Thursday, May 18, 2017

The U.S. and Israel: "An Integrated Political System"

Since the end of the Cold War, more than 25 years ago, the United States has undermined the prospects for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians argues Rashid Khalidi in his book Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (2013). Dahlia Scheindlin interviewed him in New York this week for the Tel Aviv Review. Successive American administrations, says Khalidi, have been unable and unwilling to force Israel to make the concessions necessary to implement the peace proposal on the table: a two state solution.

Menachem Begin laid down the template for Israeli resistance during the Camp David negotiations with Egypt, says Khalidi.  He figured out that the formula for not being forced to make concessions is to defer action forever. The '79 peace treaty with Egypt permitted Israel to continue settlement in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli Sovereignty over the West Bank was not touched.

How much does the Israel lobby, both Jewish and fundamentalist Christian, explain why negotiations have failed to bear fruit for the past 25 years, asked Scheindlin. "It's beyond the Lobby," said Khalidi. Israeli and American politicians get funding from the same people. Important industries, like high tech and defense, are integrated in the U.S. and in Israel at the highest levels. As a result the U.S. and Israeli political systems are on the same page, to the point that it is more accurate to think of them as one integrated political system than in terms of allies, says Kahlidi.

And when he says the U.S. and Israel should be thought of as an integrated political system, he means  Zionist Israel. Zionist Israel is the idea of Israel as the state of the Jews for the Jews of the world. It is the idea that the state belongs to a Jew born in Argentina, or Bolivia, or the United States who has never set foot in Israel; and it belongs to this Jew who has never set foot in Israel somehow more than it does to an Arab Palestinian who was born in Jerusalem but forced out by war in 1948 or 1967; that, in a fundamental way, it belongs to this Argentinian, Bolivian, or U.S. Jew more than it does to a Palestinian citizen of Israel.

Zionism grew organically out of Western culture, says Khalidi. He points to the affinity of Zionists with the West. Zionism was a movement born in Basel and at the Biltmore Hotel. These people were at home in the West. Chaim Waizmann and David Ben-Gurion, were Europeans. Ben-Gurion lived in the United States for two years, organizing. He spoke English fluently and naturally. Golda Meir grew up in the United States, as did Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu, Michael Oren (ambassador to U.S. 2009-13), and Ron Dermer (the current ambassador) all had American citizenship.

Since 1967, the American Jewish community (~7 million strong) has embraced Zionist Israel. And this community  has been established for five generations in the U.S. It is hugely influential in politics, law, business, and entertainment. There is a deep affinity between Zionism and the United States through its frontier culture, the idea of exceptionalism, and through the bible, says Khalidi. This affinity, and the Holocaust, have enabled the establishment of a pro-Zionist narrative that has whitewashed what is fundamentally a colonialist enterprise of dispossession. And it has enabled this narrative to be portrayed in an entirely positive context.

In this contest of ideas, suggests Khalidi, Palestinians have been hopelessly outmatched. They are monoglot. They speak Arabic. They have no connections to the West. They are not at home with English or French. There is no affinity between Palestinians and the West. The Arab community in the United States (~1.7 million) is much smaller and consists of more recent arrivals.  They are discriminated against in the U.S. today. Meanwhile, their potential patrons, the leaders of the Arab Gulf States, are autocratic powers of reaction. They are repressive, they are exporters of extreme forms of Islam. They have no natural affinity with Western values.

Today, the white nationalist political narratives in the West are aligned with the Zionist idea. Fighting white nationalism in the West, and fighting Jewish nationalism (as opposed to Israeli nationalism), are related. To the extent that Khalidi is right and the U.S. and the Israeli polity are an integrated political system, fighting White nationalism and fighting Zionism are part of the same fight.

Listen to the program HERE.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

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