Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Israel is Fueling Anti-Americanism

Israel is Fueling Anti-Americanism

A Test Case for US Credibility


The attack in the international waters of the Mediterranean in the early hours of May 31 by an elite force of the Israeli navy on the Turkish – flagged Mavi Marmara civilian ferry crammed with more than 700 international activists, including several Americans, carrying 100 tonnes of cargo including concrete, medicines and children’s toys, and leading five smaller vessels of the Free Gaza Flotilla, which left eight Turks and a U.S. citizen of Turkish origin dead and wounded several others, has cornered the United States in a defensive diplomatic position to contain the regional and international fallout of the military fiasco of the “Operation Sky Wind” its Israeli regional ally launched against the flotilla; it “puts the United States in an extremely difficult position,” Marina Ottaway wrote in a report published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on May 31.

Containing angry Arab reaction and adverse repercussions on Arab – U.S. relations was most likely on the agenda of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday. However Biden is the least qualified to allay Arab anger for being the most vocal among U.S. officials in “legitimizing” Israel’s blunder. The Gaza flotilla episode has dispelled the benefit of doubt the Arab allies have given to President Barak Obama’s promises of change in U.S. foreign policy in their region. To regain Arab confidence it needs more than U.S. official visits whether by Biden or by a better choice because at the end of the day politics is not about “good intentions”, but is rather about “good deeds,” according to the Egyptian veteran political analyst Fahmy Howeidy.

Despite a pronounced belief to the contrary by U.S. Senator Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the head of Israel’s Mossad, Meir Dagan, was more to the point when he said last week that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden.” Earlier this year CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in CENTCOM's area of operations and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.” Israel seems determined to complicate Petraeus’ mission further.

Washington has found its diplomacy faced with an Israeli fait accompli to be involuntarily embroiled in what the Israeli media harshly criticized as a tactical failure, which engulfed the U.S. administration in the roaring Arab and Muslim anger to be accused of being a partner to the Israeli adventure, thus fueling anti – Americanism in the same arena where the administration is doing its best to defuse and contain the anti – Americanism that was escalated by the invasion of Iraq in 2003, i.e. among U.S. regional allies. Once more, the Free Gaza Flotilla episode “will raise questions —not for the first time—over whether (Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu can be a dependable partner for the United States,” Michele Dunne wrote in a Carnegie Endowment report.

Ironically, the fiasco of the Israeli “Operation Sky Wind” has created a snowballing conflict not between Israel and its self-proclaimed arch enemy Iran, but with Turkey, traditionally Israel’s only regional friend, a key regional power, a NATO member, a U.S. ally and a hopeful of EU membership, as well as with the U.S. – allied camp of Arab and Palestinian moderates, whom both Israel and the United States endeavor to recruit in a unified anti – Iran front and who are their partners in the U.S. – sponsored Arab – Israeli “peace process, which Washington is now weighing in heavily to resume its Palestinian – Israeli track.

Israel is not making U.S. life easier in the region. “That's it, Israel. Put your best friend on the spot, with stupid acts of belligerency, when hundreds of its sons and daughters are dying fighting your avowed enemy. It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States,” wrote Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the mainstream Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington (CSIS). Stephen Walt, a Harvard international-relations professor and co-author of the 2007 book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” agreed. Professor of International Relations at New York University, Alon Ben Meir, concluded in American Diplomacy on May 10th: “The Netanyahu government seems to miss-assess the changing strategic interests of the United States in the Middle East, especially in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

However official Washington so far acts and speaks in a way that would contain adverse fallout of the Free Gaza Flotilla episode on bilateral relations with Israel, otherwise it would make a bad situation worse if one is to remember that the episode made Netanyahu cancel a summit meeting with Obama - after he was forced to cut short his visit to Canada - that was scheduled specifically to mend bilateral fences. But the motion which was unusually “personally” presented to the Israeli Knesset by the opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, for a no-confidence vote in Netanyahu’s government on Monday because, as she said, “the current government doesn’t represent the State of Israel to the world” and hurts “ties with the United States” made public what the U.S. administration has been trying to keep away from the spotlights. Trying to defuse the repercussions of Israel’s blunder, the U.S. leaned on Israel “quite a lot” to release hundreds of Turkish peace activists who were on board of Mavi Marmara, Turkey’s Deputy Under Secretary for public diplomacy Selim Yenel told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Fueling anti – Americanism among Arabs and Muslims is absolutely not in the interests of the United States, but this is exactly what current Israeli policies boil down to. Soaring Israeli – U.S. relations further was the first casualty of the Israeli attack.

Disrupting U.S. regional strategic plans was the second U.S. interest threatened by the attack. Both sides of the Arab and Turkish – U.S. alliance find themselves now on the opposite side of the Arab – Israeli conflict, which was on the verge of an historic breakthrough on the basis of the U.S. – sponsored so –called “two – state solution”, which enjoys the support of the major world powers thanks only to all of them being on the same side. The U.S. – led Middle East camp seems now fractured and divided. The opposite camp led by Iran and Syria seems more confident and united. The U.S. position is weaker and their stance is stronger. Washing seems to loose the initiative in the region to its adversaries thanks to Israel initiating a conflict with U.S. moderate allies. For Israel and its U.S. advocates this should flash a red light.

In this context, U.S. presidential peace envoy to the region, George Mitchell, who unfortunately was already in the region trying, unsuccessfully yet, to overcome the adverse reaction of these same allies to other Israeli blunders, should have lamented his Israeli bad luck and regretted his mission. General Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Mousa, said that “everything” is now left “hanging in the air,”, including mainly the Palestinian – Israeli “proximity talks,” the focus of Mitchell’s mission.

In the wider context, the emergency meeting of the Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on June 2 was in direct opposition to the U.S. stance vis-à-vis the Israeli attack, in terminology, perspective and demands, but specially as regards the U.S. – Israeli justifications for continuing the blockade of Gaza. To make their message for lifting the siege clear, Mousa was scheduled to visit Gaza next week. Without naming the U.S., they stressed that the continued support to Israel “by some states” and giving “immunity” to its disrespect of international law “in a precedent that threatens the whole international system .. is a big political mistake.” They reiterated that the Arab Peace Initiative “will not remain on the table for long.” 60 percent of Arabs now believe Obama is too weak to deliver a peace agreement, according to a recent poll conducted by YouGov and quoted by The Christian Science monitor on June 4.

The Arab hard core of the U.S. assets of moderates is the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); in a statement, they condemned the attack as an act of “state terrorism.” Kuwait, a member, stands among them as an instructive example of how Israel is fueling anti – Americanism. This country which hosts some twenty thousand U.S. troops on reportedly one third of its territory in support of the U.S. – led “Operation Iraqi freedom” had sixteen of its citizens on board of the Israeli - attacked Mavi Marmara. In response, in a vote by consensus the Kuwaiti parliament in which the cabinet ministers are members recommended withdrawal from the Arab Peace Initiative. With Iran across the Gulf and the explosive situation across its northern borders with Iraq, the echo of General Petraeus’ warning reverberates louder here.

Thirdly, the Israeli attack has split the Turkish and U.S. NATO allies into opposite sides of the international ensuing divide. Ankara found itself in a head to head diplomatic clash not with Israel, but with the U.S. in the United Nations Security Council, the Geneva – based UN Human Rights Council and the emergency meeting of NATO, where Washington acted as Israel’s mouthpiece and attorney. Turkey is now for the first time experiencing the U.S. double standards and pro – Israel biased policy, which the Arabs have been victims for decades. It might be interesting to note here that both Turkey and Greece, two U.S. and NATO allies, have set aside their historical hostility to each other to publicly disagree with the U.S. in their defense of breaking the Israeli siege of Gaza. “The US response to Israel’s disproportionate use of violence against innocent civilians constitutes a test case for US credibility in the Middle East,” wrote Suat Kiniklioglu, the Turkish ruling party’s deputy chairman.

In the same Carnegie Endowment’s report, director of the Middle East Program Marina Ottaway expected potential adverse repercussions beyond the Middle East. “In addition to the predictable Arab reaction, … there has been a harsher than normal response from European countries. This could potentially reopen U.S. tensions with Europe that developed during the Iraq war and have slowly begun to heal under the Obama administration,” she wrote.

How could any sensible observer interpret this adverse fallout on U.S. foreign relations and on Arab and Turkish – U.S. relations in particular as only the result of bad luck or an unintentional Israeli tactical mistake? The only other interpretation to justify Israel’s resort to bloody force is that Israel could no more tolerate a regional united Turkish, Arab and U.S. peace front, supported by the world community.

By aborting an international peace mission sponsored by moderate Arab and regional states, Israel sends a clear message that it wants them out of the game and prefers instead to deal only with pro - violence players, which vindicates a popular Arab belief, established over decades of the conflict, that Israel understands only the language of force.

Israel knows very well that its belligerency has been all along the main source of regional anti – Americanism. The U.S. knows it too. Repercussions of the Israeli attack seem to hit at the heart of what President Obama in mid – April declared as a “vital national security interest of the United States,” i.e. solving the Arab – Israeli conflict. By escalating militarily and responding disproportionately, the extremist right – wing government of Israel is premeditatedly acting with open eyes to preempt the evolution of a united regional and international front in consensus on a two –state solution for the conflict; the best way to split the already burgeoning consensus is to fuel regional anti – Americanism as a tested ploy to disintegrate whatever Arab, Turkish and U.S. front might develop to pressure it into yielding to the dictates of peace.

U.S. traditional pro – Israel diplomacy has been all along playing in the hands of Israeli extremists, but this time against declared strategic U.S. interests. Nonetheless, Washington acts as if on intent to pursue a self – defeating policy; its biased foreign policy and double standards are antagonizing regional allies, but more importantly contributing to Israel’s fueling of regional anti – Americanism.

Iran had no role whatsoever in the peaceful mission of the Gaza free Flotilla. Spotlight was kept focused on major Turkish, Arab and European civilian peace activists, who came from Europe, United States, Australia, and Turkey; major Arab input came from Kuwait, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen, all of them U.S. allies. Even Syria, which is accused of being an ally of Iran, has kept relatively a low profile in the whole episode and had no role in the mission either, although it spearheaded the opposition to the U.S. role in the aftermath during the emergency meeting in Cairo of the Arab foreign ministers. Israel could in no way authentically claim the flotilla mission had any Iran connection to justify its high seas blunder. Neither the organizers would allow any such role. Co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement's 69-year-old U.S.-born engineer, Greta Berlin, was quoted by AP on June 4 as saying the group has shunned donation offers from Iran and said the group doesn't accept donations from radical groups or states. Similarly, the de facto government of Hamas in Gaza has shunned a suggestion by the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to provide “protection” for future similar flotillas.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli – occupied territories...

From USS Liberty to Freedom Flotilla....

William Cook* reflects on US hypocrisy about its "ally" in the Middle East

"We do not need to apologize for defending ourselves. The armada of hate and violence is merely one manifestation of the constant provocation Israel faces." -- Danny Ayalon, deputy foreign minister of Israel....

Only a member of the Netanyahu court could stand before the TV cameras of the world and see "hate and violence" in a shipment of wheelchairs, medical supplies and building materials destined for a people ravaged by the savagery of the 20008/2009 invasion of Gaza. This "Armada" of six boats, bloated into an invading force capable of destroying the British Navy, represents yet again the eternal threat that plagues the Zionist state, "the constant provocation" from the rest of the nations of the world to destroy the tiny democracy created for those who belong to their faith, victims once again.

And why? Doesn't Israel simply want to defend itself as is the right of every nation? This too, this everlasting question hurled at the world as a justified reason for unwarranted violence, used yet again to impose its will in defiance of International Law that none can question lest they deny their right to self defence. How convenient, especially when no one in the world of nations knows where Israel is, what borders it possesses, what land is rightfully Israel's, and by what authority that land was given to Israel. But apparently it can claim to defend itself in International waters against 700 civilians, legislators from many lands, peace activists that range in age from one year to 85, from Jews to Christians to Muslims to atheists, from doctors to lawyers, to merchants to retired men and women, a flotilla of "hate and violence" set on destroying the peaceful state of Israel. A flotilla of mercy, a flotilla of absolute need since the people of Gaza have not only been ravaged by missiles and warships but by illegal weapons of vast devastation, including white phosphorus and depleted uranium, that cause excruciating, agonising death, and left in the aftermath to suffer behind locked gates bereft of medical supplies, equipment or electricity to run the machines of life.

Lawrence Durrell describes a mournful, solitary scene in his guide to the landscape and people of the island of Corfu: "We carried him in his open box to the cemetery on the hill, and all the time this poetry was flowing out of Mother Hubbard in a continuous stream, keeping pace with her tears, for she really loved Taki. 'Was the coffin open?' 'Yes.' 'Is that a religious custom of the island?' 'No. But under the Turks it was a law to prevent the smuggling of arms in coffins under the pretence of carrying corpses to the grave. In some places it has lingered on among the superstitious.'"

The Turks have obviously moved on from those days centuries ago as they loaded the boat with its items of mercy and verified that process for the Israeli government, a government that has understood its relationship to be a good one, but not good enough to be trusted apparently. The Zionist state trusts no one, obeys no laws but its own, suffers no outsiders like the UN to witness its actions, and perhaps superstitiously or perhaps pathologically must maintain the sickness of victimhood in its citizens or lose their support. Above all, the Zionist government does nothing in the open except by mistake as it did in 2006 when it invaded Lebanon and in its Hannakah gifts to the people of Gaza a year ago, and hence dropped its hooded and heavily armed mercenaries onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara at 4am while the innocent slept and the darkness hid their insidious attack.

Following the attack on one of its own vessels, Turkey sought justice from the United Nations in the form of a statement "that would condemn Israel for violating international law, demand a UN investigation and demand that Israel prosecute those responsible for the raid and pay compensation to the victims" ( The Salt Lake Tribune ). But the Obama administration found reason to protect Israel against such a statement just as the Lyndon Johnson administration found reason to protect Israel when it attacked the American Naval vessel the USS Liberty 43 years ago, an attack of greater magnitude and consequence than the raid on the Freedom Flotilla, yet just as illegal, just as merciless, and just as revealing of true friendship among nations. To this day, the remaining sailors of that ship seek justice, not from the UN, but from their own representatives in our Congress who deny the attack or obsequiously grovel before the power of the Jewish lobbies that condemn those who condemn Israel for putting American sailors at risk, nay for killing American sailors with impunity, a blatant criminal act against their beloved friend, the United States of America.

What has Obama to fear that he too capitulates to the demands of the Zionist sympathisers in Congress and his own administration? Have citizens of many countries no rights to sail in international waters to bring medical supplies to a besieged people, imprisoned now in collective punishment for three years, deprived of life's basic needs by a nation that is among the wealthiest in the world, who live in luxury behind the walls they have erected to incarcerate a people that have no recognised government, no military, no control of their roads, their own housing needs, their own economy? And the world, it seems, supports the nation that creates this horrendous injustice because the president of the United States demands that those who lifted deck chairs to protect themselves from the armed and armoured commandos dropped from the sky should be investigated for legal acts of self protection? What nonsense is this?

Why does our president, like Johnson 43 years ago, kowtow before the demands of men like Avigdor Lieberman and Bibi Netanyahu? Consider that a broad array of countries demanded an independent investigation, not just Turkey. Consider the words of Foreign Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu, who called the attack "tantamount to banditry and piracy. It is murder conducted by a state." Indeed, why do Americans tolerate a nation that attacks its own sailors, that watches as this administration pulls the FBI off its investigation and the prosecution of Israeli spying through AIPAC operatives, and refuses to demand justice for the murder of Rachel Corrie as she acted in true American spirit to protect those who could not protect themselves and suffered a cruel death by Israeli hands for her efforts?

What power does this rogue nation hold over our government? Let's begin with the two favourite mantras that bind Israel to America: our only friend in the MidEast and the only democracy in the MidEast. Both are lies. Friends do not attack the ship of a friend, a ship that was virtually at the mercy of the US provided aircraft to the Israeli Air Force that pulverised the Liberty while the Israeli Navy attempted to sink the ship with a torpedo. Friends do not use the military weapons of the friend on the friend. Friends do not premeditatedly plan the sinking of a ship to force that friend to believe a lie so that it will enter a war on behalf of Israel against a nation, Egypt, that had done nothing to the United States. These are the actions of a criminal mind, a nation with a criminal mind. Friends do not plan out military attacks against innocent civilians who have devoted their time and money to bring life giving aid to others and demonstrated their true intent before the world's nations by having their boats inspected only to have Israel not trust any nation but itself. Such actions do not protect the soldiers and sailors of the United States operating in the MidEast, they endanger them.

How democratic is this purported democracy? I've written about this subject before (see "Israeli Democracy: Fact or Fiction?") and will not repeat myself. Let me note here an example of a nation that does not act democratically as presented by Jonathan Cook about a matter called the "Anat Kamm espionage affair". Kamm provided hundreds of army documents to Uri Blau, a reporter for Haaretz, that revealed "systematic law-breaking by the Israeli high command operating in occupied Palestinian territories, including orders to ignore court rulings." These were published. She now faces life imprisonment as does Blau, who was hiding in England in April. As Cook remarks, "In a properly democratic country, Kamm would have an honorable defence against the charges, of being a whistle-blower rather than a spy, and Blau would be winning journalism prizes, not hiding away in exile." So much for freedom of speech, right to self- defence, and the public's right to know the subterfuge of their government.

One additional comment should suffice. Tzvia Greenfield makes this observation in her article "Israel's Choice: Make Peace or Disappear". "Israel... continues to control the Palestinians and the territories by force. And in order to maintain its Jewish identity, it also has no intention whatsoever of granting them equal civil rights. One does not have to be a critical intellectual to understand that this internal contradiction, in a state that considers itself advanced, Western and democratic, is untenable." This nation is what our government claims is our only friend and our only democratic bastion in the MidEast. How pathetic.

Yet our president and our secretary of state declare over and over again that they will defend Israel's right to "self-defence". Does that right include defence of the military systematically disobeying laws and the government's intent to deny equal rights of citizens? Does it also include defence of lands confiscated by Israel or annexed illegally to Israel or declared military security land and wrested from the true owners? How does this nation justify theft by its truest friend and still declare that Palestinians have rights? Let's have our government officials speak the truth so that we know the true state of our government.

One more demonstrated action by this friendly state, our truest and most reliable friend that we must defend before the other less friendly and democratic, and dare we say, less moralistic nations of the world. Desmond Tutu visited the occupied territories recently and offered this observation, "I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic trips to visit relatives or attend school or college."

This is a regime we support, one that humiliates and degrades innocent civilians against international law, that builds roads segregated for Jews only on land confiscated from its rightful owners and paid for in part by American tax dollars. This is a regime we support that has sold nuclear weapons to that same apartheid government when it was outlawed by the international community demonstrating thereby two important and non-disclosed things about this rogue state, this friendly and democratic state that insists it is America's closest and greatest friend: first it has weapons of mass destruction but denies it, and second, it will and has sold such weapons to an illegal government. This is the regime we trust, the regime now whose president, Shimon Peres, is the very man that arranged for the sale.

This is the regime our president must avoid offending lest it be forced to join the nuclear non-proliferation agreement he and the United Nations wishes to exist in the MidEast. This is the regime we must placate by protesting "the grave dangers of Syria's transfer of weapons to Hizbullah... transferring weapons to these terrorists... which pose a serious threat to the security of Israel ... We do not accept such provocative and destabilizing behavior -- nor should the international community," said Hillary Clinton in April.

Hypocritically, this is the regime the United States Department of State provides with billions of dollars worth of military weapons yearly that it uses in such illegal ways as the invasion of Gaza, declaring it was defending itself, when in fact it killed in one minute by one missile on the UN school more Gazan civilians than all the rockets fired legally from their occupied land by insurgents since 2000. And this is Israel's only defence, its right to defend itself.

Who are the terrorists? Why does the United States defend this terrorist state? What laws does the US abide by? The laws as dictated by Israel or the laws as negotiated and agreed upon by the community of nations through the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Court of Justice. Why, if Israel has done no wrong in this latest of incidents, why does it not present its case before the ICJ and demonstrate to the world that it was right and the international community wrong? What has Israel to fear except the loss of fear by its citizens. And what we may ask does America have to gain by joining the united nations in their call, their demand for justice, an independent investigation (not one conducted by the Israeli military since they, argues our Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs PJ Crowley are the best to undertake such an investigation, because they are the most knowledgeable about the matter; how true and how absurd!) that can attest to the reliability of the Israeli accounts and assert whose rights were denied?

Why does Israel have such a difficult time existing without fear and victimhood in the MidEast? Perhaps the Zionist mindset that finds itself alienated from its brothers and sisters around the world because it has created a nation baptized in blood, stealth, theft, and deception must fear the unveiling of its lies and the eruption of the world's communities to the injustice it has inflicted on the hapless Palestinians and continues to inflict by cementing them behind massive walls of fear and depriving them of a modicum of compassion and brotherly love. Perhaps it is time for Israel to consider that to fester as a boil inside the MidEast, distrusted and isolated, bodes ill for their future and the future of their best friend, the United States, that has supported them blindly these past 63 years. Perhaps for the sake of that friendship they might consider justice for the Palestinians and peace for the world.

* The writer is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California.