More than once, I have expressed my anxiety about Israel's virtually total dependence on the United States (See for example The U.S. and Israel
and The United States Mandate for Palestine
). I am certainly not anti-American. The United States has admittedly been Israel's greatest supporter in the world arena, and has given generous aid to Israel, as it has to other countries. The support comes at a price however, and that is a price that no country should be expected to pay.
The United States is a different country from Israel
, very far from here even in the jet age, and it has different priorities and internal politics. Above all, the United States has demonstrated time and again that it is woefully ignorant of Middle East
politics, and apparently incompetent in dealing with security issues. That has not prevented the United States from dictating policy to Israel and others in the Middle East, sometimes in the most public, clumsiest and most harmful way. One can only imagine what imprecations about the "Israel Lobby" and the nefarious influence of the Jews would have been bandied about had the case been reversed.
The latest incident involves the Palestinian Fulbright scholars from Gaza who were denied exit permits by Israeli security agencies. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found out about the incident and created an international scandal. Israel was made to seem a cruel and inhuman oppressor, ungrateful to the Great White Father in Washington, that denied fundamental rights to innocent Palestinians. Israeli officials quashed the objections of lower echelons and meekly rushed to comply with the dictates of the Imperial Vizier. The Palestinians got their exit permits. But now it turns out that the United States, after further considering the issue, has found that three of the four Palestinian Fulbright scholars are security risks
, and has revoked their visas.
The United States has a long record of bad policies and bad "advice" in the Middle East. Those who think the Bush administration has been a great friend of Israel, should think again. At the beginning of the Palestinian violence in 2001, the Bush administration evidently denied spare parts replacements to the Israeli military because of anger over Israeli defense against terror. Pressure was also applied to prevent Israeli action to stop the terror, and the U.S. issued the "even handed" Tenet and Mitchell reports. Time and again, even after the tragedy of 9-11 had demonstrated both the urgency of the terror threat and the incompetence of U.S. policymakers and security officials, the United States urged "restraint" on Israel while Israeli civilians were being blown to bits in hotels, discotheques and cafes. By the time Israel was able to act against terrorists in 2002, hundreds of innocent people had been killed.
The U.S., it will be remembered, pressured Israel and the Palestinian Authority to allow the Hamas
to participate in Palestinian elections. The results of that policy are evident in Gaza. Now U.S. officials are not very subtly leaking their opposition to Israeli military action in Iran. Iran is a threat to U.S. interests as much or more than it is a threat to Israeli interests. U.S. officials can decide U.S. policy in Iran. It is preposterous for them to dictate Israeli policy regarding Iran. Israel may or may not eventually decide that it is wise or necessary to destroy Iranian nuclear development infrastructure. But the threat of such action could be a powerful deterrent to Iran, if only incompetent and self-serving American officials did not try to make it clear, at every opportunity, that the United States will block any Israeli action. These statements and leaks must be very comforting to Mr. Ahmadinejad. How far could it go? If Iranian missiles are headed in our direction, will Israeli officials need to look to the White House to see if we have a green light, an amber light or a red light? A retired U.S. Air Force colonel named Sam Gardiner has expressed the opinion that a single nuclear weapon dropped on Israel would not be a devastating blow. He speaks for a lot of U.S. officials. Will the U.S. Ambassador, if he is still alive, crawl out of the ruins of an Iranian nuclear attack on Tel Aviv to urge "restraint" on the government of Israel? It might not be as far - fetched as you think.
United States friendship and support cannot come at the cost of Israel's vital interests, no matter how much aid the U.S. gives Israel, and no matter how often U.S. politicians proclaim the U.S. commitment to Israel. The United States never went to war for Israel, and as long as Israel has an independent foreign policy, it probably never will have to send U.S. soldiers to defend Israelis. The United States is certainly committed to defending Britain and France, and has done so on two occasions. Likewise, the United States went to war to defend Kuwait and spends many billions each year on the defense of Persian Gulf countries. It would be unthinkable for any American official to interfere in the minute details of micromanagement of security policy in any European country or in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. Israel is another matter for some reason.
The case of the Gaza students was only a minor incident, but it illustrates a very dangerous pattern. Ms. Rice's behavior was that of an arrogant and ignorant bully, not a diplomat. She damaged the image of Israel, and forced Israel into an action that was against the best interests of both the United States and Israel. The State Department was also recently responsible for a list of US Middle East allies that didn't include Israel. So much for campaign rhetoric. It is time for U.S. officials to learn some manners and to learn to respect the independence and the interests of their supposed friends. Please express your displeasure to the U.S. State Department (Contact information and form: http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi-bin/state.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?) U.S. embassies around the world (a list of embassies is here: http://www.usembassy.gov/) and to President George Bush email@example.com. Perhaps we can do some "behavior modification." Ami Isseroff
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Replies: 2 Comments
In what way does the receipt of a Fulbright scholarship warrant that the possessor is not a security risk, especially if the possessor is from Gaza, where the population strongly supports Hamas? Is it inconceivable to you that such students might be involved at some level in raising money for Hamas, if not outright card-carrying members?
Only a month or so ago, there was a furor raised over the allegations by a Gazan recipient of the Martha Gellhorn award for journalism that he was severely beaten by Israeli security guards. According to some sources, not only were the allegations unsupported, Martha Gellhorn would have been aghast that an award in her name would be determined by the likes of John Pilger and been bestowed on a person whose "journalism" is an equally far cry from the standards practiced by the late Ms. Gellhorn.
Assuming that the Fulbright scholarship committee is any less susceptible to such manipulations as the Gellhorn prize is naive.
Lynne T, Friday, August 8th
I'm curious as to what the term "security risk" really means. How in the world can a few young people getting Fulbright Scholarships be a security risk? Furthermore, I find it rather hypocritical that someone who strongly opposes the academic boycott of Israeli academics (as I myself do) would oppose giving Palestinian scholars a chance to pursue their studies.
Greg`, Wednesday, August 6th
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