.’ And I said: ‘That’s terrible news . . . Sharon will say: ‘I want to get out of Gaza, finish the wall [the Israelis’ security fence] and say I’m done.'”
The brutally relentless and single-minded pursuit of Israeli interests is what one might expect would be the cornerstone of the ruling Likud party’s foreign policy strategy. That this principle also seems to animate American policy in the region is one of life’s darker mysteries, which has baffled not only Republican realists of the Scowcroft persuasion, but also the Arab world.
The brazen double standard by which Israeli state terrorism is empowered by the U.S., as a matter of official policy, while retaliatory terror on the part of the Palestinians is unreservedly condemned, has fueled all sorts of unsavory conspiracy theories. Israel’s most ardent defenders have, on the one hand, decried the allegedly rising tide of anti-Semitism – redefined as too vociferous an opposition to Israeli political objectives – and on the other hand have done everything in their power to cultivate an image straight out of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, that infamous Russian forgery which always comes up when any discussion of Israeli power is imminent.
But one needn’t refer to fiction when the relevant facts are so readily available. If there is a single other country that could have its semi-official lobby in the U.S. accused of espionage, and then have that lobby courted, praised, and visited by the official representatives of both major parties, including a sitting National Security Advisor – well, I want to know which country that could possibly be other than Israel.
It has been barely a few months since a U.S. government official was caught red-handed turning over highly sensitive documents to a group of AIPAC officials and Israeli spooks masquerading as diplomats, and yet Condoleezza Rice saw fit to show up at the AIPAC national conference demanding that Arafat step down and declaring her unconditional fealty to Israeli expansionism. Richard Holbrooke, widely seen as the top candidate for National Security Advisor in a Kerry administration, also showed up to bend his knee before Israel’s fifth column. As the Boston Globe reported:
“These days, it is rare to hear advisers to John F. Kerry praise President Bush over any foreign policy issue, especially in a hotly contested battleground just days before the election. But the subject of Israel brought out the bipartisan side of Kerry adviser Richard Holbrooke here on Sunday – to the delight of his mostly Jewish audience.
“‘I’m not here to criticize President Bush,’ Holbrooke, a former United Nations ambassador, told hundreds of members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, a major pro-Israel lobbying group, gathered for their annual summit. ”His support for Israel is, in my mind, unquestionable.'”
The total convergence of U.S. and Israeli interests in the post-9/11 era is a myth that is faithfully perpetuated by the leaders of both major parties – just as it was relentlessly pushed before 9/11. But this sort of malarkey is particularly disingenuous coming from the partisans of a candidate who pledges to wage a “smarter” war on Islamist terrorism. Such craven kowtowing to Sharon is a gift to Osama bin Laden, who feeds off Muslim resentment of the Palestinians’ plight and glories in the evolution of the Israeli-American relationship into a single target of Arab hatred.
When it comes to the peculiar universality of blind support for Israel among the American political elite – as opposed to the more ambivalent popular attitude toward our troublesome ally – one recalls the words of Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism, and a currently serving CIA analyst, who described the U.S. government as “bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.” Yet any serious questioning of this costly and inexplicable policy is strictly forbidden:
“Almost every such speaker is immediately branded anti-Semitic and consigned to the netherworld of American politics, as if concerns about U.S. national security are prima facie void if they involve any questioning of the U.S.-Israel status quo.”
The vehemence of this reaction to any criticism is recently ratcheting up as Israel’s post-9/11 rampage accelerates, even as ours begins to (hopefully) slow down. The aggressive foreign policy of that socialist Sparta is reflected in the tactics of its overseas defenders, especially in the U.S., who stop at nothing to smear and preemptively neutralize any and all critics of Israeli government policy. Nor is the Israeli media shy about a little display of muscle-flexing. As the liberal Ha’aretz put it the other day:
“The appearance of the candidates’ senior advisers at the AIPAC meeting shows both a desire to prove their friendship to Israel on the eve of the elections and that AIPAC wields power. Only two months after a Pentagon analyst was suspected of handing information to AIPAC activists, neither of the candidates’ two senior advisers had any qualms about appearing publicly before the organization, and AIPAC officials said the relationship with the administration had not been harmed.”
We can get away with it, they gloat, and their American cheering section is just as cocky. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency report on the AIPAC conference pointed out,
“There was little mention of the [Israeli spy] controversy at the summit this week. That was a sharp contrast to the days when the scandal first broke in late August, just before the Republican National Convention in New York. At that time, AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr began his remarks at each convention-related event by trying to quell donors’ concerns.”
The AIPAC party line is that the investigation – which is at least two years in the making, and which Ms. Rice was informed of shortly after the Bushies took office – is the work of dastardly “anti-Semites” in the government. If AIPAC and its supporters have their way, the investigation will get the kibosh – and one can only wonder if that’s what Holbrooke promised them. The Bush administration has already reined in prosecutors, who have yet to file charges, telling them to “slow down,” according to the Financial Times. The whole thing has died down, the Amen Corner insists, and AIPAC has been “vindicated.”
“A grand jury was seated on the case in September and had subpoenaed at least some witnesses to testify about Franklin. Then, on October 1, The New York Sun reported that Franklin had fired his court-appointed attorney (whom he had presumably retained for financial reasons), halting grand-jury proceedings while he found new counsel. On October 6, the Los Angeles Times reported that Franklin had stopped cooperating with the FBI entirely. He had hired a high-profile lawyer, Plato Cacheris (of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen fame), and had rejected a proposed plea agreement whose terms Franklin considers ‘too onerous,’ according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Who pushed Franklin – who for months seemed vulnerable – to stop cooperating? And who is paying for his expensive new lawyer?”
Israel’s role in world affairs, especially vis a vis the United States, continues to take on an ominous aspect. As does the political complexion of Israeli domestic politics, which is seeing a burgeoning ultra-nationalist movement that threatens to displace even the extremist Sharon with someone far worse, perhaps, than even Netanyahu. As Arnaud De Borchgrave recently observed in the Washington Times:
“In the West Bank, Ma’ariv reported, Israeli settlers are not worried about the Arab demographic threat as they nurture the vision of a ‘mega-occupation,’ or expanding the Kingdom of Israel to the borders promised in the covenant with Abraham.
“The Committee of Rabbis in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, writes, ‘Everyone who has faith in his heart … will not countenance betrayal of the divine promise of the Jewish people.’ Professor Hillel Weiss, said Ma’ariv, spelled out what this meant: ‘The purpose of the armed struggle is to establish a Jewish state in all the territory that will be captured, from the River Euphrates [in Iraq] to the Egyptian River [Nile].'”
I warned years ago about the rising tide of Israeli fundamentalism, which is even more dangerous than the Islamic variety because it is well-armed, including with nuclear weapons, and has no lack of American supporters. Today, much to my regret, we are seeing that particular prophecy fulfilled, and in spades: De Borchgrave notes that Rabbi Haim Steinitz, writing on behalf of the rabbis of the Beit El settlement, recently proclaimed the geographic parameters of a newly militant Israeli expansionism on the march:
“In general, the Euphrates and the Nile are the main points of reference, as well as the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.”
Oh, but “there is some dispute about the eastern border,” writes the Washington Times columnist:
“Most West Bank rabbis say the Kingdom of Israel ‘should rest on the upper Syrian stretch of the Euphrates.’ Others, wrote Ma’ariv, ‘take a broader view with a border that runs down to the mouth of the Persian Gulf.’ One rabbi calls for the military conquest of all Arab countries. Even this was not enough for Rabbi Zelman Melamed, who wrote: ‘It is not impossible that the Jewish people will have the ability to threaten and put pressure on the entire world to accept our way. But even if we acquire the power to seize control of the world, that is not the way to realize the vision of complete redemption.'”
That’s certainly reassuring to hear, but clearly restraint is not a key element of the new rabbinical fundamentalism:
“Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg says he knows in the near future the Land of Israel is about to expand. ‘It is our duty to force all mankind to accept the seven Noahide laws, and if not – they will be killed.'”
“Imams do not have exclusive rights on loony tunes,” De Borchgrave ruefully remarks. “Palestinian state anyone?” But the reality is that the Palestinians will be lucky if they get away with not being ethnically cleansed from their own land, and deported en masse to Jordan as large numbers of Israelis would prefer. We have heard much of “Islamo-fascism,” the favored catchphrase of laptop bombardiers such as Christopher Hitchens and his newfound neocon comrades-in-arms, but these people are willfully blind to an equally sinister parallel development, and that is the rise of Israeli fascism.
Today, the word “fascist” is the political equivalent of the “f”-word, rendered virtually meaningless on account of its degeneration into pure epithet. Yet, Israel in its present trajectory fits the classic definition of fascism to a tee: a State that is not only thoroughly militarized and aggressively expansionist, but also one in which the government effectively controls or outright owns the commanding heights of the economy. Add to this the fulminations of the militant rabbis, and you have a nuclear-armed fanaticism that poses a potentially deadly threat to Europe as well as the entire Middle East.
Israel, far from being our faithful ally, is potentially an enemy: after all, why were they running a spy ring in the Pentagon, if they claim they can get any information they want? What, really, is going on beneath the smooth surface of Israeli-American relations – and why do top U.S. government officials continue to treat AIPAC as anything other than a sophisticated spy operation?