netninja1 (netninja1) wrote in thinkers,

Understanding the Middle East Conflict

Israel is having more and more trouble putting down this popular revolution over the Occupied Territories. The repression of the Palestinians and the Lebanese is not qualitatively different right now from what it was 40 years ago -- it's just that it's escalated in scale sincee the Palestinians and the Lebanese started fighting back. For the Palestinians it started during the Intifada. So the brutality you see occasionally on television has in fact been going on for the last 40 years, and it's just the nature of a military occupation: military occupations are harsh and brutal, there is no other kind [Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the Six Day War in 1967, and has controlled them ever since]. There's been home-destruction, kidnappings, torture, collective punishments, expulsion, plenty of humiliation, censorship -- you'd have do go back to the days of the American South to know what it's been like for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. They are not supposed to raise their heads -- that's what they say in Israel, "They're raising their heads, we've got to do something about it." And that's the way the Palestinians have been living.

Well, the United States has been quite happy supporting that -- so long as it worked. But in the past few years, it hasn't worked. See, people with power understand exactly one thing: violence. If violence is effective, everything's okay; but if violence loses its effectiveness, then they start worrying and have to try something else. In fact, the occupation's beginning to be rather harmful for Israel. So it's entirely possible that there could be some tactical changes coming with respect to how Israel goes about controlling the Territories.

Outside the United States, everybody knows what the solution for resolving the conflict in the region would be. For years there's been a very broad consensus in the world over the basic framework of a solution in the Middle East, with the exception of two countries: the United States and Israel. It's going to be some variety of two-state settlement.

Look, there are two groups claiming the right of national self-determination in the same territory; they both have a claim, they're competing claims. There are various ways in which such competing claims could be reconciled -- you could do it through a federation, one thing or another -- but given the present state of conflict, it's just going to have to be about the modalities -- should it be a confederation, how do you deal with economic integration, and so on -- but the principle's quite clear: there has to be some settlement that recognizes the right of self-determination of Jews in something like the state of Israel, and the right of self-determination of Palestinians in something like a Palestinian State. And everybody knows where that Palestinian state would be -- in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along roughly the borders that exsisted before the Six Day War in 1967.

All of this has been obvious for years -- why hasn't it happened? Well, of course Israel's opposed to it. But the main reason it hasn't happened is because the United States has blocked it: the United states has been blocking the peace process in the Middle East for the last twenty years -- WE'RE the leaders of the rejectionist camp, not the Arabs or anybody else. See, the United States supports a policy which Henry Kissinger called "stalemate"; that was his word for it back in 1970. At that time, there was kind of a split in the American government as to whether we should join the broad international consensus on a political settlement, or block a political settlement. And in that internal struggle, the hard-liners prevailed; Kissinger was the main spokesman. The policy that won out was what he called "stalemate": keep things the way they are, maintain the system of Israeli oppression. And there was a good reason for that, it wasn't just out of the blue: having an embattled, militaristic Israel is an important part of how we rule the world.

Basically the United States doesn't give a damn about Israel: if it goes down the drain, U.S. planners don't care one way or another, there's no moral obligation or anything else. But what the do care about is control of the enormous oil resources of the Middle East. A big part of the way you run the planet is by controlling the Middle East oil, and in the late 1950s, the United States began to recognize that Israel would be a very useful ally in this respect. For example, there's a National Security Council Memorandum in 1958 which points out that the main enemy of the United States in the Middle East (as everywhere) is nationalism, what they call "radical Arab nationalism" -- which means independence, countries pursuing a course other than submission to the needs of American power. Well, that's always the enemy: the people there don't always see why the enormous wealth and resources of the region have to be in the control of American and British investors while they starve, they've never really gotten that into their heads -- and sometimes they try to do something about it. Alright, that's unacceptable to the United States, and one of the things they pointed out is that a useful weapon against that sort of "radical Arab nationalism" would be a highly militarized Israel, which would then be a reliable base for U.S. power in the region.

That insight was not really acted upon extensively until the Six Day War in 1967, when, with U.S. support, Israel essentially destroyed Nasser [the Egyptian President] -- who was regarded as the main Arab nationalist force in the Middle East -- and virtually all other Arab armies in the region too. That won Israel a lot of points, it established then as what's called a "strategic asset" -- that is, a military force that can be used as an outlet for U.S. power. In fact, at the time, Israel and Iran under the Shah (which were allies, tacit allies) came to be regarded by American planners as two parts of a tripartite U.S. system for controlling the Middle East. This consisted first of all of Saudi Arabia, which is where most of the oil is, and then its two gendarmes, pre-revolutionary Iran and Israel -- the "Guardians of the Gulf," as they were called, who were supposed to protect Saudi Arabia from indigenous nationalist forces in the area. Of course, when the Shah fell in the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Israel's role became more important to the United States, it was the last "Guardian."

Meanwhile, Israel began to pick up secondary functions: it started to serve as a mercenary state for the United States around the world. In the 1960s, Israel started to be used as a conduit for intervening in the affairs of black African countries, under a big C.I.A. subsidy. And in the 1970s and Eighties, the United States increasingly turned to Israel as kind of a weapon against other parts of the Third World -- Israel would provide armaments and training and computers and all sorts of other things to Third World dictatorships at times when it was hard for the U.S. government to give their support directly. For instance, Israel acted as the main U.S. contact with the South African military for years, right through the embargo [the U.N. security Council imposed a mandatory arms embargo on South Africa in 1977 after the U.S. and Britain had vetoed even stronger resolutions]. Well, that's a very useful alliance, and that's another reason why Israel gets such extraordinary amounts of U.S. aid.

But notice that this whole system only works as long as Israel remains embattled. So suppose there was a real peace settlement in the Middle East, and Israel was just integrated into the region as its most technologically advanced country, kind of like Switzerland or Luxembourg or something. Well, at that point its value to the United States is essentially over -- we already have Luxembourg, we don't need another one. Israel's value to the United States depends on the fact that it is threatened with destruction: that makes them completely dependent on the United States for survival, and there fore extremely reliable -- because if the rug ever is pulled out from under them in a situation of real conflict, they will get destroyed.

And that reasoning has held right up to the present. It's easy to show that the United States has blocked every move towards a political settlement that has come along in the Middle East -- often we've just vetoed them at the U.N. Security Council. In fact, up until very recently, it's been impossible in the United States even to talk about a political settlement. The official line in the United States has been, "The Arabs want to kill all the Jews and throw them into the sea" -- with only two exceptions. One was King Hussein of Jordan, who was a "moderate," because he's on our side. And the other was President Sadat of Egypt, who in 1977 realized the error of his was, so he flew to Jerusalem and became a man of peace -- and that's why the Arabs killed him, because the Arabs'll kill anybody who's for peace **sarcasm** [Sadat was assassinated in 1981]. That has been the official line in the United States, and you simply cannot deviate from it in the press or scholarship.

It's total lies from beginning to end. Take Sadat: Sadat made a peace offer to Israel in February 1971, a better offer from Israel's point of view that the one he later initiated in 1977 [which led to the Camp David peace talks]. It was a full peace treaty exactly in accord with U.N. Resolution 242 [which called for a return to pre-June 1967 borders in the region with security guarantees, but made no mention of Palestinian rights] -- the United States and Israel turned it down, therefor it's out of history. In January 1976, Syria, Jordan and Egypt proposed a two-state peace settlement at the U.N. Security Council in the basis if U.N. 242, and the P.L.O. supported the proposal -- it called for territorial guarantees, the whole business: the United States vetoed it, so it's out of history, it didn't happen. And it just goes on from there: the United States was unwilling to support and of these peace offers, so they're out of history, they're down Orwell's memory hole.

It's even to the point where journals in the United States will not permit letters referring to these proposals; the degree of control on this is startling, actually. For example, a few years ago George Will wrote a column in Newsweek called "Middle East, Truth and Falsehood," about how peace activists are lying about the Middle East, everything they say is a lie. And in the article, there was one statement that has a vague relation to fact: he said that Sadat had refused to deal with Israel until 1977. So a friend of mine wrote them a letter, the kind of letter you write newsweek -- you know, four lines -- in which he said, "Will has one statement of fact, it's false; Sadat made a peace offer in 1971, and Israel and the United States turned it down." Well, a couple days later he got a call from a research editor who checks facts for the Newsweek "Letters" cloumn. She said: "We're kind of interested in your letter, where did you get those facts?" Se he told her, "Well, they're published in Newsweek, on February 8, 1971" -- which is true, because it was a big proposal, it just happend to go down the memory hole in the United States because it was the wrong story. So she looked it up and called him back, and said, "Yeah, you're right, we found it there; okay, we'll run your letter." An hour later she called again and said, "Gee, I'm sorry, but we can't run the letter." He said," What's the problem?" She said, "Well, the editor mentioned it to Will and he's having a tantrum; they decided they can't run it." Well, okay.

My point is, in Newsweek and the New York Times and the Washington Post and so on, you simply cannot state these facts -- it's like belief in divinity or something, the lies have become immutable truth.
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