By YOUSEF DRUMMOND
AMIDST fresh waves of indiscriminate violence between the Israeli military and Hizb’Allah fighters in Lebanon a little over a year ago, I resorted to a simple yet objective experiment. I tuned in to the FOX news cable channel one Saturday evening for some commentary on both sides of the issue. I pretended that I knew nothing about political matters, much like a “blank slate”. None of the FOX news commentators – from Bill O’Reiley to Hannity & Colmes to Oliver North – featured any commentary critical of Israel. None of them entertained any guest that offered any alternative views to the discussion. Then I realized fully what many Americans already know: whenever Israel is the subject of any political debate, there is no debate. Now any right-minded person knows that there are two sides to every issue, but how can anyone make a critical judgment on any serious issue concerning Israel, when only one side is given? How can we, the audience, make judgments on issues concerning Israel whenever political debates on cable news channels are stifled?
One particular issue being debated on “Hannity & Colmes” that Saturday evening was the indiscriminate killing of nearly 60 innocent Lebanese civilians at Qana – many of whom were women and young children - at the behest of the Israeli military. What followed on FOX was a series of apologies from top Israeli spokesmen who drive home simple messages – that Israel, much like the U.S., must protect their nation and its citizens from this “terrorist organization”; that Hizb’Allah fired rockets near the building that housed these innocent civilians who, by most accounts, are too poor to leave the vicinity; and that the U.S. will petition the U.N. for a resolution that will implement an international peace-keeping force once Israel destabilizes Hizb’Allah. But as soon as Mr. Colmes, who represents a liberal tone and who, in theory, balances his views against the conservative Mr. Hannity, asked another host of an American think-tank about a plethora of U.N. resolutions critical of Israel in the eyes of the international community, the Israeli spokesman retorted that Mr. Colmes should stop “playing games”.
The executive branch of the U.S. government, between the years 1972 and 1997, issued 32 vetoes on U.N. resolutions deemed critical of Israel. This record constitutes almost half of U.S. vetoes cast by the United States since the founding of the U.N. Almost certainly Mr. Colmes is aware of this fact; Mr. Hannity knows it too. All 32 vetoes shield Israel from international scrutiny, ranging from unauthorized incursions into territory it previously occupied since 1967 to an explicit condemnation of an Israeli soldier who shot 11 Muslim worshippers at Haram-Al Sharif in the old city of Jerusalem. Adding to this absurdity is the mind-boggling level of direct economic and military assistance from the United States. This space cannot permit me to give details. No nation in recent memory has gotten such special treatment.
John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago Department of Political Science, along with Stephen Walt of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, received a torrent of criticism on this very special treatment soon after publishing a lengthy article about the main glue cementing such a cozy relationship between the United States and Israel – the Israeli Lobby. That they received so much criticism speaks volumes about a topic so taboo among political circles. The only personality that did not remain silent was the actor Mel Gibson, producer of the still controversial epic “The Passion of the Christ”, a picture that blames Jews for crucifying prophet Isa (alihis-salam). Had he been sober, would he have said what he said about the Jews?
Both authors attempt to cancel out military, economic, diplomatic and moral rationales that justify such a cozy relationship. Does the state of Israel need such an enormous infusion of military and economic aid? The authors point out that Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year and, at most estimates, Israel has become a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income that equals that of South Korea or Spain. While other recipients of direct economic assistance receive their share in quarterly installments, Israel receives it entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and is thus able to earn interest on it. Israel is the only recipient that is not bound to account for how this aid is spent, making it entirely possible for them to use this money for issues the U.S. opposes, such as unlawful building of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and that unending “wall”. It received $3 billion to develop sophisticated weapons systems such as Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets.
The U.S. pretends that it knows nothing about Israel’s nuclear weapons capability, and the U.S. provides Israel with access to intelligence data it denies to NATO allies! On the diplomatic front we already know about the U.S. veto of 32 U.N. resolutions critical of Israel. Some U.N. resolutions condemn Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, while others deplored Israel’s brutal repression of Palestinian uprisings and calling on Israel to recognize Palestinian human rights, while others direct them to follow the letter of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which guarantees certain inalienable rights to those occupied by a foreign power.
Despite the aforementioned flagrant violations on Israel’s part, what is the glue that cements this special relationship? The authors point to the Israeli lobby, specifically AIPAC. Or, as then-president of Israel Ariel Sharon once told an American audience: “…when people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them: ‘Help AIPAC’”. And in September of 2002 Senator Dick Army of Texas reportedly said: “My number one priority is to protect Israel”. One would think, mused both authors, is that this senator’s number one priority is to protect America, not Israel.
(The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)