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by Yaniv Reich on March 16, 2010

It’s been an extraordinary week in the ongoing Middle East saga. Joe “You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist” Biden felt “insulted” by the timing (as opposed to the substance) of the announcement (as he arrived) that Israel intends to continue the constant ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem that it began in 1967. As a longtime critic of said colonization, it is a bit odd to see the feigned hysterics on both the American and Israeli sides. Netanyahu is as surprised as I am, incidentally, reminding the world yesterday that all Israeli governments for 40 years have built on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem (which Israel claims is its eternal yet universally unrecognized capital). But the incident has opened a much needed political space to criticize Israeli colonization efforts.

Cue drama. The pro-Israel attack dogs begin their salivations and start doing their thing. Abe Foxman puts down his gluttonous silver fork for just long enough to make ridiculous remarks about the US blaming Israel for everything. Joe Lieberman and John “sore loser” McCain find a way back onto national television screens. And on and on. Don’t expect this to die down soon.

Most remarkable in this story, however, is the growing acknowledgment by the highest military officials of this militaristic American land that Israel’s actions constitute a strategic threat to the US. This is important, and in its public airing, entirely new, to the best of my knowledge. This could very well mark the beginning of the end of the strategic “special relationship”… or so we can hope and pray and encourage and beg for. But I would not be overly optimistic—ever—when it comes to the Middle East, particularly if an ethical US role vis-a-vis Israel is called for.

I say all these things by way of context, but what I really wanted to share was a post today by Matt Yglesias, who has nailed (together with the Glenn Greenwald article above) the absurdities and contradictions that inhere, unavoidably, in the pro-Israel lobby talking points.

Here’s General David Petraeus from CENTCOM in some prepared remarks for the Senate Armed Services Committee:

The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.

Abe Foxman says that elucidating these linkages “smacks of blaming the Jews for everything.” The man is ridiculous at this point, but I suppose it’s worth explaining that by this Foxman standard you can’t blame any organized Jewish entity for anything because acts of blaming somehow smack of blaming the Jews for everything.

Meanwhile, I note that the center-right status quo view on the whole region is tied up in knots of contradiction. On the one hand, the United States shouldn’t try to boss Israel around. But on the other hand, the United States should make Israel its largest recipient of foreign aid. On the one hand, Israel is blameless because of the implacable hostility of the Arabs. But on the other hand, America’s relationship with Israel in no way imperils our relationship with these very same Arabs. On the one hand, America shouldn’t care about the broader regional implications of the US-Israeli relationship. But on the other hand, America should seek military hegemony in the whole Persian Gulf region.


May the current diplomatic sparks turn out to actually mean something (as distinct from being merely a twisted show by which Obama aims to gain a shred of credibility as a US president who, for a change, considers Palestinians to be human beings).

More importantly, may it cause the erosion of the “special relationship” that has allowed Israel to get away with flouting with utter and shameless impunity international law and a minimum of 79 UN Security Council Resolutions since 1948.

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