The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Is Coming to Where It Belongs, the U.S
I’m grateful to Joe Biden for what he said about his commitment to Israel at a press conference on May 21.
“Until the region says unequivocally they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace.”
Wait, that sounds like a threat. And I thought Biden wanted to end U.S. involvement in forever wars in the Middle East. No: We will continue to pour weapons into your region and bomb neighboring countries till you accept Israel as a Jewish state.
Not so different from Trump last year: “The fact is, we don’t have to be in the Middle East, other than we want to protect Israel.”
I’m grateful because Biden and Trump’s comments speak to a root cause of this conflict: American support for the project of a Jewish state in Palestine. Without that imperial support, Israel and the Palestinians would have come to terms many years ago. With superpower support, the little Jewish state has punched way above its weight forever. It has gotten immunity for all its war crimes in international forums, including the settlements and regular slaughters in Gaza. Lately it has gotten the support of some Arab nations, too – bribed by the United States to support Israel, just like we bribe Egypt and Jordan. And by the way, Israel got nuclear weapons 50+ years ago thanks to the U.S., nukes that only increase its power to defy its neighbors and oppress the non-Jewish subjects of the Jewish state.
Is it in the “American interest” to support a Jewish state – with the threat of war – in a land where half the people don’t want a Jewish state? Of course it isn’t.
It goes against our “moral” and democratic claim that we oppose colonialism and believe in the self-determination of peoples. It goes against our material interest, in stability and trade.
Supporting Israel has required massive expenditures of arms and diplomatic capital and belligerence that I don’t care how cynical or leftwing you are, do not serve any notion of imperial interest. Truman’s secretary of state said he wouldn’t vote for Truman if he recognized Israel, as doing so would plunge the Middle East into turmoil for decades to come; and 73 years on, Biden assumes the Truman role and says, Oh, let the decades of unrest continue.
So we are back to root causes. Why is it American policy to support a project of a Jewish state in a land where half the people do not like that concept? Why is it a Democratic president’s policy? I answer that question as I have before: Because of the importance of the Israel lobby in the Democratic Party – those Jewish organizations that are mouthpieces for Israel and have carte blanche to come in and out of the White House, because the Democratic Party is so dependent on Israel-supporting donors. The elephant in the room, per the New York Times. Like Lyndon Johnson letting Israel get nukes when he was so dependent on the Krims.
That is what has changed this week. That is the great news of the last Israeli onslaught on Gaza. There is finally someone else at the Democratic table beside the Israel lobby: the progressive left, led by the Squad, people who support nonviolent means of ending apartheid; and their presence is what is driving a wedge in the Democratic Party. That movement is what will change American policy.
A new Arab American Institute poll shows that more than half of Democrats have a favorable view of Palestinians (51 percent) but only 46 percent have a favorable view of Israelis. That’s a shift. And by 43 to 16, Democrats say that Israel used “too much force” in Gaza lately, as opposed to the “right” amount of force.
Those numbers are why Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez are stepping away from Israel.
The Israel lobby is terrified by the prospect that Israel will finally be politicized, and progressive Democrats will get a say. This is truly an “existential threat” to Israel.
“This [wedge factor] is very bad news for Israel and for the Jewish people. Israel and Biden must urgently collaborate to defuse it,” an Israeli businessman laments in Tom Friedman’s column the other day. That’s how the lobby works: an Israeli tells us how to conduct our politics, given the platform by a nakedly pro-Israel columnist who says the U.S. must preserve the Jewish state for the sake of “world Jewry.”
It isn’t working this time. The lobby is losing its hold inside the Democratic Party because of the reality, the fact that Israel’s only answer to Gaza being a ghetto for refugees is to massacre civilians for the fifth time in the last 12 years. It is now inevitable, given the “Jewish state”‘s rightward shift and indifference to Palestinian rights, that a block of the Democratic Party will come out for BDS targeting Israel. Because that’s how you deal with an apartheid state, You boycott it. And to be sure: there are plenty of young Jews in that progressive block.
Tom Friedman is upset and warns that the “one state reality” is going to “blow up” the Democratic Party, and every Jewish organization and congregation. (Tom Friedman who has a multimillion-dollar foundation in the U.S. and a nice American life but supports the 30-year-long bait-and-switch to Palestinians of a “two-state solution” so that “world Jewry” will keep its fantasy of a Jewish refuge nearly 6000 miles away.)
But what goes around comes around. This conflict has been cultivated by the superpower, and that conflict will come to the United States before it is resolved. The Democratic Party must divide — and come together — over this question. The Jewish community must break up, and abandon its longtime policy of “We are one” with Israel.
There are many signs that these changes are happening, including the large protests in the U.S. and Free Palestine banners where we never saw them before. And the puerile hysteria from Israel supporters over the New York Times daring to publish the photos of slain Palestinian children.
Joe Biden has two good reasons to try to staunch these politics, 2022 and 2024. Israel and Palestine are the graveyards of presidencies. Jimmy Carter thought he got only one term because he took on Israel (writes his Jewish liaison Stu Eizenstat). George H.W. Bush evidently had the same regret, for taking on settlements in 1991– and as Tom Friedman said, Republicans vowed never to be out-Israel’d again. Barack Obama spent eight years having to listen to Benjamin Netanyahu lecture him about Jerusalem. “You’re fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day,” he famously told the French president with a hot mic.
In public, though, Obama went along with Netanyahu’s lie that he wanted to create a Palestinian state. Now Obama hand Ben Rhodes confesses that he feels ashamed about that.
“We pretended to my shame at times in the Obama administration that he was interested in that. When I don’t think he was, ever.”
It was an important lie. World powers had come up with a plan 30 years ago to resolve the conflict by establishing two states, and Israel destroyed the plan; and American presidents and columnists too protected Israel from the fallout.
Now the consequences are inescapable, apartheid, and world opinion is moving toward new ideas, democracy and equal rights in the entire land (as even Carnegie says). A significant portion of the Democratic Party will come out for equality before long.
Tom Friedman is sloppy but he’s shrewd, and when he says the one state reality is going to “blow up” things in America, the darkness is meaningful.
Every phase of Israel’s existence has been marked by the violence of a settler colonial state unwanted by many of its subjects. Israel has had a dozen or so wars, and its visions of its future are not idealistic. Conflict is “the price we pay to be home. And it’s the price we’ll continue to pay if we have to,” Daniel Gordis says. So Israel brutalizes children merely for flying a Palestinian flag.
Israel has often exported that violence. To Egypt in the Lavon affair in the 50s, to Iraq and the Baghdad synagogue attacks in that era, to the U.S.S. Liberty in international waters in ’67, to a terrorism campaign in Lebanon in the 80s,to the killing of 10 Turks on the Mavi Marmara in the Mediterranean in 2010. To the killings of Iranian scientists inside Iran in recent years.
The last time Zionists had a colonial minder with misgivings, they carried out many terrorist acts against the British. They blew up the King David hotel, they assassinated the British minister Lord Moyne in 1944 for his opposition to a Jewish state, and an Israeli prime minister later bluntly justified the assassination. They killed idealists in their own ranks, from Chaim Arlosoroff to Jacob de Haan, and they killed the U.N. mediator in 1948 because he wanted to internationalize Jerusalem.
Israel and its lobby will not give up lying down on the historical dream of a Jewish state. They have come to believe that this is the way to keep Jews safe, and they are willing to fight for that delusion. The outcry over the spike in antisemitism in our country is a symptom of this attachment. The pro-Israel community is thinskinned and pugilistic. And now it is now aroused by “virulent anti-Zionism” — the mere portraits of its victims in the New York Times.
The Algerian colonial war was resolved in the colonial power. The war ended after the violence went to France, and the politics of France changed. I believe that is an eventuality here, as the Democratic Party becomes the latest “existential threat” to the Jewish state.
Which makes me even more dedicated to the nonviolent campaign to change Israel’s racist policies: BDS. Some day, even Joe Biden will come around.