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Saturday, February 19, 2011

U.S. hypocrisy on Israeli settlements

I have a fantasy. I am fantasizing that the reason the government of Bahrain has withdrawn its troops from Pearl Square in the capital, Manama, is because President Barack Obama called the monarchists who run that country and said the following: You are using our guns and tanks to kill people; stop doing it or we will send in our own troops stationed nearby and take those weapons away from you.

During the protest movements to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, I had a similar fantasy. I fantasized that President Barack Obama had called that nation's military leaders and said the following: We give you $1.3 billion in military aid each year, don't use those weapons against the people in Tahrir Square or we will cut you off.

Of course, as some people who know me might say, I sometimes live in a fantasy world. Yet it does seem that the above fantasies might have a grain of truth to them, or at least one can hope so. But for them to be true, it would have been necessary for Barack Obama to muster up a bit of courage. So when the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements--making it the only one of 15 countries that voted against the resolution, with no abstentions--it really brought me down to earth. Because it reminded me that Obama does not have the courage to do such things, and that his entire presidency has become one based on fear and loathing in the bowels of the White House.

It is interesting to compare some of the U.S. media news coverage of this travesty. The New York Times account was fairly factual and straightforward, but it only briefly mentioned the position that the European Union had taken in favor of the resolution, and generally played down the attitudes of those 14 other countries. The Times article focused mostly on the arguments of the Palestinians, who had pushed hard for the resolution and--something that may eventually bode well for the "peace process" despite America running interference for the Israel right-wing once again--detailed the contradictory U.S. position, which is essentially that it is against settlements but also against anyone doing anything about it (this is disguised in the absurd position that it is a matter for negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when in fact it is a matter of international law.)

In the U.K.'s Guardian, however, we were able to actually read about what other nations, including some of America's closest allies, were saying on the matter. This is worth quoting in some detail:


Washington's controversial move clearly riled other members of the security council. Britain, France and Germany put out a joint statement in which they explained they had voted for the resolution "because our views on settlements, including east Jerusalem, are clear: they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace, and constitute a threat to a two-state solution. All settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, should cease immediately."
William Hague said he understood Israeli concern for security, but said that was precisely why Britain had backed the resolution. "We believe that Israel's security and the realisation of the Palestinians' right to statehood are not opposing goals. On the contrary, they are intimately intertwined objectives." The US has used its veto 10 times since 2000, nine of which involved backing the Israeli side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In other words, it was the judgement of 14 other countries that the U.S. analysis of what was best for the "peace process" was wrong. Under such circumstances, one might expect that the United States would step aside and simply abstain--if, that is, the Obama administration was being honest about its true motives. But of course it wasn't being honest.
Don't we all know that the U.S. voted the way it did because it is afraid of a backlash from Jewish voters, from Republican and Democratic politicians who are also afraid of Jewish voters, afraid of what Sarah Palin would say, what the Tea Party would say, what Rush Limbaugh would say? Indeed, the White House is pretty much running scared these days, consumed with its own fears and turning them into American domestic and foreign policy. This is why, for example, Obama waited until the Egyptian people had already overthrown Mubarak before he came out and said it was a good and historic thing.
So, for now at least, I guess I will just have to live with my fantasies. But, as John Lennon wrote, "I'm not the only one" to have them. And some day, that will make all the difference.
Sunday update: As far as I can tell, the New York Times and other major media carry little or no analysis or followup to the U.S. veto story, despite its far-reaching consequences--consequences that will not be happy for the Obama administration nor for Israel. Nevertheless, Haaretz reports that the Palestinians are considering invoking U.N. rules that would allow it to bring the resolution to the General Assembly within 24 hours. Stay tuned.




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