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Taking on Sacred Cows: Ending Israel's Veto on a Just Foreign Policy

By Ed Hunt, AlterNet
Posted on June 19, 2008, Printed on June 25, 2008

Obama's promise of change apparently comes to a screeching halt at Israel's doorstep. Witness Barack's statement at the recent AIPAC conference, and heard around the world, that the relationship between the US and Israel was "sacrosanct."

More disturbing was the comment on Jerusalem, which he said "will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." US policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict has never been fair and even-handed. But recent indicators by US politicians reveal an alarming shift to an even more biased policy in favor of Israel's continued ethnic cleansing and land grabs in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Don't forget recent revelations out of Israel that President Bush gave a quiet nod to continued settlement activity on Palestinian land. Hillary Clinton had already been on record as endorsing the annexation of east Jerusalem, and had declared at AIPAC that US policy on Israel was non-negotiable and will "never change."

Actually, stated US policy is supposedly one of opposition to Israeli settlements in any of the occupied territories. There has never been any overt endorsement of the unmistakable Israeli intent to ethnically cleanse East Jerusalem, by any US administration. It looks as though US policy could change, if we take either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama at their word. Contrary to Hillary's recent statement, this would be a change indeed -- for the worse. Tragically, this pushes a fair and just settlement further from reach.

It does not bode well for a new and more democratic US foreign policy that the candidate of change appears to support the further disenfranchisement of Palestinians. I'm not nave. I know full well the stranglehold that the Israel lobby has on national politics in this country. I know that if Obama took the high moral position on the conflict that all justice loving politicians should, these powerful forces would jump into action to work to ensure his defeat in November. Still, he did not have to endorse the annexation of East Jerusalem.

Another leader of promise bends and kneels at the altar of AIPAC. When is it going to end? Politicians will never stick their necks out for a fair and even handed policy in the Palestine-Israel conflict until there is a large and vocal grassroots block demanding it. I do, however, believe we can ultimately send AIPAC packing, but we have to think new, and not expect that this block be the exclusive province of the left side of the spectrum.

Iran, Iraq and the US failure to support democracy in the Middle East

What about Iran? I support democratic change in Iran but unfortunately one must be reminded that it was our CIA that helped to overthrow a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953. What followed was a bloodbath and installation of the Shah, who went on to rule with a terrible human rights record for many years until his overthrow.

Successive US administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, continued to support the Shah economically and militarily without concern for those massive human rights abuses. Sooner or later there was going to be blowback. The result was Islamic revolution. Isn't it time we assign some blame, here at home, on our own politicians who demonstrated bad, even criminal, judgment? In the end, democratic change can only come from within.

On the eve of the Pennsylvania primary, Hillary indicated her willingness to "obliterate" Iran for Israel.

Ironically, news had just broken that US authorities had taken Ben-Ami Kadish into custody for spying for Israel. This is the umpteenth time that US authorities have arrested individuals in the service of Israel for espionage. For a country that many celebrate as a great ally, Israel has a never ending stream of spies operating here.

I don't happen to subscribe to the view that Iran is poised to nuke Israel even if they had the means to do it. You cannot hit Israel without hitting the occupied Palestinian territories and/or other Arab states, and of course Iran is not going to do that. But it is dangerous, and dishonest, for American politicians to pretend Iran is on the verge of doing so.

Do we talk to Hamas? Why not? We talk to Israel, and they've killed a lot more innocent Palestinian civilians than Palestinian suicide bombers have killed Israelis.

Ironically, it was covert Israeli support for Islamist organizations as a counterweight to the secular PLO that contributed to the early growth of Hamas. Hamas is often presented to the US public by politicians as puppets of the Iranians. Even Israel knows that's not true, but the lie works in their favor. Even Israel talks to, and negotiates with, Hamas, and Hezbollah, when it suits them.

Israel has killed Americans too. Israel attacked the USS Liberty in the 1967 war, killing 34 American servicemen and wounding 174, as the ship monitored events in the eastern Mediterranean. The attack was swept under the rug by the Johnson administration. The survivors and families still ask for justice and accountability. The incident is dismissed as an accident, but anyone who has talked to the witnesses, or read the accounts, know something is seriously wrong with the official explanation. Some believe there were not supposed to be any survivors, so that Egypt could be blamed for the attack.

Why is a debate on Israel policy, and the peculiar relationship of the United States with that country, so taboo in this country? It is quite amazing that Israel managed to remain unscathed, and still hold their hands extended for a hefty sum of 3-5 billion dollars in US taxpayer dollars annually.

We're mired in war in Iraq, ostensibly to stop the man George Bush declared the new Hitler. But we are not talking about the fact that Saddam "Hitler" Hussein was given generous amounts of assistance by the Reagan and first Bush administration, even though they knew about the mustard gas. But how many are aware that in the 1960's, our CIA was involved in the overthrow of a (yes, another) democratically elected government in Iraq, putting Saddam's Ba'athist Party in power in the first place.

Given the history, forgive my skepticism when our politicians declare we're in it for freedom and democracy. Saddam may be gone, but US politicians who aided and abetted his crimes have not been held accountable. One of them, Dick Cheney, is not only avoiding any accountability, but has gotten sizable rewards in the form of no-bid contacts for his Halliburton, bilking US taxpayers out of billions for its "services."

Obama does a better job than the others in pointing out the serious flaws in US foreign policy. He says Iraq is a war we never should have fought. Obama has also stated on many occasions that we must challenge the mindset that leads us into these wars. But even Obama doesn't stray far from the destructive policies that perpetuate the conflict in the Middle East.

The burden of compromise rests exclusively on the backs of the Palestinians, even as the Israeli boot remains firmly on the collective throats of the Palestinian population. I do not condone any act by any party that results in the death or injury to innocent civilians, whether the intended or "accidental" target is Palestinian, Israeli or anyone else. The fact remains, the occupied Palestinian territories account for only 22% of what was Palestine in 1948, and Israel's behavior indicates that there is no intention of returning a significant portion of that remaining 22 percent.

The world would be a better place if we stopped propping up tyrants, and cut the purse strings that embolden and encourage continued Israeli human rights violations and land grabs, perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If the Democrats had any sense, they would take their "soft on the bad guys" image that the right wing has successfully hung around their necks, go on the counter-offensive and enlighten American voters with the wealth of evidence that exists, that the Republicans have a long, blemished history of being in bed with bloody tyrants all over the planet. The democrats could crucify the Republicans with these revelations, if they had the political will.

Ed Hunt is a long-time labor activist who follows political developments in the Middle East and in international affairs.

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