This blog is a reaction to the nonsense of "Propaganda Pat Condell" and his latest video. I wrote this a while back.
Israel – Palestine – United Sates
"The main danger which Israel, as a 'Jewish state', poses to its own people, to other Jews and to its neighbours, is its ideologically motivated pursuit of territorial expansion and the inevitable series of wars resulting from this aim...No Zionist politician has ever repudiated the idea that Israeli policies must be based (within the limits of practical considerations) on the restoration of Biblical borders as the borders of the Jewish state."
- Israeli professor, Israel Shahak, "Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of 3000 Years."
The situation here is the Israel/Palestine conflict. The parties are Palestine, Israel and the United State, i.e. the role the U.S plays in all of this. This situation is a mishmash of complexity. There are so many knots tangled up in this maze of conflict that it’s difficult to know where or how to begin with this infinite regress of who caused what and who started what first.
The source of this river starts in the late nineteenth century when Jews in Europe decided to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, a land that had once been a Hebrew kingdom. The movement took its name from mount Zion in Jerusalem,(Quigley 1990) it’s purpose was to escape persecution in Europe.
Mass killings of Jews happened from time to time; going back to the Christian crusades, Jews (among others) were either burnt at the stake or converted to Christianity. In the fourteenth century, Jews were held responsible for the Black Death, and large numbers were executed. Add to this the holocaust and it’s easy to see how Jewish sensitivities are more than justified. But is this reason enough to justify their actions in Palestine?
One key moment is U.S recognition of the creation of state of Israel in 1948. This was bitterly debated but ultimately backed by the Truman administration.
For the purposes of this case, I shall begin in 1967 at the six day war which reshaped the political landscape and reshaped the borders of the state of Israel. This war marked the beginning of the special relationship between the U.S and Israel, resulting in the occupation of 52 percent of the West Bank and 30 percent of the Gaza strip for military use or for Jewish civilians. From 1967 to 1982, Israel’s military destroyed 1,338 homes on the west bank. At this time, over 300,000 Palestinians were detained without trial by Israeli security forces. 1
All of this in violation of the UN Charter which makes clear there can be no territorial gains from war, even by a state acting in self-defence. Apart from the United States, the response of virtually every other state was condemnation of Israel's occupation. The UN said of the occupation: “a denial of self determination and hence a 'serious and increasing threat to international peace and security”. 2
There are no saints in this conflict but on close examination it appears Palestine is the lesser of two evils by a long shot.
Consider these numbers since the year 2000.
Israeli civilians killed - 731
Palestinian civilians killed 3,535 – 4,226
People killed in the course of a targeted killing - 1 408 or more
People killed on own land 586 6,359
Source: B'Tselem, The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. 3
This conflict is about territories that have been under harsh military occupation for over forty years. It’s a kind of colonial policing.
The conqueror here (Israel) is a major military power which receives massive financial, diplomatic and military support from the global superpower (the U.S). Israel is the the largest recipient of US aid from 1976 to 2004 and about $7 million dollars per day from the United States. 4 This is almost never printed in American newspapers. Coverage of the Middle East and Israel in particular, virtually never reports this enormous American connection with this region.
The motivation for the action the occupation itself seems to be rooted in biblical belief, i.e. superstitious tribalism. The only motivational claim Zionists have to that land is emotional not legal. The belief that god acted as a kind of real estate dealer with promises of land is central to the Zionist ideology. This thinking is ingrained into the DNA of the Jewish state but calls from the Jewish left to abandon Zionist ideals are a sign of common sense and are being heard.
The U.S support of Israel seems to be motivated by a number of factors; The U.S Government is and always has been, littered with big money Jewish politicians who have big influence on real world affairs. A comfy relationship with Israel gives the U.S some assurance and leverage and stability in the Middle East in terms of a geopolitical management strategy. This is managing people on an epic scale. It’s a perfect location to keep an eye on radical Islam for example; Israel can be seen as the US’s cop on the beat in the middle east.
Also, all too often, the western media and in particular the American media, seem to paint Palestine as the instigator in violence and paint Israel as the victim. One look at the death stats above blows this out of the water. With so much military and financial and human resources invested in Israel, the motivation of the American media is pure self interest; to distort the truth as to the real picture on the ground by showing up Israel as the good guy and Palestine as the bad.
The motivation of Palestine seems to be survival. They are alone and defenceless, some barely surviving in brutal military occupied camps. Consider the plight of almost half a million Palestinians who fled to Lebanon to escape the 1948 Israel/Arab war. Here they cannot own property to this day. They are living in cramped refugee camps and are denied state health and education services. Many try to move to developed world countries to find a life.
Professor Hilal Khashan from Beirut's American University says: “They are treated like pariahs in Lebanon for fear that to give them basic rights could upset the country's delicate religious and political balance.” 5
All sides in this conflict have used different managing tools at different times. Metaphorically speaking, most of these tools used are blunt and brutal; they are based on fear and power and assertiveness. For the most part its steamrollers and sledgehammers when what’s really needed is a scalpel of calm reason; of course this is easier said than done.
In relation to the U.S public/media perception, one tool used at times was a self serving double standard; the clever management of propaganda. The New York Times for example has repeatedly condemned Palestinian terrorism saying that Palestinian leaders must demonstrate that they are “legitimate democratic partners”. 6
The real world has little resemblance to this portrayal. In the 1980’s the U.S and Israel were desperately trying to evade the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) offers of democratic negotiation. (Chomsky 2008 p369) All of this went unpublished in the U.S mainstream, while at the same time commentary denounced the Palestinians for their commitment to terror.
When examined from a different angle, the U.S is an obstacle to stability in the region. Take its rejection of the 1976 Security Council resolution. This resolution was backed by the leading Arab states, the PLO, Europe, and the Soviet Bloc, in fact, everyone that mattered. It was opposed by Israel and Vetoed by the United Stated thus wiping it out from history. 7 The resolution called for political settlement on internationally recognized borders “with appropriate arrangements . . . to guarantee . . . the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of all states in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized borders”
In a situation as mindbogingly complex and longstanding as this, there are many different management styles, qualities and traits. To list them all would be to embrace madness.
Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem immediately after the six day war was immediately condemned by the UN Security Council which urgently called on Israel to rescind any measures taken and to take no further measures. (Resolution 252 of May 21, 1968)
A U.S trait here is stubbornness; as it continues to fund the expansion and reconstruction of Greater Jerusalem for Israeli interests regardless of international law. In 2002 the Bush administration voted against yet another General Assembly resolution virtually ending any possibility of a resolution except by force. 8
Ever since the end of World War ІІ, the U.S has assumed the role of world police in an utterly autocratic style where the mantra is “what we say goes”. International laws, treaties, and rules of world order are sternly imposed on others with much gusto but are dismissed as irrelevant for the United States – this is a long standing practice, taken to new depths by the Reagan and the Bush ІІ administrations. This is how the U.S manages itself on the world stage as a kind of rogue state, making up the rules as it goes.
Obviously in a conflict like this, one side will respond in retaliation to the other, that much is obvious. It’s much more interesting to look at the U.S role in all of this and how the media reports it or refuses to report it. The leading standard of the occupation has been degrading humiliation, terror, torture, destruction of property, displacement of settlement, and takeover of basic resources such as water. All of which has required decisive U.S support.
The US has fuelled the terror by providing Israel with the means for terror and destruction, including shipments of the most advanced helicopters in the US arsenal. To cite an example, in the first days of the Intifada in 2002, Israel used US helicopters to attack civilian targets, killing 10 Palestinians and wounding 35, hardly in "self-defence." Bush responded with an agreement for "the largest purchase of military helicopters by the Israeli Air Force in a decade”. The press helped out by refusing to report the facts. 9
Take yet another example of Washington’s blocking strategy. In December 2001, it vetoed yet another resolution calling for international monitors to oversee reduction of violence in the area, again the same pattern; opposed by Israel and blocked by Washington.
That particular veto in December 01, happened during a twenty one day period of calm, that meant only one Israeli soldier was killed along with twenty one Palestinians including eleven children.
George Bush called Israel president Ariel Sharon a man of peace. Despite the man’s long record of terrorist atrocities including large scale massacres of defenceless civilians back in the early 1950’s. Maybe Bush forgot that the state of Israel was founded on acts of terrorism.
This kind of cherry picking and fact omitting is central to the U.S strategy of propping up Israel. Bush could have said the following of Sharon and would have been correct; . . . that his ‘peace’ plan is the same military strategy the United States used against its Native Americans. He too is protecting settlements by stealing land, violating treaties, and forcing an entire native population to live on reservations.
A perfect example of the propaganda management technique of the U.S is the Obama administration’s first big statement on foreign affairs on 22 January 2009, in the wake of the U.S- Israeli invasion of Gaza. During this murderous assault, Obama and his staff remained quiet except for expressing deep sympathy for Israeli children who faced rocket attacks because of (as they failed to mention) Israel’s refusal to accept a ceasefire. They also failed to mention the hundreds of Palestinian children being butchered by U.S arms. (Chomsky 2010 p251)
What can any one person do in a situation of this magnitude? Extensive team effort from activists and the public is needed. Big decisions are left up to corrupt military and government organisations with little or no empathy towards the plight of ordinary people on the ground.
These ordinary people can manage to make a difference by connecting and organizing in a way similar to the protests in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. Young tech savvy people can be the key here: there are Facebook pages which promote rational debate between Israelis and Palestinians. This is a promising thing.
U.S – Israeli rejectionism is part of the problem. The “special relationship” is not so special when it comes to solutions.
An idyllic answer is a one state solution with equal rights for all citizens. The path to this may be two states as stage one and progress from there. This would mean letting go of the theological dreams that Zionists cling to and embracing rationality and dialogue for a change. Israel needs to bend to allow this to happen, this is unlikely. This might be more idealistic than realistic at the moment given the reality of the occupation but who knows it just might work.
Regarding laws and the question of whether there could be any laws used its clear this question doesn’t apply to the U.S.
In summary, the U.S and western media in general have been less than truthful here. Based on the facts, their managerial method was and is laced with propaganda, exaggeration and lies. The reaction to the suffering of Israelis is correct. But has it been proper to ignore the far worse suffering of the Palestinians? Suffering that goes back many years with U.S support.
Unless we accept the elementary moral principle that we apply the same standards to ourselves that we apply to others, there isn’t much hope. Also there is the principle often heard in western media that Israel has the right to defend itself, as if that were earth shattering news, it is not. So does everybody. This cliché is utterly banal and worse than empty, it distracts from the issue for the reasons already reviewed.
As any good manager knows, recognising other people’s problems is very important, whether they be internal or external. A key to the success of the Northern Ireland Peace Process was the British Government’s recognition of the grievances of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland. The analogy is not perfect but it’s hard to see a way forward unless the U.S stops with the rhetorical propaganda and shows the same understanding and empathy towards Palestine as it does towards Israel.
2. Quigley, J. Palestine and Israel A Challenge to Justice. Page 3.
6. “Moving Past War in the Middle East” New York Times, April 7, 2002.
Quigley, J. 1990. Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice. Duke University Press.
Chomsky, N. 2008. The Essential Chomsky. The Bodley Head London.
Chomsky, N. 2010. Hopes and Prospects. Penguin