To become an occupier

The same day a beleaguered George Bush mollified his hard-right base by nominating Judge Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, his senior partner in Jerusalem was again scrambling to avoid elections by pandering to the hard right of the Israeli Knesset.

Although it had been an especially brutal week of “disengagement”, taking the lives of five Israelis and a dozen Palestinians, and injuring scores of Palestinian men, women and children, Prime Minister Sharon threw more red meat on the Knesset floor. He vowed to continue Israel’s “development projects…not only [in] the Galilee, Negev and Jerusalem, but also the large settlement blocs, the Jordan Valley and the Golan.”[1]

In other words, he assured them that the agenda of “disengagement” is right on track. Israel’s multi-pronged territorial attack on the West Bank is making impressive gains. Palestinians have been stripped of more than half their territory and are being walled into separate homelands connected by Israel’s whim. East Jerusalem is being simultaneously strangled and chopped apart, in order to accomplish its “Judaization”. The theft of the Jordan Valley looms on the horizon.

Now that the settlers are out of the target zone, the “security” of the “liberated” Gaza Strip has been turned over to the Israeli Air Force, which appears eager to experiment in remote-control warfare against live targets. Since remanding Gaza to the “control” of the PA, Israel has attacked it with UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), F-16 fighter planes, helicopter gunships, “liquidation” missiles, naval bombardment, and ground artillery.

As a novelty, the IAF also began flying round-the-clock “sonic boom” missions, first over Gaza, then extended to the West Bank, relentlessly shattering the windows, ears, and nerves of the residents en masse. Meanwhile, Israel continues to blockade Gaza’s borders, stranding thousands of innocent people and pushing an already destitute economy over the edge.

All told, Israel’s recent treatment of the Gaza Strip has been a stunning example of collective punishment, even by Israeli standards. Its execution of this war crime has been so calculated, systematic, and repetitive as to render it a potentially grave offense under international law.

Thankfully, last February’s Sharon-Abbas summit at Sharm el-Sheikh reduced the level of overt violence for several months. However, it also provided the discipline Israel needed to focus its aggression on its ultimate target–”the acquisition of Judea and Samaria for the Jewish State, a.k.a. the theft of the Palestinian West Bank.

Only two weeks after the February “peace summit”, we learned that Israel’s construction workers would be deployed to open up new fronts in the war, by building more illegal “settlement units” all over the occupied West Bank. This abrupt acceleration of Israel’s “settlement expansion” was soon followed by a new spate of Israeli land annexations, abetted by the “separation barrier”, which is now a network of interconnected, ever-lengthening walls and fences running in all directions inside the West Bank. Although unequivocally condemned by the International Court of Justice, the Wall enjoys legal standing in the Israeli courts. Its builders may always be granted new excuses to extend its crushing imprisonment of the Palestinian people.

Last week, South Africa’s Minister of Intelligence and Deputy Minister of Defense echoed other South Africans when he stated that the Palestinians’ situation is now “far worse” than that suffered by blacks under the apartheid regime.[2]

As usual, diplomatic maneuvering continues toward and away from the next possible “peace talks”, which promise little, in part because the US has once again permitted Israel to eviscerate an international effort to reach a solution. The carcass of this gutting is known by two names. In Israel they call it “disengagement”. US leaders ignore the bloody entrails and call it the “road map”, which we “continue to follow”, to which there remains “no alternative”.

Prime Minister Sharon can regurgitate these very same words, whenever the US requires. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rice publicly fusses at Israel not to damage the doorframes as it robs the Palestinians blind, hoping in vain to ‘portray an image of balance and toughness’ to the world.

It has all come before, far too many times, and each time it comes things are a little worse for Palestinians, for the chances that their children will survive to adulthood, or get a decent education, or eat a meal tomorrow. Prospects are a little dimmer that their water will not be polluted by settlers’ sewage and Israel’s toxic dumping, that their home will not be demolished, that their orchards will not be destroyed, that their children will not be imprisoned and tortured for throwing stones at soldiers.

It has become something of a truism to say that nothing will break this genocidal cycle of violence without the support of the United States, in part because the US has vetoed every UN Security Council resolution that has attempted to enforce Israel’s compliance with international law.

No international relationship has been more untouchable in the politics of American foreign policy than the US-Israeli alliance. For decades, the brute power of the pro-Israel “lobby” has had Congress in the palm of its hand, ready to override virtually any presidential initiative not favored by Israel.

That a foreign power can hijack our sovereign policy decisions has naturally aroused the resentment of many citizens and individuals serving in the diplomatic, military, and intelligence departments of our government. Unfortunately, this opposition has remained largely latent for more than thirty years.

During that time, the American people became so inured to funding, ignoring, and explaining away the crimes of Israel that they began to regard the forcible occupation of an Arab nation as a reasonable foreign policy option.

So, under pretenses as false as the Zionists’ claim on Palestine, we exercised our option to criminally attack and occupy Iraq, drop anti-personnel bombs on its cities, and turn our National Guardsmen into concentration camp guards. We were ready to destroy Iraq in order to own it.

Naturally we turned to the Israelis to teach our troops the tricks of the trade. No one knows how many Iraqi homes have suffered the IDF’s wisdom that it is better to bash holes through the walls of Arab dwellings than to face the enemy in the street.

Something fundamental has changed in the legendary US-Israeli relationship–”now both countries have Arab blood on their hands. By perpetrating its own war of occupation in the Middle East, the US has joined Israel’s criminal status as an illegal occupying power. Consequently, both countries now stand accused of a grave pattern of war crimes in the region, including indiscriminate killing, torture, and using access to food as a weapon of war. What do Americans and Israelis think now, as they gaze at the dark mirrors they have made for each other?

Now that we have slaughtered a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians and devastated Fallujah, the once-beautiful City of Mosques, now that the world knows about Abu Ghraib and X-Ray and Delta and the systematic depravity of our global gulag of torture–”now, from this pit of shame, how will we Americans assess the actions of Israel?

Will we be even more inclined to forgive its indiscretions with those gunships and F-16s we provided? After all, they hardly measure up to the scale of our brutality in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or will Israel’s racist culture of occupation begin to look like a frightening microcosm of our own?

Polls tell us that a solid majority of Americans now quietly reject our presence in Iraq and want an end to the whole adventure. Up close and by our own hands, the crimes of occupation have lost their luster. What will happen as this drags on, and more Americans begin to ponder the futility and moral degradation inherent in (once again) becoming an occupying power? Can we go through this trauma that we have inflicted upon the world and ourselves, without confronting its “inspiration”, without recognizing that Israel’s war of occupation is also inexcusable?


[1]. Sharon vows to develop settlements
AlJazeera, 10/31/2005

[2]. Israel “Far Worse” Than Apartheid South Africa – Scoop, 11/1/2005