Read Part 2 of the seriesWhich country comes foremost in US foreign policy, the United States or Israel? Sometimes it's hard to tell. The Israeli-centric approach to US Middle East foreign policy, which is unfair to the Palestinians and dangerous to a United States dependent on foreign oil, will not change in an Obama Administration.
Which office is Obama running for?
On June 4, 2008, the day after Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination, he spoke to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Here are some excerpts of that speech:
I want you to know that today I'll be speaking from my heart and as a true friend of Israel. And I know that when I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends. Good Friends. Friends who share my strong commitment to make sure that they bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever.
... I was drawn to the belief that you could sustain a spiritual, emotional and cultural identity. And I deeply understood the Zionist idea – that there is always a homeland at the center of our story. ... We know the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know that we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as president I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security....Those who threaten Israel threaten us. Israel has always faced these threats on the front lines. And I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel's security. ... Let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper – but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.1
Great speech...for a candidate for Prime Minister of Israel.
Later in the summer Robert Fisk, renowned British journalist who has covered the Middle East for over 20 years, said: But hasn't anyone realised that Obama has chosen for his advisers two if the most lamentable failures of US Middle East policy making? There, yet again, is Dennis Ross, a former prominent staff member of AIPAC, the most powerful Israeli lobby in Washington -- yup, the very same AIPAC to which Obama grovelled last month – and the man who failed to make the Oslo agreement work. And there is Madeleine Albright who, as US ambassador the the UN, said that the price of half a million dead children under sanctions in Iraq was “worth it”, and who later announced that Israel was “under siege”. This must be the only time – ever – that a US politician thought Palestinian tanks were on the streets of Tel Aviv.2
Understand that Zionism is a political philosophy and is not the same as Judaism, which is a religion. One does not have to be Jewish to be a Zionist. In fact, Christian Zionists are prominent as supporters of and elected officials from the Republican Party.3 Some Christian Zionists, particularly the Dispensationalists,--the late Rev. Jerry Falwell was one--want Israel to claim all of Palestine because they believe that this is a necessary precursor to the Second Coming of Christ.4 However, these Christian Zionists also believe that the Jews and all other non-Christians will be condemned on Judgment Day. So they don't have any particular love for the Jewish people.
Jewish Zionism stems from the anti-Semitism Jews have faced in Europe and elsewhere. Jewish Zionists see Israel as the one place Jews can be safe.5 But not all Jews are Zionists, and in fact, Zionism is actually considered by many Jews to be a heresy.6 So being Anti-Zionist does not mean one is Anti-Semitic.
There are two kinds of Holocaust deniers. There are the fools and propagandists, like white supremacists and Iran's President Ahmadinejad who claim it never happened or that far fewer Jews were killed than the history books say. There is certainly more than enough documentation of the atrocities to prove these fools wrong.
But there is a second, less publicized but more pernicious, form of Holocaust denial. One that many of us are guilty of. It's the denial that overemphasizes the tragedy of the Jews and fails to comprehend the full scope of Hitler's evil. While the Nazis made the Jews the scapegoats for Germany's economic problems post WWI, Hitler also persecuted Slavs, Roma (Gypsies), trade unionists, Communists, homosexuals, who were marked with a pink triangle as Jews were marked with a yellow Star of David, and the disabled. He also thought blacks were subhuman, and while there were not many blacks in Europe, Rommel "The Desert Fox" operated in North Africa, as the Nazis desperately searched for oil with which to fuel their war machine, and fascist ally Italy held Ethiopia as a colony.
While we often hear about the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, we seldom hear about the over 20 million citizens of the Soviet Union, military and civilian, who died during WWII,7 and we hear even less about the atrocities committed by the Japanese allies of the Nazis in the Philippines, Korea, China, Indonesia and other places in Asia.
And, of course, in 1938, Hitler felt confident that he could eliminate the Jews because "no one remembers the Armenians" who, to this day, are seeking recognition for their genocide in waning days of the Ottoman Empire.
US Presidents of both parties, and their advisers, for too long have acted as if the Jewish people were the only ones ever to be victims of genocide. But if humanity is to learn the true lesson of the Holocaust, we must remember that other peoples were genocided before WWII, and have been genocided since WWII, and that others besides the Jews were genocided during WWII. The true lesson is that "Never again" must be "Never Again" for everybody, or else it will be "here we go again" for somebody. The goal should be to eliminate genocide from human behavior, not to guarantee of survival of one set of genocide victims above all others.
For "Never Again" to be realized, the dominator paradigm of human relations must be overthrown in favor of a system in which the rights of all people, as individuals and as group members, are respected. There are at least two competing ways of achieving this outcome. One way is through true democracy in which there is a "one person-one vote" principle and where various groups can speak, publish and educate in their own languages, worship, or not, as they please, band together in whatever political parties they wish, and engage in economic activity without discrimination.
The other, which seems to be the way the world is going, is for each people to have its own land. But the struggle for independence or autonomy is a bloody one, full of ethnic cleansing (e.g. Serbia) or acts of repression by the dominant culture over the minority (e.g. Tibet and China). Israel is but one famous example of this "one people on its own land" approach, which, frankly, is outdated in places where colonial powers have redrawn borders to weaken the power of local ethnic groups to resist. (This includes the United States in its treatment of Native American nations). And that "to each his own" solution is never equally applied. The United States, whichever party is in power, has an overweening concern for the survival of Israel as a Jewish state; the Palestinians are an afterthought, the Kurds, who are the largest ethnic group in the world to not have its own state, are hardly thought of at all. And a worldwide list of peoples with their own nationalistic aspirations, ignored or trampled on by larger powers, is fairly long, indeed.