Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Never Again or Yet Again?

I hate to say it, but I really believe that Israel's attacks in Gaza is taking the War on Christmas meme a bit too literally.

Sarcasm aside, the latest offensive by Israel in the Gaza strip is yet another reminder that, notwithstanding its avowed constitutional tenet of Separation of Church & State, the United States seems to be forever linked to two extremist religious groups. Although neither is a religion per se, both politico-religious zealots -- the evangelicals and Israel -- manage to exert a controlling influence over the politics of this country.

The fealty accorded to the evangelicals by the GOP is bestowed by both parties with respect to Israel. As Glen Greenwald notes, in George Washington's warnings and U.S. policy towards Israel, an accepted truism (along the lines of the Bush Administration's if the President does it it must be legal), that if Israel does it, it must be OK:

The degree of mandated orthodoxy on the Israel question among America's political elites is so great that if one took the statements on Gaza from George Bush, Pelosi, Hoyer, Berman, Ros-Lehtinen, and randomly chosen Bill Kristol-acolytes and redacted their names, it would be impossible to know which statements came from whom. They're all identical: what Israel does is absolutely right. The U.S. must fully and unconditionally support Israel. Israel does not merit an iota of criticism for what it is doing. It bears none of the blame for this conflict. No questioning even of the wisdom of its decisions -- let alone the justifiability -- is uttered. No deviation from that script takes place.

By itself, the degree of full-fledged, absolute agreement -- down to the syllable -- among America's political leaders is striking, even when one acknowledges the constant convergence between the leadership of both parties. But it becomes even more striking in light of the bizarre fact that the consensus view -- that America must unquestioningly stand on Israel's side and support it, not just in this conflict but in all of Israel's various wars -- is a view which 7 out of 10 Americans reject. Conversely, the view which 70% of Americans embrace -- that the U.S. should be neutral and even-handed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict generally -- is one that no mainstream politician would dare express.

For the Israel apologists, whether the justification is, as Steve Gimbel notes, that we must teach them a lesson or more along the lines of Marty Peretz' "don't fuck with the Jews" message, the result is the same for the victims of the violence.

Moreover, there comes a point when the stark facts call out for comment, if not condemnation. The recent attacks may warrant this, as Greenwald explains, in Marty Peretz and the American political consensus on Israel:
Opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute are so entrenched that any single outbreak of violence is automatically evaluated through a pre-existing lens, shaped by one's typically immovable beliefs about which side bears most of the blame for the conflict generally or "who started it." Still, any minimally decent human being -- even those who view the world through the most blindingly pro-Israeli lens possible, the ones who justify anything and everything Israel does, and who discuss these events with a bottomless emphasis on the primitive (though dangerous) rockets lobbed by Hamas into Southern Israel but without even mentioning the ongoing four-decades brutal occupation or the recent, grotesquely inhumane blockade of Gaza -- would find the slaughter of scores of innocent Palestinians to be a horrible and deeply lamentable event.
Along with many on the left, I myself have been guilty of mostly maintaining silence on the subject of Israel, despite my overall belief that the Israeli-Palestinian situation is defined by the disheartening maxim that the Oppressed become the Oppressors. The parties merely trade sides as to which is which at any given time, in a never-ending dance of death and destruction.

However, there does appear to be a small crack in the unquestioning, lockstep support of Israel, which has permitted a few words of criticism to creep in, as noted by Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, The Third Rail of “Israel” Cools in the Blogosphere. See also, Today I end my support of Israel and Peace Is Possible.

With a change in Administration, perhaps this is the time to continue that discussion. As Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House notes, in The Only Thing Israel Is Good For Anymore Is Chest Thumping. That Has To Change:
The U.S.-Israel relationship desperately needs a drastic overhaul. And while I hope that the new administration has the cojones to shake things up, I'm not optimistic that it will because the Israel lobby is so adept at pushing buttons in Washington, or when that fails screaming anti-Semitism.

The first thing that Obama and Clinton need to do is to make it clear to Netanyahu -- the likely successor to Ehud Olmert in the February elections -- that Israel has to begin rolling back to its 1967 borders.

This will entail removing most of the settlers from the occupied territories, including the West Bank, where the settler population has doubled to over 270,000 since 1995.

* * * *
The next several days will follow an all-too-familiar pattern of pointless finger pointing and messages sent but not received: Arab states will pile on Israel. Washington and a few other Western governments (certainly many fewer than in the past) will rush to Israel's defense. The price of oil will spike. The radical Palestinian leadership will bury their dead but determinedly not learn from the errors of their ways while their people sink deeper into hopelessness.

And the Israelis, who long ago squandered their moral superiority by building settlements while oppressing the Palestinian people, will revel over their big dicked but small-minded chest thumping.

Otherwise, we will continue to play our bit part in the saga of Israel, which was expressed by Jon Stewart during the election as only he could:

"Oh, I forgot. You can't say anything remotely critical of Israel and still get elected President."

And we already know where that has gotten us -- no peace in the Middle-East.

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