Wednesday, January 07, 2009

'The Israel rules'

Read Gary Kamiya's entire article here.

We can no longer afford to follow the Israel rules.

We cannot afford to for three reasons. First, Israel's current war, which it snuck in at a "perfect time" during the holidays and in the last days of its greatest "friend" and "supporter," George W. Bush, is immoral and illegal. Yes, Israel has the right to defend itself, like any other state. But not all acts of self-defense are legally or morally equivalent.

Israel is "defending itself" against a people that it dispossessed and has occupied for decades, and specifically by bombing a densely populated territory that it has been collectively punishing for a year and a half. Collective punishment is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. By bombing universities, mosques, lines of graduating police recruits, farms and houses filled with women and children, Israel is violating the law of proportional response. It is the same strategy it pursued in its disastrous 2006 war against Lebanon, when it fired thousands of cluster bombs into civilian areas in the south so as to force a Shiite population transfer, and piling up heaps of corpses with the purpose of "bolstering its deterrence." Such actions, in which civilian casualties are accepted or even pursued in the interests of achieving strategic goals, are a textbook form of state terrorism, and under the circumstances of Israel's vise-grip on Palestinian lives, no more morally justifiable than Hamas' repellent attacks. America should not be supporting such actions, whether they are carried out by an ally or not.

Second, Israel's actions are harming America. In the eyes of the world, and in particular the Arab-Muslim world, whatever Israel does might as well have been done by America. We fund Israel to the tune of $3 billion a year, we provide its advanced weaponry and we carry diplomatic water for it. In effect, Israel is the U.S. Obviously, if its actions are harmful to our national interests, we should oppose them. And the Gaza assault is clearly inimical to our interests, unless one believes that making deadly enemies of most Arabs and Muslims in the world, and making the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian peace even more remote is in our national interests. One of the things that motivated Osama bin Laden to launch the 9/11 attacks was televised film of Israel bombing Beirut apartment buildings during its 1982 war. What burning hatred is being grown in Arab/Muslim hearts as Gaza explodes? And what bitter harvest will it produce?

Finally, Israel's actions are not in its own interest. As Talleyrand said of Napoleon's murder of the Duc d'Enghien, Israel's attack on Gaza is worse than a crime -- it is a blunder. Israel is attempting once again to ensure its security by killing its enemies, while refusing to acknowledge the reasons for their enmity or to pursue a just political settlement that would resolve the conflict. As Haaretz editor-at-large Aluf Benn, a perceptive analyst of the Israeli polity, pointed out in Salon, there are deep historical reasons for Israel's allegiance to a doctrine of overwhelming military superiority. It's a doctrine that goes back to the father of revisionist Zionism, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, who insisted that Israel must break its foes' will to resist with an "iron wall." But as the last 60 years have shown, that live-by-the-sword ethos not only does not work, it is self-defeating. . . .

Contrary to the Holocaustology that sees all Israel's enemies as the second coming of Adolf Hitler, Hamas is not the problem; it is a symptom. Treating it as the problem only prolongs the crisis. The problem is political and historical: the dispossession of Palestinians and the ongoing Israeli occupation of their land. Until that fundamental problem is resolved -- and the hour when it can be resolved by a two-state solution may already have passed -- Israel and America's attempts to bludgeon Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims into submission will only generate more hatred, more violence and ever more extremism.

What the gung-ho war hawks in Israel and America do not realize is that if Israel continues down this road, it will jeopardize its very existence. The world has changed, and time is not on Israel's side. Israel has always been surrounded by neighbors who detest it. Some of those states are ruled by regimes that have been bought off by the U.S., such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Afraid of their own Islamist radicals, they have remained largely silent as Israel has pounded Hamas. But those regimes will not last forever, and there is no guarantee that their successors will embrace the same policies. The real danger to Israel is radical Islam. Jihadism is the X factor that could threaten Israel's survival. Popular rage at Israel across the Arab-Muslim world has been festering for decades, and outrages like the Lebanon war and the Gaza assault have brought it to a boil. With their fury deprived of an outlet by their corrupt and sclerotic regimes, more and more Muslims are turning to religious radicalism.

Israel knows this story only too well because it helped create it. Israel strengthened Hamas in the 1980s because it wanted to undercut the PLO. Now it is trying to undercut Hamas, and by doing so, is strengthening al-Qaida-like jihadists. It is as if Israel actually wants to turn its political enemies into religious ones, so that it can convince itself and the world that it has no choice but to exterminate or be exterminated. In an age of portable weapons of mass destruction and suicidal zealots, this is not a wise strategy. . . .

If Obama has the wisdom and courage to reject the Israel rules, he can begin to broker a lasting Mideast peace, weaken extremists, restore America's standing in the region and ensure Israel's long-term viability. If he doesn't, the wound will simply keep festering, and the infection will keep spreading.

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