[T]the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.
– Charles Baudelaire, The Generous Gambler (1864)
The Jewish state of Israel characterizes itself as a “Jewish and democratic” state, although the latest law of the Knesset wishes to raise “Jewishness” above “democracy”. However, it must be blindingly obvious to anyone not in thrall to the ruling narratives, that when a minority of a population is regarded as hostile, is unwelcome and therefore is never part of a governing coalition, democracy must be a casualty, especially when that minority has been singled out for discriminatory and dispossessory treatment, despite the legal somersaulting of the greatest of Jewish legal minds.
– Lynda Burstein Brayer
Brief: Having now called an election in April, it seems clear Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s rationale for the early poll is to avert possible indictment for alleged corruption. Always something of a political ‘chancer’ whom few would accuse of lacking chutzpah, even for the estimable “Bibi” this is an audacious gamble. Either way, win or lose (and we might opine, guilty or innocent), very little is likely to change for the better in the way the state of Israel comports itself on the international stage. With that in mind, this is as good a time as any to take a deeper look at this increasingly militarily aggressive and geopolitically opportunistic nation, which like its current leader, has long been a law unto itself. I paid a visit of sorts to the Wailing Wall.
Invoking the Horrors of the Past
In a speech written in late January 1970, and read on 3 February that year to an International Conference of Parliamentarians in Cairo (a day after he died), after first noting that ‘the traditional role of the imperial power [is to] to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken by violence…’, famed English philosopher, historian and social critic Bertrand Russell had the following to say about Israel:
…[E]very new conquest becomes the new basis of the proposed negotiation from strength, which ignores the injustice of the previous aggression. The aggression…must be condemned, not only because no state has the right to annex foreign territory, but because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much more aggression the world will tolerate….We are frequently told that we must sympathize with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. I see in this suggestion no reason to perpetuate any suffering. What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy.’[My emphasis].
For the more detached, by any measure Russell’s critique even at the time was a damning indictment of the Middle East’s ‘only democratic state’. Though obviously appalled by its treatment of the Palestinians, much of Russell’s ire and indignation likely derived from Israel’s involvement in the hugely pivotal 1967 Six-Day War (still fresh in people’s minds), though few, if any, of his contemporaries would’ve been privy to the full picture of that “involvement” as it unfolded.
Such an appraisal is rendered even more damning when we consider the objective reality of Israel’s conduct in the intervening decades and what we’ve since come to know about it. Hardly a day has gone by where Israel has not tried to distort and corrupt said “reality”; this is especially evident in its purported desire for Middle East peace, where its key talking points on the matter are somewhat incongruent with said “reality”. Along with their intransigence on the matter of statehood for the Palestinians, in effect [it] is doing everything in its power to destabilise the region, as it has done for much of its history.
Yet that it has been remarkably successful at this endeavour is an understatement to be sure: “The Most Moral Army in the World?!” It takes some chutzpah to come up with a tagline like that! And we only need consider the number of pundits within the geopolitical ‘opinionocracy’ who’ve bought into this counterfeit narrative. Indeed, many of them—past and present—have been party to its creation, are guardians of its myths, accountable for the legacies thereof, and/or treasonable accomplices to its invention and preservation. Such is the extraordinary power of this “narrative” that, if it collapsed or was even seriously challenged, the country would probably cease to exist, at least in its present iteration. This is one reality Israel’s staunchest defenders doubtless realise, though few would wish to ever have that conversation for fear of tempting fate.
Its ‘settler-colonialist/democratic-apartheid’ status notwithstanding, by any definition Israel is a rogue state, one that routinely ignores the peremptory norms of international law. Indeed any other country that conducted itself on the world’s stage in the manner Israel sees fit to do so would, in a just world, be considered a pariah and be treated as one.
Yet such is Israel’s chokehold on public perception via its control of both the US legislature, the electoral system, and the media, most people still view it as the perennial victim, a constant target of nations, groups, organisations, and individuals who wish at the very least to deny its legitimacy (as fragile as it is), or at worst, wipe it off the map. It takes an extraordinary effort and a certain kind of collective genius, albeit of a decidedly malevolent, evil variety, in order to manipulate international public perception to such a degree, and maintain such a tight leash on that narrative over decades. To allude to the epigraph, this might be Israel’s “cleverist wile”.
Not quite convinced? Let’s go ‘shopping’ shall we? No other nation:
- benefits more substantively or more frequently from U.S. largesse and its alliance with America (and the West in general) or enjoys so many perks and privileges;
- comes close to punching so far above its own weight in having Washington’s ear and works harder at downplaying broad awareness of its influence and power;
- leverages its prime benefactor’s strategic and financial power so brazenly and so often in the service of its own interest and aspirations (and not always those of its benefactors);
- is more effective and more blatant at stifling free speech and any debate, no matter how rational or reasonable, that runs counter to those interests and aspirations;
- so stealthily yet pervasively controls the ‘optics’ of the global media narrative and the broad public and political discourse that forms the foundation of public perception about it;
- is so impervious to, indeed immune from, approbation or reproach, much less the consequences thereof, by its principal sponsor and/or the international community for its numerous and well documented criminal ‘delinquencies’;
- routinely spies on and regularly steals information from its benefactor of both a commercial and strategic value and even on-sells this information to U.S. rivals and potential enemies;
- comes more complete with more obvious contradictions between the image it portrays to the world and the reality of its behaviour, conduct and actions; and,
- in the absence of any serious, concerted, effective opposition can be expected based on its track record to push the envelope further in the uncompromising pursuit of these aspirations regardless of the consequences or the objections of the rules-based international community.
How Did we Get Here?
Given the Constitution-defying priority any specific U.S. administration—Democrat or Republican—attributes to Israel, it is worth recalling some Oval Office tenants whose relationships with the nation should set the mood for a deeper elucidation of the themes herein. To begin with it wasn’t always this way, certainly not until the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson (aka LBJ). It might sound like a big call at first, but few presidents of the modern era have managed to bequeath their country a legacy as consequential and enduring as that of LBJ.
Now I suspect most folks might think of the Vietnam War as the ‘crowning achievement’ of LBJ’s dubious legacy. Yet for this writer it was Johnson’s unprecedented and unequivocal support for Israel—support which amongst other things facilitated that country’s illegal acquisition of nuclear weapons whilst waiving any of the transparency and accountability provisions included in international nuclear non-proliferation treaties—from the time he came into office in November 1963, that may well be the more consequential aspect of that legacy. We’ll come back to the LBJ/Israel thing soon, but first a bit of useful history.
In 2018, 70 years after president Harry Truman finally succumbed to both internal and external pressure (he was initially opposed to the notion of a Jewish state in Palestine and for good reason), and effectively gave the nod for the Zionists to create the state of Israel—against the advice of numerous people within and across diplomatic, political and national security circles—the phenomenal power, influence and control this tiny nation has come to exert in the United States since that time is now an ineluctable, existentially dangerous reality. America is now Israel’s life-line and meal-ticket, its life insurance policy, its ‘minder’ (muscle) if one likes. The implications of this reality became manifestly obvious long ago, but the implications of maintaining that relationship going forward are becoming increasingly disconcerting.
For his part Truman’s successor Dwight (“Ike”) Eisenhower trod a very cautious path when it came to Israel. He was not backward in reining in Israel’s imperial minded tendencies, which revealed themselves to the world at large during the Suez Crisis in 1956. Israel had invaded Egypt in tandem with, and encouraged by, the then imperial colossi of the Middle East, France and Great Britain. Eisenhower vehemently opposed this action when it was proposed, and was by all accounts ropable when they went ahead with it behind his back. Ike’s successor John F Kennedy’s (JFK) attitude towards the state of Israel is well documented, most memorably by the late Michael Collins Piper in his book Final Judgment, wherein he points the finger directly at the Israelis as amongst those involved in the planning, execution, and cover-up of JFK’s ‘Big Day Out’ in November 1963. That aside, Kennedy notably refused to entertain Israel’s ambition to build their own nuclear arsenal, and for this and other reasons kept them at arm’s length. This policy incensed former Zio-terrorist David Ben-Gurion (by then the Israeli PM after succeeding Moshe Sharat), who after JFK was murdered, then rallied his hard-core off-siders who were chomping at the bit to assert themselves as the new kids on the Middle East block. They finally had in Johnson, a real friend in the White House.
Israel then has much to thank Number 36 for “that” priceless commodity of “having Washington’s ear”, a political “access all areas” gift-card that for Israel just keeps on giving. The Israel lobby and their numerous surrogates wasted little time in ‘infiltrating’ LBJ’s administration from the top down, and they were upgraded to frequent flyer status by the Israel friendly new POTUS. It has continued uninterrupted to this day.
And the recent passing of George HW Bush for many was probably not lamented too much by folks of a certain political or historical worldview, even for those not given to speaking or thinking ill of the dear departed. Yet according to Alison Weir of If Americans Knew, he deserves credit for at least one initiative, one that almost certainly contributed to his failed bid for reelection in 1992 as POTUS, and which by definition changed the course of history. (“It’s the Zionists, stupid!” anyone?)
In Weir’s summation, in holding up a $10 billion loan guarantee in 1991 to Israel over its continued settlement building in Palestine, Bush senior ‘won the battle, but eventually lost the war’, a lesson that presidents and political folks of all stripes have remembered ever since. Bush told Israel that the U.S. would not give it $10 billion in loan guarantees until Israel stopped building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, which, of course, are illegal under international law. In his efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the intractable issue of the settlements and an overarching peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians, Bush Senior stated publicly:
I think the American people will strongly support me in this. I’m going to fight for it because I think this is what the American people want, and I’m going to do absolutely everything I can to back those members of the Congress who are forward-looking in their desire to see peace.
Noble sentiments to be sure, but Bush was way off base if he felt that such political posturing would carry him to a second term. It would seem that neither the Congress—bought and paid for by the Lobby in any event as much then as it is now—nor the much lauded “American people” were that “forward looking in their desire to see peace”. It was either that or the “American people” were suffering from compassion fatigue, had bigger concerns in their lives, didn’t understand the implications, or couldn’t be bothered voting. One suspects that very little has changed.
Of course, the Israel lobby, notably the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—always at the ready with a fine line in umbrage—was not unexpectedly, well, ‘umbraged’ at Bush’s gambit. He overestimated the Congress and the people they represented, and in underestimating the power of the Lobby, HW made a career limiting move of the presidential kind.
“Ye Shall Blot them out to the Last Man”
It’s worth noting that at the time the Israeli PM was (former terrorist cum Mossad chief) Yitzhak Shamir, a man who like many Israeli leaders believed that his country was both above the law and beyond moral reproach. This extended even to the point back in the day of declaring that Israel had the right to interfere in the affairs of other countries, a reality amply documented in two recently released al-Jazeera documentaries (here, and here), with one citing the outcome of the 1992 election as further evidence. Such is the sense of entitlement and righteousness, even Shamir made no bones about it:
We are very far from having any moral qualms as far as our national war goes. We have before us the command of the Torah, whose morality surpasses that of any other body of laws in the world: ‘Ye shall blot them out to the last man.’
When Shamir was himself ousted in July 1992, his successor Yitzhak Rabin, promised to honour the loan guarantees, after which Bush finally inked the deal. But not only were Bush’s second term ambitions scuttled; Israel under Netanyahu in 1996 subsequently reneged on the loan guarantees in any event. The settlements are a going concern to this day. (Rabin, who may or may not have been committed to the settlements issue, was in any event assassinated in 1995.)
That said, for some there are signs this elaborate and unprecedented facade it has painstakingly constructed is beginning to crack. In a recent RT interview with Rick Sanchez, Chris Hedges discussed the Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS) movement, which seeks amongst other aims to put economic and diplomatic pressure on Israel and highlight the dire predicament of the Palestinians who are living under what is no less than an apartheid system. This system is one unilaterally imposed by Israel in complete defiance of international law and democratic principles, attended by utter indifference to the basic human rights of Palestinians, such as equality, security, justice, peace, and freedom. Indeed we might argue that Israel’s greatest public relations triumph is the degree it has managed to convince the rest of the world to subscribe to and fully embrace that same level of indifference.
Nonetheless, Hedges posited that Israel is becoming ‘frightened and desperate’, evidenced in his view by the anti-BDS legislation spreading throughout the US. This campaign by the Israeli lobby in America and their many supporters at the municipal, state and federal levels represents an all-out effort to protect Israel’s public image by derailing the movement and discrediting the people and the organisations behind it. With numerous U.S. states—attended by no small measure of sharia-like dedication to the cause it seems—having enshrined into legislation anti-BDS statutes, the first amendment rights of Americans are under attack in a manner which would have the Founding Fathers, at least those whose enthusiasm for it was genuine, spinning furiously in their eternally designated plots of land.
Moreover, Israel is attempting on a global scale to redefine the very meaning of anti-Semitism, an overused, though nonetheless utilitarian epithet serving the country well as both an impregnable force-field against criticism and a formidable attack/offensive weapon purpose-built to denigrate, discredit, even destroy, those who’d dare to challenge its behaviour. Insofar as Hedges is concerned though, Israel ‘can no longer control its narrative or hide the brutality of their apartheid system.’
For an incisive insight into some of those “controlled narratives” (or myths), it is perhaps Ilan Pappe’s Ten Myths about Israel that best serves to identify these foundational narratives (which Pappe describes as “fallacies”), how they have been created, who’s controlling them, and what the end game might be if we’re to be living in a world where these myths continue to prevail, and we are prepared or even forced to accept them. Well might we ask: How do these myths and fallacies—especially when the carefully crafted perceptions underpinning them clash with the brutal reality of the facts on the ground as it were—threaten the geopolitical order? Iraq? Libya? Syria? Yemen? Anyone?….just to give you a taste of “the brutal reality of the facts on the ground”!
The answers to these and other questions are beyond the scope of this essay but in rhetorical form are worth keeping front of mind as we go forward. Pappe identifies several “fallacies” that have sustained Israel’s image and credibility as a “moral” nation, that: it has every right to exist; it has a right to defend itself; its cause is righteous; that other nations wish to destroy it; and that unlike other nations it is not accountable under international law. The Israelis we might aver have their own ‘peculiar institution‘ vis-a-vis the Palestinians—a form of modern slavery wherein human, social, economic and other rights are routinely denied in an apartheid state to people whose land they continue to dispossess and ‘set up shop’ on, and whose property and belongings they continue to loot, misappropriate, confiscate, steal or destroy without restraint etc.
Though it would doubtless have the world believe it, Israel’s greatest strategic threat isn’t Iran, it is the increasingly concerted efforts—as welcome as they are necessary—by numerous groups, nations, and individuals (including prominent Israeli citizens) to call out Israel so as to rein in its lawless behaviour. Israel knows this. The corollary to this is that Israel’s greatest existential fear is the erosion of support that it currently enjoys with the American electorate whether from Jews and non-Jews alike, though it would be a courageous pundit who’d opine as to how this might play out and over what period of time.
This isn’t just evidenced by their own relentless, strenuous efforts to both shut these groups and individuals down; they have infiltrated and then undermined whole nations’ legal systems and political processes in order to amongst other aims make it punishable by law to even criticise the country. If the phrase (generally attributed to Voltaire), ‘To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize’ is essentially true, it’s difficult to think of any other nation that might qualify for the ‘gig’. The recent incident where a Texas school district speech pathologist was sacked because she refused to sign an oath declaring she would never support the BDS movement is just one of the more recent and glaring examples of this draconian effort to stifle any kind of debate about Israel.
Revenge of the Mosers?
For those still with doubts about the coercive power Israel and its network of institutional, organisational and political supporters wield in the West—especially in Great Britain and the United States—then the two documentaries produced by Qatar’s al-Jazeera news network mentioned earlier surely will dispel any uncertainty. (See links above). As these films illustrate, this increasingly out of control ally of the West brooks very little opposition to its hegemonic tendencies in the Greater Middle East. Israel for its part refuses to recognise—much less respond in kind to—the boundaries defined by international law.
In doing so then, the country thumbs its nose at the fundamental tenets and principles tying the community of nations together along with the very sovereignty of individual countries, and places global security, peace and stability in even greater existential peril. In short, the more the Israelis push those boundaries, the more they’ll continue to feel it’s their God-given right to do so, and the more we will proceed, by default or by design, to let them get way with it. This is one of the most important takeaways from these two films, the first one focussing on the lobby in Great Britain, and the second one that of the United States.
From a geopolitical standpoint, this is more a nightmare in the making than [an] accident waiting to happen. Unless we’re all chomping at the bit for another World War with all the bells ‘n whistles as it were, it is high time we called time on Israel, and hold it truly accountable. If that sounds alarmist, then consider the following.
Earlier this year Colin Powell’s former Chief-of-Staff Lawrence Wilkerson declared categorically that Israel is in the process of dragging America into a war with Iran, one which could destroy what’s left of the Middle East and ignite ‘a third world war’. )) Wilkerson says the evidence is clear: “Israel seeks ‘a massive confrontation with the various powers arrayed against it, [one] that will suck America in and perhaps terminate the experiment that is Israel and do irreparable damage to the empire that America has become.” [My emphasis].
Wilkerson points the finger of blame at Netanyahu, whose bespoke denigrations of the Iranian Islamic republic are as strident as they are provocative. To anyone within earshot Bibi, with monotonous frequency, kvetches in full-tilt Cassandra-like mode that Iran a) represents the greatest threat facing the Jewish state and to the very stability of the Middle East; and b) is constantly fanning the flames of anti-Semitism as if they’ve somehow cornered the market on it. Wilkerson dismissed these self-serving accusations out of hand using simple logic—an argumentative tool with which far too many of Israel’s defenders appear to be unacquainted.
As Wilkerson said at the time: ‘This antisemitism bit, of course…is almost always a weapon of choice for Israeli politicians under stress hurled, in this case, at the country whose Jewish population—by the way, the largest in the Middle East outside of Turkey and Israel—lives in Iran in reasonable peace.’ [My Emphasis] Like so many of us, what Wilkerson appears to be suggesting amongst other things is that the ‘cachet’ of the anti-Semitic jibe is now not as effective as it used to be. This is part of the reason why Israel is losing control of the narrative.
And to the extent where they even exist in substantive form, Israel’s status and reach are such that countervailing forces struggle to contain this monster. To underscore this, we might consider David Sheen’s recent Lobelog piece, the unambiguously titled “Israel Crushes Resistance At Home And Abroad.” For Sheen, the Jewish-Israeli left is ‘in tatters’, a spent political force. What is interesting about his comment is that whilst it may be obvious to more clear-eyed folks, the dominance of the hard-right itself does not seem to receive much attention in the cut and thrust of public political debate, especially in the corporate media. This in itself may or may not be coincidental, as the disempowerment and marginalisation of the left in general in the West has been, we might argue, a work in progress for some time. The dismal power-political status of the Israeli left notwithstanding, it may be simply mirroring the broader political-economic reality.
Moreover, given the well documented fact that the mainstream press in the west is virtually unanimous in its unquestioning support for Israel, we cannot realistically expect this will change anytime soon. Sheen further notes the Jewish-Israeli left make up ‘a tiny fraction’ of Israel’s overall population, with ‘numbers steadily shrinking since the start of the millennium’. In Sheen’s depressing and ominous summation—one just dripping with historical irony, albeit of the truly tragic kind—the lay of the land in Israeli politics is such that:
No alliance of progressive parties can hold a candle to Israel’s hawkish governing coalitions. No liberal newspaper can pull the public away from the tabloids that back PM Netanyahu and his rivals even further to the right. And no upstart activist group has been able to sway the hearts and minds of significant numbers of young Jews, brainwashed with ever-increasing doses of Zionist propaganda…Top Israeli lawmakers openly incite against leftist figures with frightening regularity, knowing that these attacks will only increase their own popularity among Israeli voters. Even without this egging on, Israeli society is increasingly purging its leftists from positions of influence, as the Israelis who’ve lost their jobs in recent years…for their left-leaning views can attest to.
For those of us who’ve long argued that any hope for Israel’s ‘rehabilitation’ rests largely on the future efforts of left-leaning, liberal or progressive Jewish activist groups and individuals both in Israel and in the U.S. especially, to counter, then reject, the tenets of Zionism, Sheen’s observation leaves one pessimistic. With Zionism the reigning ideology in Israel and being one completely at odds with anything we might define as “liberal”, the real battle must be undertaken by a critical mass of ordinary Jews everywhere who genuinely subscribe to authentic liberal values and/or are decidedly uncomfortable with Israel purporting to act on their behalf and in their interests. I imagine also (or at least hope) there’d be quite a few Jewish folks of a more conservative hew who might be willing to embrace some liberal principles and muster up some umbrage in the cause of justice, equality and peace for the Palestinians if they were willing to inform themselves of the more grim realities that actually exist on the ground. Either way, it’s going to be a long haul.
But as Sheen has noted, such numbers are on the wane, and not just in Israel. For him the picture in the U.S. is even more gloomy. He posits the prospect that American Jews, the next-largest Jewish community in the world (interestingly one perceived to be much more liberal than Israel’s own), might be able to conjure up that “critical mass” required for the battle. However, as he notes, any hope upon the part of frustrated Israeli-based activists of soliciting the support of their American brethren is a forlorn one:
Unfortunately for those besieged Israeli leftists, it would seem that the Israeli government already has a significant head start on them, taking the fight stateside, as well. The apparent objective: Crush any US opposition [to Israel], and to those who’d build their own white ethno-states in its likeness. [My Emphasis]
In an Open Letter he penned to his fellow Israelis in 2016, journalist Jonathan Ofir struck a similar note with the following:
…my hopes of change coming from within us Israelis have regrettably declined in the years – and thus, I am also, if not more so, placing my bets upon the involvement of the international community—whose help we need so badly—not for more cash, weapons, or apologetic “understanding”, but rather for its intervention in what we are apparently unable, and mostly unwilling, to fix. The attitude which I thus exhibit here is an extremely unpopular one in Israeli and Jewish culture. It is the vein of the “moser”—the one who “snitches” against the “Jewish nation” towards the goyim. Well, get over it. There are far more serious issues at hand.
For the objective observer of geopolitical affairs and assorted ‘reality’ purists then, the following ‘specimen’ can’t be denied easily. Along with being one that is not easily explained away, as already hinted, this peculiar “reality” has portentous implications for everyone on this planet: That Israel, allied with certain individuals, institutions and assorted ‘infiltrators’ and fifth columnists in the United States, whether Israeli or American citizens or both but all still unreservedly simpatico with [Israel], has exerted such a massively inordinate, consequential influence in the enactment and execution of U.S. foreign policy, along with being a country which routinely undermines and manipulates the American democratic system and the electoral process so pervasively. Now that’s what I’d call a robust sense of reckless entitlement.
Read that: Israel is thereby placing at risk global stability and security in ways which will surely be as unprecedented as they are unpredictable. Israel to sum up simply, is a law unto itself!
For my part I can’t recall offhand any similar episode in history where the reigning superpower of the era effectively relinquished its power to a much smaller nation and in the process, outsourced control of its own destiny —and we might add, the fate of many other nations including those it purports to ally itself with—to a self-serving cabal whose first allegiance apart from themselves and their ilk is, and has always been, to the nation which is the direct if not so deserving beneficiary of this accumulation and aggregation of power. This is perhaps the grandest gesture history has to offer of geopolitical folly, a largesse unthinkingly and it would appear, unconditionally bestowed upon one nation by another, albeit of the genuinely existentially dangerous kind……we’re breaking new ground here I suppose. What may be less obvious for most is that in the doing thereof, America has brought both itself and the World Order as we know it a whole mess o’ trouble down the mountain. And maybe that was the game-plan all along!?
Back in the day when George Bush faced off against Bill Clinton in 1992, the latter realised quite early “[it’s] the economy, stupid!” that mattered. History was to prove him right in one sense. But for the former, he presumably realised—albeit too late—that it really was the Zionists after all.
It still is.