Friday, September 14, 2007

A Rarely Debated Issue

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

By Sabria S Jawhar

A NEW book released last week in the United States addresses an issue long on Arabs' minds but rarely debated in American political circles: that American political leaders are so slavish and uncritical of Israel's foreign policy that it actually damages both countries' interests. "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy" by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt has already been labeled anti-Semitic and has stirred considerable controversy among Jewish leaders in the United States and Israel.
The book argues that the United States should support Israel if it's in the best interests of the former and that the Jewish state should be treated no differently than any other Mideast country.
Of course, this is something Arabs have advocated all along. And I acknowledge that most high-minded, intellectually honest Arabs agree that Israel is here to stay and peace must be achieved to allow Israel to be a good neighbor and to maintain a stable region.
Saudi Arabia has said as much by advocating the 2002 Arab peace plan that returns pre-1967 borders to Israel's Arab neighbors and creates a viable and independent Palestinian state.
The US has invested much in its support of Israel since the end of World War II but it has strayed considerably since then and especially after the 1967 war. And it seems to me now that there is no rhyme or reason for much of its support of Israel.
For example, during the disastrous Lebanon-Israeli war last year, President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stood by while Israel attacked Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, asserting that Israel had a right to defend itself after three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbollah.
Israel, incredulously as it sounds now, defended itself by bombing residential neighborhoods and killing more than 1,100 Lebanese civilians. The argument at the time, and supported by Bush and Rice, was that Hezbollah was using residential neighborhoods as a base for operations. The Human Rights Watch dismissed it as a myth last week. Hezbollah had longed pulled out of civilian areas to conduct military operations. Surely US and Israeli intelligence were aware of this, but it didn't fit into the United States' position of support for Israel.
Despite these crimes committed by Israel, Americans' unwavering support for the Jewish state in many ways is understandable. Israel has a powerful lobby in Washington, D.C., with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee lobbying relentlessly to safeguard Israel's interests. This is the way of American politics. One has to look no further than Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Sicko" film documentaries to understand that there are lobbying groups for every single existing organization that wants legislation to protect their interests. Why should Israel be any different? Having said that I must ask why are Arabs so resistant to establish their own lobbying group to solicit support from the US Congress and the White House? One must learn to play the game.
Yet I can't help but feel enraged that the American Congress, which prides itself on debating everything under the sun from global warming and gay rights to health care and the war in Iraq, is virtually silent on the issue of aid and support to Israel at the expense of the Palestinians.
American lawmakers appear to be seized by fear that they will be identified as anti-Semitic if they oppose or even question loyalty to Israel; never realizing that one can oppose a country's foreign policy without being anti-Semitic. There is simply no connection. So Arab anger against the US is justified. Arabs want to know where are the courageous Americans who will step forward and correct the wrongs dating back to 1967.
As Mearsheimer and Walt argue in their book, unflinching American support of Israel has seriously damaged Uncle Sam's credibility among Arabs and Muslims and has actually created more terrorists than ever imagined. And perhaps the worse crime of all, taking into account all that has occurred in last 40 years, is that the United States has had numerous opportunities to guide Israel to solve the Palestinian issue but has failed simply because it won't question Israel's policies.
Because of that lack of courage, the world has become a much more dangerous place than before.

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