On this one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, I’m thinking about settler colonial nations who routinely spend great amounts of capital to militarily and politically repress indigenous and popular uprisings led by the most historically oppressed peoples of the world.
The United States and Israel—two settler-colonial nation states whose drive to exterminate and replace indigenous peoples with settler colonists has led to unending repression and brutality for decades (in the case of Israel) and centuries (in the case of the United States). These two inherently genocidal projects also happen to be financially, materially, logistically and geopolitically intertwined. They depend on each other.
As President Biden so aptly put it in his Congressional speech in 1986, “We look at the Middle East. I think it’s about time we stop, those of us who support, as most of us do, Israel in this body, for apologizing for our support for Israel. There’s no apology to be made. None. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.”
Israel is described as “the most militarized nation in the world” by the Global Militarization Index. The US provides Israel $3.8 billion a year in cash and weapons, to make sure it is so. The marriage of these two settler empires makes it such that any US Congressional attempts to thwart Israel’s ongoing brutality against Palestinians are probably about as likely to be effective as Hamas’ rockets launched at Israel’s Iron Dome.
The US also provides Israel massive state-sponsored propaganda, backed by incredibly powerful Israeli lobbying groups like AIPAC, to make sure this funding stays in place and is not ever ideologically challenged inside the United States or Israel. These lobbying groups picked up steam and recruited more right-wing backers during Trump’s tenure, enhanced by his extreme support of Zionism, Netanyahu, the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and further funding for Israel’s settler colonial projects. But to be clear, US support for Israel is a bipartisan project, and it has been for decades. Even so-called progressive Democrats like Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York and Rep. Ro Khanna of California, have just signed onto an AIPAC letter, whose aim is to prevent any cuts in funding to Israel, in response to Minnesota Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s new bill, HR2590, designed to “block Israel from using U.S. military aid to demolish Palestinian homes, arrest Palestinian children, and annex Palestinian land.”
AIPAC and its bipartisan allies have also, for decades, functioned to make sure that anyone who dares question “Israel’s right to self-defense” loses all political credibility, career opportunity, and is unilaterally smeared by Democrats and Republicans alike. From AP Press writers who get fired because they used to support Palestine in college, to US Congress members who joke about “the Benjamins,” criticizing Israel in any form has become a form of political suicide inside the United States. Recent attempts to criminalize anyone who supports the BDS movement have become clear violations of the First Amendment according to the ACLU, and yet, US states are moving ahead with these measures, despite legal challenges in the courts. Now that is one powerful international propaganda apparatus.
So it is against this David-and-Goliath-style backdrop that we see the beginnings of the US-Israeli-military-public-relations façade beginning to crumble inside the realm of US public opinion, as decades of organizing work on behalf of Palestinian human rights begin to slowly trickle up into the halls of Congress. According to a new Gallup poll, there’s a “53 percent majority of Democrats favor pressuring Israel—a 10-point jump since 2018—and progressive figures are clearly betting that the broader electorate is more willing to hear critics out than ever before.”
This is a significant shift, especially inside a country where both major parties’ unilateral support for Israel has gone unquestioned for decades. And in the last few weeks, we’ve also seen some of the most progressive US Congressional members take courageous stances on Palestinian human rights: Rashida Tlaib’s impassioned speech on the House floor, AOC’s reference to Israel as an “apartheid state,” Bernie’s “resolution of disapproval” and other attempts to block an increased $735 million in additional weapons package.
These rhetorical shifts are tremendous acts of resistance inside the proverbial belly of the beast. And they certainly represent a broader shift in US public opinion, which we also see shifting internationally, given the massive Palestine solidarity protests throughout the United States, Europe and Australia, over the last few weeks. But make no mistake—these rhetorical shifts inside the US halls of power are not the same thing as fundamentally shifting US policy, which is deeply invested in maintaining and supporting its own economic, geo-political and military interests inside what UC Barbara Sociologist William I. Robinson calls the “global police state.” The following is an excerpt from Robinson’s book, Global Police State:
The Occupied Palestinian Territory has been transformed into probably the most monitored, controlled, and militarized place on earth. It epitomizes the dream of every general, security expert and police officer to be able to exercise total bio-political control. In a situation where the local population enjoys no effective legal protections or privacy, they and their lands become a laboratory where the latest technologies of surveillance, control, and suppression are perfected and showcased, giving Israel an edge in the highly competitive global market. Labels such as ‘Combat Proven,’ ‘Tested in Gaza,’ and ‘Approved by the IDF’ (Israeli Defense Forces) on Israeli or foreign products greatly improves their marketability.
These methods of control and repression fine tuned against the Palestinians have been exported by Israel to racist police in US inner cities, Brazilian security forces that patrol the impoverished residents of the Rio favelas, Colombian and Guatemalan military and paramilitary forces in their battles against social movements, Central Asian intelligence officers monitoring human rights activists and journalists, Chinese Army agents developing domestic systems of social control, and corporate clients and repressive states and police agencies the world over.
Indeed, many Palestinian activists who have found solidarity with indigenous rights activists in the United States have noted, as recently as Standing Rock in 2016:
Many of the law enforcement officers at Standing Rock have been trained in Israel. The weapons and tactics are identical. The use of high pressure water cannons, rubber bullets, rubber coated steel bullets, the use of attack dogs, and sound grenades are the same in both places.
And over the last few years, Amnesty International and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), have published reports detailing how Israeli training of US police officers has resulted in systematic brutality. Amnesty International’s report cites “widespread constitutional violations, discriminatory enforcement and a culture of retaliation” within the Baltimore Police Department. JVP’s report went on to say, “Police brutality of the kind that led to the death of George Floyd is both deeply embedded in American policing and also reinforced by the exchange of the ‘best practices’ and expertise in counter-terrorism techniques taught to US law enforcement officials during their training in Israel. Thousands of these officials from across the US have been sent to Israel for training, and thousands more have participated in conferences and workshops with Israeli personnel.”
The Middle East Monitor writes:
George Floyd’s killing is the latest, but probably not the last, example of classic American policing to mirror Israel’s ‘best law enforcement practice.’ It is being put to deadly use on the streets of America. If black lives really do matter in 21st century America, then the ‘deadly exchange programmes’ with Israel should be brought to an end without delay.
So this is the fundamental barrier for our movements trying to stop US aid to Israel. For decades, we’ve watched US Presidents offer Israel and Palestine peace deal after peace deal. We’ve seen an inordinate number of trips from Washington to Israel to host diplomatic talks about “two-state solutions.” Throughout all of these duplicitous negotiations, the US government has pretended to be an honest broker in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is not. It never has been. It never will be. And while there may be much-welcomed symbolic efforts coming down the pike to pass resolutions condemning Israeli violence as a sort of symbolic offering to human rights groups, the United States will not cut off aid to Israel any time soon. Nor will it ever be able to broker an honest peace deal, as long as its geopolitical, economic and military interests are fundamentally tied to those of Israel.
Both Israel and the United States are settler-colonial projects whose very existence is based on oppressing and replacing its indigenous peoples, as well as repressing popular resistance movements that emerge within their national borders. Both states now exist within a new global context described by Bill Robinson — a transnational capitalist project of building a global police state against ever-increasing popular uprisings. This is the current political moment in which we find ourselves. These well-intentioned measures from even the most progressive US Congress members are definitely worth celebrating for their rhetorical and symbolic progress. They are not, however, likely to become law, nor result in any fundamental reduction in military aid or support to Israel. We are going to need a lot more to break up the geopolitical marriage of these two capitalist, settler empires. Only relentless, intersectional and international solidarity movements against white supremacy, transnational capitalism, and settler colonialism have the power to do that.The post From BLM to Palestine: Only a Marriage of Movements can Counter a Marriage of Empires first appeared on Dissident Voice.