US has to choose: Israel or the ME

The G8 convened just as Israel’s tanks pounded Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, while a few miles away its warplanes set Lebanon’s skies ablaze, turning its nights into an inferno of bombs, death and misery.

Scores of innocent people have lost their lives. Villages have been levelled, and bridges, hospitals, roads, airports, fuel storage facilities and even milk factories have been destroyed.

Years of regeneration effort are reduced to rubble. Pressure from the Americans and their British and German allies is such that no mention is made of a ceasefire in the statement issued. Israel is given leave to impose its agenda on Lebanon at gunpoint. After all, Ehud Olmert had said it: there can be no talk of a ceasefire, since “Israel needs more time”.

This unconditional support for Israel as it invades, occupies, demolishes, maims and massacres puts the entire Western moral and political order to the test.

While evangelising about democracy and reform, the US and increasingly Europe continue to give Israel open leave punish the Palestinian people collectively for their electoral choice, through air raids, ground incursions, siege and starvation.


“The US needs to mind its damn business. We have enough problems right here in America.”

M Jackson, US 

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In its latest military operation in the Gaza Strip, which has left more than 200 civilians dead, many of whom are children, the Israeli military has abducted the Palestinian deputy prime minister, along with two cabinet ministers and 56 parliamentarians. On July 1 Israeli warplanes attacked the headquarters of the recently elected Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh.

While preaching freedom to the people of the region, the US and many Western countries do not hesitate to provide political cover for the illegal seizure and occupation of Arab land in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.

And while filling the air with demands for the release of two captured Israeli soldiers, it turns a blind eye to the 10,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians languishing in Israeli jails, about 4,000 of whom are detained administratively without charge or trial.

The US has to know it cannot aid and abet aggressive occupation and rampant expansionism while hoping to “win Muslims’ hearts and minds”. The two cannot go together

No wonder that most have lost faith in the American-led rhetoric of democracy, human rights and reform.
Much of the region’s troubles issue from this increasing convergence between American and Israeli policy in the Middle East. The similarity between the two strategies concocted in Tel Aviv and Washington is such that it has become increasingly difficult to tell which is which.

Breaking what has been a taboo for decades, Professors John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt concluded in their article “The Israeli Lobby” that American foreign policy is more representative of Israeli than American national interests. The US Middle East policy is contrary to the long-term strategic interests of the United States.

The alliance between the US and Israel is not something new. Since the end of the 1950s, preserving Israel’s security was passed from the British to the US.

Ever since, American national interests have been seen as wedded to those of the state of Israel. However, what is new is that Israel has moved from a proxy at the service of British/American interest in the strategic Middle East to a definer of American policy itself.

It has become customary for consecutive British and American administrations to provide full support for Israel in its invasions, incursions and wars. With Bush and Blair, however, the usual frigid calls for restraint have vanished, making way for assertions of Israel’s right to defend itself and combat terrorism.

This is as though Israel were a wretched occupied country, not the world’s fourth-largest military force and the region’s sole nuclear power. It has repeatedly invaded its neighbours’ lands, colonising the Egyptian Sinai desert, Lebanon, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories.

While preaching freedom to the people of the region, the US and many Western countries do not hesitate to provide political cover for the illegal seizure and occupation of Arab land in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria

Its massive military arsenal has been used to impose and expand illegal settlement, pursue collective punishment of the local populations and terrorise its neighbours through raids, kidnappings, assassinations, massacres, violations of air space and territorial waters and detentions of scores of prisoners with impunity. 

Since 1979 Israel has received over $130 billion and continues to receive nearly 40 per cent of total US foreign aid. Direct American aid to Israel in recent years has exceeded $3.5 billion annually, with an additional $1 billion through other sources, and has been supported almost unanimously in congress, even by liberal Democrats who normally insist on linking aid to human rights and international law.

Israel’s long record of violation of international law is made possible by the heavy diplomatic support guaranteed by the US. In the past 30 years, the latter has used its veto in the Security Council to protect Israel from international criticism, censure, or sanction, more than 40 times. The last one was on July 13, 2006, when it blocked a draft resolution condemning Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip and demanding an end to the tragic humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories.

The US has to know it cannot aid and abet aggressive occupation and rampant expansionism while hoping to “win Muslims’ hearts and minds”. The two cannot go together.

A series of reports and surveys have indicated growing animosity to the United States in the Muslim world.

The latest was a Pew Research Centre poll of six Muslim countries (Indonesia, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, and Morocco). An earlier Pew Global Attitudes survey of 50 nations in 2002 and 2003 found that the US was less popular in the Middle East than any other part of the world. Even in Turkey, a longstanding US ally, 83% had an unfavourable opinion of the US, matching levels in Jordan and Palestine.

Today, the survey concludes: “The US remains largely disliked in the region. Anti-Americanism in the region is driven largely by aversion to US policies, such as the war on Iraq, the war on terrorism and US support for Israel.”

No amount of PR or media propaganda can improve those troubled relations. The problem is not with the marketing, as American statesmen like to believe, but with the product itself. It is with the great strategies pursued in the region.

So long as the US insists on imposing Israel as its chief agent in its overarching designs to rearrange the map of the Middle East within a master/slave relation, it will reap nothing but more disasters and chronic chaos.

Two facts are becoming clearer by the day: Israel is increasingly turning into a burden on itself, on its guardians, as well as on its countless victims; and that the people of the region will never accept an Israeli Middle East. 

Sooner or later the US will have to decide between the whole Middle East along with the Muslim world beyond, and its Israeli ally. There lies the problem and the remedy.

Soumaya Ghannoushi is a researcher at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London. 

The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera