Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Why I Still Dislike Israel

I little more than two years ago I wrote an article for that was entitled “Why I dislike Israel.” The editors were a bit nervous about running it but eventually allowed it to appear after I agreed to some minor deletions. It turned out to be by far the most successful piece I ever did for that website in terms of readership and it attracted 166 comments. My critique was basically that the contrived special relationship with Israel is very bad for the United States on a number of levels. I argued that Washington should treat Israel like any other country, based on actual American national interests. I continue to hold those views, now more than ever as the Israeli government sinks into something approximating madness and drags Washington along with it, and I have often thought that it would be interesting to revisit my discontent with Israel in light of recent developments.

There are good historic reasons to dislike Israel. In the so-called Lavon Affair in 1952 the Israelis were prepared to blow up a U.S. Information Center in Alexandria and blame it on the Egyptians. In the 1960s Israelis stole enriched uranium from a lab in Pennsylvania to build atom bombs. They also obtained nuclear triggers through a spying operation run by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan that included current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 1967, the Israelis attacked and nearly sank the American vessel USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 crewmen. President Lyndon Johnson subsequently blocked an investigation into what had occurred, a cover-up that has persisted to this day. In 1987, Jonathan Pollard, the most damaging spy in the history of the United States, was convicted of carrying out espionage for Israel. He is up for parole next year. And Israel gets away with literally and directly killing individual American citizens in the cases of Rachel Corrie in 2003 and Furkan Dogan of the Mavi Marmara in 2010.

I noted two years ago that the few mainstream critics of Israel tend to apologize in advance by explaining that they have a lot of Jewish friends and actually like Israelis before engaging in what is usually a very mild critique. That milquetoast approach has, fortunately, shifted considerably in the past two years largely due to the steady march of Israeli politics to the hard right coupled with the horrific Israeli attacks on Gaza, which together killed more than 3,000 civilians, including many women and children, and featured deliberate bombings of schools and hospitals. Israel’s development into what is transparently a racist apartheid style state has also come at great cost to the United States, which has looked and acted increasingly ridiculous as a result of the contortions necessary to continue to serve as Tel Aviv’s indispensable patron and protector.

Unlike two years ago, there are now a lot of mainstream critics of Israel and they are pulling no punches, leaving the phony narrative of Israel as the beleaguered little democracy in a sea of nasty enemies in tatters. Many of the most effective critics are themselves Jewish, having finally decided that enough is enough. I defy anyone to read the first few chapters of Max Blumenthal’s splendid Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and come away with any remaining illusions about Israeli society and politics intact. And then there are John Judis’s book Genesis: Truman, American Jews and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism and the Mondoweiss website run by Phil Weiss.

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