What Israelis mean by “boots on the ground”
Binyamin Netanyahu is probably the most deficient prime minister in Israel’s history. His blunders and vices have been laid bare in great abundance during his nine years in power. When he embarked on his most recent campaign for re-election, even his own supporters and constituents could not hide their disgust at his egomaniacal behavior and his wife’s embarrassing public conduct.
Beyond Netanyahu’s noxious personal characteristics, Israel has consolidated its position as one of the OECD’s most unequal countries under his rule. Netanyahu…asked the country’s penurious middle class and poor to re-elect him on a record of high living costs, unaffordable housing, and a 21% poverty rate. Yet re-elect him they did.
Nor could Netanyahu find any respectable security experts to vouch for his return to power. Some 180 generals and war heroes, chief among them Meir Dagan, one of the most revered former heads of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, came together to oppose the re-election of a man they described as a threat to Israel’s security.
But one does not have to be a security icon to see how Netanyahu has burned Israel’s bridges with the international community, particularly the United States, Israel’s most indispensable ally and benefactor. Not only did he openly seek to sabotage President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran by aligning himself with Obama’s Republican opponents; two days before the election, he suddenly reneged on his commitment to the two-state solution, the cornerstone of the international community’s vision for achieving peace in the Middle East.
Given all of this, why did Israeli voters reward Netanyahu with a third consecutive term as prime minister?
At which point Shlomo Ben-Ami lays out the respectable answer, the litany accepted by what passes for news as entertainment throughout the Western World. Followed by personal commentary:
There is, however, another reason for Netanyahu’s victory. The left failed to recognize that Israeli elections are not strictly political affairs; they are an expression of an ongoing Kulturkampf in an ethnically kaleidoscopic society. Israeli elections are in some ways a tribal affair; people vote on the basis of memories, insults, religious sensibilities, and group grievances.
A sad description of what the nation of Israel has become. Read it and weep not. It is choice not accident.
Nothing sums up the warped foreign policy fantasy world in which Republicans live more than when House Speaker John Boehner recently called Obama an “anti-war president” under which America “is sitting on the sidelines” in the increasingly chaotic Middle East.
If Obama is an anti-war president, he’s the worst anti-war president in history. In the last six years, the Obama administration has bombed seven countries in the Middle East alone and armed countless more with tens of billions in dollars in weapons. But that’s apparently not enough for Republicans. As the Isis war continues to expand and Yemen descends into civil war, everyone is still demanding more: If only we bombed the region a little bit harder, then they’ll submit.
In between publishing a new rash of overt sociopathic “Bomb Iran” op-eds, Republicans and neocons are circulating a new talking point: Obama doesn’t have a “coherent” or “unifying” strategy in the Middle East. But you can’t have a one-size-fits-all strategy in an entire region that is almost incomprehensibly complex – which is why no one, including the Republicans criticizing Obama, actually has an answer for what that strategy should be. It’s clear that this new talking point is little more than thinly veiled code for we’re not killing enough Muslims or invading enough countries.
Nobody will say that they want US troops on the ground to fight Isis, of course, since public support for such action is crumbling…
Those clamoring for more war are detached from reality: the US is already escalating – not pulling back – its involvement across the Middle East. In Afghanistan, the president has quietly delayed pulling US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year so they can continue special forces raids and drone strikes, despite loudly celebrating the supposed “end” of combat operations during the State of the Union in January. In Iraq, US forces escalated its airstrikes in the so-called battle to re-take Tikrit, which the New York Times editorial board decried as a folly, but received scant scrutiny elsewhere. The Pentagon also confirmed last week that they expect the Isis war to last “3+ years.”
And if you think the United States is sitting on the sidelines in Yemen just because it’s not US planes physically launching the missiles (yet), you should have your head examined. The US has given Saudi Arabia an astronomical $90bn in military equipment and weapons over the past four years and, as the Washington Post reported, it will play a “huge” role in any fighting. US drones are also still patrolling Yemeni skies and even helping Saudi Arabia “decide what and where to bomb”…
This is America’s modus operandi in the Middle East: give its friends a ton of weapons and watch the weapons fall into enemy hands one way or another. In Afghanistan, the US gave the Afghanistan government nearly 500,000 weapons that are now unaccounted for (and that was a couple years ago). In Libya, shipments of arms reportedly sent by the CIA to Libyan rebels in 2011 via the Qataris ended up, in many cases, in the hands of Islamic militants… Neither stopped the Obama administration from arming rebels in Syria, where many of the weapons promptly fell into enemy hands as well…
Photographer Gregg Carlstrom succinctly summed it up last week as Saudi Arabia started to drop bombs on Yemen: “US praises US ally for bombing US-equipped militia aligned with US foe who is partnering with US to fight another US-equipped militia.”
Expecting the United States to sort out and withdraw from one or another of the factions in a centuries-old religious war is not something I’m holding my breath over. After all, that would be like expecting a White House spokesman to answer questions about Iran and nuclear research by acknowledged the only power with nuclear weapons in the region is Israel. They’ve had them for decades. It is the threat they brandish over all nations in the region. Those weapons are illegal according to all the accords we have initiated and signed. We do absolutely nothing about it.
We took over the role of imperial bully right after World War 2. The Brits were economically and ideologically over with maintaining a global empire. They had to recover from being the front line of a terrible war for most of a decade. Uncle Sugar’s condition was exceptional – mostly by virtue of oceans on either side. Use to be a helluva defense.
And Barack Obama is as likely to use military force anywhere in the world as any Republican or Democrat president since the end of that war 70 years ago.
Nice to see continuity in American foreign policy, eh?
Iranian officials sometimes respond to accusations that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability by replying that, not only do they not want a bomb, they’d actually like to see a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East. Yes, this is surely in part a deflection, meant to shift attention away from concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities by not-so-subtly nodding to the one country in the region that does have nuclear weapons: Israel.
But could Iran have a point? Is there something hypocritical about the world tolerating Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which the country does not officially acknowledge but has been publicly known for decades, and yet punishing Iran with severe economic sanctions just for its suspected steps toward a weapons program? Even Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as its implacable enemy and made its accommodations with Israel long ago, often joins Tehran’s calls for a “nuclear-free region.” And anyone not closely versed in Middle East issues might naturally wonder why the United States would accept Israeli warheads but not an Iranian program…
The single greatest factor explaining how Israel got the world to accept its nuclear program may be timing. The first nuclear weapon was detonated in 1945, by the United States. In 1970, most of the world agreed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which forbids any new countries from developing nuclear weapons. In that 25-year window, every major world power developed a nuclear weapon: the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and China. They were joined by exactly one other country: Israel.
The Israeli nuclear program was driven in many ways by the obsessive fear that gripped the nation’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, in which the new country fought off Egyptian and Jordanian armies, Ben-Gurion concluded that Israel could survive only if it had a massive military deterrent — nuclear weapons…
But Israel of the 1950s was a poor country. And it was not, as it is today, a close political and military ally of the United States. Israel had to find a way to keep up with the much wealthier and more advanced world powers dominating the nuclear race. How it went about doing this goes a long way to explaining both why the United States initially opposed Israel’s nuclear program and how the world came around to accepting Israeli warheads…
…First, in 1968, Israel secretly developed a nuclear weapon. Second, and perhaps more important, was a White House meeting in September 1969 between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. What happened during that meeting is secret. But the Nixon’s administration’s meticulous records show that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said to Nixon, in a later conversation about the Meir meeting, “during your private discussions with Golda Meir you emphasized that our primary concern was that Israel make no visible introduction of nuclear weapons or undertake a nuclear test program.”
That meeting between Nixon and Meir set what has been Israel’s unofficial policy ever since: one in which the country does nothing to publicly acknowledge or demonstrate its nuclear weapons program, and in exchange the United States would accept it. The Nixon administration had concluded that, while it didn’t like the Israeli weapons program, it also wasn’t prepared to stop it…
“Essentially the bargain has been that Israel keeps its nuclear deterrent deep in the basement and Washington keeps its critique locked in the closet,” Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy explained.
What do Americans do about a bankrupt policy put in place by one of the most corrupt presidents in American history? Not a damned thing.
Point out we are the world’s only military superpower, known for arrogance and hypocrisy – I think the average American would try to deflect the criticism by coming up with rationales to excuse our hypocrisy, redefine it as expediency, something done to “protect” our nation.
It ain’t a new ploy. Everyone from dictators to democrats employs the strategy. The only thing that counts is that ordinary citizens accept every lie and don’t seek to change anything.
The only difference in political parties, who sits in the White House, is the quality of the lies. Either flavor still accepts the Nixonian policy.
The lecture hall had filled quickly. Several students wore keffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian headscarves, while another sat draped in the Israeli flag.
It was time for a ritual that has become increasingly commonplace on many American college campuses: A student government body, in this case at the University of California, Davis, would take up Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, and decide whether to demand their school divest from companies that work with the Jewish state.
In the United States, Israel’s closest ally, the decade-old boycott-divestment-sanctions movement, or BDS, is making its strongest inroads by far on college campuses. No U.S. school has sold off stock and none is expected to do so anytime soon. Still, the current academic year is seeing an increasing number of divestment drives on campus. Since January alone, student governments at four universities have taken divestment votes…
The boycott-divestment-sanctions movement grew from a 2005 international call from Palestinian groups as an alternative to armed struggle over control of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and Palestinians seek for an independent state.
BDS advocates say the movement, based on the campaign against South African apartheid decades ago, is aimed at Israeli policy, not Jews, in response to two decades of failed peace talks and expanded Israeli settlement of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
But supporters of Israel say that boycotting the country is no way to make peace, especially since many BDS supporters do not differentiate between protesting Jewish settlements on occupied lands or Israel as a whole.
The Jewish settlements are only part of the apartheid practices of Israel and I’m not quite certain why the AP rolls this out as a straw man. Apartheid is codified bigotry allowing only second-class citizenship to Palestinians – strictly enforced throughout every part of political life in Israel and the land that nation invaded and controls by force of arms.
In the U.S., activists have pressed for boycotts of Israeli products and cultural events, and divestment by churches and others. None of these efforts has gained as much momentum as the campus divestment movement.
Pension funds in the United States, like CALPERS, representing thousands of employees in California, ranging from teachers to police, is considering divesting all Israel-based investments. They are not alone.
The campaign will continue. In the American Jewish community, the percentage of young people who believe identity with and unconditional support for Israel is necessary – is a minority. Nor will they adopt the specious argument that opposition to Israel’s policies is somehow anti-Semitic. That canard is dead and gone except among reactionary True Believers.
Just as the campaign against apartheid in South Africa was long and difficult – this, too, shall succeed.
“If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful — we don’t remain neutral.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has confirmed that the Palestinians will officially become a member of the International Criminal Court on April 1…
On Friday the Palestinians delivered to U.N. headquarters documents on joining the Rome Statute of the ICC and other international treaties, in a move that has heightened tensions with Israel and could lead to cuts in U.S. aid.
Israel will say, Jump! Obama and Congress will ask, “How high?”
The official announcement of the date of the Palestinian accession to the ICC, in the form of a letter from Ban, was posted on a U.N. website. The United Nations is the official depositary of the Rome Statute and many other treaties.
Under ICC rules, Palestinian membership would allow the court, based in The Hague, to exercise jurisdiction over war crimes committed by anyone on Palestinian territory, without a referral from the U.N. Security Council. Israel, like the United States, is not a party to the Rome statute, but its citizens could be tried for actions taken on Palestinian land…
Momentum to recognize a Palestinian state has built since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas succeeded in a bid for de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, which made Palestinians eligible to join the ICC.
Also overdue is prosecution of Israel for apartheid, all the fascist practices that government has instituted in territory acquired by force of arms.
Israeli nuclear facility outside Dimona — Photo/Reuters
The Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep) has filed federal lawsuit that seeks to disclose a report about how Israeli charities and educational organizations in the United States help funding secret nuclear weapon development program.
…IRmep says that an unclassified 1987 study conducted for the Department of Defense named “Current Technology Issues in Israel” discovered that three Israeli charitable and educational institutes were researching nuclear weapons programs. The organizations were tax-exempt at the time, meaning they were receiving a form of subsidy by the U.S. government…
– Technion University was developing nuclear missile re-entry vehicles and working at the Dimona nuclear weapons production facility;
– Hebrew University scientists were working at the Soreq nuclear facilities to develop “the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs”; and
– Israel’s Weizmann Institute “studied high energy physics and hydrodynamics needed for nuclear bomb design, and worked on lasers to enrich uranium, the most advanced method for making the material dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.”
IRmep says that the three institutions raised significant amounts of tax-exempt, charitable funding through affiliates in the United States. According U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the three organizations raised a combined $172 million in annual U.S. tax-exempt funding.
This “tax gap” was paid by U.S. citizens.
Of curse, they could have followed the usual route for our government subsidizing Israel. The Israeli government normally relies on “loans” courtesy of Congress and the White House – which are forgiven the following year or so.
Sweden has officially recognised the state of Palestine, Stockholm’s foreign minister has said, less than a month after the government announced its intention to make the unprecedented move.
The Palestinians cheered Thursday’s move, while Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden for consultations…
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement that the recognition was “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination”.
“We hope that this will show the way for others,” she said in remarks published in the Dagens Nyheter daily.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the “brave and historic” move to officially recognise the state of Palestine, his spokesman told the AFP news agency.
Sweden is the first EU member state in Western Europe to recognise the Palestinian state.
Seven EU members in eastern European and the Mediterranean have already recognised a Palestinian state – Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland, and Romania.
Non-EU member Iceland is the only other western European nation to have done so…
The United States expressed dismay – from their usual position next Israel in bed. Nothing new. They only know one position.
Our government’s willingness to ignore historic professions of support for national liberation, anti-colonialism, opposition to oil-based imperialism reaches new depths of hypocrisy.
Denouncing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians under occupation, a group of veterans from an elite, secretive military intelligence unit have declared they will no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians” in required reserve duty because of what they called “our moral duty to act.”
In a letter sent Thursday night to their commanders as well as Israel’s prime minister and army chief, 43 veterans of the clandestine Unit 8200 complained that Israel made “no distinction between Palestinians who are and are not involved in violence” and that information collected “harms innocent people.” Intelligence “is used for political persecution,” they wrote, which “does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence, further distancing us from the end of the conflict.”
The letter, revealed Friday in Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper as well as The Guardian in Britain, echoes similar periodic protests by reservists over the years, including a group of 27 pilots who refused to participate in what Israel calls targeted assassinations, and 13 members of the vaunted commando unit known as Sayeret Matkal, both in 2003. But it is the first public collective refusal by intelligence officers rather that combat troops. Unit 8200 has a special role in Israeli society as a coveted pipeline to its high-technology industry.
“After our service we started seeing a more complex picture of a nondemocratic, oppressive regime that controls the lives of millions of people,” said one of the group’s organizers, a 32-year-old sergeant major who was on active duty from 2001 to 2005. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because the military prohibits Unit 8200 members from being publicly identified.
“There are certain things that we were asked to do that we feel do not deserve the title of self-defense,” he added in a telephone interview. “Some of the things that we did are immoral, and are against the things we believe in, and we’re not willing to do these things anymore.”
The new refuseniks said their group began a year ago and was not motivated by Israel’s battle with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip this summer, which a member said was “just another chapter in this cycle of violence.”
RTFA. Please. A rare divergence from US/Israel foreign policy. Our own government exhibits no concern whatsoever for the lot of Palestinians living under the heel of brutal colonial repression – in the name of Lebensraum for Israel.
The 80-20 rule persists, whether discussing markets or military. Though the whole of participants may appear to come from a homogeneous population, there generally is a small percentage with perception and the ability to decide to wander away from the herd in search of something better. In this case, honesty, loyalty to a standard of democracy ignored by Israel’s government for decades, ignored by a United States government more than satisfied with a nation of legionnaires prepared to commit any crime to satisfy policies natural only to the greediest of elites.
Of course, as in the US military, fear of political and criminal retaliation reduces that percentage of those willing to act publicly, to speak out as citizens of decency. The pressure to live whatever passes for a normal life is usually sufficient to quiet most dissent. Especially in a time and place that treats dissent as the greatest enemy of governance.
These members of Unit 8200 deserve recognition for their courage.
At least 10 people have been killed in a strike near a UN-run school housing Palestinians displaced by the Gaza conflict, medics say. The attack hit the entrance of the facility in Rafah, where thousands of Palestinians are said to be sheltering…
The latest exchanges came after Israel’s military said that an officer it feared had been captured had now been confirmed dead. Hadar Goldin went missing on Friday near Rafah.
Confirmation of 2nd Lt Goldin’s death means 66 Israelis have now died in the fighting, all but two of them soldiers…
Palestinian death toll [this morning] now over 1700 – a third of them women and children.
The Israeli shelling of the Jabaliya UN shelter last week, which killed 16 people, drew widespread international condemnation.
In the latest attack, eyewitnesses said a missile struck as people queued for food…At least 30 people were also hurt, Palestinian officials said. Images showed injured children being carried away.
Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said: “The locations of all of these installations have been passed to the Israeli military multiple times. They know where these shelters are. How this continues to happen, I have no idea…”
I think we all get the idea. Israel’s military, Israel’s government, doesn’t care how many innocents they kill.
Chris Gunness, from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), told the BBC that a “health disaster of widespread proportions is rapidly unfolding in Gaza, with medical services on the verge of collapse”.
He said: “Critical supplies of medicines and disposables are almost depleted and the damage and destruction of power supplies has left hospitals dependent on unreliable generators.”
Yes, there is a lot more in the article from Israel’s government. Don’t worry – you won’t miss any of it.
You will hear that side repeated over and over, again, on all the Sunday talk shows and in the obedient American press. Flunkies from the United States government will say that the billion$ in military weapons provided Israel every year are only there for defense.
Not to keep a captive nation in subjugation.