We now know that President Obama believes there is little or no prospect for peace in the Middle East unless enough Israeli Jews, in particular the young to whom he appealed directly, understand that the only way for Israel to survive as a Jewish and democratic state is “through the realization of a viable and independent Palestine” and then insist that their government commits itself in negotiations to ending the occupation of the West Bank (now well into in its 45th year).
By implication Obama has acknowledged that he does not have the will to confront the Zionist lobby in Washington D.C. and an Israeli government committed to ever expanding settlement, even when doing so is necessary to best protect America’s own interests.
The above, based on everything Obama said in public to Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs while he was among them, is my summary conclusion about Obama’s position.
The double standard and hypocrisy at the heart of American foreign policy was evident in what he said within minutes of his arrival in Israel. “Iran’s leaders have to realise they must meet their international obligations.”
That’s on the one hand. On the other is that Israel’s leaders are NOT required to meet their international obligations.
While Iran is sanctioned and threatened with war largely on account of Netanyahu’s assertion that it is working on the production of a nuclear bomb (an assertion which may prove to be as false as the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction), nuclear-armed Israel is rewarded for its defiance of international law and a stack of UN Security Council resolutions.
When I studied the full text of Obama’s opening statement in Israel, I found myself wondering if he is shockingly ignorant of some of the most important elements of the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel, or whether he is aware of the whole truth but believes that his own interests are best served by peddling Zionist propaganda and other Jewish mythology.
He said, for example, “I know that in stepping foot on this land, I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish people.”
The implication of those words is that all the Jews of the world have a common ethnic origin and national heritage, and therefore a valid claim on the land that today constitutes Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. As I and others (including Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, author of The Invention of the Jewish People) have documented, that is simply not true. Almost all if not all the Jews who went to Palestine in answer to Zionism’s call had no biological connection to the ancient Hebrews. They were the descendants of peoples from many homelands (mainly in Eastern and Western Europe) who converted to Judaism centuries after the brief rule of the ancient Hebrews ended and thereafter had only their religion and its rituals in common. And the same can be said of most of the Jews of the world today. (It’s possible that there are today more Palestinian Arabs than Jews who are descended from the ancient Hebrews).
Obama began his arrival speech with answers to a question which he said was sometimes asked about America’s relationship with Israel – “Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the State of Israel?“
I think some of Obama’s answers to that question need to be examined and challenged.
We stand together because we share a common story – patriots determined “to be a free people in our land,” pioneers who forged a nation, heroes who sacrificed to preserve our freedom, and immigrants from every corner of the world who renew constantly our diverse societies.
Missing from that answer is that the “common story” includes the fact that both nations were founded on ethnic cleansing. America was ethnically cleansed of most of its native Indians, and Palestine was ethnically cleansed of most of its indigenous Arabs.
Could it be that a shared history of ethnic cleansing is the reason why very many Americans are pre-disposed to buy Zionism’s propaganda?
We stand together because we are democracies. For as noisy and messy as it may be, we know that democracy is the greatest form of government ever devised by man.
The reality is that America is a democracy in name only, not substance. What passes for democracy there is for sale to the highest lobby bidders. As some concerned Americans have noted, the U.S, has “the best democracy money can buy.” (President Kennedy tried and failed several times to introduce legislation to end the corruption of American politics. If he had been allowed to live and serve a second term, he might have succeeded).
Also true is that for democracy to exist the citizens of nations, the voters, need to be informed enough about critical issues to call and hold their leaders to account, and not only at election time. The fact is that the vast majority of Americans are not informed enough to do that.
It can also be said that if freedom to criticize Israel’s policies and actions is one test of democracy in action, Israel is far more democratic than America.
We stand together because we share a commitment to helping our fellow human beings around the world. When the earth shakes and the floods come, our doctors and rescuers reach out to help. When people are suffering, from Africa to Asia, we partner to fight disease and overcome hunger.
The flaw in that answer is that many Israeli Jews do not regard Palestinian Arabs (including those who are citizens of Israel) as “fellow human beings.” They are regarded and sometimes labeled as inferior creatures who must submit to Zionism’s will or be expelled or even exterminated like vermin if they don’t.
We stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land… Even as we are clear-eyed about the difficulty, we will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbors.
The flaw in that answer is that Israel’s leaders have never had of vision of peace on terms that would satisfy the demand and need of the Palestinians for an acceptable minimum amount of justice.
And finally, he said:
The United States of America stands with the State of Israel because it is in our fundamental national security interest to stand with Israel.
Obama knows that is not true, so why did he say it? The only answer that makes sense to me is that he cannot admit that America’s unconditional support for the Zionist state right or wrong is a prime cause of the rising tide of anti-Americanism throughout the Muslim world and beyond in general, and fuel for the spreading fire of violent Islamic fundamentalism in particular.
If he was to admit that, even some of the most mis-informed and uninformed Americans would ask him a question: “Why then, Mr. President, are you not putting American’s own best interests first by using the leverage you have to oblige Israel to be serious about peace on terms the Palestinians could accept?“
The honest answer to that question is in two parts.
One is that on policy for Israel-Palestine, Obama is president in name only. The policy shots are called (more or less) by Israel’s leaders and their lobby in all of its manifestations in America.
The other is that even if Obama (or any American president) did use the leverage he has to try to cause Israel to be serious about peace on terms the Palestinians could just about accept, there is no guarantee that Israel’s leaders would finally say, “Okay, Mr. President, we’ll do what you want.” There is a real possibility that they would tell him to go to hell.
As I note in my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, and have mentioned in previous articles, it is not only fear of offending the Zionist lobby too much that prevents any president from putting America’s own best interests first. There is also a presidential fear, quite widely shared in the U.S. defense and intelligence establishments, that an American attempt to push Israel further than its leaders were prepared to go could result in them expressing their displeasure by creating havoc in the region.
Israel possesses nuclear weapons not because Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan and others believed they were needed to enable Israel to maintain its military superiority. (In passing it’s worth noting that Ariel Sharon was one of Israel’s military hawks who opposed the idea of going nuclear for weapons. He believed that Israel would always be able to defeat the Arabs with conventional weapons and superior manpower; and he feared that if Israel did develop nuclear weapons, the Arabs would one day follow, and that if they did possess nuclear weapons of their own, Israel’s ability to impose its will on the region would be neutralized).
According to what Dayan (Israel’s one-eyed warlord) inferred to me in a private conversation in 1969 and to which I refer in my book, Israel’s decision to go nuclear for weapons was driven by the need to have a blackmail card in addition to that of the Nazi holocaust.
Dayan said, explicitly, that Ben-Gurion and others including himself were not stupid. He meant and said that from the moment of Israel’s birth they took it for granted that a day would come when even its best friends (he meant America in particular) would say to Israel’s leaders: “Enough is enough, You have become a liability for us. Now you must do what we ask.” I then said to Dayan, “We both know you don’t need nuclear weapons for defense against the Arabs… You need them to be able to say to an American president, if necessary, something like, ‘If you push us further than we are prepared to go, we’ll use these things‘” Dayan’s initial response to my speculation was a thin smile. He didn’t deny it or in any way challenge it. As I recalled the conversation years later, he eventually said something to this effect: “Those were your words, not mine, but you are understanding our situation.”
There are some who believe (and perhaps they are right) that Obama deserves praise for daring to say some things that Netanyahu would not have wanted Israeli and other Jews to hear, not from the lips of the President of America on the ground in Jerusalem.
For example: “It’s not fair that a Palestinian child lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. Put yourselves in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes.… Given the frustration of the international community, Israel must reverse an undertow of isolation.”
But most significant of all was Obama’s warning that the only way Israel can survive as a Jewish and democratic state is by ending its occupation in order to create the space for a viable Palestinian state.
The audience of young Israelis to whom he made that statement applauded him, but many of those in power with Netanyahu do not see withdrawal to the 1967 lines (perhaps with minor and mutually agreed land swaps) as the “only” way of defusing the demographic time of occupation. They favour “transfer”, which is a euphemism for a final Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
And there are still some who cling to the idea of the “Jordan option” – de-stabilizing that kingdom, getting rid of the Hashemite monarchy and saying to the Palestinians of the West Bank: “There’s your state. Go. Take it.” (That was, in fact, the end-game Sharon had in mind when he masterminded Israel’s invasion of Lebanon all the way to Beirut in the summer of 1982 for the initial purpose of exterminating the entire PLO leadership and destroying the organization’s infrastructure).
Obama’s overview of the prospects for peace, given in Ramallah in answer to a question, was this:
Peace is possible. It’s not guaranteed. I can’t even say that it’s more likely than not. But it is possible.
So, too, is a final Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
That being so I have to bring this article to a conclusion by saying that I think Obama’s decision not to use the leverage he has to cause or try to cause Israel to end its occupation, and effectively pass the make-it-happen buck to a new generation of Israeli Jews, is both disingenuous and reprehensible, to say the very, very least.
As things are and look like going, it is also possible that Obama will be seen in history as the president who, by default, gave Zionism the freedom to extinguish the light of hope for peace and complete its ethnic cleansing of Palestine, an outcome that could set the region and perhaps even the world on fire. (That is the outcome desired by American Christian fundamentalists who support the Zionist state right or wrong and bankroll its on-going colonization of the West Bank).
A judgment of history as indicated above might contain a mitigating reference from Miko Peled. “The Israeli-Palestinian issue is, politically, a toxic wasteland that no U.S. President in his right mind would want to clean up. It has become a vicious cycle of deceit and double standards, and it will contaminate any U.S. politician who tries to clean it up.”
He added: “One after another, American presidents have run away from the challenge.” (Eisenhower was the first and the last president not to do so, and it is possible, in my view probable, that President Kennedy would have taken on the challenge of confronting the Zionist monster if he had been allowed to live and serve a second term).
My only disagreement with Miko is that Obama is not “running” away. He is gliding gracefully away at his rhetorical best.
After she resigned from his government because of her opposition to the war on Iraq, Claire Short described Prime Minister Tony Blair to me as an “actor manager”. That seems to be an appropriate description of a second-term Obama at least so far as his handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict is concerned.
At the time of writing the main question waiting for an answer from the Palestinian side is this.
Will “President” Abbas be submissive enough to do what Obama indicated he wants and drop the Palestinian demand for a complete freeze on Israeli settlement expansion as a pre-condition for resuming talks (let’s not call them negotiations) with Netanyahu’s government?