Patriotism: What is it?

            The concept of patriotism has always been difficult for this writer; candidly, he just doesn’t get it. Dictionary.com defines ‘patriotism’ as follows: “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.”

What, exactly, is love of country? It seems that this concept is more rigidly held to in the United States than anywhere else. Certainly, many citizens of most countries have some sense of pride in their country, but it doesn’t appear to be as extreme or irrational as in the U.S.

Right-wingers have been heard to say ‘I love my country; it’s the government I fear.’ So what, exactly, do Americans love about their country? This writer considered many things people mention when extolling the greatness of the U.S, but still can’t understand patriotism.

1)                   Freedoms: the U.S. has some freedoms, but it can hardly be seen as an example of a free and democratic country. International standards indicate that freedom of the press is very low in comparison to other nations, and is dropping. This is not surprising when six corporations own over 90% of the news media.

The U.S. government reads the emails and monitors the telephone calls of millions of Americans. Wealthy bankers who break laws are not charged, let alone imprisoned, while petty criminals living in poverty are given long prison sentences. The murder of black youths is excused if their murderer considers that he/she felt ‘threatened’ by the youth. In many cities, it is not safe to walk the streets. Police corruption is rampant. The will of the people is thwarted in elections (see 2000 presidential election), and by Congressional edict. For example, the fact that polls show overwhelming support for increasing the minimum wage has not motivated the Republican-led Congress to discontinue vilifying the very idea. Lobbyists control the government.

2)                   Opportunity: Once called ‘the land of opportunity’, the U.S. can no longer be seen in that light. A university degree, once seen as a ticket to employment security and success, is now almost meaningless. Young adults, heavily burdened by student debt due to the high cost of a college education, and the fact that the U.S. government charges a much higher interest rate to struggling students than it does to wealthy corporations, must postpone marriage, family and home-buying as they accept minimum-wage jobs despite impressive degrees.

3)                   Friendliness: In the myth of U.S. history, one hears stories of neighbor helping neighbor, and people pitching in to assist during times of individual crisis or national disaster. If that ever existed, it is long gone. The poor, under-employed, handicapped, etc. are all seen as a drag on the economy, demanding such luxuries as food, shelter and clothing to be paid for by the taxes of hard-working Americans. People receiving such assistance are the target of scorn and contempt.

4)                   International reputation as a beacon of liberty: Another myth, long fostered by the U.S., no longer holds water, if it ever did. The real reasons for U.S. invasions around the world are being exposed, and they never have anything to do with national security or human rights; they are all about economic and political power. The unspeakable cruelty with which U.S. soldiers treat the U.S.-defined ‘enemy’ is astounding. The killing of innocent men, women and children with drones is causing the hatred that so much of the world has toward the United States to increase exponentially.

5)                   Scenery: It can’t be questioned that the United States has spectacular, breath-taking scenery. From the Rocky Mountains, to the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, to the central plans and swaying palm trees of the south and Hawaii, there is a diversity of great beauty in the U.S. But in the various countries that this writer has traveled to, he has seen comparable beauty. It doesn’t seem enough to justify the ‘patriotism’ so infused in the American spirit.

This writer, although still a U.S citizen, has resided in Canada since 2005. He likes Canada very much. The scenery is beautiful, everyone has basic health care, marriage equality is long-established (and, wonder of wonders, Canadian society did not implode as a result), and elected representatives don’t become rich off the taxes they charge the citizenry.  The cost of a university education is a fraction of what it is in the U.S., and there are still jobs for most people who want them. The Canadian military doesn’t embark on endless imperial misadventures, causing it to be hated around the world.  Yet he is unable to feel the unqualified love for Canada that many people seem to feel for the U.S.  He recognizes that some policies currently in place in Canada are blatantly unfair (example: Canada’s unqualified support of the apartheid regime of Israel), and cannot look the other way with a ‘my country right or wrong’ attitude.

So, is patriotism merely a fairy tale? Is it something people in general, but U.S. citizens in particular, are taught, similar to Santa Claus?

-       ‘Love your country because it’s the best country in the world.’

-       ‘How is it best?’

-       ‘Shut up and love your country because it’s the best country in the world’.

It seems to this writer that being a global citizen is far better than being a national citizen. Loyalty to mankind is superior to loyalty to a nation. The desire to defend, assist and uphold mankind is far better than a desire to defend, assist and uphold one country. The latter means that some, or many, countries, and their citizens, must be kept down, out of the freedom and opportunity mix, in order that one can stay on top.

Perhaps the arrogance that is so much a part of U.S. patriotism is rooted in this need to be on top, with others below. The fact that the U.S. is only ‘on top’ (or near it) in its contempt for human rights, its abominable treatment of the less-fortunate, its disdain for education and its love for the rich, doesn’t seem like anything to brag about. Yet its citizens continue to wave their flags and sing, teary-eyed, the national anthem, as around them the nation causes untold suffering.

From my latest book: Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy

Chapter 16: Israeli-Palestine Conflict

Like most of the U.S.’s foreign policy initiatives, a complete study of this issue would take volumes.  This work only attempts to portray the conflict in its place in U.S. foreign policy since the founding of the state of Israel, which was accomplished only through the shocking displacement of several hundred-thousand Palestinians.

On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild what came to be known as the Balfour Declaration. This officially proclaimed British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Sadly, this declaration didn’t consider the wishes or rights of the millions of Palestinians who were to be driven out of their homes to accommodate this new nation. The U.S. media at the time seldom mentioned the Palestinian people, and portrayed their struggle for independence as opposition to the establishment of a Jewish state. In the Balfour Declaration, the Palestinians were only referred to as ‘existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.’

“Despite the fact that there was considerable evidence of the extreme nationalistic drive behind the Zionist movement, which was its motivating force, American journals gave a good press to the Zionists’ alleged goal of building a democratic commonwealth in Palestine. How this would be possible when the Arabs constituted two-thirds of the population and were opposed to Zionism, did not seem to be a relevant question to many of the magazines.”[1]

This was only the start of the long-standing, globally-perpetrated injustices to the Palestinian people, injustices that the U.S. has been instrumental in fostering.

Zionist had long wanted their own nation, and looked to Palestine as its sight. The Balfour Declaration came about after years of negotiations with various world leaders.

The unspeakable hypocrisy of the United States is highlighted when looking at the establishment of the nation of Israel in Palestine. The right of peoples to self-determination, recorded as early as the city-states of Mesopatamia, Greece and Rome, was incorporated into the U.S. Declaration of Independence:  “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….” On May 27, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson said that “Every people has a right to choose the sovereignty under which they shall live.”[2]

Mr. Wilson continued his lofty rhetoric, saying on February 11, 1918, that “National aspirations must be respected; peoples may not be dominated and governed only by their own consent.”[3] Further: “Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action, which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.”[4]

While these principles are continually expressed from the White House, regardless of its occupant, and reiterated from the halls of Congress, they are no more than meaningless platitudes, empty words spoken to foster, at least in the minds of U.S. citizens, the myth of the U.S. as a nation seeking to further the independence and democratic aspirations of people worldwide. However, “The prolongation of conflict in the Middle East is mainly caused by Israel’s denial of the right of the Palestinian people to exercise self-determination in their historic homeland. The United States, because of its unconditional political, moral, economic and military support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, must bear heavy responsibility for the continuing state of unrest in the region.”[5]

On January 8, 1918, President Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress, and presented fourteen points, a statement of basic principles outlining the goals of the post-war global environment. Point Twelve reads as follows:

“The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.”[6]

These lofty goals, of course, could not be expected to stand in the way of U.S. strategic interests; self-determination and human rights are all well and good, as long as they don’t in any way inconvenience the United States. Mr. Wilson’s Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, was acutely aware of this. He arrived in France in December of 1918, and the President’s use of the term ‘self-determination’ troubled him greatly. “In his private notes he wrote that it was loaded with dynamite, might breed disorder, discontent and rebellion. His neat, logical mind saw it leading the President into strange contradictions. ‘Will not the Mohammedans of Syria and Palestine and possibly of Morocco and Tripoli rely on it? How can it be harmonized with Zionism, to which the President is practically committed?’ he asked himself.”[7] Heaven forbid the ‘Mohammedans’ rely on a promise of self-determination. In January of 1919, Wilson’s legal counselor, David Hunter Miller, advised the president that “the rule of self-determination would prevent the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.”[8] And such a state had the firm backing of the president. On March 2, 1919, Mr. Wilson advised that he was “persuaded that the allied nations, with the fullest concurrence of our own government and people, are agreed that in Palestine shall be laid the foundations of Jewish commonwealth.”[9]

This ‘foundation of a Jewish commonwealth’ would only come at the appalling cost of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and the murders of countless thousands of them. And the numbers of displaced Palestinians would climb into the millions with the passage of time, as their right to self-determination continues to be thwarted by the United States.

“Contrary to Wilson’s public utterances contained in his point Twelve…Palestine was, in fact, handled precisely ‘upon the basis of the material interest’ and ‘advantage’ of other nations and was not based upon ‘the free acceptance of’ consultation with  ‘the people immediately concerned.’ The fate of Palestine was determined in accordance with what the Allies had already planned, in contradiction to Wilson’s publicly declared opposition to the implementation of secret treaties arrived at during the war.”[10]

The Anglo-American Convention of 3 December 1924 cemented the U.S.’s dominant role in the future of the Palestinian people. It stated that any change to the status of Palestine by the British be approved by the U.S., although any such change could be made without any input from the Palestinians. It further emphasized that the rights of U.S. missionaries in Palestine would be protected, but said nothing about protecting the rights of the Palestinians. “As the political and military status of the United States began to rise to preeminence in the global arena, the American government began to play a more and more substantial role in the denial of Palestinian rights.”[11]

Following World War II, the newly-formed United Nations, wanting to make some compensation to the international Jewish community for the unspeakable horrors it had suffered during the war, established the United Nations Special Committee for Palestine (UNSCOP), comprised of members with little experience in conflict resolution, and almost no knowledge of Palestine’s history. On November 29, 1947, General Assembly Resolution 181 was passed, recommending the partitioning of Palestine into two states.

“It is clear that by accepting the Partition Resolution, the UN totally ignored the ethnic composition of the country’s population. Had the UN decided to make the territory the Jews had settled on in Palestine correspond with the size of their future state, they would have entitled them to no more than ten per cent of the land. But the UN accepted the nationalist claims the Zionist movement was making for Palestine and, furthermore, sought to compensate the Jews for the Nazi holocaust in Europe.

As a result, the Zionist movement was ‘given’ a state that stretched over more than half of the country.”[12]

In order for the new Jewish settlers to enter, Palestinians had to leave. This was done with the consent of U.S. President Harry Truman.

Mr. Truman formed his opinions and polices on Palestine based on three aspects related far more to U.S. domestic polices than foreign needs.

1)    Lobbying by the Zionist movement. There appears to have been “…a concerted effort by American Jews to persuade Truman to ignore or override the advice of officials in the departments of State and Defense who opposed unequivocal American support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.”[13] And while this probably had a significant impact on the president’s policies, he did eventually grow tired of the almost ceaseless lobbying efforts on behalf of partition. “As the pressure mounted, I found it necessary to give instructions that I did not want to be approached by any more spokesmen for the Zionist cause.”[14]

2)    Financial and electoral support for the election of 1948. The president, who came to office upon the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, did not appear in a good position to be elected for a term on his own merits. Democratic Party leaders felt that a supportive U.S. policy towards the establishment of Israel would benefit the president.

3)    Conflicts about partition and related issues among top Cabinet officials and senior staff. Mr. Truman seemed to vacillate between one group and the other, depending on domestic policies, global events, or even the strength of the arguments made by his advisors.

In the end, these forces compelled U.S. policy toward support for the creation of the Jewish state, with complete disregard for the rights or interests of the area’s majority Arab population. “It is questionable whether Truman thought through the long-term international consequences for American interest of his position on Palestine or if he simply responded to the pressure of the moment….[T]he president did not demonstrate any awareness of the humanitarian problems his policies were creating for the indigenous Arab inhabitants of Palestine.”[15]

In December of 1947, approximately 75,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes, most of them into refugee camps, all of them without any compensation for lost homes, farmlands, etc. By April of that same year, an additional 250,000 had been forced from their homes, carrying whatever possessions they could with them.  During this time, the Dier Yassin massacre took place. “A combined IZP and LHI (Zionist paramilitary groups at the time) unit, supported by Hagana (another Zionist paramilitary group that formed the basis for today’s Israeli Defense Forces) mortar fire, attacked and conquered Deir Yassin, an Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, not far from al-Qastal. During the takeover of the village, which up to that moment had remained out of the fighting, the Jewish forces massacred some 120 men, women and children, and the survivors were expelled to East Jerusalem. [David] Shaltiel [military commander of Jerusalem] objected to the operation, as the village was peaceful, and had not been involved in the fighting.”[16]

By the end of 1948, at least 750,000 Palestinians had been forcibly displaced from their homes, with thousands killed.

John Foster Dules, later Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “…was no stranger to the intractable problems surrounding the question of Palestine. His sympathetic attitude toward the Jews there was reflected in the active role he played in the adoption of a plank in the Republican convention platform of 1944 calling for the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine and the protection of Jewish political rights in the area. He also supported and urged U.S. backing of the UN partition resolution of November, 1947.”[17] Not surprising, this set the tone for the Eisenhower administration’s attitude toward Israel and Palestine.

This support for Israel by Mr. Eisenhower was not always the case. Although providing humanitarian support to Jews after World War II in his role as military governor of Germany, he was not enthusiastic about the establishment of a Jewish state. Later, as president, he spoke to Philip Klutznick, the president of B’nai B’rith. He expressed “… his doubts as to whether he would have favored the establishment of Israel. But ‘now that it was done,’ said Eisenhower, ‘we’ll have to live with it.’”[18]

Mr. Eisenhower was concerned about the vast oil reserves that the Middle East had, as well as the Soviet ‘threat,’ as was the case with several predecessors and successors. He wanted ready access to the oil, expressing the need for it for both military and civilian purposes. He also felt that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict provided an opportunity for the Soviets to exploit the situation, and get a strong foothold in the Middle East.

The foreign policy of the Eisenhower administration was rooted in two basic goals: 1) protecting the oil supplies of the Middle East, and 2) minimizing any Soviet (read: communist) involvement in the region. Palestine had no direct control over any oil resources, and was not strong enough militarily to be seen as a target of Soviet interests. This might, one may think, exempt it from unwanted attention by the U.S. However, “Finding a resolution to the Arab-Israeli dispute and the Palestine issue…was important only insofar as the failure to do so might damage U.S. and Western relations with the Arab world, make Arab states susceptible to Soviet influence, and risk the security of Middle Eastern oil resources. In the 1950s, many in the Foreign Service felt that ‘the question of the future status of the Palestinians was one that, unless it were resolved promptly, would pose a far greater threat to the U.S. and Western influence in the area than would any overt moves by the communist bloc.’ Yet the polices made in Washington did not reflect this sense of urgency.”[19]

Eisenhower wanted to develop strong ties with all anti-communist countries in the Middle East, rather than simply favoring Israel, as President Truman had eventually done.  In the spring of 1953, Secretary of State Dulles went on a fact-finding trip to the Near East and South Asia. In a radio address following this trip, he addressed the American people via radio.

“Closely huddles around Israel are most of the over 800,000 Arab refugees, who fled from Palestine as the Israeli took over. They exist mostly in makeshift camps, with few facilities either for health, work or recreation….

The United States should seek to allay the deep resentment against it that has resulted from the creation of Israel. In the past we had good relations with the Arab peoples….

Today the Arab peoples are afraid that the United States will back the new state of Israel in aggressive expansionism. They are more fearful of Zionism than of communism, and they fear lest the United States become the backer of expansionist Zionism….

We cannot afford to be distrusted by millions who could be sturdy friends of freedom….

Israel should become part of the Near East community and cease to look upon itself, or be looked upon by others, as alien to this community. To achieve this will require concessions on the part of both sides.”[20]

While these sentiments would be proclaimed for years, recognition of Palestine as a national group was never considered.

The administration of President John F. Kennedy ushered in a new epoch in U.S.-Israeli relations, and consequently, in U.S. – Palestinian relations. Mr. Kennedy was concerned about the problem of Palestinian refugees, and sought to alleviate it. The basis for his efforts was Paragraph 11 of United Nations General Assembly Resolution of December 11, 1948. It reads as follows:

“Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Government or authorities responsible.”[21]

Mr. Kennedy wanted the refugees to decide what they wanted: a return to their homes, or resettlement with compensation.

His efforts were opposed by Israel, which saw the return of the refugees as a threat to their national security. Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told the Knesset that “Israel categorically rejects the insidious proposal for freedom of choice for the refugees, for she is convinced that this proposal is designed and calculated only to destroy Israel. There is only one practical and fair solution for the problem of the refugees: to resettle them among their own people in countries having plenty of good land and water and which are in need  of additional manpower.”[22]

The Palestinians and other Arab states, too, were not impressed with Mr. Kennedy’s efforts. They worried that a resolution of the refugee problem would cause their national aspirations to be ignored. Egyptian President Abdul Nasser saw Mr. Kennedy’s proposal as a possible trap. “The trap, he warned, was that Arab states were invited to take the initiative in proposing a solution of the refugee problem ‘on the assumption that that would lead to the disintegration of the Palestine Question altogether.”[23]

President Kennedy was also the first U.S. president to praise Israel in emotional terms. In addressing the Zionist Organization of America in August of 1960, shortly before his election, he said that “friendship for Israel is not a partisan matter, it is a national commitment.”[24]

Mr. Kennedy’s electoral victory three months later may also have influenced his policies toward Israel, and certainly played a role in his successors’ policies. In the November, 1960 presidential election, Mr. Kennedy garnered an astounding (at that time) 80% of the Jewish vote. U.S. politicians, always with an eye on the next election, do not want to alienate such a lucrative voting gold mine; again, human rights, and the lofty talk of self-determination take a distant back seat to political expediency.

With the November, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, his vice-president, Lyndon Johnson, assumed office. President Johnson had no interest in resolving the refugee problem that Mr. Kennedy had worked on; the Democratic Party platform on which Mr. Johnson was elected the following year included a provision to “encourage the resettlement of Arab refugees in lands where there is room and opportunity.”[25] Work by the U.S. towards any kind of an equitable resolution for the refugees, such as it was, died with Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Johnson, kindly disposed to Israel, was surrounded by advisors who had that nation’s best interests at heart. These included Arthur Goldberg, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations; Eugene V. Rostow, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, and John Roche, a speech-writer and close advisor. Additionally, Israeli Ambassador Avraham Harman and Ephraim Evron, Israeli Minister at the Embassy, were personal friends of Mr. Johnson, and had easy access to the White House.

Mr. Johnson’s biggest investment in the Palestinian-Israel conflict was the June, 1967 War. The detailed causes of this war are beyond the scope of this work. Suffice it to say that years of hostility between Israel and its Arab neighbors culminated in deep suspicion and distrust on both sides. From 1965 – 1967, Israel staged countless provocations along its border with Syria. There was a strong belief by the Syrians and the Soviet Union that Israel was planning to overthrow the government of Syria. In April of 1967, an incident in the demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria let to military action on both sides.

The following month, Israel threatened military action against Syria, for that country’s alleged support of Palestinian guerillas. At the end of the month, Egypt and Jordan signed a formal defense pact and the following day, the Iraqi army began deploying troops and armored units within Jordan, at Jordan’s invitation.  Israel, on June 5, launched an air strike, thus starting what became known as the Six-Day War.

President Johnson did not appear to be in much of a dilemma about how to respond. “The line of least resistance in the Middle East ran to Israel, as always since 1948. Pressure from the pro-Israel lobby encouraged Johnson to approve arms deliveries to Israel. His attempts to arrange third-party suppliers suggest that he might not have approved unpressured, despite his own personal concern for Israel’s safety. Pro-Israel pressure made it impossible for him to apply strong sanctions to prevent a preemptive Israeli attack in June 1967. In this instance, Johnson probably did not need the pressure to act as he did, since he sympathized with Israel’s predicament.”[26]

In 1968, with the Vietnam War raging out of control and U.S. universities and streets burning with opposition to it, the president decided not to seek what would have been his second full term. In November of 1968, Richard M. Nixon was elected president.

President Nixon entered office with less obligation to Israel, and less knowledge about Palestine, than most of his predecessors. He received only about 15% of the Jewish vote, and seemed pleased to tell visitors that “the Jewish lobby had no effect on him.”[27] In his memoirs, he wrote of his concern about Israel’s arrogance, especially as demonstrated following the 6-Day War. He described “…an attitude of total intransigence on negotiating any peace agreement that would involve the return of any of the territories they had occupied.”[28]

Mr. Nixon, at least privately, espoused a more balanced approach to the Middle East. “It is apparent that Nixon, as president, was not only acutely aware of the incestuous triangle between Israel, its American supporters, and the White House, but that he was determined to steer his own course.”[29] With this in mind, he sent former Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton to the Middle East, ostensibly to study the situation, but actually to gauge the reaction to a change in U.S. policy toward the Middle East, and to introduce the idea of such a change. Mr. Scranton publicly stated upon his return that a more ‘even-handed’ approach was required.

“As predictable as Scranton’s conclusion was the uproar the remark incited from Israel and from Jewish Americans who considered such a ‘more even-handed’ attitude as anti-Israel, even as proof of anti-Semitism.”[30]

Unfortunately, this new, ‘even-handed’ approach was not meant to be. Mr. Nixon had envisioned a figurehead secretary of state and, in appointing William Rogers, he got exactly what he wanted. Mr. Rogers had little ambition, and even less experience in foreign affairs, and the president instructed him to tame the agency’s “recalcitrant bureaucracy,”[31] and leave the running of foreign affairs to Mr. Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger.

Mr. Nixon had his hands full with Vietnam, but he was also concerned about Russia and China, and Japan’s growing influence. The Middle East wasn’t much of a concern, and that is the only area of the world that he assigned to Secretary of State Rogers. Mr. Rogers’ efforts were mainly to counter “… the intransigence of Israel, a country of only 3 million or so people, a country, moreover, that was totally dependent on the good will and economic support of the United States.  Finally, Rogers had much to bring to the problem: honesty, integrity, objectivity, and experience in government, if not in the Middle East.

“But he was lacking two essentials: the trust of the Israelis and the respect of Nixon’s new National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger.”[32]

Mr. Kissinger had little knowledge of the issues of the Middle East. However, his parents had fled Germany shortly before the Holocaust, and his bias was plainly towards Israel. He had never visited an Arab country, and had been to Israel only three times. This bias was plainly manifested in his dealings with Secretary Rogers. He encouraged U.S. and foreign ambassadors to go directly to him, completely bypassing the State Department.

It must be remembered that President Nixon was a hard-line anti-communist, who saw all world events in this context. Every conflict on the globe was somehow related, in his mind, to the struggle between the U.S.’s rather loosely-defined version of freedom and democracy, against communist encroachment and aggression. Mr. Kissinger shared this skewed belief. Both believed that the Soviets wanted a strong presence in the Middle East only for oil, land and power, rather than any sympathy to Arab nationalism.

Also, reference to Palestinians only appears three times in Mr. Nixon’s memoirs. Focused on the perceived aggression of the Soviets in ‘Arab’ lands, he had little interest in the finer points of the conflicts.

In order to counter what he saw as Soviet advances in the Middle East, President Nixon wanted to improve relations with Arab nations, relations that had been tenuous at best prior to the 1967 war, but were shattered at that time. It was on this point that he and Mr. Kissinger differed.

The U.S. at this time only had relations with Israel, and that suited Mr. Kissinger. “Rather than make any effort toward the Arab states, much less the Palestinians, Kissinger felt the United States should let them stew until they came begging to Washington.”[33] He later wrote: “I thought delay was on the whole in our interests because it enabled us to demonstrate even to radical Arabs that we were indispensable to any progress.”[34]

Those knowledgeable about the Middle East didn’t agree with this analysis. Global issues of communism versus capitalism were, if anything at all, a very minor part of conflicts caused by issues about local control of land and water. Middle East experts saw the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the expansion of Israeli settlements as a major source of conflict in the region.

Mr. Nixon wanted to encourage greater cooperation and diplomacy with the Middle East; Mr. Kissinger preferred to keep things the way they were, with Israel the U.S.’s only ally in the region.

In September, 1970, so called ‘Black September,’ civil war erupted in Jordan. Palestinian guerrillas in Jordan, many refugees from the dispossession of 1947-1948, as well as the 1967 war, sought to take power. Syria, siding with the Palestinians, eventually sent tanks into Jordan to support them. The Palestinian population of Jordan at that time exceeded that of Jordanians. President Nixon, characteristically, saw this conflict through the lens of communist aggression, although there was no evidence at the time, nor has any come forth since, to indicate that the Soviet Union anticipated this conflict any more than the U.S. did. It was this conflict, perhaps, that was a turning point in U.S.-Israel relations. Mr. Kissinger requested Israeli assistance in the war to include a reconnaissance mission, and the possibility of air and land strikes against Syria.

Israel was hesitant to do so, without some very specific assurances from the U.S. Israel demanded, and received, U.S. promises that the U.S. would protect Israel from any Soviet or Egyptian aggression. They also wanted additional weapons, and this, too, was granted. Israel did deploy forces along its borders with Jordan and Syria, but no other action was needed by that nation. Before Israel was asked to make land or air strikes, Jordanian troops pushed Syrian troops back into their own country, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven out of Jordan, going mostly to Lebanon, and the conflict ended.

For Mr. Nixon, this was a clear victory in the U.S. – Soviet conflict that consumed him. Said he: “We could not allow Hussein to be overthrown by a Soviet-inspired insurrection. If it succeeded, the entire Middle East might erupt in war…the possibility of a direct U.S. – Soviet confrontation was uncomfortably high. It was a ghastly game of dominoes, with nuclear war waiting at the end.”[35]

Messrs. Nixon and Kissinger publically proclaimed this a global crisis that was resolved by the U.S., with assistance from Israel, and one that thwarted the efforts of the Soviet Union. “This distorted beyond recognition Moscow’s role, which most analysts now agree was limited to cautioning Syria, and greatly exaggerated Israel’s contribution.”[36]

Despite Israel’s very limited contribution to the war, Mr. Kissinger was effusive in his thanks to Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin. “The President will never forget Israel’s role in preventing the deterioration in Jordan and in blocking the attempt to overturn the regime there. He said that the United States is fortunate in having an ally like Israel in the Middle East. These events will be taken into account in all future developments.”[37]

Those events, or at least Mr. Kissinger’s interpretation of them, were indeed taken into account. “During 1971, U.S. aid to Israel was dramatically increased to nearly five times the largest amount and close to fifty times the smallest amount given in any previous year.”[38]

After President Nixon’s resignation, his successor, Gerald Ford, was too busy with trying to keep the country together, and overseeing the end of the Vietnam War, to spend much time on the Middle East. His short administration ended when he was defeated for election by Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Carter campaigned on a pro-Israel, anti-Palestine platform that had gained so much popularity in the U.S.  Yet as president, he demonstrated in the eyes of some, more openness toward the Palestinians than his campaign rhetoric may have intimated. “Indications that the administration might be moving away from a completely pro-Israeli stance and toward consideration of Palestinian rights elicited a predictable reaction from the Zionist lobby. Most Zionists viewed the struggle as a zero sum game in which recognition of the Palestinians – on any level – was a loss for Israel; recognition of, or negotiation with, the Palestinians was therefore totally unacceptable.”[39] Yet their concerns were unfounded; as president, Mr. Carter never seemed to consider the feasibility of a separate Palestinian nation.

This attitude was not uniform among the Carter Administration. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski certainly supported the president’s view, but in a letter to Mr. Brzezinski from the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James E. Atkins, Mr. Atkins said this: “…there could be no peace in the Middle East unless the rights of the Palestinians are recognized; that this includes the right of self-determination; and that everyone knows the Palestinians want a state of their own.”[40]

A Harris poll administered in 1979 asked the U.S. public to agree or disagree with this statement: “As the most powerful force among Palestinian Arabs, the PLO should be in on negotiations about Gaza or the West Bank, even if the PLO are terrorists.”[41] The bias in this statement is apparent, but it serves to highlight the general attitude toward the Palestinians during this timeframe.  Fifty-seven percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, while 34% agreed.

Mr. Carter presided over the Camp David Accords, a two-framework agreement that was supposed to bring peace to the Middle East. The first of the two dealt with Palestine, and nothing in it was ever achieved. The second led to a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

With multiple problems plaguing him both domestically and internationally, Mr. Carter was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1980, and former actor and governor of California, Ronald Reagan, became president.

Reagan, like President Nixon before him, saw any global conflicts as somehow a manifestation of the Soviet ‘threat’. One way he felt that that threat could be countered was by strengthening U.S. ties with Israel, thereby preventing the Soviet Union from gaining a strong foothold in the Middle East. As a result, his policies were often conflicting. He declared early in his administration that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were not illegal, despite years of global condemnation of those settlements, including by the United Nations.  In 1982,”He sought to reassure Israel by declaring that the United States would ‘not support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the west Bank and Gaza,’ and would endorse Israel’s request for changes in the 1967 territorial lines so as to ensure its security. But he also tried to reassure the Palestinians by declaring that ‘we will not support annexation of permanent control by Israel,’ and by calling for ‘the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel.’”[42]

The first sustained diplomatic efforts to resolve Mid-East problems during the eight years of the Reagan Administration resulted from the intifada of 1987. The U.S. recognized that the long-stalled peace process had led to the uprisings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Secretary of State George Shultz created a plan to hopefully resolve the underlying issues. He called for 1) the convening of an international conference; 2) a six-month negotiating period that would bring about an interim phase for Palestinian self-determination for the West Bank and Gaza Strip; 3) a date of December, 1988 for the start of talks between Israel and Palestine for the final resolution of the conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir immediately rejected this plan, claiming that it did nothing to forward the cause of peace. In response, the U.S. issued a new memorandum, emphasizing economic and security agreements with Israel, and accelerating the delivery of seventy-five F-16 fighter jets. This, ostensibly, was to encourage Israel to accept the peace plan proposals. Yet Israel did not yield. “Instead, as an Israeli journalist commented, the message received was: ‘One may say no to America and still get a bonus.’”[43]

During this time, support for U.S. policies toward the Israel-Palestine conflict began to shift. A Gallup survey in 1988 showed that 30% of Americans viewed Israel less favorably than had done so prior to the intifada. Also, as contrasted to the Harris survey of 1979, respondents in a February – March 1988 Gallup survey indicated that 53% favored direct U.S. talks with the PLO, with only 26% supporting official U.S. policies.[44]

President Reagan was succeeded in the White House by his Vice President, George H.W. Bush. President Bush’s administration saw the strengthening of U.S. – Israel ties, and further marginalization of the Palestinians.  This was done in a variety of ways:

  • Blocking the PLO from membership in multiple international organizations;
  • Complete disregard for unspeakable human rights violations committed by Israel against Palestinians living in the occupied territories;
  • A vision of peace based solely on Israel’s terms;
  • Opposition to U.N. resolutions addressing Israel’s violations of international law in crimes committed against the Palestinians;
  • Support for massive Jewish immigration to the occupied territories, and
  • Increasing financial assistance to Israel, despite that country’s pursuit of policies that contradicted U.S. principles.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times commented on the state of relations between the U.S. and Israel during the Bush Administration: “Although the Bush Administration’s whole approach to peacemaking is almost entirely based on terms dictated by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the Israelis nevertheless see the Bush Administration as hostile.”[45] The ‘bonuses’ provided by the Reagan administration, given for Israel’s refusal to support U.S. policies, continued unabated.

Mr. Bush’s administration is perhaps best remembered for the Gulf War, the invasion to ‘liberate’ Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion. “The Provisional Government of the State of Palestine refused to join the so-called Coalition put together by President Bush Sr. to attack Iraq, but instead did its levelheaded best, working in conjunction with Libya and Jordan, to produce a peaceful resolution of this inter-Arab dispute. For their policy of principle and peace, the Palestinian leadership and people were and still are unjustly but predictably vilified by the United States government and Western news media sources.”[46]

President Bush served one term and was defeated by Arkansas governor Bill Clinton.  President Clinton appointed people to high-level cabinet positions who had definite pro-Israel biases. CIA Director James Woolsey and Pentagon chief Les Aspin had long served both the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. National Security Advisor Anthony Lake had served in the Carter administration, but his deputy, Sandy Berger, had some association with American Friends of Peace Now, thus raising red flags in Israel. This represented a breach in the wall of Zionist organizations that stridently purported to represent Jewish voices in the U.S. In referring to these organizations that did not reflect the Zionist view, The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman said that “…their monopoly on representing Jewish positions is being broken.”[47]

In March of 1993, following clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in both Israel and the occupied Palestine territories, Yitzhak Rabin closed the borders between Israel and Palestine. This had a drastic detrimental effect on lives and basic subsistence for at least tens of thousands of Palestinians.  The Clinton Administration chose to look the other way, as Israel perpetrated this unspeakable act of collective punishment.

The U.S. press during this time toed the U.S. party line. Said The New York Times: “So far in the quid pro quo that is part of negotiations, the concessions have come from Israel. Next week, Israeli and American officials say, it is time for a significant gesture from the Palestinians.”[48] These concessions from Israel included allowing a prominent Palestinian to join the Palestinian delegation, and allowing several Palestinians expelled from Palestine to return. No one seemed to ask why Israel was in a position to allow either of these ‘concessions,’ since both seem to be issues for which the Palestinians alone should decide. Additionally, one might consider that the Palestinians had already made sufficient concessions by surrendering, at gunpoint, a large section of their country.

Following President Clinton’s two terms as president, George W. Bush was appointed by the Supreme Court, after losing the popular vote to Vice President Al Gore. Irregularities in polling in Florida caused the election to be brought before the highest court in the land, and Mr. Bush became president.

Like his predecessors, Mr. Bush was beholden to the Israeli lobby, and paid proper homage to it. Also like previous occupants of the White House, he saw human rights through the skewed lens of the U.S.’s definition of democracy. When Hamas was elected to power in the Gaza Strip in 2006, Congress approved a near-total ban on aid to Palestine. Outside observers generally saw this as a relatively free election, not encumbered by vote count fraud as experienced in the U.S. in 2000, in the election that brought Mr. Bush to power. “Noam Chomsky commented on this situation: ‘You are not allowed to vote the wrong way in a free election. That’s our concept of democracy. Democracy is fine as long as you do what we (the United States) says….’ An exchange between Hearst White House correspondent Helen Thomas and then White House spokesman Tony Snow is also enlightening. Ms. Thomas asked about the foreign aid ban.

‘Well,’ Mr. Snow replied, ‘the U.S. role is one of working with Israel and, when possible, with the Palestinians to try to generate a peace, the same it has always been, Helen’.
‘Then why is it bankrupting the Palestinians?’ she interrupted.
‘The Palestinians are not being bankrupted, Helen. What’s happening, as you know, is that Hamas is a terrorist organization. We do not give money to terrorist organizations. What has happened is that this government has tried in a number of ways to make humanitarian aid available to the Palestinian people. We draw a distinction between Hamas, which is…’
‘And they were democratically elected,’ she interjected.
‘They were democratically elected, and they’re still a terrorist organization,’ Mr. Snow persisted.”[49]

 

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 didn’t bring about the promised ‘hope and change’ on which he’d campaigned, and nowhere is that more apparent than in U.S. relations with Israel and Palestine. Although the U.N. has passed numerous resolutions over the years condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the U.S., under President Obama, has chosen to veto them.  On February 18, 2011, a Security Council resolution came up for a vote. This resolution condemned all Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine since 1967, saying that such settlements are illegal under international law. The resolution was co-sponsored by more than 120 of the U.N.’s 192 member states, and was voted affirmatively by 14 of the 15 members of the Security Council. Only the U.S. voted against it, effectively vetoing the resolution. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said after the vote that, while the U.S. agrees the settlements are illegal, the resolution harmed chances for peace talks. Incongruously, she emphasized that the U.S. opposes the settlements: “On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace…”[50]  The inherent contradiction within her statements is evident.

In October of 2011, the United Nations voted to accept Palestine as a member of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) with 107 member nations voting in favor, 14 voting against, and 52 abstaining from voting. This was despite the U.S. threat to stop all its funding to the organization (22% of UNESCO funding). “The U.S. government is legally required to cut funds to any U.N. agency that recognizes a Palestinian state.”[51] As of October of 2012, this left UNESCO with a shortfall of $152,000,000.

On November 29, 2012, the United Nations again defied the United States, when it voted overwhelmingly to recognize Palestine. This time the vote was 138 in favor, 9 opposed and 41 abstaining. The U.S., naturally, condemned this vote, and threatened to cut aid to Palestine as a result.

Again, human rights are a distant second to the political interests of the U.S. government.

 

 

 



[1] Michael A. Dohshe. ‘American Periodicals and the Palestine Triangle, April, 1936 to February, 1947.” Ph.D Diss., (Mississippi State University, 1966), 240.

[2]  Congressional Record, 64th Congress, 1st Session (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1917), 54, pt 2:1742.

 

[3] Congressional Record, 65 Congress, 2d session. (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1918), 56, pt 2, 1952-53.

 

[4] Albert Shaw and Woodrow Wilson, The Messages and Papers of Woodrow Wilson – Vol. 1,( Review of Reviews Corporation 1924), 475.

 

[5] Suleiman, Michael W., ed. U.S. Policy on Palestine from Wilson to Clinton. Page 31.

[6] Michael S. Neiberg, The World War I Reader, (New York University Press, 2006),292.

 

[7] Frank E. Manual, The Realities of American-Palestine Relations, (Review of Reviews Corporation 1924), 217.

 

[8] Harry N. Howard, The King-Crane Commission: an American Inquiry in the Middle East,  (Khayats, 1963), 27.

 

[9] Arthur Walworth, Wilson and His Peacemakers: American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, (W.W. Norton, 1986), 481.

[10] Suelieman, Michael W., ed., U.S. Policy on Palestine from Wilson to Clinton, (Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Inc., 1995), 35.

 

[11] Ibid. 49.

 

[12] Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, (One World Publications, Ltd., 2006), 31 – 32.

[13] Suleiman, 59.

 

[14] Robert Silverberg, If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem: American Jews and the State of Israel, (William Morrow, 1970), 372.

 

[15] Cheryl A. Rubenberg, Israel and the American National Interest, (University of Illinois Press, 1989), 31.

[16] David Tal, War in Palestine, 1948: Strategy and Diplomacy, (Routledge, 2003), 92.

 

[17] Isaac Alteras,  Eisenhower and Israel: U.S. – Israeli Relations, 1953 – 1960, (University Press of Florida, 1993), 55.

 

[18] Ibid. 30.

 

[19] Sulieman, 87.

[20] Suleiman, 88.

 

[21] Francis O. Wilcox and Thorsten V. Kalijavi, Recent American Foreign Polciy: Basic Documents 1941 – 1951, (Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1952), 576-577.

[22] Suleiman, 117.

 

[23] Ibid. 115.

 

[24] Ibid. 551.

 

[25] Ibid. 126.

 

[26] H.W. Brands, The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power, (Oxford University Press, 1997), 262.

 

[27] Henry Kissinger, The White House Years, (Simon and Schuster, 2011), 564.

 

[28] Richard M. Nixon, Memoirs of Richard Nixon, (Buccaneer Books, 1994), 283.

 

[29] Suleiman, 134.

 

[30] Ibid.

 

[31] Nixon, 339.

 

[32] Suleiman, 138 – 139.

 

[33] Ibid. 143.

 

[34] Kissinger, 354.

[35] Alan R. Taylor, The Superpower and the Middle East, (Syracuse University Press, 1991), 84

 

[36] Suleiman, 149.

 

[37] Taylor, 84.

 

[38] Ibid.

[39] Suleiman, 164.

 

[40] Ibid. 169.

 

[41] Ibid. 171.

[42] Ibid. 179.

 

[43] Ibid. 185.

 

[44] Samih K. Farsoun and Christina E. Zacahari,. Palestine and the Palestinians, (Westview Press, 1997), 242 – 243.

 

[45] Thomas Friedman, “A Window on Deep Israel-U.S. Tensions,” The New York Times; September 19, 1991.

 

[46] http://globalresearch.ca/articles/BOY204A.html. Accessed on January 16, 2013.

 

[47] Thomas Friedman, “Clinton Nominees Disturb Some Jews.”The New York Times; January 5, 1993.

 

[48] Steven A. Holmes, “Israeli Concessions Said to Revive Peace Talks.” The New York Times; May 2, 1993.

[50] Brad Knickerbocker, “‘If Obama Opposes Israeli Settlement Activity, Why did US Veto UN Vote?’” The Christian Science Monitor, February 18, 2011.

 

Right-Wing Christianity vs. Biblical Christianity

            With each passing day, the howling histrionics of the so-called religious right grow louder and more hysterical. Initially railing against abortion, they eventually began to see the growing acceptance of marriage equality, and other rights for gay individuals and couples, and this was almost more than they could bear. And as their strident cries for a return to some bizarre interpretation of the Bible increased, they condemned such ‘evils’ as food stamps for children, a livable minimum wage for working people, and that most abominable of all Satan’s work: health care.

A closer look at some of these issues is interesting.

Sincere opponents of abortion value all life, and so also oppose the death penalty and war, and support efforts to enhance the quality of life for all. This could be seen as biblically-based, in the commandments of ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’.

Yet if the ‘right’ wants to reduce abortions, there are certainly many ways to do it. Comprehensive sex education is a start. Unlike what the right may believe, this does not mean discussing human sexuality in kindergarten. But it does mean helping young children to know that parts of their bodies, often described to them as the parts covered by a bathing suit, are private. As children grow older, more specific information is provided, including, during their high-school years, information about birth control. Yet sex-education is seen as yet another horror being forced upon society by a secular, godless government.

Birth control is another area that would certainly prevent unwanted pregnancies, and thus, abortions. If a young woman’s parents are away, she may invite her boyfriend over. Isn’t it far better if she is on the pill, or he has a condom in his wallet, than otherwise? The old Nancy Reagan remedy for preventing substance abuse – “Just Say No” – will be far less efficacious in preventing sexual activity than it was on stopping drug use, and that wasn’t much. So as long as teens are saying ‘yes’, they should be equipped with the knowledge and tools to prevent a devastating pregnancy. But no, says the religious right, heaven forbid young people be allowed to know about birth control, let alone be able to purchase such devices. If someone is truly ‘pro-life’, wouldn’t they be at the forefront of efforts to provide teens with this information, and access to birth control?

As far as war is concerned, it doesn’t seem as if the right is leading in supporting diplomatic efforts to prevent it. Quite the contrary: whenever there is a march toward war, it is led by the so-called Christian right.

Now onto the issue of homosexuality. Many on the fringe right say this is simply a choice. This writer often wonders at what point these pundits reached a crossroads and had to decide for themselves whether or not to choose heterosexuality or homosexuality. It only makes sense that if some people ‘choose’ to be gay, others must ‘choose’ to be straight.

So what of that? Choice or not, isn’t it a violation of God’s sacred laws? Scriptures talk about the union of man and woman, but Jesus Christ never discussed, one way or the other, the union of same sex couples. However, two scriptures come to mind. The first is Luke 6, verse 37 which reads as follows: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” These are the words of Jesus Christ, who the ‘right’ purports to follow. There doesn’t seem to be any lack of clarity in this declaration.

The second scripture, also the words of Jesus Christ, comes from John 8, verse 7. Here we read, in part: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” This, of course, was when the learned Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in adultery, a capital crime at the time. Mightn’t today’s religious right zealots take a cue from this very clear and direct statement? Can any of them claim to be sinless?

The contempt and disdain in which the religious right holds the poor is also puzzling when viewed in a truly biblical context. James, 2, verses 1 – 6 seem very clear on this point.

1.  My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons

2.  For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man, in vile raiment

3.  And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit there here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

4.  Are you not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thought?

It seems clear in these four verses that the poor are as worthy in the eyes of Jesus Christ as the rich. Somehow, much of the ‘Christian’ right seems to overlook this fact.

Matthew 25, verses 33 – 40 might also give some on the ‘Christian right’ food for thought:

  1. 33.  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34.  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35.  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36.  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38.  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39.  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40.  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

This writer doesn’t see anywhere in these, or any other verses in the Bible, where the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, ill or imprisoned person was to be ignored or, worse yet, condemned for their hunger, thirst, illness, crimes, or inability to purchase other needed goods.

So why do those who spew such hatred and yet claim to be Christian have a following? This is extremely puzzling to this writer. Why do so-called Christian leaders condemn the poor, support draconian anti-gay laws, wish, in the name of Jesus Christ, to deprive millions of people of health care, and still manage to have credibility? Why does anyone with even a cursory familiarity with the Bible listen to a word they say?

The only reason that makes any sense is the need for people to hide their ignorance and bigotry in some kind of respectable façade. Wrapping it in the garb of their own twisted brand of Christianity, pulling one or two scripture verses out of context and ignoring the rest, seems to work well for them. Call anyone who has or performs an abortion a murderer, but support government leaders who send soldiers and bombs to kill people. Why not hate gay people, if one can find an obscure verse in the Old Testament that seems to support the idea of homosexuality as sinful? We’ll all just ignore the verses about stoning adulterers and wayward children, and not getting tattoos. Why not criticize the poor, when one can find a verse or two that says the righteous will be rewarded, and the wicked punished, ignoring the many verses about the faith of the righteous being tried? And certainly, let’s not look at all at those pesky verses about loving one’s neighbor, or not judging.

True Christianity is not hatred-fueled, intolerant, cold or condemning. It is accepting, inclusive and non-judgmental. Once the so-called Christian right accepts that fact (this writer is not holding his breath waiting), and starts expending its considerable energy and resources on the less fortunate, real progress can be made toward the peace on earth promised by Jesus Christ to all mankind.

 

 

Foreign Aid, the U.S. and Palestine

Foreign Aid, the U.S. and Palestine

Let us, for a moment, take a look at a part of the world where suffering is rampant. Here are some of the conditions the residents there experience:

–        Very limited potable water.

–        Electricity for six hours a day, at a maximum.

–        Children have to walk through areas destroyed by terrorist bombings to get to school. Many schools have been destroyed.

–        Unemployment is in the double-digits. It rose to 32.5% over the second quarter.

–        Food is lacking; few people have sufficient to eat, due to import restrictions.

–        With new restrictions on the importing of cement, construction activities have all but come to a halt. The construction sector is the largest source of employment in the area.

–        Imports of natural gas and oil are greatly restricted, if allowed at all.

–        Foreign trucks carrying goods into the area decreased by over 50%.

–        It is one of the most crowded places on earth.

One might think that the U.S., which is always rushing off to assist far-flung locations, whether or not they want U.S. assistance, might intervene in this location. Unfortunately, it has not been as quick to send its money, supplies and soldiers to this place, as it has to many other locations suffering from similar conditions.

One need not wonder for long why this is. The U.S., which presents itself as the world’s foremost beacon of peace and freedom, standing with the oppressed and downtrodden throughout the world, does have a few caveats. It will assist any people anywhere, as long as their government does exactly what the U.S. wants it to do. It will spare no expense to help suffering people, as long as those people have not had the temerity to elect a leftist government. And no limitations will be put on assisting anyone, as long as they haven’t displeased Apartheid Israel.

And here we come to the crux of the matter: Palestinians in Gaza, the people suffering as described above, cannot be assisted, because the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) owns the U.S. Congress. While the U.S. can afford to give Israel $8,500,000.00 each and every day of the year, it will not assist starving children in Gaza, living without electricity or potable water, because doing so might dry up some of the campaign contributions funneled to Congress’s members, through the efforts of that disgraceful, racist organization, AIPAC. And, as always, the financial bottom line trumps anything else in U.S. government and politics.

The Gaza Strip has been described as the largest prison on the planet; Apartheid Israel controls all its borders – land, sea and air – and allows few imports or exports. Fisherman attempting to make a living in the waters off the coast are often shot, and their small boats sunk. And now, due to Apartheid Israel’s total blockade, and the overthrow of the democratically-elected Egyptian government of Mohamed Morsi, even clandestine tunnels from that country have been destroyed, further aggravating the suffering of the Palestinians. Without fuel and/or electricity to operate pumps, sewage spills in the streets. And this is how the men, women and children of Gaza must live.

In the U.S., it is no secret to anyone who bothers to look that human rights take a distant back seat to political expediency. The unholy mantra of ‘national security’, for both the U.S. and Apartheid Israel, is chanted with the hope that, if said often enough, it will be believed. Few citizens in the U.S. pay much attention to the Middle East anyway, except when the U.S. decides to invade it, or when such an invasion is prevented, such as was recently done by that upstart Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Then, it is not praise for restraint that is heard, but criticism for allowing a foreign power to influence U.S. policy.

So what of Palestine? Ragged, homeless children and families there do not appear on U.S. news programs. Flooding in city streets is ignored by the western media. The near-starvation of the populace gains no notoriety, since those pulling the media strings have more allegiance to Apartheid Israel than to truth, justice and human rights. And the U.S. Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate, bow to the wishes and whims of Apartheid Israel. And President Obama, like his predecessors at least back to President John F. Kennedy, toes the AIPAC line.

And while these disgraceful elected officials mouth worthless platitudes about national security, for the U.S. and Apartheid Israel, from one side of their mouths, and spout about helping the downtrodden of the world with the other, Palestinians in Gaza continue to suffer, with little help in sight beyond their own resiliency.

That, however, seems to be changing. With the ‘Boycott, Divest, Sanction’ (BDS) movement gaining traction around the world, and more artists refusing to perform or appear in Apartheid Israel, perhaps the tide of racism is turning. This cannot happen soon enough for the people experiencing unspeakable suffering in Gaza, suffering that the U.S. government not only ignores, but also is actively complicit in causing and continuing.

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Also posted on Warisacrime.org.   http://warisacrime.org/content/foreign-aid-us-and-palestine

 

Romney’s ‘Predictions’ about Obama

          A new video is making the rounds, showing statements former Governor Mitt Romney made during his campaign for the presidency, about what would occur if President Obama was re-elected.  This, some of his more ardent followers are implying, shows almost psychic powers on Mr. Romney’s part.             

It is not unusual for the party and/or candidate who lost an election to use the multitudinous statements made during the campaign, to say ‘I told you so’. However, there is little value in doing so, because all the losing candidate can say is what is currently wrong, but not what he/she would have done about it, because he/she would be working with the same Congress.

It is interesting to look at some of Mr. Romney’s ‘predictions’ a little more deeply.

  • The Affordable Care Act would mean that some people would lose coverage they currently had that they liked.  Yes, this is true; now that ‘Obamacare’ is being implemented, some people are having their coverage cancelled. Mr. Obama has taken responsibility, and proposed a means of fixing this problem. It remains to be seen if the Republican – controlled House of Representatives, determined to deprive millions of people of health care, will allow the resolution to the problem to become law.
  • Foreign policy, specifically Russia, Syria and Iran, and Mr. Romney’s claim that the U.S. should take the leading role on the world stage.  One has a short memory indeed if one has forgotten the disastrous U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the ongoing U.S. war in Afghanistan. By all objective measures, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan were better off before the U.S. invasion. In Iraq, they generally had electricity twenty-four hours a day, now a thing of the past. Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds lived for generations in relative peaceful co-existence; that is now as rare as electricity. Hundreds of thousands of people have been driven from their homes in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and are now languishing in refugee camps.

Additionally, President Obama seemed close to waging another war, this time against Syria, and was only stopped due to diplomatic efforts made by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The U.S., as a world power, should work cooperatively with other world powers to find peaceful solutions to the world’s problems.

In this current video, Mr. Romney talks about how Russia supplied Syria with chemical weapons it has used against its own people. The U.S. has supplied Israel with chemical weapons it has used against the Palestinians. The U.S. has no moral superiority over Russia when it comes to chemical weapons.

Also in the video is mentioned Russia’s granting asylum to Edward Snowden, who revealed the widespread wiretapping of the personal emails of U.S. citizens. The U.S. positions itself as a  haven for those from other countries, including Russia, who flee due to fears for their personal safety. Russia has done no more than the U.S. would have done, were the situations reversed.

  • Working with Congress. Yes, as Mr. Romney said, Mr. Obama is having difficulty working with Congress, especially the House of Representatives, the leader of which said, two years into his first term, that the goal of the House was to deprive him of a second term. This is the same legislative body that has voted over forty times to repeal the Affordable Care act, despite the sure knowledge that it would never be voted on in the Democratic-controlled Senate. One could understand one, or even two symbolic votes, followed, perhaps, by bills to improve the legislation.
  • The debt ceiling. Raising the debt ceiling is not a new concept.  Thus far it has been raised on three occasions under President Obama. Under President Bush it was raised seven times; under President Clinton, four times; under President George W. Bush, four times; under President Reagan, seventeen times. Mr. Romney can hardly been seen as a psychic for predicting that it would be raised again under President Obama.
  • Government shutdown: It was ironic that the government shutdown, the sole purpose of which was to hold the government hostage, demanding the repeal of the Affordable Care act as ransom, began on the day that major parts of ‘Obamacare’ went into effect. The shutdown was the brainchild and baby of Republican Senator Ted Cruz. He and his fellow Republicans are fixated on ending affordable care for millions of Americans. Mr. Romney’s prediction that the government would be shut down was long seen by many political commentators, since the GOP had long said it wouldn’t fund the government unless funding for the Affordable Care Act was rescinded.

It might be worthwhile to consider what a Romney presidency would have looked like in the context of the points raised above.

  • Mr. Romney said he would cancel the Affordable Care Act on his first day in office. One wonders how any president can cancel a law without the consent of Congress. And he would certainly have had a fight with the Democratic Senate.
  • Regarding international efforts, U.S. soldiers would certainly be dying in Syria now, along with Afghanistan, and possibly again in Iraq and in Iran. The reputation of the U.S., damaged so badly under President Bush, and revived to some degree under President Obama, would again be greatly damaged, as the U.S. would again be seen as the world’s major source of terror.
  • Following the bitter campaign, one wonders how Mr. Romney would mend fences with the Democratic Senate he would need to work with to get anything accomplished.
  • The debt ceiling may not have been raised. In return, many of the ‘47%’ that Mr. Romney dismissed during the campaign –  retirees, families of active-duty soldiers, the working poor and others who don’t pay income taxes – would lose what little assistance they have in the form of food stamps and other subsidies. The model Mr. Romney followed as a business man –  buying and raiding smaller companies,  closing their doors and depriving their now-jobless former employees of their pensions – would be replicated on a national level, as corporations and their owners would be further enriched, as the rate of poverty skyrocketed.
  • The government shutdown would still have occurred, as the Senate, rather than the House of Representatives, would have refused to fund the government unless the Affordable Care Act was funded.

Partisanship in the U.S. has reached such proportions that nothing is accomplished. The infrastructure in the country is in great need of upgrade, the school system has fallen far behind that of other nations, and no jobs bill has been introduced. A Romney presidency would have changed none of that. The only substantial change would have been an increase in poverty, a further shrinking of the middle class, and more wars to further decimate the economy as they cause untold suffering throughout the world.

 

Obama, Israel and Palestine: No Hope and Change Here

One wonders when, if ever, the nonsense that spews forth from the mouths of the U.S.’s elected, so-called representatives, ceases. Less than five months after his victory over a truly frightening opponent, President Barack Obama went to the Middle East to dance to the tune of his puppet-master, Israel, and, while there, to throw a worthless bone to the Palestinians.

Mr. Obama reiterated the U.S.’s support for Israel’s security, as if Israel was some vulnerable, third world country surrounded by powerful enemies. Israel is, and for years has been, the beneficiary of the United States’ most generous largess, amounting to a total of $8,500,000.00 per day in military aid alone, for a staggering total of $3,102,500,000 in 2012. Compare this to the amount of military aid that the U.S. gives to Israel’s mortal enemy, Palestine: $0.

The U.S. president, when meeting with the corrupt and ineffective Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said this: “Palestinians deserve a future of hope. Palestinians deserve a state of their own.” Pretty words, indeed, but as meaningless as all Mr. Obama’s half-hearted and ineffectual efforts on behalf of the Palestinian people. He once again urged direct talks, without preconditions, with Israel.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, Israel has no interest in negotiations. Real negotiations can only occur between two parties, each of which has something the other wants, and each of which must surrender something, in order to obtain from the other, what is wanted. Israel is free to take from the Palestinians whatever it wants, without consequences. Israel daily arrests Palestinians, including children, and holds them indefinitely, without charge. The international community, and certainly the U.S., says nothing. Palestinians in Israel jails are tortured. The response from the international community, including that self-proclaimed bastion of human rights, the U.S., is silence. Israel, in violation of several United Nations resolutions, controls all Palestine’s borders, including land, air and sea. Hundreds of checkpoints and arbitrary road closures, ostensibly designed to prevent mythical powerful Palestinian terrorists from threatening equally mythical poor, vulnerable, Israel, force Palestinians to travel hours to work their own land, which should require only a few minutes’ walk. Palestinians seeking emergency medical aid in Israel, unavailable in Palestine because Israel will not allow the import of medical supplies and equipment, often wait hours at checkpoints, for no other reason than the arrogance and cruelty of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on duty. This unfair, unjust and arbitrary waiting includes women in labor, causing many to give birth at the checkpoint. In the last few years, at least seventy Palestinian babies have died at checkpoints, being forbidden needed care by IDF soldiers.

Israel builds modern roads on Palestinian land that the Palestinians are forbidden to use. If a new Israel road bisects a Palestinian road, Palestinians cannot cross the intersection. Palestinian famers bringing their produce to market are often stopped at checkpoints and forced to wait days, until the produce has spoiled.

And this is the country that Mr. Obama wants Palestine to negotiate with, without preconditions. What, one asks, is to be gained, other than the perception by a shrinking number of people, most of whom are in the U.S. Congress and are owned by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), that Israel is acting in good faith?

In the past few years, Palestine has been the target of the wrath of many U.S. members of Congress. Palestine has been threatened with all kinds of sanctions, including the withholding of the minimal aid (none of it military) that the U.S. provides. And what has Palestine done to deserve this anger? There were two things the U.S. simply couldn’t countenance:

1)      Palestine applied for, and became a member of, UNESCO, the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  Winning approval by a vote of 107 to 14, Palestine and the United Nations could not escape U.S. punishment.  The U.S. withdrew all U.S. funding of UNESCO, which comprises about 22% of that organization’s budget.

And what of UNESCO? What radical, terrorism-fostering program is this? As stated on that organization’s website, “UNESCO works to create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values.” Far too radical, apparently, for the U.S.

2)      In November of 2012, Palestine applied to the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade its status to ‘non-member observer state.’ This passed by a vote of 138 – 9. In an unusual show of bipartisanship, the U.S. senate proposed a complete cut off of all U.S. aid to Palestine if that nation brought charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court, and the eviction of Palestine’s representatives from Washington, D.C., unless the Palestinians enter into ‘meaningful’ negotiations with Israel. Senator Lindsey Graham said this: “We will not use American taxpayer dollars to support a Palestinian entity whose primary goal, if they file a complaint in the ICC, is to marginalize the Jewish state rather than live in peace with the people of Israel.” Why he thinks Palestine’s goal is to ‘marginalize’ Israel, and not to obtain redress from the horrific crimes Israel perpetrates on the Palestinian people on a daily basis, he did not bother to explain.

Where will it end? What will it take for the U.S. to stop playing lip-service to supporting human

rights around the world, and actually take action? One is naïve indeed, if one thinks the U.S. will ever take such action. That would require courage and statesmanship, something with which the U.S.’s elected officials have no experience. It would mean standing up to powerful interest groups, stating obvious truths, and looking at reality through a lens uncolored by the green of lobbyists’ money. It would mean renouncing greed and the desire for the self-aggrandizement that are so much a part of the U.S. political process.

No, for the Palestinians to one day have a nation, it will take the courage of their leaders, and that of the world community.  Why President Abbas has not yet sought to take Israel to the International Criminal Court would be a mystery, if his compliance with Israel’s demands were not so well known. But even he seems to have his limits; he did, after all, finally petition the United Nation for elevated status. The people he purports to lead desperately need him to take the next step. Doing so should not be held hostage by the U.S. and Israel.