by James Brooks
March 10, 2003
We're told today's peace movement is the first mass effort in US history to stop a war before it starts. And it's true the opposition has mushroomed impressively, thanks especially to hard organizing work by activists throughout the country. Yet despite our instant Web sites and our listservs, our e-mail alerts and our digital petitions, we are tragically late in waking up to the reality of US war on the Middle East: It has already begun, and it has been raging for decades.
Even if we can stop this latest escalation of the war, as a movement we have yet to grasp its scope, its history, even the true identities of its combatants and victims. And that is why we are fighting a desperate, rearguard action today, trying to head off the massacre of Iraq.
The road to the illegal US occupation of Iraq began years ago, with our support for Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The madness we face now, the vilification of Arabs, defiance of international law, plans for indefinite occupation of another country, denial of Arab land rights; all these delusions have deep roots, twisted in the dark subsoil of America's alliance with Israel. The US has been waging a long-escalating war on Arab interests for strategic control of the Middle East. And Israel has nearly always been at the vanguard.
Of course, this is not a popular interpretation of the facts. In fact, to recognize this reality is to touch the "third rail" of US politics in foreign affairs. Veterans of Congress note that you can't make more powerful enemies more quickly than by expressing support for the Palestinians. It takes guts to go out and say stuff like that. So we've heard precious little from the victims, shot with American bullets from American guns, who could clearly explain the link between US imperialism and Israeli policy.
Given the bleak consequences of speaking the truth, it's far more convenient for politicians to agree that the "conventional wisdom" regarding the "Arab-Israeli conflict" is about as close as we can get to the truth. And, wouldn't you know it, the media are less than a hairsbreadth away from being in complete agreement.
When we marched by the hundreds of thousands against war on Iraq, only to find our numbers divided by ten in the next day's newspaper or NPR report - when there were reports! - we each got a small, foul taste of what the news business is up to every day, while we are asleep.
If they lied to you about Iraq, and Central America, and Southeast Asia, and every other war we ever fought, do you think they're going to tell you the truth about our proxy war on Palestine? Forget about it. If you haven't at least read up on it from the Palestinian point of view, you, as an American, are likely to know as much about Palestine as Bush's dead-eyed disciples know about Basra.
It is this giant national blind spot that encouraged our neglect of this terrible war until it got almost completely out of control. It prevents us from seeing Bush's intended conquest of Iraq for what is actually is; the re-opening of the Eastern Front, a major escalation of America's Big Game in the Middle East. Blind to our deep complicity in the long-raging Western Front against Palestine, many of us did not understand the lengths to which US power would go to acquire the local real estate.
Those who doubt that Israel wages war on the Palestinian Territories should consult international law, starting under "O" for "occupation". Then they should explain why the settlement population has doubled since Israel signed the Oslo Peace Accords. If this is not war, why are the Israel "Defence" Forces systematically destroying the infrastructure of Palestine as we speak? Why is the following repugnant policy more popular than ever in Israel today, and why does the Israeli government explicitly refuse to repudiate it?
"Transfer [of Palestinians] is what will make possible a comprehensive Jewish settlement programme. Jewish power will increase our possibilities to carry out the transfer on a large scale."
-- Zionist leader David Ben Gurion, 1937
This is ethnic cleansing. And it it is tragically succeeding in Palestine today, with active US support. (1)
Those who doubt that this is America's war should consider its enduring US sponsorship. It's hard to miss, blind-spotted or not. Why else would Israel get the biggest chunk of US foreign and military aid, year after year? Because wars of attrition take time, and a lot of money. Why else has the US vetoed every serious effort by the UN Security Council to solve or moderate the "conflict"? After decades of over-the-top support for Israel's war, isn't it obvious that it's our war, too? Would the heart of US power fix so firmly on such a bad idea, unless it were vital to its larger strategy? These people do not make wars to satisfy popular demand. I'm sure you've noticed.
Consider the policy changes the US and Israel are engineering at this very moment, while the world is focused on Iraq. Ariel Sharon stood "committed" to a "modified road map to peace" and a Palestinian state. On that platform he formed a government limited to the most hard-right and hands-on of the militant Zionists, the very spearthrowers of Israeli expansionism. And as soon as his new junta was declared official, he announced that, too bad, his new allies will not accept his "commitments". So there will be no Palestinian state, and no "road map", either. Tanks do not require roads.
Why would Bush, who supposedly made history by advocating a Palestinian state, accept this? Because to him, "Palestinian state" means about the same thing as "compassionate conservatism" - an empty phrase that gets you by, until you don't need it anymore. How else to explain the outcome of his actual policy, the last two years of unending hell in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? What was the main import of his famous "vision for peace" speech? Answer: It staked out the US claim to disenfranchise the Palestinian people. Why did the White House let Colin Powell play peacemaker-of-the-month last spring, then undercut him every step of the way? To prove that it will never work?
Speaking of things that never work: Why have more than three decades of US "peacemaking" proven such an unmitigated failure? We clearly hold every last card in the deck, yet we simply can not get the parties to agree? A schoolchild could see through this ruse, yet it is the essence of American conventional wisdom on the Middle East.
In reality, the Western Front has always been the spearpoint for American interests in the region. Propped up by our massive aid, Israel projects US power-by-proxy in the Middle East, at many strategic levels. It thoroughly dominates its Arab neighbors with weapons of mass destruction, even more so than the US dominates the world. Israel provides a forward base par excellence for US military and intelligence activity. The two nations have grown so close, they are now virtually joined at the hip. Israel now enjoys unprecedented access to the highest levels of US military and intelligence planning, making even the British jealous of its unique inside track in Washington.
There are other, less tangible aspects to Israel's strategic importance to US power, ones coming to the fore today. One is Israel's inexhaustible utility as an excuse to fight the war on terror. Like a fist thrust into the gut of Arab and Islamic self-respect, Israel is the ultimate provocation, the bait that draws the prey. Israel is like a wild one-eyed jack up our sleeve, handy to have whenever the "terror card" must be played.
Closely related is the utility of Israel's endemic anti-Arab racism. We Americans have not have imbibed a half-century of pro-Israel propaganda without also swallowing a few gallons of subtle, and not-so-subtle, anti-Arab and anti-Islamic ideology. Those who think the current hysteria started with September 11 have simply been looking at the blind spot. Contingency plans to round up Arabs in America and throw them in detention camps have been around since the Reagan administration. Secret evidence, illegal deportation, and the suspension of due process are nothing new; the Federal government has been quietly using these draconian tools against Palestinians and other Arab activists for years.
However long the Bush administration chooses to fret and mewl about Sharon's latest move, its implicit acceptance will ensure that war and ethnic cleansing will continue, all along the Western Front. Almost as if someone wanted it that way.
If the classic pattern holds, US policy will "grudgingly" adapt to Israel's bold move, just as it has accepted the settlements, the annexation of Jerusalem, the endless anti-civilian warfare, in fact just about anything that extends and deepens the war on the Western Front. Will Ari Fleischer announce someday that "we are forced to accept the difficult reality that the terror will never end as long as Palestinians insist on camping at Israel's doorstep"?
Every tacit acceptance of Israel's theft of Palestinian land and water has been a step down the highway to Baghdad. Every daily suppression of Israel's brutality, every empty denial of its obvious crimes has been another lurch toward today's rampant militarism. We've been looking at blatant apartheid and a war of acquisition and calling it "a Western democracy acting in self-defense." What fertile ground for a godly cynic like Bush!
Because we were blind to our complicity with Israel, we missed our cue way back in the Reign of Reagan, when the Zionists and the most hawkish of today's neo-conservatives began to mingle their venom in earnest.
And because we never stood up for Palestine, we didn't stand up for our own democracy. After years of placidly swallowing bitter lies about the crushing of Palestine, we've been judged ready to tackle the main course; the war on terror, the disposal of international law, the erosion of our rights for "national security", and the occupation and subjugation of the entire Middle East.
The goal? To finally take direct control of the object of America's Middle East obsession, the glittering prize that blinds us to the humanity of the people who own it: the future of the dwindling global oil supply, the secret to the economic domination of the planet.
Trying to stop the war on Iraq while ignoring the current catastrophe in Palestine is like trying to pull weeds by their tops; it may soothe your nagging conscience for awhile, but the roots of the problem will only grow deeper.
James Brooks of Worcester, Vermont, is an independent researcher, writer, and former business owner. His recent articles have been published by several Web sites covering the Middle East, investigative journalism and alternative politics. Currently Brooks serves as webmaster for Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel and publishes News Links, a free, once-daily (Mon-Sat) e-mail digest of in-depth Middle East news and commentary. To subscribe, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Israeli Military Intelligence commander Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze'evi recently told a Knesset Committee that war on Iraq will "have a moderating effect" on Palestinians, who will fear "Israeli reaction that could lead to a large-scale action such as the occupation of large areas in Gaza or mass expulsions to Lebanon." [emphasis added] 'Intelligence chief promises Iraq war will calm territories, maybe North as well', Ha'aretz English Online, March 5, 2003