This past week has seen a few major dints into the Israel armory that the Jewish State has attempted (successfully) to be immune from and that is criticism of its policies vis-a-vis the United States. We need no refreshments over the "strategic" alliance between the two states: Israel is the major force that upholds US values and it is the paradigm of democracy and culture in a region of backwardness and barbarism. Concurrently, arming Israel is of great value since all its neighbours are more than willing to destroy democracy because, as Samuel Huntingon famously wrote, it is the "clash of civilisations" and Israel is the only nation that the US (and the West) can identify with, what with all its advanced technology and its superb order of governance and its sublime human rights record (err, scratch that last one.). Because the US is stuck on an ideological battle, the "evil" of Islamic fundamentalism and the terrorism tactic with which they equip themselves with, has to be dislodged, or obliterated, with Israel being the key ally to do the US bidding in that part of the world. It goes without saying that you have to omit the glaring fact that it is Israel's intransigence that is the motivating factor for much of this enmity between the Muslim world and the West.
But we have known that this alliance is rather tenuous, mainly because Israel is under the belief that its treasured seat next to the emperor is under scrutiny, not only because of the high price they pay (in tax dollars and also in weaponry and even with the higher threat of terrorism on the home shores) but because Israel feels that it can be deposed for another key player in the area (ie Iran) to do the job. Also, because of said high price, it leads many of the citizens to question said alliance and whether it would be better to distance themselves from the core factor that generates so much hostility towards the US (and the West), hence making Israel's dream of a greater expansion and a state to their liking all the more bleak. As we have also seen, Israel is not compromising on such a thing.
So what do we get? Espionage. Good old-fashioned espionage. Former CIA official Philip Giraldi blogged that Israel has leaked information about spies in the US. Yes, we recall Jonathan Pollard and as of two years ago, the famed Larry Franklin who was found guilty of spying and leaking classified information to the strategic ally. Now Giraldi comes out with a nugget:
"Now it is investigating a number of US citizens, including an individual who held very senior security positions in the Clinton and Bush White Houses."
A senior security position in both regimes? That is hardcore, juicy stuff. How many people can say that they held a high position in both governments in the past eight to nine years? Now I cannot narrow this down and I will have to rely on other sources to do so for me since I do not have the faculties to do such an exhaustive research but we will have to sit tight on whether this latest investigated will amount to another embarrassing moment for the US and its supposed ally.
What is also important to note in Giraldi's post is the fact that certain "doves" in Olmert's government leaked the information in order to thwart a possible war scenario with Syria and Iran. This is in contrast to what Eitan Haber, who was a Defense Minister's aide (under Yitzhak Rabin) claiming that the leak was to prevent Jonathan Pollard from ever getting a pardon. Now I definitely do not believe that Pollard should get by easily here, especially considering that many do believe that espionage is one of the high crimes anyone can commit (look at Scooter Libby); and consider the fact that this is meant to be a relationship "premised on true friendship". Friends don't spy on friends. That is a relationship premised on distrust. You cannot make a person believe that when you go around, sneaking at classified documents and leaking them to an official who it is not meant for because of security purposes, that this is a "true friendship". Snooping around on your significant other is frowned upon; what do call it when you do it concerning national security?
I is also for Impunity
The Washington Post carried an article related to the approval by Bush for Israel to continue their settlement expansion. Not that they needed approval in the first place but since they did have it they aim to give it a legitimacy that no one in the world has given it. It is condemned by every state (even the United States) and no nation in the world recognises Israel's annexation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. It makes you wonder how they even get away with it all even when the official US position is that Israel has to give these territories up and go back behind that '67 border, if you can even call it that.
Although the piece is littered with US denial, there can be absolutely no doubt that President Bush was the first US President to acknowledge said settlements. In fact, it even quotes Bush as to saying
"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
In effect, the settlement policy has thus been declared a success. In today's world, you do not need UN approval for anything so long as you have US approval (re: Kosovo). If you are backed (continually) by the biggest superpower today, as well as the rest of the EU and Canada and Australia (which usually is in line with whatever the US scuttles), then international law is of less importance. Think about it: you can occupy a people, you can destroy their history and claim that they never existed, you can demolish their homes for pleasure, you can torture their young and their women, you can imprison them without trial, you can bomb them until they want to be bombed again, you can threaten to inflict a bigger "holocaust", you can erect a wall that destroys the farming community and usurp the best land and water for your own illegal zealots backed by the army, and you can do it all with the approval of the purveyor of democracy and human rights in this world.
Of course it is not surprising that we were given the denials. It's more or less a speak-easy: you give tacit approval but say you are against it. The rhetoric is strong but the mettle is spineless. Why haven't we even got one concession (I do not count the removal of 50 pathetic roadblocks as a concession) when the US is meant to be applying pressure to both sides in accordance with the Annapolis agreement? In Henry Siegman's latest piece, he implies what is known by many objective analysts throughout:
"As long as Israel knows that by delaying the peace process it buys time to create facts on the ground that will prove irreversible, and that the international community will continue to indulge Israel's pretense that its desire for a two-state solution is being frustrated by the Palestinians, no new peace initiative can succeed, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people will indeed become irreversible."
Simply put, these peace processes in just another ploy to grab more land and head for the hills (to expel Palestinians). Think about it: do any of them get anywhere? Have we seen any progress since the PLO recognised Israel's right to exist back in 88? Did Oslo change a thing (in the Palestinian narrative)? Did Madrid do anything to alleviate Palestinian purgatory? What about Camp David? The only thing that seems to have changed is the fact that we now have the green light by the Bush administration to continue the belligerency. Referring back to the Post article, it quotes former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his words are an echo to many in this administration as well as previous ones and for others in the future:
"I consistently spoke against settlement growth, but as you know all I could do is talk against it," Powell said. "There would be no consequences and there still aren't."
That's right: all we can do is talk against it. Well, what good is being a representative of the US government if you aren't going to do something about it but talk? Trust me, we've all grown very tired of this talking. We seem to talk and talk about it that it gets so tedious that it becomes another exercise that we succumb to, sort of like the peace processes. What? Israel-Palestine? We revisit every issue. Balfour. Partition. Right of return. Zionism. Six-Day War. Ugh. Haven't you heard enough? Haven't you had enough? Haven't you grown weary when Israel says they will do one thing and then do the exact opposite the next week? How much construction can they approve of at the behest of Rice and Bush? Who is the superpower here?
Over at Philip Weiss's blog, he gives a few reasons that there is "light coming into our lives". I do wish that I could share his optimism but I do have to remind myself that (1) I am not as experienced in these matters as he and (2) I am also not as privileged as he is to have the cornucopia of information that he has encumbered with. In summary, Phil quotes Joel Kovel where he lays out that the "chipping away" is starting to make the Establishment crumble, and the hold they have over the discourse of the issue. The Nakba is getting more and more press (thankfully) and the book written by Walt and Mearsheimer was a major event (as well as Carter's book). Coupled with the charge that the Iraq war is attributed to many Zionists, the atmosphere gives one reason for hope.
And I do not aim to dispel this as all of this is very welcome news. After all, here in Canada, we have the first union to impose a boycott of Israel and that is BIG BIG news. The wording even says "apartheid state" and you can speculate whether that such an accusation would even have taken place were it not for Carter's infamous book.
But you have to be careful and be battle-tested. A great expose by Electronic Intifada has the pro-Israel lobby group CAMERA attempting to thwart Wikipedia from its unbiased stance and even undergoing a very calculated policy that aims to have many pro-Israel moderators managing the website's Israel-Palestine webpages. This is just another part of the Battle for the Internet that I have commented previously on. What is also revealed is a plethora of emails suggesting such an endevour. The propaganda machine is working labouriously to prevent the truth from ever coming out and they want things to go back to the way they were when Israel could do such things and have the world take it with a smile on their face because they suffered the Holocaust. It does not work in today's world of citizen's journalism where anyone with a camera phone can expose crimes. Times are tough when the web works against you and this is Israel's way of evening the playing field.
And while all this positivism is all well and good for those of us who do not bear the brunt of the occupation, people like the Hamdan family will have to find a new house to live in since their's was demolished at the hands of Israel with the IDF looking on (and arresting Jeff Halper). It is good to talk and have open discussions about all of this but what about the people of B'ilin who witnessed a historic Supreme Court decision to re-route the separation wall, only for it to be unmoved eight months later. Akiva Eldar's article also noted that "three other places in the West Bank where the High Court of Justice has ordered" a re-routing has not been altered at all: in the Alfei Menashe region, in Tzofin (Azoun), and Hashmonaim (Na'alin). I'm not even touching the subject of Gaza.
Without the adequate pressure, this is the perfect staging for Israel to continue its spying and its settlement expansion and its impunity. Colin Powell may feel that its enough to speak out against it; but is that really sufficient when there is so much at stake here? All of this talking is too narrow and pathetically hollow. It's no wonder that so many are disheartened by this when all they see is the same old thing.