Eyeless in Gaza: Some thoughts on that “special relationship”

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by Rich Broderick • During the presidential campaign there was much talk about how in the early days of the new Administration some foreign power would cook up a crisis to “challenge” an inexperienced Barak Obama. As to who the foreign power might be, top candidates included Russia, North Korea, and Iran, with Venezuela, Cuba or some other lesser nation-state as outside possibilities.

But now we know where the challenge was going to come from – and we didn’t even have to wait until January 20th to find out: our “closest ally” in the Middle East (if not the entire world), that “special friend” we are ready to defend to the death.

Israel.

In tossing down the gauntlet with its assault on Gaza and drive to overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government, Israel has demonstrated that – far from inexperienced or naïve – Mr. Obama is well versed in the protocol of American policy in the Middle East. In responding – or not responding – to Israel’s latest push to rid Palestine of those pesky Palestinians, Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he knows enough not to grasp the true third-rail of American politics and say or do or perhaps even allow himself to think anything that might, in any shape or form, be construed as critical of Israeli actions, no matter how atrocious, no matter how criminal.

For decades, the U.S. has been urging the Arab nations to “normalize” their relationship with Israel, but if the past few days have proven anything – beyond Israel’s well-established goal of creating a desert and calling it peace – it is that Mr. Obama probably has no intention of attempting to normalize this country’s relationship with Israel, meaning he is unlikely to treat Israel like any other sovereign nation and enforce such legal niceties as U.S. laws forbidding the use of U.S. armaments against civilian populations or U.S. policies opposing Israeli settlement on land it has stolen from the Palestinians or press for U.S. objectives concerning the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

It’s no mystery why. The dynamics of the U.S.-Israeli relationship are of a sick dependency relationship in which the ostensibly weaker party – Israel – controls the ostensibly stronger party, in this case the U.S.

This disparity is not at all unusual in such relationships. After all, the weaker party’s very survival depends on the actions of the stronger party. It is in the interest of the weaker party to know its stronger partner better than the partner knows himself – and to know exactly how to get that partner to do whatever is wanted.

Yet a third leg propping up this self-destructive dependency relationship is the avarice of the American defense industry which profits mightily from a three -way transactional flow in which the U.S. hands Israel billions in aid – our tax money – which Israel then turns over to U.S. defense contractors for weapons, ammunition, D9 Caterpillar tractors (the instrument of choice for demolishing Palestinian homes, with or without Palestinian civilians trapped inside), fighter jets, and so on.

In the peculiar moral universe this dynamic creates, everything is turned upside down. Right is wrong, black is white. Hamas is a terrorist organization that has been targeting Israeli civilians with crude rocketry. Israel is the victim in need of succor and unquestioning support, even though it initiated a blockade of Gaza once its residents made the mistake of electing a Hamas government (in elections international monitors declared free and fair — so much for bringing democracy to the Middle East!), and such blockades have long been recognized as an act of war, just as is the kidnapping and assassination of foreign officials – both actions taken by Israel against the Hamas government. Things are so off the rails that even thuggish “humor” like a high-ranking Likud official’s crack about putting the residents of Gaza “on a diet” – i.e., starve them into submission – manages not to prick the conscience of America’s political and media elites.

At the moment, there is probably very little we ordinary citizens can do to break the stranglehold this “special relationship” holds over American policy in the Middle East. We can demonstrate, certainly, and write or email our Congressional delegation (though why anyone would waste time trying to communicate with Amy Klobuchar is a mystery to me). Better still, we can offer our financial support to organizations dedicated to bringing some degree of sanity – and humanity – into the situation. Two of my favorites are Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org) and The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (www.icad.org).

Both are grassroots organizations; both need our help.