Is Israel off limits?
March 14, 2009
It has long been the case that anyone who dares criticize the policies of Israel or those of the United States toward it is immediately branded anti-semetic or worse. We have just seen that Charles Freeman had to withdraw from consideration for a post in the State Department because he was insufficiently rabidly pro-Israel. He is not alone. Members of Congress and President after President know better than to piss off AIPAC and the pro-Israel lobby if they want to be elected. It is time to stop this insanity and ask the tough questions.
How we got to this untenable situation is a matter of debate. I contend that it started out of America’s sense of guilt for having abandoned Jewish emigrees in the days of WW II, coupled with the horror of Hitler’s attempt to eliminate the Jews of Europe. But we need to declare our debt paid in full at some point and then consider Israel in the same way any other friendly nation is regarded – with clear sight and sound mind. We do neither with Israel.
I will not rehash the many controversies about Israeli settlement policies, battle tactics or horrible oppression of Palestinians. Again, there are strong opinions about all of these and I neither have the knowledge nor the time to deal with each. However, whatever view you may have about them, at the very least they raise issues regarding our lavish financial assistance and even more our unfaltering political support of Israel.
We spend more on Israel than any other nation, and for what gain? Their military is by far the overwhelming force in the region, so continuing to pour money into weapons for them seems inappropriate at best. We have tolerated their well-known nuclear capability in a way no other nation is treated, yet that capability is further destabilizing the region.
Now that Israel seems poised to install a more bellicose government with open hostility to the difficult process of finding a way to peace in the Middle East, it is time to reconsider our relationship with a clear head and without preconditions. We are in a position to impose conditions of our aid and their behavior that could help the peace process immensely. But if no one is able to speak about Israel in anything approaching a critical fashion, we will never do what is needed and appropriate.
Israel is a wealthy nation, able to afford its own defense. It can defend itself. It is time to cut the cord or at least condition it on Israelis pulling out of the settlements, opening up trade to Palestine, and ending its aggressive tactics in the region. Israel is not the only problem by far. But they are tethered to the US in a way none but Egypt is, and we must have the kind of open discussion of our policies that a healthy democracy depends upon.
It is time we stop being a nation of cowards with respect to Israel.
[Note: Because this can be a topic on which comments get nasty and explosive, any sign of the same and I will close down the comments function]