Belaboring the Obvious

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This, frankly, sounds like a screaming tantrum...

... from a four-year-old that's been told it can't have the toy it wants.

The state of Israel has spent more than sixty years trying to drive the Arabs out of land it thinks it deserves, and, failing that, has done everything it can do to make life so miserable for those Arabs that they'll leave rather than continue to endure the threats to life and dignity Israel has imposed.

Now that someone in the U.S. has said, 'wait a minute,' there's been a concerted effort to roll that back, because the right wing in Israel doesn't want to be constrained in any way--even by common sense.

Let's try to put it in perspective. Israel has no oil, and less than 2% of the U.S. electorate is Jewish, and 70% of those are fairly liberal and would like to see an equitable solution to the travails created by Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands in exchange for some semblance of peace in the region. They know that there's a kind of insanity at work in the upper echelons of Israeli government, and would like to see it end, especially for Israel's sake. Beyond that, Israel as a rightish Western bastion against Arab states tempted to align themselves with the Soviet Union pretty much vanished when the Soviet Union disappeared (continuing economic and military payments by the U.S. to both Egypt and Israel to maintain the peace between the two countries also made this defense of capitalism argument fairly stupid, anyway).

Israel has largely been in the control of its right-wing--regardless of party--for several decades and has used any number of groups in this country as interfaces between the right wing there and the right wing here, to no one's benefit except the right wing's, and U.S. foreign policy has, ultimately, suffered for its indulgence of the warmongers on the right in Israel. The 35-40% of Israelis who are thoroughly fed up with the violence on both sides get little voice here in the U.S.

Now, this little missile from Peled is probably just an idle threat--after all, AIPAC, JINSA, the AJC, and affiliated groups have already exerted perhaps their maximum influence possible on U.S. national politics in the last few years, so, there's some question about how much more in the way of threats those groups can bring to bear on U.S. politicians. Nevertheless, the mere notion that the state of Israel is able to place sanctions on the U.S. Congress because a U.S. President says it can't go on behaving stupidly forever is pretty much the definition of irrational arrogance.

If one were, for the moment, to ignore the religious orientation of the Israeli state and the history of the many Jews in the U.S., one would be inclined to view Israeli's veiled threat as something more hilarious than serious. Think a "Mouse That Roared" plot gone horribly wrong. Peled and his cohort think this is a reasonable way to maintain the status quo because it's worked in the past. The Mouse has roared before, and always gotten its way, after all.

I doubt that it would happen in quite this way and quite as unilaterally, but, if Obama found Netanyahu's recalcitrance to be entirely intractable, and chose to embargo all defense gifts and economic development grants (which Israel uses for arms production) from the U.S. for Israel, and refused to forgive any of Israel's many loans from the U.S. (given that one in four jobs in Israel today depends upon arms in some way), the Israeli economy would very likely be much like it was in the early `70s, when the costs of occupation drove inflation into the stratosphere. If the U.S. were to embargo all arms sales into and out of Israel, cut off all U.S. aid, etc., Israel's economy would collapse in months, if not weeks, as dependent as that country is on arms sales.

Peled and friends think that the U.S. will never take decisive military action against Israel, no matter how badly she behaves. That's probably true. But, just because the United States would not act militarily against Israel doesn't mean that it will tolerate bad behavior forever, especially when the U.S. is spending more on war in the Middle East and South Asia than the entirety of Israel's GDP, and solving the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum might light a path to solving those other conflicts, too.

It's a mystery why the Israeli right wing has, for sixty years, chosen to make Palestinian Arabs surrogates for the Nazis that tried to subjugate and eliminate them in the days before and during WWII. But, I think, they have done just that. Even today, whenever the right wing in Israel shouts, "Never Again," they mean Arabs, not Nazis. It's a mystery, yes, until one realizes that the right wing in Israel--just as the right wing in this country--gains power by inculcating fear in the populace, trying to make their people believe that they are under siege from without. Once that has been achieved, once that siege mentality is in place, it's very easy to convince the public that every extreme action taken by the government is legitimate, in order to protect the people of the homeland, even when every extreme action is yet another whack at the hornet's nest, in order to provide yet more justification for extreme action, and yet more justification to keep the right wing in power, in a neverending cycle.

If we want to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, want to put it into perspective, we need to look at our own history, post-WWII, and at the influence our own right wing--regardless of party--just like Israel's, has had on our policies over these many decades.

Peled and company think that they can maintain a perverse, irrational status quo by threatening the entire legislature of the United States. I don't give Obama many points, these days, for truth and honesty, given his recent actions on secrecy and torture, but, I doubt seriously that he's going to be cowed by threats from a right-wing pissant who's managed to find someone at the right-wing Jerusalem Post to publish his threats. When it comes down to it, Israel's right wingers (just like the ones in this country) are just plain full of themselves and hot air, and nothing else.

The real future, the long-term future, of Israel is with its peacemakers, the lefties who read the Talmud and find in it admonitions against arbitrary cruelty, find in it enduring prescriptions for fair play and decency and commonweal with the world, the very qualities which have enabled Jews, finally, to overcome prejudice in a United States which formerly sought, in often subtle ways, to exclude them.

If we in the U.S. give in to the demands of the right wing in Israel--let that destructive influence in Israel (and a similarly destructive influence among our own Christian right wing) control our decisions--we may be destroyed, too, by them, even as we mistakenly believe ourselves to be coming to Israel's aid.


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