- Patrick Tyler, from Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country -- and Why They Can't Make Peace
Recently there have been cracks showing in the Israeli militarist right's lock on free thinking in the minds of citizens of the United States.
This mind lock in America became evident to me some years ago when an Israeli gunship pilot from an Israeli veterans anti-war group spoke in Philadelphia. He told about a conversation he had in Tel Aviv with a member of The American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC. With some threat in his tone, the man said," Say anything you want here in Israel, but don't go to America." America, of course, is the bankroller for what Tyler calls the "highly militarized dependency" that Israel has become.
Serious cracks began to show up after the Palestinian Authority won statehood recognition in the UN and the Netanyahu government responded by publicly approving steps leading to a huge development east of Jerusalem that would make a future two-state reality impossible.
First, there was the prominent upper west side New York synagogue that proudly broadcast its opposition to both Israeli and US leadership by declaring the UN General Assembly recognition of Palestine as a nation state in the world of nations as "a great moment for us as citizens of the world."
Some Jewish American members of the B'nai Jewshurun synagogue were "delighted;" one said, "I think it was great." Some members were, of course, "in a state of shock." Responding to those in shock, the leaders of the synagogue accordingly back-peddled a half step. But they did not retract their enthusiastic approval of the UN action.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama
Likewise, it's clear cracks are developing in the support for the Israeli right's militarist policy when New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says from Tel Aviv, "I am stunned at what I see here politically." He sees only two options being considered in Israeli politics: the "iron fist" and the "iron dome." The former implies dictatorship and the latter a reliance on the so-called Iron Dome anti-rocket technology that will magically create a shield to protect Israel in the future. Friedman might have used the notion of an iron wall as well, the term coined in 1923 by the father of Israeli militarism, Se'ev Jabotinsky, to indicate how Jews should separate themselves from the Palestinians they militarily dominate and whose land they occupy.
Andrew Bacevich, a US Army veteran and conservative historian, recently published an essay titled "How We Became Israel" that explains what it means to associate peace with dominance -- versus associating peace with harmony. His point is that the US is tragically following the Israeli militarist lead in this respect.
Though these voices are not from the traditional left, their ideas represent a political opening for the left. The recent US election arguably set the far right back on its heels here and seems to have opened some wiggle room for the left. At the same time, as the Middle East and North Africa go through waves of profound change and the Israeli militarist right doggedly moves farther to the right, it may be creating a line in the sand that some American Jews find hard to cross. The next step, then, is speaking out like the B'nai Jewshurun synagogue did.
The fact is, while there are many differences between a Jewish state and an Islamic state, both are nation states organized around religious and cultural identities. From the point of view of Palestinians, a boot on your neck is a boot on your neck, whether it's an Arab dictator like Mubarak or a militarist occupying state like Israel. At some point, the fear is it's all going to catch up to the Israeli militarist right, and when it does, it will be explosive.
Khaled Meshal's triumphant return to Gaza
Ponder for a moment the powerful symbolism of the recent triumphant return of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal to Gaza. In 1997, an Israeli Mossad targeted assassination team tried and failed to murder Meshal in Amman, Jordan, with poison. The killers were caught and an embarrassed Netanyahu, in a prior stint as prime minister, had to order the antidote sent to Amman. It doesn't get much more dramatic than that. So, now, Meshal, a man who Mubarak would not permit access to Gaza through Egypt, is allowed to enter through Egypt by President Morsi. Meshal tells thousands of gathered Gazans that it is his "third birth." First, there was his natural birth, second his survival of the botched Mossad targeted assassination, and third, this moment, his triumphal return to Gaza. Netanyahu reportedly was ballistic.
Those on the right will poo-pah calls for diplomacy with people like Meshal, since the entire history of Israel has been founded and managed on the principle of militaristic dominance of Palestinians and, thus, a disdain for respectful diplomacy. And Meshal and Hamas are, like the Israeli right and unlike the Palestinian Authority, intensely militaristic from an underdog position.
In his new book Fortress Israel, Patrick Tyler lays out the history of how Israeli leaders' militarism consistently trumped diplomacy. Echoing Bacevich's notion of the US as a strange lackey for the Israeli militaristic right, Tyler quotes former Israeli intelligence chief Avi Dichter. "The state of Israel has turned targeted assassinations into an art form. Foreign delegations come here on a weekly basis to learn from us, not just Americans." It's an "art form" all right -- except when it fails, as with Meshal, then it's dark Keystone Cops comedy.