By William A. Cook
Like all patriotic Americans, I spend a portion of each weekend browsing through the “official” web sites of the Presidential candidates preparing myself for the 2008 run off between Republicans and Democrats, Republicrats for short. I now aggregate all of them because all pay homage, indeed a groveling obsequiousness, to AIPAC and to the Olmert/Leiberman regime in Israel. Such fawning is born of fear, as former congressmen Paul Findley, Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard can testify, fear that comes with crossing a powerful force, a force that can threaten the candidate’s standing in the polls. Yossi Beilin, former Labor Party Minister under Ehud Barak recognized this force: “They (AIPAC) have the threat of voting out (congressional) representatives. I never liked this leverage. It’s counterproductive.”
Yet it’s clear that the American Congress’ unrestrained support for the Sharon/Olmert regimes over the past six years, coupled to the Bush administration’s total capitulation to Israel’s dominance in Palestine, has created an untenable situation for America in the eyes of the world. America’s bondage to Israel is the overriding issue that can release America from its position as the target for the world’s hatred, yet all candidates but two grovel before AIPAC and the Olmert/Leiberman regime.
Why is bondage to Israel a concern? Because those who attack America, including Bin Laden, have told Americans that it is a concern; because our 9/11 Commission told us in Without Precedent that the dominant reason given to them for actions against America was our absolute and continued support for Israel; because Maershimer and Walt, in their report on AIPAC influence in our congress, presented to America an inventory of evidence that establishes America’s allegiance to Israel and the consequences of such allegiance; because Haaretz, the leading Israeli newspaper, has admonished Israelis and Americans that the perception in the Arab world and in the EU of America’s total commitment to Israel is unwise and will erupt in a blowback against Israel itself; because virtually every nation in the world understands what Americans cannot seem to digest, that support for a country that has systematically persecuted another people without letup for 60 years, has made America a pariah nation subject to the frustration, anger, and outright hatred of those who condemn the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians.
Why continue such unrestrained bondage to Israel? Why indeed. Why shackle America to a nation that has defied UN resolutions year after year (over 160 UNGA and 60 UNSC) since 1948 that calls for it to act humanely to the Palestinians, to return stolen land to the Palestinians, to recognize international law and the right to return of refugees driven from their homes? Why shackle America to a country that defies international law by occupying the land of other nations and peoples? Why shackle America to a nation that refuses to sign a mid-east nuclear non-proliferation agreement, develops its own arsenal of nuclear bombs (estimated at 200-400), then, with all brazen chutzpah, condemns its neighbor for developing such a weapon? Why shackle America to a nation that cries before the world its right to defend itself when it refuses to negotiate with its neighbors the borders of its own state as it occupies land belonging to others, then condemns the Palestinians for refusing to recognize what it has yet to declare publicly, where Israel begins and ends?
Why shackle America to a state that constructs a Wall that imprisons another people, using their land and stealing their water and farm land in the process, a Wall not unlike the Berlin Wall that America found so repulsive, a Wall that has been condemned by the International Court of Justice as inhumane and illegal? Why shackle America to a state that imprisons 10,000 people without charge and tortures many without regard or adherence to international law or the Geneva Conventions? Why shackle America to a state that contains in its government a vowed racist, Avigdor Leiberman, who leads his party and now the state to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population by transfer or slow starvation? Why shackle America to a nation that accepts as normal behavior the assassination of individuals on the say so of the Prime Minister or his subordinates denying them the rights provided by law in a civilized society, the right to be charged, to confront the evidence and/or the accuser, and trial by peers? Why shackle America to a state that determines for itself that the will of the people whom they oppress by occupation cannot democratically elect those who would govern them, deny the right of the government to exist, and then steal the tax funds that belong to that government? Why shackle America to the tax burden required to provide this state with 3 to 5 billion dollars per year for military and infrastructure development when it uses these tax dollars to construct illegal housing for immigrants to that nation, to build apartheid roads over stolen land, and to construct the heinous Wall that entombs the Palestinians?
Why indeed. Yet with only two exceptions, all candidates running for president in 2008 have obsequiously crawled before AIPAC to declare his or her unqualified allegiance to the Israeli state thus negating before they could take office the chance to bring peace to the mid-east. Anyone paying attention for the past twenty years or more understands that Israel alone can bring peace to Palestine, and Israel does not want peace as long as it believes it can continue to create conditions on the ground that confiscate more and more Palestinian land (read Jeff Halper’s “Matrix of Control” or Why Israel won’t Make Peace”). Why, then, should our candidates fall on their knees fawning before AIPAC and Olmert? Consider this observation by the editors of Haaretz:
The conclusion that Israel can draw from the anti-Israel feeling expressed in the article (Maershimer and Walt article) is that it will not be immune for eternity. America’s unhesitating support for Israel and its willingness to restrain itself over all of Israel’s mistakes can be interpreted as conflicting with America’s essential interests and are liable to prove burdensome. The fact that Israelis view the United States support for and tremendous assistance to Israel as natural causes excess complacence, and it fails to take into account currents in public opinion that run deep and are liable to completely change American policy.
If editors at Haaretz understand that America’s support can be detrimental to its interests, why must our candidates grovel before the far right organization that purports to represent Israel? Why shouldn’t they recognize that other Jewish voices also speak for Israel, especially those now forming that are meant to counteract AIPAC’s influence? (the “Soros Initiative,” and other Jewish organizations that do not agree with AIPAC’s dominance, Israel Policy Forum, Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Tikkun Community, Jewish Voice for Peace).
But grovel they must. Each has to outdo the other. Senator Biden states the Democrats support for Israel “comes from our gut, moves through our heart, and ends up in our head. It’s almost genetic.’ (October 5, 2006). “Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a party that calls for its destruction, engages in terrorism and maintains an armed militia. Hamas must choose: bullets or ballots.” (January 2006). Obviously, Biden’s gut response never gets to his head. How can the Palestinians negotiate with Israel when its government does not recognize the right of Palestinians to have a state and calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own land or imprisons them behind walls? How can Palestinians negotiate with a state that has been terrorizing them for six decades, relentlessly and brutally? How can Palestine negotiate with a state that maintains, not an “armed militia,” but the third to fourth largest military force in the world to occupy a small and undefended people? How can Palestine negotiate with a state that will not allow for a one-state solution that would allow for ballots not bullets?
Not to be outdone, Hillary proclaims at a Hanukkah dinner at Yeshiva University that “Israel is not only our ally; it is a beacon of what democracy can and should mean … If the people of the Middle East are not sure what democracy means, let them look to Israel.” Look indeed, look at the only people allowed to be citizens in Israel, Jews; it is in its declaration a state for Jews. There are Arabs (Palestinians in fact but can’t be called that in Israel) who have resided in the land granted to Israel by the UN and given Israeli citizenship, roughly 20% of the population, but they are in reality second class citizens and denied many of the rights granted to Jews. The very fact that it is a state for one people contradicts the premise of a democracy.
But Hillary goes on, goes on to negate the validity and the judgment of the International Court of Justice in its condemnation of the Entombment Wall as inhumane and illegal. She takes it upon herself to declare the ICJ as meaningless and its decision, after trial and evidence, null and void. But who is Hillary to determine anything of the sort? Hasn’t the United States signed the document that established the ICJ, and despite the illegal actions of the Bush administration, isn’t the US still legally bound to that document? She, like Bush, will rule without law and order when it comes to Israel.
Senator Dodd, like Biden, relates his support for Israel back through family blood, to his father before him, decades of support. He makes this observation: “For six decades, Israel has passed every day in the knowledge that its enemies are praying and plotting for its death. In the face of such hatred, we might have expected the people of Israel to answer with hate of their own. But they have not.” (AIPAC’s National Summit, 10/06). Unfortunately, the people of Israel, like Americans, are victims of their respective governments that have been all too willing to brandish their hatred and brutality on the Palestinians and Iraqis on behalf of their citizens. Indeed, the good Senator brags about being the co-sponsor of the Syrian Accountability Act, another example of Israel’s willingness to use our Congress to benefit its own interests while it locks out the possibility of working with the Syrians toward some measure of peace in Iraq, a direction, despite Dodd’s efforts, finally underway now.
John Edwards has resorted to endorsing Olmert’s “realignment” plan, a euphemism for more theft. But, as Edwards notes, “Israel is in the unfortunate position of having to act without an agreement.” Why are they without a negotiating partner? Because Olmert will not recognize the legitimate democratically elected government of the people of Palestine. Since he had already determined that Mahmud Abbas was too weak, and that the Palestinians did not recognize the state of Israel, stop the violence, and accept all agreements made by the PLO, positions Israel has not been willing to make to the Palestinians, they were left with no one to work with toward peace. That reality Edwards ignores.
Haaretz quotes Bill Richardson in its November 19th, 2006 on-line edition as saying “The partnership between our two countries has never been stronger. We are fortunate to have each other in the fight against terrorism and in advancing our common cause of a lasting peace in the Middle East.” This reflects the mantra that all extend to AIPAC, negating in its utterance the terror Israel inflicts daily and the almost universal acceptance of Israel as a terrorist state. (see Pew Foundation survey).
Finally, to wrap up the Democrats that have labored hard in the Israeli vineyards, we turn to the one man allegedly untainted by the influence of lobbyists if only because of his limited time in Washington, Barack Obama. Well, it appears that he’s been tainted. Haaretz quotes Obama in its March 3, 2007 on line edition: “My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction.” Shmuel Rosner, the Haaretz correspondent goes on to say that “Obama passed any test anyone might have wanted him to pass. So, he is pro-Israel. Period.” AIPAC works fast. The one candidate that might have reason to be objective in light of his family’s experience, grovels before the oppressor, no doubt never having visited the plantation on the other side of the Wall.
Needless to say, all the Republicans are baptized in AIPAC’s largesse – McCain, Giuliani, Romney, Brownback and Hunter. Others like Hagel are testing the waters reluctant to wade in until the pool becomes less crowded. No need to quote these folks, let Haaretz do it for us. “Israeli panel: Giuliani is best presidential candidate for Israel.” That’s the headline. It reports on Israel’s new project, “The Israel Factor: Ranking the Presidential Candidates.” The panel will rank the candidates each month until the 2008 election. Giuliani scored best on the possibility of attacking Iran, followed by Gingrich (undeclared) and McCain.
Two candidates, only two, Gravel of Alaska and Kucinich of Ohio, offer balanced approaches to meaningful settlement of the crisis in Palestine. Gravel proposes that the US sponsor direct negotiations between Israel and all Palestinian factions including Hamas, support a Palestinian state alongside Israel, have the US serve as a guarantor for the demilitarization of Israel’s border with a future Palestinian state, commit itself to raising the economic standards of Palestinians comparable to that which it supplies to Israel, and disavow a nuclear first-strike policy.
Let me conclude this romp through the candidates with Dennis Kucinich’s statement on the issue, a statement issued in September of 2003: “The same humanity that requires us to acknowledge with profound concerns the pain and suffering of the people of Israel requires a similar expression for the pain and suffering of the Palestinians. When our brothers and sisters are fighting to the death, instead of declaring solidarity with one against the other, should we not declare solidarity with both for peace, so that both may live in security and freedom? If we seek to require the Palestinians, who do not have their own state, to adhere to a higher standard of conduct, should we not also ask Israel, with over a half century experience with statehood, to adhere to the basic standard of conduct, including meeting the requirements of international law?”
What more can be said? Gravel’s proposals provide an avenue toward peace that respects both Israelis and Palestinians, and Kucinich’s statement, from the least likely candidate to gain credibility with the American public, offers the American voter a route to a moral resolution of a conflict that has brought it, because of its unrestrained support for Israel and its illegal actions as an occupier of Palestinian territory, international censure and denunciation. All other choices lead to a continuation of the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians and the residue that is the consequence of our allegiance to Israel’s brutally aggressive treatment of the Palestinians. How can American voters trump the power of AIPAC and its allies for Israel in determining the future policy of this nation toward Israel if AIPAC has our candidates shackled and in bondage?
-William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Tracking Deception: Bush’s Mideast Policy. He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU.