On The Road To War!

                  Israeli Warplanes Bomb Gaza

 The US Must Demand Restraint and De-escalation

As relations rapidly deteriorate between the Israeli government and Hamas, the Militant Palestinian organization that controls Gaza, the US government must employ all of its diplomatic resources to arrest the movement toward all-out war.

The images of Palestinian children slaughtered by Israeli bombs while playing in their yards will surely swell the legions of Islamic militants across the Arab world.  It is the nature of the dynamics of mass transformative movements, as I have explained elsewhere.

Hence the Israeli bombings, the results of which are broadcast in graphic detail on Arabic language television networks such as Al Jazeera and Al Arriba, are literally manufacturing the next wave of Islamist suicide bombers, and they will be seeking an even bigger spectacle than the leveling of the world trade towers.

This is an evitable development, because we have made enemies of people who are convinced that they are instruments of the will of God, the sword of Allah, destined to purge Muslim lands of the Great Satan’s legions and their Zionist proxys.  It is as if we are caught in a death struggle with the Islamic world and just can’t extricate ourselves from it.

Israel  upped the ante by assassinating Ahmed al-Jaabari, the millitary commander of Hamas.  And if she gets embroiled in an all-out war in the Middle East, which is to say an invasion of Gaza sets off a general conflagration that will involve armed hostilities between Israel and several Arab countries, the US will be dragged into yet another war in the Islamic world…the possible consequences of which are too horrifying to contemplate.

While such a possibility was unimaginable when Barack took office, because the neighboring Arab states were either clients of the US or were more interested in selling their oil – Egypt, Jordon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Tunisia, et al – the massive upheavals of the Arab Spring has transformed power relations in several of these countries and destabilize the others.

This is what Democracy Looks Like….

……When the Arab Street is Empowered

 Now that the masses in the Muslim world have experienced the intoxicating power of popular democracy, it may not be possible for the traditional princes and powers to control them.  Especially since these spontaneous upheavals often empower previously suppressed Islamic Jihadist forces.

Egypt is the classic example.  Here a once reliable ally ruled by modern secular military men, has been converted into a state governed by a recently elected president, Mohamed Morsi,  who is a member the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is why even before the outbreak of the resent conflict, President Obama said he didn’t know if Egypt was still a reliable ally.  We shall soon see, because the Muslin Brotherhood is a close ally of Hamas and can use their good offices to help broker a settlement of the conflict if the choose to.

The fact that President Morsi has made much of his resignation from the organization in a public political act, does not mean that he is not still with them in his heart and mind.  After all, this is a matter of deep spiritual belief, a way of viewing the world.

Furthermore, without the Brotherhood  Mohamed Morsi would never have become the leader of Egypt, thus he must consider their views in any policy he adopts.  This explains why Morsi has condemned the Israeli air raids in no uncertain terms and called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League to discuss the conflict.

Hence all of this preachment about the virtues of democracy that the US and other western countries have promoted in the Muslim world, may come back to haunt us….”be careful what you ask for” as the old adage warns, because you just might get it.

The questions on the minds of thoughtful people everywhere just now, as the Middle East region teeters on the brink of yet another disastrous war, are: Why did this escalation of violence occur now?  What was the triggering event?  Who is at fault?  And what are the chances of the worst case scenario becoming political reality.

Since it is axiomatic that in war the first casualty is truth, it is hard to discern just what happened to set off the chain of events that now threatens to set the Middle East – a major source of petroleum for the US and other western countries – on fire.  Naturally each side blames the other.

Yet whoever started it their remains the question of “proportional Response,” whether the Israeli response to Hamas’ rocket attacks is disproportionate in its destructiveness.  That will almost certainly be the case because the disparity in military might between the Palestinians and the Israeli’s.

It’s almost like the US Calvary fighting the Native Americans during the wars in the Great Plains.  There is a reason why Palestinians invented suicide bombers.  It is a cultural expression of the nihilism many young people who grew up under Israeli occupation feel.

In fact, when the attack of 9/11 occurred I thought they were Palestinians, although I have persistently questioned the US government’s decision to have the CIA arm and train the Afghan Mujahidin – especially with sophisticated weapons like stinger missiles.  We have the late Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson to thank for that disastrous blunder, which would later cost the lives of American combatants.

Then the US government was calling them heroes, because they were fighting the Russians.  But I knew they also regarded us as Godless infidels; after all the Iranian Ayatollahs – who were presiding over the first Islamic theocracy state in the modern world – had branded us: “The Great Satan,” the number one enemy of Islam!

Hence when I learned that Al Qaeda had carried out the attack and the CIA had trained Osama bin Laden in terrorist tactics, I was barely surprised – although the Israeli suppression of the Palestinian Intifada at the time seemed the most likely catalyst for the suicide mission.

I think if the United States now unconditionally supports Israel in a full-fledged military assault on Gaza I think it will prove as serious a blunder as arming the Afghan Mujahidin, in terms of producing enemies dedicated to our destruction. However President Obama is in a precarious position: He could be damned if he does and scorned if he doesn’t.  He has inherited  a set of obligations to Israel –  formal and informal – that he cannot simply walk away from.

However the fact that he will never run for political office again affords President Obama a unique opportunity to break this pattern of slavish American acquiescence to Israeli objectives…even when they contradict our own.  And while pro-Zionist Americans – both Jewish and Christian – such as the activist in the powerful IsraeI Lobby, will argue that there is no difference in the national interest of the US and Israel, I beg to differ.

It cannot be true that a global power whose economy is petroleum based, and must maintain complex relationships with the Islamic world, has the same national interests as a small  desert nation whose sphere of influence is limited to the Middle-East.  This is why those who support the “identical interests” thesis became hysterical when the President said “there must be light between Israeli and American foreign policy.”  But of course there must!

To take any other position raises the question asked by Professors John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, in their definitive study The Israel Lobby: “Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? “  In their effort to answer this question the professors offer the following observation:

“One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides. Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.”

Among the things the Israel Lobby has been known to do is support opposition candidates to members of the US Congress who refuse to support their agenda.  And both parties are beholden to elements of the Lobby for support.  The democrats are highly dependent upon Jewish money and talent, while the “Christian Zionists” in the protestant evangelical movement comprise a critical segment of the Republican base.

This is why the rhetoric coming from our Senators and Congressmen from both sides of the aisle sound as if Hamas is the sole cause of the present conflict, and they stumble over each other trying to be the first to publicly announce that they support Israel’s right to take whatever action they deem necessary to “protect their citizenry from attack.”

The uniformity of this vision of events means that there is little chance that a genuine counter-narrative critical of Israeli policy will emerge among our governing class.  This makes it all the more difficult for President Obama to take an objective stance and address the urgent need to resolve the long festering issues of Palestinian sovereignty that is the root cause of the present crisis.

Let us hope that the frenzy of diplomatic activity taking place behind closed doors can resolve the present conflict before it degenerates into all-out war between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians that could destabilize the entire region and send the price of petroleum products through the roof.  This could plunge the still fragile economies of Europe and the US into a deep recession and spark a world-wide economic downturn.

Furthermore the continued loss of life from Israeli bombings of Gaza, a heavily populated area where dispossessed Palestinians are concentrated, will only increase the ranks of those who hate and want to destroy the US – since they view Israel as an American client state over whose actions the US government has a veto.  This is a reasonable assumption but untrue, because the Israel Lobby has so terrified members of congress that none dare oppose its agenda.

For all of these reasons American involvement in another war in the Arab world, this time in direct support  of Israeli aggression, will be an unmitigated disaster for the US with no upside that I can envision. That’s why the US government must insist on a diplomatic solution to the present crisis. Viewed from this perspective there is an opportunity to make history here; for it could provide an opening to negotiate a historic peace settlement.

Most people on both sides prefer peace, and they could force their leaders to negotiate if a genuine opportunity for a just and lasting peace were at hand. It is the kind of complex problem that brings out the best in Barack. The problem remains the belligerence and intransigence of Bibi Netanyahu, whose refusal to negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas, the reasonable leader of the largest Palestinian political faction, only serves to empower Hamas.

It is policy that makes successful peace negotiations impossible….and could well plunge the US into yet another war against the Arabs, with a tragic and ruinous expenditure of even more American blood and treasure

Adding insult to injury, there are rumors abroad that the real reason Bibi Netanyahu decided to launch this war just now is because he will soon be coming up for reelection. And like hurricane Sandy did for President Obama, a military assault on Hamas will provide Netanyahu a chance to look heroic!   In other words, smacking Hamas around will enhance his chances of victory.

This charge  is being made by people who know what they are talking about; such as writers at the London Guardian and some factions of the Israeli opposition.  It is a serious charge, and the US government must take it into account when formulating America’s diplomatic strategy in this crisis.  And act for once in the best Interests of this nation!

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Playthell George Benjamin
Harlem, New York

November 18, 2012

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