Thursday, June 09, 2011

Israel in the 21st Century (Part 1)

A Tale of Two Wars
Irresponsible leaders take refuge in philosophy and chase after theories of history, rather than keeping the rain from leaking through the roof.
Daniel Greenfield
Monday, February 13, 2012
There are two possible conflicts on the table in Washington. One is with Iran and the other with Syria. The Iran conflict is the one that Washington doesn’t want. Its most likely trigger at this stage is an Israeli assault on Iran’s nuclear program. Like most of the wars centering around Israel, this one is existential and of no interest to the philosopher kings in D.C. who wage wars with the grand purpose of making the world a better place.
Washington does not particularly care whether Iran gets nukes or doesn’t get nukes. It cares about History. With a capital H. Libya got bombed because it was on the wrong side of history. Syria is about to get bombed because it’s on the wrong side of history. There are people in the administration like Samantha Power who would like to bomb Israel for being on the wrong side of history, but they don’t think that even J Street and Peter Beinart could spin that as a pro-Israel move.
Being on the right or wrong side of history is one of those topics that primarily interests Islamists and nation builders on the right and the left who subscribe to a progressive version of history. Things don’t just happen, they happen because a country and a people are riding the history escalator up or down, to the top floor of the mall of the world where the cultivated stores like Starbucks, Nordstrom and the now defunct Sharper Image are located, or the bottom where K-Mart, Payless and Gap take up space.
The Arab Spring was on the right side of history because of its transformative qualities. Supporters of it were on the right side of history. Opponents of it needed to be bombed if they were Arab dictators or disinvited from the right cocktail parties if they were merely columnists and analysts. And at the end of it all through the sublime majesty of democracy and people power, the Middle East would look exactly like Europe, but with a more exotic cuisine.
Israel has always been the hedgehog in the soup of Arab democracy, agitating them, empowering their rulers and causing them to distrust Western benevolence. Now Israeli jets threaten to spill the soup of the Arab Spring by bombing Iran, which may reinforce support for Syria, which will hold up the Arab Spring and halt the progressive escalator of history.
Washington needs the Syrian war to happen, and it needs to keep a conflict with Iran from happening. The great diplomatic problem of Israel has always been that its leader insist on viewing conflicts in practical terms. Israel does not fight wars to make the world safe for democracy, it fights wars because there’s someone shooting missiles at it. This is an unacceptable reason for a war in a postmodern world where wars are fought to preserve the international order, protect civilization, make the world safe for democracy and prove that human rights violations will be punished by the duly constituted body of international jurisprudence.
Self-interest is Israel’s original sin. It was the sin that countless titans of the left from H.G. Wells to Lenin berated the Zionists for. Instead of contributing to the welfare of mankind and participating in the international brotherhood of workers, they went off to rebuild a country that existed only in their holy books and stirred up all kinds of trouble doing it. And since they have kept on stirring up trouble, not in the name of some grand idea, but out of their tawdry interest in defending themselves.
With angry Muslims boiling in European cities, Koran touting terrorists blowing up the modern infrastructure of the world’s capitals and turmoil roiling the hundreds of millions of Muslims who still haven’t managed to get refugee status in the UK or the US, the progressive vision is in big trouble and the only solution is to somehow stabilize the situation. Democracy is the only panacea that the progressive prescription plan covers.
Israel’s insistence on a purely existential view is dismissed as selfish and narrow-minded when the Middle East is headed toward a brave new world where nukes no longer matter because no one is angry anymore because there are no more dictators and democracy is everywhere. While the Israelis see the Middle East as basically static, the progressives see the Middle East as constantly on the verge of a great leap forward to a new more enlightened age.
As a result any affinity between the neoconservatives and Israeli leaders was always going to be limited. The neoconservatives were impressed by Israel’s modernism, but they assumed that it could be copied over to their neighbors and came to resent Israel as an obstacle for not playing a more meaningful role in their grand theory of history. While outwardly the progressives see Israel as very modern, they reject it for not possessing the most vital element of modernism. Transnationalism.
While Israel has more than its share of leftists, its animating philosophy is an ethnic nationalism that is repugnant to the transnationalist. They can find no meaningful globally applicable philosophy that defines its success. Like Japan, Israel is a self-contained wonder. It is a nation, not a philosophy. Its identity is rooted in an infuriating recent and ancient history. It is modern in defiance of the progressive understanding of history—which is why its technology, its human rights and its basic decency are dismissed.
The Arab Spring seems to be everything that Israel is not, a transnational transformation, the soul of Europe invested in a Middle Eastern body. A great leap forward that will lift the region out of its backward fanaticism and move the world closer to the modern place it ought to be. Then with some selective sanctions in Asia, laptops for every child in Africa, and some really good books on human potential, the entire world will be just like the European Union. If Israel doesn’t louse it up this time.
The progressive philosopher-kings aren’t stupid, their knowledge of history is. They believe that their wonderful system was not the product of a civilization, but of political protesters demanding change. If the political protesters demanding change are similarly empowered in the Muslim world, then they will end up with the same results.
To the left a theory of history in which a humanitarian society is created through the overthrow of the status quo makes perfect sense. To the American liberal right, a similar theory favoring democracy as the key element has almost as much appeal. Both agree on the notion that if their native process is exported, then the results will be the same.
There’s a certain kind of technocratic sensibility to it, that if you build the same machines and use the same recipe, then anyone can make Coca Cola. Which is true, except that people in different parts of the world prefer versions of Coca Cola that taste differently. Exporting the process of democracy does not export the outcome of democracy. It only helps the local create the sort of government they really want. Egypt and Tunisia have already shown us what kind of government that is.
Washington is not interested in Israel’s selfish need to be nuked. It isn’t in this for existential reasons and it doesn’t see why Israel should be either. If the United States can sacrifice thousands of lives for the greater good to promote peace, tolerance and respect for international law, then why can’t Israel risk a few million lives, especially when there are foreign policy experts who will explain slowly and distinctly to the dunces in Jerusalem why it is very unlikely that Iran will actually detonate a nuclear bomb.
Israeli leaders have a diminishing interest in grand theories of history arising from DC or Brussels. Small nations can’t afford grand theories of history. They make do with keeping the rain from leaking through the roof. The Israelis aren’t interested in another war, which is exactly why they want to launch a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program. In response Iran’s terrorist proxies will do their part by shelling Israeli towns and villages, but that’s part of life. Not the good part, but the part about living in a region overrun by terrorist militias that anyone can sponsor for a dollar.
They are often stupid, but they are rarely stupid in the way that American and European leaders are stupid. Israel can’t afford its own version of Blair, Sarkozy or Obama. The closest thing to them, Shimon Peres, was quickly voted out despite wearing the cloak of martyrdom and has been relegated to a ceremonial office which allows him to explain his vision of the New Middle East dominated by nanotechnology and free trade zones to foreign visitors who are impressed by this visionary.
When Israel looks at Syria, it doesn’t see a potential gateway to regional progress, it sees a local civil war backed by its neighbors, which will result in instability and one side or the other gaining Syria as a pawn. It sees Assad’s weapons stockpiles ending up in the hands of terrorists, terrorists flocking to fight in the civil war, and it even sees Alawite refugees desperate enough to flee across the border. What it does not see is the glowing symbols of the Arab Spring.
And when it looks at Iran, it doesn’t see a rogue state, it just sees a bunch of fanatics about to get their hands on nuclear weapons. And time running out in which their efforts can be aborted or at least slowed down. It will do something about it not because it wants to change the region or advance human civilization, but because it knows the exact casualty count from a nuclear detonation over Tel Aviv.
Washington desperately doesn’t want anything interrupting its rush to war in Syria. Jerusalem has run out of patience and will go it alone in Iran. The consequences aren’t unpredictable and won’t be much fun. But that is also the difference between responsible and irresponsible leadership. Responsible leaders can take a hit now to avoid much worse consequences down the road. Irresponsible leaders take refuge in philosophy and chase after theories of history, rather than keeping the rain from leaking through the roof.
Daniel Greenfield is a New York City based writer and freelance commentator. “Daniel comments on political affairs with a special focus on the War on Terror and the rising threat to Western Civilization. He maintains a blog at
Daniel can be reached at:
Gaza: A View From the Ground
A South African Perspective
By Prof. Patrick Bond
URL of this article:
Global Research, June 8, 2011
Socialist Project
Here in Palestine, disgust expressed by civil society reformers about Barack Obama's May 19 policy speech on the Middle East and North Africa confirms that political reconciliation between Washington and fast-rising Arab democrats is impossible.
Amidst many examples, consider the longstanding U.S. tradition of blind, self-destructive support for Israel, which Obama has just amplified. Recognizing a so-called ‘Jewish state’ as a matter of U.S. policy, he introduced a new twist that denies foundational democratic rights for 1.4 million Palestinians living within Israel. For a Harvard-trained constitutional lawyer to sink so low on behalf of Zionist discrimination is shocking. For although Obama mentioned the “1967 lines” as the basis for two states and thereby appeared to annoy arch-Zionist leader Benjamin Netanyahu, this minimalist United Nations position was amended with a huge caveat: ‘with land swaps.’
Obama thus implicitly endorses illegal Israeli settlements (with their half-million reactionary residents) that pock the West Bank, confirming its status as a Bantustan for 2.5 million people, far more fragmented than even the old South African homelands. Another 1.6 million suffer in the isolated Gaza Strip.
Obama also claimed, “America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator,” stretching credulity.
The Arab Spring Gets In The Way
“He was with the dictators until the very last minute,” rebuts Ramallah-based liberation activist Omar Barghouti, regarding both Tunisia's Ben-Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. “He's missed the point of the Arab Spring. It's not just about the street vendor, it is about social justice. The pillage of the resources of the region by the U.S. has to come to an end.”
Resource extraction and Israeli empowerment explain Obama's recent flirtation with unreformable Libyan and Syrian tyrannies, as well as ongoing U.S. sponsorship of brutal regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. So it was impossible for the U.S. president to avoid a subtle confession: “There will be times when our short-term interests don't align perfectly with our long-term vision of the region.”
“There will be times”? That's the understatement of the year, considering “short-term interests” reflect the corrupted character of corporate-purchased U.S. politicians. (Obama needs to raise $1-billion to finance his re-election campaign next year.) Pursuit of such narrow interests gets Washington into perpetual trouble, including bolstering Israeli aggression, becoming dependent upon oil from despotic regimes, and dogmatically imposing free-market ideology on behalf of U.S.-dominated multinational capital.
I am witnessing the results firsthand in Gaza and the West Bank, and was lucky to even get here, for last Tuesday, the day after I arrived at the main regional airport in TelAviv (with my white skin, multiple passports and non-Muslim surname), my friend Na'eem Jeenah also tried to enter Israel en route to Palestine with South African papers. For four hours the Israeli border police detained Jeenah, a Johannesburg leader of the Palestine Solidarity Committee. Intervention by concerned SA diplomats couldn't appease immigration officials, who forced him to board a flight to Istanbul where he waited for another day before returning home.
Apartheid – Israeli Style
South Africans who get through immigration invariably confirm conditions here that deserve the label ‘Israeli apartheid.’ Last month, Judge Richard Goldstone's reputation-wrecking reversal on the UN Goldstone report, regarding the Israeli army's intentional killing of Gaza civilians during the January 2009 “Operation Cast Lead” invasion, cannot disguise 1400 dead, of which no more than half were Hamas-aligned officials.
That massacre was, according to Israeli journalist Amira Hass, a chance for the army to practice high-tech urban warfare against a caged populace, replete with white phosphorous, combat robots, drones and other terror weapons.
Erez (Gaza border) protest on Nakba day, 15 May 2011.
Just as I crossed Gaza's northern Erez border post last Friday, Israeli Defense Force soldiers fired on unarmed marchers who are Palestine's unique contribution to the Arab Spring, leaving two wounded. The Sunday before, tens of thousands of these brave people, especially refugees, mobilized using FaceBook and walked to several 1967 lines, resulting in fifteen murders by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.
Along with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions non-violent struggle against Israeli power, this Satyagraha-style movement, adopting strategies and tactics pioneered in Durban, South Africa by Mahatma Gandhi a century ago, must strike fear in the hearts of TelAviv securocrats. No longer can they portray their enemies as rocket-launching Islamic fundamentalists who worship Osama bin Laden.
What I also learned from Palestinian civil society activists is that the pillaging of this region by the West is being planned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, following similar support to dictators last year – though with unintended consequences! – in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
Evidence includes two documents presented by the IMF and World Bank to an April 13 Brussels donor conference, spelling out Palestine's wretched economic fate in technocratic terms. The IMF insists on lower
civil service wages, electricity privatization, subsidy cuts and a higher retirement age. The World Bank advocates a free-trade regime which will demolish the tiny manufacturing base.
In his speech last Thursday, Obama endorsed an IMF/Bank document on the regional economy to be tabled at this week's G8 meeting of industrial powers in France. Although Washington promised $1-billion in debt relief, it comes with conditions such as “supporting financial stability, supporting financial modernization and developing a framework for trade and investment relations with the EU and the USA.”
Go ahead and snigger, but absurd as this sounds in the wake of the recent U.S.-centred world financial meltdown, Obama's gift is actually an “attempted bribe of the Egyptian democratic revolution,” says Barghouti. In any case there is another $33-billion of Mubarak's “Odious Debt” yet to be cancelled, and reparations to be paid.
Concludes Barghouti, “If anything, the U.S. has played a very negative role. The best thing Obama can do for the region is leave it alone. We've seen U.S. democracy-building in Afghanistan and Iraq, so no thank you.”
The Great Error of Israeli Normalization
The Camp David Accords, jewel of the normalization crown, have proven to be worthless
Daniel Greenfield
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Israel has celebrated its 63rd independence day, but it is a hollow celebration in a country that is less independent than it has been in decades. Rather than working within regional and global realities, its leaders instead fanatically pursue normalization and stabilization.
But normalcy and stability are illusions in the Middle East, as the past few months have reminded us.
Pursuing stability with unstable regimes is doomed from the start. Normalization relies on peace achieved through agreements with Arab leaders. But such agreements are always hostage to the corruption of the Arab governments and their desperate need for bigoted populism. Even an agreement with the relatively stable Egypt was not able to outlast a single government. The less stable Palestinian Authority breaks agreements as soon as it signs them.
The Camp David Accords, jewel of the normalization crown, have proven to be worthless
The Camp David Accords, jewel of the normalization crown, have proven to be worthless. The Oslo Accords were discredited in far less time than that. Had Israel given in to pressure and exchanged the Golan Heights for a peace treaty with Syria—that agreement would no longer be worth the paper it was written on. And yet in January, the Obama Administration was aggressively pushing Israel to turn over the Golan Heights, for which so many IDF soldiers gave their lives, for exactly that.
Arab leaders don’t understand the Western obsession with treaties. Nor do they consider them to be binding in any way. To them an accord or an agreement is nothing but a statement of their interests, which becomes obsolete the moment their interests change. There is no such thing as a permanent peace agreement that binds nations and peoples. All treaties with Arab leaders are signed with individuals and their families. They do not represent any permanent reconciliation or normalization. That can only be achieved through intermarriage and complete cultural blending.
Arabs view the Israeli pursuit of peace as insecurity
Arabs view the Israeli pursuit of peace as insecurity. When Israel talks about how much it wants peace, it loses face. The Arabs view such talk as a sign of weakness, an admission of guilt by thieves who now want to strike a bargain to avoid what’s coming to them, or a disingenuous claim to cover up plans for war.
The culture of the Shouk, the middle-eastern bazaar, is the bluff and the mind game. To assert a lie confidently is to strengthen your bargaining position, to speak the truth softly is to be thought a liar. Everyone knows what they want, but no one comes right out and says it. No one but a tourist or a sucker. If you come out and say that you want peace, then you’re either a sucker, a coward or looking for an excuse to start a war. Arab states assume all three things about Israel. Often at the same time. Because our behavior confuses them as badly as they confuse us.
Israel demonstrates superior force and then sues for peace. It surrenders to terrorists and then it bombs them. It retreats and then talks about a permanent settlement. Arab behavior often looks crazy to outsiders, but our behavior looks much more crazy to them. We think that they say one thing and do another. They think the same thing about us. And with good cause.
Arab leaders speak the language of the region. Israeli leaders speak some bizarre Western dialect that is foreign to the region and its sensibilities. Arab leaders assume that foreign diplomats who don’t understand that what they say isn’t what they mean are either idiots or being disingenuous. Confused? You’re now an honorary diplomat. And Western emissaries either end up believing everything they hear to not believing anything they hear. But their problem is that they confuse the poetry of the words with the content of the message.
Israel pursuing the mirage of permanent peace and brotherhood is one of the dumber things they have ever encountered. There is no such thing in the region. The Arabs hate the Persians. The Sunnis hate the Shiites. The Egyptians hate the Saudis. Bedouin clans that live side by side for centuries have blood feuds that have gone on for centuries. Look at Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, any Arab country under a microscope and you see a whirling mass of smaller entities who only stop fighting when a stronger force gets in the way.
Everyone in the Middle East hates everyone else, and will go on feeling that way until the end of time
Everyone in the Middle East hates everyone else, and will go on feeling that way until the end of time. The only way to stop your neighbor from cutting your throat, stealing your car or making off with your daughter—is to threaten to do the same thing to him. And worse.
Israeli leaders of another generation understood this regional reality. But the distance between the men who drained the swamps and fought bandits, and the men who live enclosed in the massive population density of the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area, up there with London, Moscow, Tokyo and Rio De Janiero, has grown too great. They are intimately familiar with Tel Aviv, Paris and Brussels. But they have no understanding whatsoever of the people they live among.
Urbanization in civilizations means that the people who have the most awareness of an external threat, are cut off from the centers of power. Too many Israelis have come to think of Arabs as people like them who happen to speak a different language. Cousins they just don’t get along with. Few would have been stupid enough to make that mistake seventy years ago. But insularity, multicultural propaganda and the popularity of surface elements of Arab culture have made it ubiquitous.
The New Middle East is a fairy bubble born out of that myth
The New Middle East is a fairy bubble born out of that myth. And no matter how many times it bursts, there are still those who chase after it.
There can be no permanent peace or normalization with the Arab world, except within the context of regional realities. Those realities are that Arab leaders are obligated to publicly hate Israel, while privately cooperating on issues of mutual interest. Any written treaty is worthless, but oral agreements can work, so long as they benefit both sides. The Arab Street will go on hating Israel, as they have hated religious minorities and anyone who is different from them in any way. There will be no brand new Middle East, just the same old one as before.
The difference between the Middle East as it was and as it is, is window dressing. These are still borderline feudal societies with the important families controlling the land and the government. And the peasants having barely enough to tie their shoes together with. The Arab world consists of ramshackle post-colonial governments run by powerful families. The parliaments and ministers, the bureaucrats and officers, are generally the sons of powerful families, their nephews, distant cousins, and anyone else who can be counted on to be loyal to the tribe. Whether the men at the top call themselves sheiks or colonels, they rely on the support of that oligarchy, and rule through some combination of bribery and armed force. The Arab Spring is nothing more than prominent families and religious factions fighting it out for supremacy.
If Israel is to survive in the Middle East, it will only be able to do by accepting those realities, and maintaining its existence by demonstrating and using the power it has. The only normalcy and stability it can have is that the Arabs will accept that it is not going anywhere. Something that had already been accomplished in the late seventies, only to be trashed by bleeding heart leftists in the nineties. Only by making it clear that it will not be destroyed, undermined or bullied into giving up, will that reassert itself.
The State of Israel exists in a violent and unstable part of the world
The State of Israel exists in a violent and unstable part of the world. That violence will be part of its reality for as long as it is there. There should be no more land for peace or peace initiatives of any kind. They do far more harm than good. Like any bad neighborhood, the only thing to do is secure your property, keep watch over it, move along anyone who doesn’t belong there, and keep a weapon handy at all times. Only then can you reach a limited understanding with the local gangs and even gain their respect. That is the regional reality. You don’t achieve regional normalization by signing a few accords and turning over some land. Instead you do it by turning your presence into an indisputable fact. And if you work with that regional reality, then the regional reality will work with you.
Also See:
Israel! Israel! What are You Doing in Palestine?
27 December 2008
Israel and Iran - Who will Bomb Who First?
21 July 2010
Israeli Navy Kill Unarmed Peace Activists!
03 June 2010