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A little more than a year after Barack Obama succeeded George W Bush as president, United States military hardware and troops are transferring to the Afghan theater in yet another attempt to control the insurgency. Despite the ‘surge’ that General Stanley McChrystal asked for and President Obama approved after weeks of reflection, militants on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border continue to defy American power. High-profile military operations against the Taliban in Helmand, and more recently in Kandahar, illustrate both abilities and limitations of a superpower. This is not new. The Soviet occupation forces went through a similar experience during their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Like the Soviets, the Americans are increasingly finding that it is possible to wrest control of specific areas, but only as long as their troops are in occupation of those areas. As they move on for other operations, the insurgents make a come back.
There are similarities between the recent American surge approved by President Obama and the increase in the Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan after Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the USSR in 1985. Early on, Gorbachev had decided to bring his troops home following a costly war in Afghanistan. But he also ordered reinforcements similar in size to the American surge now. Ostensibly, it was to give the Soviet armed forces one last chance to win the Afghan war, but more realistically because before a planned withdrawal, the Soviet Union needed to reinforce. Troops being withdrawn have to partially disarm. The heavy equipment to be transported cannot be operational at the same time. Soldiers moving out carry light arms for self-defense, not heavy lethal weapons for attack. At the same time, the surge of more mobile units is intended to warn the enemy of more trouble coming.
President Obama has already announced that American troops will begin to leave Afghanistan by the middle of 2011. My recent visit to South Asia reinforced this impression. Obama is smart enough to know history and its lessons. He has disappointed many of his liberal supporters who had expected much more from him. But there is not much doubt that he would like to withdraw from Afghanistan. Re-election in 2012 would depend on it to a considerable degree, along with the economy. The wreckage of military ventures abroad and economic collapse at home left by the preceding administration must be prominent on Obama’s mind. What Obama will achieve is by no means certain. But there are lessons to be learned from the past.
The presidency of George W Bush was rooted in a manifesto we know as the Project for the New American Century. The project was born in reaction to the Clinton presidency in the post-Cold War decade of the 1990s. The alliance of neoconservatives and the Christian Right provided George W Bush with core support. Above all, the Bush presidency will be remembered for America’s foreign military ventures in the shape of three wars: the Afghan war, the Iraq war, and a third war, borderless and timeless – the ‘global war on terror’.
The events of 9/11 posed an unprecedented security challenge. The most important questions in Washington at the time should have been: Where to start and where to stop? What should be the scale and proportion of America’s response? However, such considerations were absent as the talk of a ‘long war’ or ‘generational war’ illustrated, certainly in the first term of President Bush.
The record of great powers fighting long or generational wars against insurgents is not good. The United States learned this in Vietnam. The Soviet Union did so in Afghanistan. A long war suits insurgent forces deeply embedded in the locale and culture of the theater. They enjoy considerable support in the battleground. Denial of this reality is often fatal. A United States president has numerous issues to deal with. But the overwhelming weight of events of the last decade leads to the conclusion that the Bush presidency was all about war. The foreign ventures he embarked on within months of inauguration eclipsed everything else during his presidency. It is therefore appropriate to evaluate the Bush presidency’s legacy in terms of the ‘war on terrorism’.
The objective of the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 was regime change. There has been a long debate about the true objective of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq: weapons of mass destruction or regime change. Time and events seem to have settled that debate. It was claimed that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons that could be activated within 45 minutes. Such weapons were not found. A lot more about the considerations and deliberations between Washington and London, and in each capital, has come to light. We know more about the private communication between President Bush and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the run up to the Iraq invasion – communication that other significant figures who should have been made aware of did not know. And we have learned from Tony Blair that even with knowledge of there being no weapons of mass destruction, he would have employed other arguments to remove Saddam Hussein.
Much has been said about mistakes being made in Afghanistan and, more specifically, Iraq. The biggest error of judgment was that two very different countries were given the same treatment of military power. In doing do, the intervenors appeared to act with vengeance more than a planned strategy. Otherwise, why would Afghanistan – an utterly failed state – be subjected to sustained destructive air power and left without a serious attempt at rebuilding for so long. And the primary intervenor moved on to Iraq to dismantle a well-organized state structure, after the dictator had been overthrown. By treating Afghanistan and Iraq in the same way, the intervenors did the opposite of what was needed in each country.
To view al Qaeda and the various nationalist movements in the Arab world as one ‘enemy’ in the ‘war on terror’ was an historic miscalculation. The determination under the Bush presidency to crush nationalism in the Muslim world exacted a high price from the West. But countries in the region paid, and continue to pay, a price even greater. Al Qaeda’s terrorist violence has been answered by the terror of American military power. Differing agendas of regional powers became fused with America’s aims in the ‘war on terror’. The impact was huge across the region, producing anger, resentment and outright rebellion in the wider populace.
In a country without national infrastructure, or where infrastructure is destroyed, there will be certain consequences. The essence of the state’s role is maintaining order. It does so by means of coercion, taxation and distribution. In a country such as Afghanistan, self, family, clan, tribe and ethnic group acquire much greater significance. In a failed or weak state, other agencies – a village elder, tribal chief or warlord – replace the state. They command popular following, because they make things happen.
In Iraq, two early decisions by the American administrator Paul Bremer after the 2003 invasion triggered a multi-layered conflict. By Order Number 1 of May 16, Bremer dissolved the Ba’ath Party. In an article in Le Monde diplomatique, the British academic Toby Dodge described the Iraqi population a month after the arrival of the US forces as dominated by a Hobbesian nightmare. Dodge estimated that between 20000 and 120000 senior and middle-ranking Iraqi officials lost their jobs in the civil service purge alone. They would have constituted the very force capable of restoring order amid chaos and violence. Dodge wrote that 17 of Baghdad’s 23 ministries were completely gutted, stripped of all portable items like computers, furniture and fittings – all within three weeks. There were not enough American troops to stop it.
Bremer’s Order Number 2 dismantled the most important state institutions and subordinates such as government ministries, Iraqi military and paramilitary organizations, the National Assembly, courts and emergency forces. To be prepared with alternatives to take over the functions of these organizations was essential in a country of 30 million people. Bremer’s two edicts left a vacuum that was rapidly filled by new violent players.
I want to offer a brief explanation of the nature of the other conflict – Afghan war – since the 1970s. It also applies to an extent to Iraq. Afghanistan has striking parallels with other conflicts in Palestine, Yemen and elsewhere. These conflicts can be seen in four separate yet overlapping, often simultaneous stages. This is how.
Stage 1: internal conflict. In Afghanistan, internal conflict is a fact of history. For simplicity, let’s begin from the ‘decade of liberalism and modernization’ in the 1960s. The conflict escalated after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1973 – and again after the 1978 coup by young Soviet-oriented military officers, who feared that President Daud was taking the country too close to the United States.
Stage 2: increase in great power involvement. External intervention fuels the unrest, and upsets the balance of forces locally. This, in turn, attracts more external forces, until they begin to dictate the scale and course of events. But their unacceptability among local players, and active resistance by local groups, hinder the creation and functioning of institutions.
Stage 3: state disintegration. In Afghanistan, the death of the state was slow, taking more than two decades. In Iraq, too, considering the effects of sanctions and isolation, we are talking about more than a decade. After Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, the final blow came relatively quickly.
Stage 4: foreign indifference and rise of extremism. I have in mind the decade of the 1990s and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Soviet state had been defeated and had disintegrated. For the United States, exhausted and occupied with the urgency to manage the wreckage of the Soviet Union, most importantly its nuclear arsenal, Afghanistan was simply not a priority.
There is a general lesson to be learned. A prolonged war leads to fatigue and indifference among external intervenors. A culture of violence matures. Expectations on all sides are altered and violence becomes a way of life. Actors left behind acquire a habit of using coercion. And citizens come to expect solutions to be found through violence. That few intervening powers grasp this lesson is a tragedy.
We have at present a mix of the McChrystal plan of military surge and counterinsurgency and President Obama’s wish to start drawing down the combat forces in mid-2011. His wish is driven by the 2012 presidential election in America. And it is dependent upon recruitment, training and ultimately guaranteed discipline of a 300000-strong Afghan national force.
However, history shows that integrity in the Afghan armed forces is difficult to achieve. Tribal realities among Pashtun officers and rank-and-file soldiers – and distrust for Pashtuns among non-Pashtuns – cannot be wished away. It would require a generation to transform the culture of the armed forces and the country even if the United States and allies had the will. In the absence of that will, I have some fears. They are –
1. As soon as President Obama begins to draw down the combat forces in mid-2011, altering the balance of power, or that prospect is near, dramatic shifts of loyalties will occur in the Afghan armed forces. This has happened before and could happen again.
2. The Karzai government cannot survive if the military disintegrates along tribal and ethnic lines. The Afghan armed forces and police lack cohesion already.
3. Afghanistan has weapons in abundance. Guns poured into the country, with the best possible intention of equipping the military, would fall into the wrong hands. And I am not even talking about increased activity by Pakistan’s ISI and other regional players.
All these are ingredients of a state of nature again.
The answer is a long-term regional project, led but not dictated by the United States, involving Iran, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and India; and a deliberate policy of demilitarization, however difficult and painful. Internally, a type of tribal democracy, certainly outside Kabul and other main cities, is what is realistic to hope for.
But the current state of America’s relations with China, Iran and Russia does not favor such a prospect. Tensions have grown with Pakistan and Turkey. And I know there is uncertainty, if not outright unhappiness, over the Obama administration’s policies elsewhere in the region. This makes cooperation much more difficult. The current strategy in Afghanistan lays too much emphasis on military tactics. And it does not appreciate nearly enough how objectionable, how provocative, foreign military presence is to Afghans. The sentiment goes beyond the Taliban.
Deepak Tripathi is the author of two forthcoming books – Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan and Breeding Ground: Afghanistan and the Origins of Islamist Terrorism (Potomac, 2010). His works can be found on http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at: DandATripathi@gmail.com.
Filed under: BLOGISM | Tagged: Afghanistan, Bush, China, Culture of Violence, foreign military presence, George W Bush, Helmand, Iran, iraq, Kabul, McChrystal, militarism, murder, obama, Obama administration’s, occupation, Pakistan, Pashtuns, propaganda, racism, Russia, Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia, Soviet, Taliban, turkey, us, USA | 2 Comments »
The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured.
After demands by Reuters, the incident was investigated and the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own “Rules of Engagement”.
Consequently, WikiLeaks has released the classified Rules of Engagement for 2006, 2007 and 2008, revealing these rules before, during, and after the killings.
WikiLeaks has released both the original 38 minutes video and a shorter version with an initial analysis. Subtitles have been added to both versions from the radio transmissions.
WikiLeaks obtained this video as well as supporting documents from a number of military whistleblowers. WikiLeaks goes to great lengths to verify the authenticity of the information it receives. We have analyzed the information about this incident from a variety of source material. We have spoken to witnesses and journalists directly involved in the incident.
WikiLeaks wants to ensure that all the leaked information it receives gets the attention it deserves. In this particular case, some of the people killed were journalists that were simply doing their jobs: putting their lives at risk in order to report on war. Iraq is a very dangerous place for journalists: from 2003- 2009, 139 journalists were killed while doing their work.
Ref: Collateral murder
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The American military at the end of the Cold War was a formidable force, large in size, very well equipped, and quite capable of meeting any conceivable Soviet warfare challenge, nuclear or conventional. Its recovery from Vietnam was total. The Reagan Build-up, a major infusion of funds and technology that occurred in the 1980s, had allowed the military to modernize its weapons, doctrine, and training. It had learned to recruit and motivate effectively an all-volunteer force, a no small feat for a military long used to the cheap labor of conscription. Thoughts of honing its fast fading counter-insurgency skills or of a search to discover how best to participate in peace-keeping and nation-building ventures were far from its doctrinal priorities. Instead, the American military rejoiced in its smashingly fast and near cost-free defeat of Iraqi forces in Kuwait and planned to implement further improvements in its conventional war-fighting capabilities.
These improvements, often referred to as the Precision Revolution, were based on advances in sensor, radar masking, robotic, and targeting technologies and were intended to allow American forces to detect, classify, and destroy targets precisely with low risk and at expanding distances. The high casualty rate of Vietnam is unsustainable with an all volunteer force. And absent a serious threat to its own security, the American public’s tolerance for civilian casualties inflicted by American forces-collateral damage-is very limited. The rapid and seemingly decisive victories in the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq featured such advances, the product of a decade long effort by the military to implement the operational lessons of the Gulf War while trimming force structure to adjust to the Soviet Union’s demise.
But the Afghanistan and Iraq victories were anything but decisive. American forces soon become entangled in difficult counter-insurgency operations in both countries. Plans for a quick transition to local rule and a minimal American presence slid into persistent combat and a troop rotational pattern that strained American forces. American commanders seemed confused and unprepared, at a loss to control the violence that included inter-communal attacks and to initiate the reconstruction of vital infrastructure that both countries needed. The resulting “hard slog”, as the now discredited Donald Rumsfeld once described the counter-insurgencies, is blamed on many factors, but mostly on a supposed blind spot in the US Army’s doctrinal vision. The Army, it is said, is culturally resistant to creating effective doctrine for counter-insurgencies, preferring always to focus on large scale conventional operations.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates chides the entire US military for being absorbed in “Nextwaritis” even as it fights the current difficult wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army he notes has designed its Future Combat System. a network of manned and unmanned vehicles, to defeat up-dated versions of Soviet motorized rifle regiments while the Air Force keeps promoting additional purchases of its expensive F-22 which is optimized for air-to-air combat, a non-existent set these days. The next war in the US military’s planning concepts may look like the last, but certainly not like the current ones. But America’s future, the critics and the Secretary say, is more of the same culturally sensitive, all-agency, coalition-partnered interventions that require the coordinated management of complex security and development operations.
There are two defenses that the military could offer to this critique if it were allowed to do so. First, this is new guidance for military preparedness. In the years between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 attacks, political direction was minimal and certainly not united on counter-insurgency. When President George H. W. Bush said in the wake of the Gulf War that America’s Vietnam Syndrome was vanquished he meant that it was now possible again for the US to use military force in a big way, and not that the US was free once again to become engaged in counter-insurgency. In fact, he passed by the opportunity to invade Iraq to replace Saddam in large part because of the possibility that it would require a long effort to suppress regime supporters or other elements of Iraq’s fractured society.
Each of the interventions of the 1990s-Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo-had significant opposition within and outside of government. Although all were low casualty events, the public was fearful of the risks. The military saw them as diverting from a mission to be ready to meet a rising China or a resurgent Russia, both conveniently masked behind the proxies of North Korea and Iran or Iraq. Big militaries require big opponents and Haiti and Serbia just did not match up. The Democrats largely left the military planners alone, and the Republicans reflexively defended anything they did. It was largely a self-guided military during the 1990s, aware that there was strong domestic opposition to interventions in on-going ethnic conflicts, and intrigued by the technological advantages that the Precision Revolution seemed to offer to the US in conventional operations. It was time to plan the post-Cold War military and to make large investments in new equipment. What better way than to make the US military the lean, mean wireless machine that many observers said was just over the horizon.
Second, although the current administration and secretary may want the focus to remain on counter-insurgent operations, the US military likely calculates that this is a politically unsustainable policy. A modern, professional military, one dependent on volunteers, has a great deal of difficulty providing the 18-20 brigades of ground combat troops that the counter-insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan required. Many soldiers are now contemplating their fourth or fifth combat rotation with up to 18 months separation from their families. Conscription, which would share these burdens more evenly in the population, is politically impossible to reinstate. Hunting down al Qaeda is still popular. Making the world safe for democracy or saving the Somalians, Sudanese or South Congolese from local war lords is only in the nice idea category, especially when such missions are likely to be done with few partners and amidst much brutal fighting. And after Iraq and Afghanistan it would take an insane American politician, one likely to be carted away to an institution, to make an invasion of Iran or North Korea anything but an empty threat.
It is relatively easy for the American military to defeat conventional forces arrayed against it for they are basically targets that can be identified and destroyed at safe ranges. Coping with insurgents is a much more difficult task because the insurgents hide among civilians and attack from great advantage. Only when the stakes are very high will the American public tolerate the harsh, often brutal, measures and significant sacrifices that need to be sustained over years to suppress insurgencies. New manuals that repeat old truths about providing security, vital infrastructure, good government, and economic opportunity to local populations in order to isolate and defeat the stealthy enemy do not eliminate this test of wills. The American military knows that for marginal interests that “will” will not be there long. Each generation of American politicians apparently learns this anew. The American military’s doctrine is to avoid fighting counter-insurgencies.
Harvey M. Sapolsky is Professor Of Public Policy and Organization Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge Massachusetts and for nearly 20 years he was the Director of the MIT Security Studies Program. His most recent books are US Defense Politics, written with Eugene Gholz and Caitlin Talmadge, and US Military Innovation since the Cold War, edited with Benjamin Friedman and Brendan R. Green.
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Assertions without substance, prejudice without apology, violence without regret; these are the foundations of the Zionist dream of Israel, writes Shahid Alam*
On 12 January, The New York Times carried an article by David Brooks on Jews and Israel. It so caught my eye that I decided to bring it to my class on the economic history of the Middle East. I sent my students the link to the article and asked them to read it carefully and come to class prepared to discuss and dissect its contents.
My students recalled various parts of the New York Times article, but no one explained its substance. They recalled David Brooks’ focus on the singular intellectual achievements of American Jews, the enviable record of Israeli Jews as innovators and entrepreneurs, the mobility of Israel’s new class of innovators, etc. One student even spoke of what was not in the article or in the history of Jews — centuries of Jewish “struggle” to create a Jewish state in Palestine.
But they offered no insights on Brooks’ motivation.
Why had he decided to brag about Jewish achievements, a temptation normally eschewed by urbane Jews? In my previous class, while discussing Edward Said’s critique of Orientalism, I had discussed how knowledge is suborned by power, how it is perverted by tribalism, and how Western writers crafted their writings about the Middle East to serve the interests of colonial powers. Not surprisingly, this critique had not yet sunk in.
I coaxed my students, asking them directly to explore if David Brooks had an axe (or more than one) to grind. Was there an elephant in the room they had missed? What was the subtext of the op-ed?
At last, one student moved in the direction of the missing elephant. David Brooks had not mentioned the “aid” that Israel had received from the United States. Did my class know how much? Several eyebrows rose when I informed my students that Israel currently receives close to $3 billion in annual grants from the US, not counting official loan guarantees and tax- deductible contributions by private charities. Since its creation, Israel has received more than $240 billion in grants from the US alone.
We had grasped the elephant’s ear, but what about the rest of it, its head, belly, trunk, tail and tusks? My students did not have a clue — at least, so it appeared to me.
My students did not understand — or perhaps did not show it — that no discussion about Israel, especially in the New York Times, could be innocent of political motives. Israel is a contested fact, a colonial-settler state, founded on ethnic cleansing, a state of the world’s Jews, but not of its Arab population. It continues to marginalise its Palestinians “citizens”, to dispossess the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and strangulate them in Gaza.
Supported and coddled by the United States and other Western governments, Israel now faces growing protests from diverse segments of Western civil society. Churches, labour unions, professors, students and other activist groups are calling on corporations and governments to divest from, boycott and sanction Israel. As always, but now more than ever, advocates of Israel continue to manufacture myths, opinions, and “facts” that can cover for its crimes against the Palestinians and other Arabs in its neighbourhood.
Isn’t that what David Brooks was doing, I asked my class, by painting Jews and Israel in the colours of pure glory?
I saw a few nods of recognition. But one student demurred. “Doesn’t everyone glorify his own country? The US too had engaged in ethnic cleansing. What is the difference?”
There are two differences, I submitted. David Brooks is glorifying Israel but he is not Israeli. More to the point, he is glorifying Israel to cover up for Israel’s present and projected crimes against Palestinians. He is covering up for Israeli apartheid that exists here and now.
At this point, many in my class gasped at what they heard. It appeared to be a voice quarried from the past. It was a defence of genocide quite commonly advanced in previous centuries when European settlers were exterminating natives in the Americas, Oceania and Africa. “We had done so much better with the land than the natives.” Occasionally, such repugnant ideas from the past, which we think we have buried forever, leak into public discourse. Perhaps it is good that they do: they remind us that the past is not dead.
David Brooks starts his article with statistics to show that the Jews “are a famously accomplished group”. Do we need to be convinced of the accomplishments of the Jews? Is there anyone who contests this? So why does Brooks feel the need to support this with statistics? “They make up 0.2 per cent of the world population,” he informs us, “but 54 per cent of world chess champions, 27 per cent of Nobel physics laureates and 31 per cent of medicine laureates.” Just in case these comparisons fail to clinch the point, David Brooks offers more comparative statistics.
Does Brooks aim to belabour the point, or is he saying, ‘Look at all the great things we have done for you Gentiles. We are indispensable. Don’t you criticise what we do. Don’t you go against us’? Or does he feel so personally inadequate that this forces him to seek comfort not in Jewish accomplishments — as he claims — but in Jewish superiority?
Alas, the Jews in Israel have not matched the achievements of the Jews in the Diaspora. The Jewish state contains close to 40 per cent of the world’s Jewish population, but very few of the Jewish Nobel laureates are Israelis. Only nine Israelis in 61 years have won the Nobel Prize. If we exclude the three “Peace” laureates — and wouldn’t you, if you knew who they are — that leaves six. Only three of these six were born in Israel, and one was born there while his parents were visiting relatives in Tel Aviv. Hardly a great total. Ireland, with a smaller population, has six Nobel laureates.
David Brooks knows this. “The odd thing,” he writes, “is that Israel has not traditionally been strongest where the Jews in the Diaspora were strongest.” Why has Israel fallen short? Blame it on the Palestinians and the Arabs. “Instead of research and commerce, Israelis were forced to devote their energies to fighting and politics.”
That was in the past, however. Israel is now bubbling over with innovation and entrepreneurship. Tel Aviv is now “one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurial hot spots”. Once again, statistics are offered to establish Israel’s leadership in civilian research and development. Israel’s more ominous leadership in military technology is not mentioned.
Moreover — and this is David Brooks’ point — this technological success “is the fruition of the Zionist dream”. Then follows another piece of chauvinism. Israel was “not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.”
David Brooks disguises Israel’s second round of colonial expansion that began in June 1967 as a diversion from the main goal of Zionism, a distraction created by “stray” settlers in Hebron. The close to half a million Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, supported, financed, and protected by the world’s fourth most powerful military are minimised as “stray” settlers in Hebron, who are a problem only because they are surrounded by “angry” Palestinians.
Israel was founded — David Brooks asserts, invoking the language of Zionism — so Jews could have a “safe place” and create “things for the world”. Has Israel been a safe place for the Jews? Safer than the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, or even the Arab world before 1917, when the Zionist movement gained official sponsorship from Britain? Plausibly, the answer is no.
One must also ask: What “things” has Israel created for the world? What “things” has Israel given to the Arab world, other than wars, massacres, ethnic cleansing, occupation, war crimes, and alibis to its rulers to create repressive regimes? What has it given to that other world — the Western world — that Brooks probably has in mind? Israel has jeopardised the strategic interests of Western powers in the Islamicate. On more than one occasion, it has brought the United States close to nuclear collision with the Soviet Union. The most valuable “things” that Israelis provide to Western powers, to the United States in particular as an occupying power in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the technologies and tactics they have been perfecting while crushing Palestinian resistance. But David Brooks does not wish to talk about that.
Then comes the coup de grace. This is the blow aimed to finish off Brook’s primary target, the Arabs. Jewish and Israeli accomplishments must finally be placed against the terrible paucity of Arab creativity in the sciences, technology and entrepreneurship. Arabs are asked to declare the patents they have registered in the United States. The astronomical gap between Arab and Israeli patents can only have one cause. The Arabs do not have the “tradition of free intellectual exchange and technical creativity”. In true Orientalist style, blame Arab failures on Arab culture.
Ironically, the two countries Brooks picks to make his point — Egypt and Saudi Arabia — are the closest Arab allies of the United States. The US never wags its finger at the despotic monarchy in Saudi Arabia or the repressive dictatorship that has controlled Egypt for decades. The United States works to bring “democracy” only to its enemies.
Yet for all its triumphalism and crude claims of superiority, the New York Times op-ed ends on a disappointing note. Israel’s innovators, the sons of Zionist dreamers, bring no real commitment to Israel. Just a little instability, and they will vote with their feet. “American Jews used to keep a foothold in Israel in case things got bad here. Now Israelis keep a foothold in the US.” As remarkable as it is, Israel’s success is “also highly mobile”.
Is Brooks the great friend of Israel that he must believe he is? All that any one has to do to destroy Israel’s economy, he writes, is “to foment enough instability so the entrepreneurs decide they had better move to Palo Alto, where many of them [Israelis] already have contacts and homes.”
What sad and strange thinking. Perhaps this is what happens when a person gets trapped inside the nightmare that was sold to the Jews as the great Zionist dream. Brooks confirms that this nightmare cannot be saved by Israel’s technological prowess. Apparently, Israel’s greatest success stories — its cutting-edge technology companies — are also footloose. They could be heading for the exits at the first sign of instability.
Technological prowess will not save Jewish apartheid. Nothing will. But Jews can shore up their lives and build a more promising future for themselves by discovering their common humanity with the Arabs, by making amends with the Palestinians, and learning to give back to the Palestinians what they have taken from them over the past nine decades.
The Zionists are prisoners of a bad dream: they must first free themselves — break free from the prison in which they can only play the part of tormentors — if they and especially their Palestinian victims are to live normal lives.
Ref: Al Ahram
* The writer is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is author of Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilising Logic of Zionism .
A small band of European Zionists enters the world stage in late 19th century,
determined to create a Jewish state in Palestine. This is their solution to the ‘abnormal’ condition of European Jews, who are without a land and are not a nation. To achieve this, they must seize Palestine; induce Western Jews to become colonists; and, above all, recruit Western powers to adopt their colonial project.
Zionists can only succeed by creating Islamicate enemies; they need resurgent
anti-Semitism to send Jewish colons to Palestine; and they must persuade/coerce the West to stand behind their colonial project. In succeeding, the Zionists merely transplant Jewish abnormality from Europe to the Middle East – and make it worse. In Europe, Jewish-Gentile frictions were local problems; in Israel, ominously, they have come to form the pivot of a global conflict that pits the West against the Islamicate.
Writing about Zionism has not been easy. The history of Zionism is history gone wrong, and not only for the Palestinians. The tragedy for the Palestinians is obvious, although, blinded by racism and the Zionist bias of their media, Westerners only recently have begun to see this tragedy for what it is. It has been a tragedy for the Jewish people too, who were co-opted by the Zionists to place their energy, their talent and their hopes on a project they should never have undertaken, and whose only chance of success lay in obliterating the hopes of another people. The more trapped this project becomes in its own logic, the greater the destruction it becomes willing to wreak. It chooses destruction in order to delay coming to terms with, and making amends for, the tragedy it has spawned.
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