Thursday, March 18, 2010

Insulting America

I know this is going to earn me the ire of lots of people who insist that Israel can do no wrong, and that Jews must support Israel no matter what it does, but I find Israel’s continued building and/or expanding settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and its slap in the face to Vice President Joe Biden infuriating.

Israel isn’t a stupid country, or a country of stupid people. Things don’t just happen. The announcement of the Israeli decision to build hundreds of new apartments for Jews in Arab East Jerusalem on the day of Vice President Biden’s arrival in Israel to promote peace talks between Israel and Palestine was a deliberate act. Whether it was perpetrated by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu or by one of his enemies in the government hoping to embarrass him, I can’t say and I don’t care. Israel seems to assume it can do what it wants and America will simply fall in line. And they may be right.

Diplomacy aside, if I had been Joe Biden, I would have cancelled all talks with Israeli government officials, and met exclusively with Palestinian leaders and those Israelis from the human rights and peace ends of the political spectrum. And, if I were President Obama I would have sent the Israeli Prime Minister a note saying that the United States is done playing games with Israel, that we are putting a freeze on all aid monies until real progress has been made in bringing Israeli policy into alignment with the US position on settlements. Why should the United States fund policies we consider antithetical to our own interests and the interests of peace in the Middle East?

Yes I know Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. So what? And what kind of democracy is it? The theocratic nature of Israeli democracy is troubling; the second-class status of Israel’s Arab citizens is troubling; and the very idea that there are roads for Jews only and buses in which women must ride in the back smack of anything but democracy. And even if Israel were perfectly democratic, the US makes friends with lots of anti-democratic countries. It isn’t a country’s political system that matters to us, but whether or not it can serve our over-all strategic objectives. This is how politics works: you pay off your friends as long as they do what you want them to do, and threaten your enemies until they are willing to be bought off as friends. Or, if that doesn’t work, you bomb the shit out of them.

On a similar note: sometimes politically correct is simply politically stupid. Case in point: the decision by the US government not to fly the US flag over US compounds providing aid to Haiti so as not to drag up anti-American sentiment by reminding Haitians of all the times we actually invaded their country. Look, if the Haitians don’t want our help, fine. We can take our 12,000 troops home. If they do want it, then we have the right to fly our flag.

The same thing happened in Kuwait in 1991 when we agreed to cover up all images of the US flag. We were just a bunch of people armed to the teeth risking our lives for the sake of Kuwaitis who could have hired Blackwater to defend them against Saddam Hussein.

Come on. I have no problem saying when the US is wrong—in Afghanistan and Iraq for example, but this doesn’t mean I should sit back and ignore it when we are being insulted.


Raksha said...

Great post! I have no problem pointing out when the U.S. is wrong either, and also no problem pointing out when Israel is wrong. This latest faux pas was not only wrong but incredibly stupid, and as you pointed out-- Israel isn't a stupid country. There is never an excuse for Jews anywhere to be stupid!

Rabbi Rami said...

I just heard that some militant Muslim group in Gaza has sent a third rocket strike into Israel just as the EU has sent an advisor to Gaza to talk peace. There are people on both sides that simple have no desire to make peace.

Raksha said...

I'm truly sorry to hear that. The timing couldn't possibly be worse, considering the sympathy Gaza is getting from everyone, including the progressive Jewish community. But I guess whoever has been shooting those rockets knows that.

Ibrahimblogs said...

I love this post. I admire your straightforwardness. Keep speaking up!!

This is Ibrahim from Israeli Uncensored News

Halle said...

Thought you'd be interested in this, which came to my inbox today:

I sigh heavily thinking about all the politics behind the politics...Would love your take on it.
Halle in Cleveland

Halle said...

Sorry, it didn't seem to take the whole URL in my last post. Trying again:

Peter said...

There are a lot of Jews in Israel, and many who made aliyah consider Israel a haven against anti-semitism. These two facts alone make Israel more than just another country to me. But when all is said and done, Israel is a country and as such it is subject to the same criteria of criticism as any other.

Yehuda L. Oppenheimer said...

This is a ridiculous, one-sided, far left take on the matter, as is most of what "Rabbi Rami" writes.

The fact is that the great "insult" of building apartments in Jerusalem, not a settlement, something that was agreed to long before and by every Israeli government (and tacitly by every American government until now), was not intentionally released by Netanyahu, and was aplologized for. The truth is, the only mistake that Israel made in that affair is aplogizing at all.

Israel has the right to build in Jerusalem. Period. This was not even a matter in question until this trumped up pretext.

And what the hell have the Palesinians done to further the peace process?? Name ONE committment they kept. Name ONE step they have taken towards peace. All that they have done during that same Biden visit is to publicly honor a disgusting terrorist who killed over thirty people as a great hero, with Mahmoud Abbas enthusiastically joining in.

How generous of Rami to admit when the US when the US is wrong, by which he means the previous administration, while refusing to see the extreme anti Israel bias of Obama and his cohorts. The hypocrisy and the double standard applied here are amazing

. said...

RavRam Yakar

OK you've provided your now we won't accuse you of dual loyalty...there's a good boy

but in terms of the semantics and semiotics of muddled east reportage, why are there Jewish settlements vs Palestinian towns and villages?? Shouldn't that be Jewish villages and Moslem villages, so that like identities are compared with like identities? Or Israeli villages vs Palestinian villages? So that two competing national identities are made overt..."Jewish settlements" is a loaded term implying both colonisation, impermanence and non-nationhood,,,,and given that most Palestinians are Moslem, why not then refer to Gaza as a Moslem colony, established in the great waves of Islamic conquest and subjugation in the 7th century....

Of course it could be said that Israeli Jews returning to Hebron are not colonists evicting an indigenous population, but rather the descendants of an indigenous poulation claiming thie "right of return" to the lands of their foremothers...if Pallywood has co-opted the term diaspora, and adopted our victimology as their own, let us co-opt thier terms...what about the Jewish right of return to Schemma and Hevron, Shiloh and Jericho? is there a statute of limitations on dispossession?

After all Jews had lived in Hebron for 1000s of years until the 1929 riots drove them out forcefully...the problem is that there are two competing narratives here, two competing stories, both currently rather triumphalist in their orientation...but certainly the Islamic supremacism inherent in the Hamas Hizballah ideology must be exposed and brought into the public debate, as much as the (for me) unattractive and narrow (but quite vigorous, because serves as a vehicle to commitment) Jewish supremacism of many Israelis living in the most radical towns and villages of Judah and Samaria (and look how I have to translate into the language of the cultural colonisers because if I say Yehuda and Shomron I risk being unintelligible)

. said...

Finally a disclaimer: the reason I do not live in Israel is because of the religion of resentment that is worshipped by too many Israelis, paricularly those who are identified with the national-religious "larger-Israel" camp... who see possession of land and symbolic religious sites as an end in itself...and who physically attack Israeli Jews who think differently from them..and who do not acknowledge their responsibility to build frameworks which facilitate Moslem Israelis greater participation in the life of the state...assumptions of disloyalty will only create disloyalty in a cycle of vicious self fulfilling prophecies