The March visit of the Israeli PM to Washington has aroused rapid opposition among Israel’s supporters in Congress as well as Democratic Party activists. At issue is the matter of protocol, not to say, principle. But there is something else afoot, namely, the realization that Netanyahu’s action risks alienating a political base that is increasingly skeptical of Israeli claims, including those about Iran’s nuclear arms that were exposed as false by Israel’s Intelligence agency. Then there was the PM’s analogy between his leadership of Israel in 2015 and that of David Ben-Gurion in 1948, that was rapidly written off by Israeli critics. At bottom, however, is the threat of blowing open the taboo on plain talk about Washington’s relations with Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
US officials understood the Israeli reliance on force to expand and control territory, which they criticized while recognizing Israel’s military superiority as compared to that of surrounding Arab states. It was on the basis of such force that Israel altered the balance of power in the Middle East in 1948. And it was on the basis of such developments that Washington calculated that Israel could be useful in the protection of US regional interests.
[L]et’s face it. It isn’t that we don’t know what happened in 1947-1948. It’s that we’ve chosen not to see or hear anything that jars our thinking on the subject. Certain words and ideas have remained taboo, certain questions have been sidelined as suspect and certain histories – ours and theirs – have been excised, the better to educate us to numbness and indifference. The result is that we prefer to think of Israeli-Arab wars as instances of the much lamented ‘clashes of civilization’ that pit our civilized allies against the violence-prone ‘other,’ As long as our side wins, there is no need to look into the face of the ‘enemy,’ or to ask ourselves why and why again? Admittedly, doing so risks discovering that ‘they’ are like us, which is as disconcerting as learning that what the ‘experts’ have taught us about our history and theirs is often plain wrong, leaving us to discover that deception can be dangerous.
The US and Israel have both been intent on forestalling the appearance of the Palestinian Authority before the UN, in case it succeeded in winning support for its unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence. This is a reversal of history: in 1948, the US regarded the prospect of an Israeli declaration of independence as a threat to its interests in the region, and the State Department, Defence Department and CIA were worried about such an outcome.
What will the Palestinians do at the UN in September? The question appears to haunt Washington and Tel Aviv as they prepare to block Palestinian attempts to obtain UN recognition, as though the very idea of such action represents a form of political impudence that merits the harshest international rejection. Sober accounts by Palestinians of what they may expect from a trip to the UN have done little to allay the dark cloud of suspicion that is fostered in mainstream accounts.
Does history matter? Over the course of the past few months the Obama administration has abandoned its putative efforts to engage Israel and the Palestinians in peace talks after their collapse in the face of Israel’s continued settlement building on the West Bank. At the popular level and in the mainstream media, the response was one of familiar frustration with the allegedly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict… In practice, the core issues have remained the same for over 60 years, with the role of the United States and U.S. interests, including defense industries — major components in perpetuating the conflict — expanding over the course of that period.
There was a revealing interlude in mid-September 2007, when the former Federal Reserve Chair, Alan Greenspan, was quoted in The Washington Post of Sept.17, 2007, as saying that “the removal of Saddam Hussein had been ‘essential’ to secure world oil supplies….” Greenspan’s statement, that “the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil,” apparently shocked the White House, leading an anonymous White House official to explain, “well, unfortunately, we can’t talk about oil.” The former Federal Reserve Chair was already on record as conceding that he was ‘saddened that it was “politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.
The PR war being waged by Israel over coverage of its invasion of Gaza is a critical part of maintaining the US public, if not the US government, in a state of maximal ignorance and above all, indifference, to the meaning of what is taking place in Gaza.