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Israel Has Been “Singled Out” in the US for a Very Long Time

By Thomas S. Harrington | Common Dreams | December 25, 2013

As has been widely reported, the American Studies Association, the umbrella organization of academics devoted to the study of US literature, history and culture, recently voted to join the movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

In the days since that historic vote numerous high-profile US supporters of the Jewish state have vehemently decried the scholarly association’s historic decision.

The first to do so was Lawrence Summers, one-time Harvard president and prime architect–in his as deregulator-in-chief- of the finance industry–of the recession that has robbed millions of Americans of their jobs, savings and homes. He has been followed by numerous such as Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic and by Michael Roth president of Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Reading these reactions to the democratically determined posture of the ASA one particular argument appears with almost metronomic predictability. It goes something like this:

“Considering all the countries in the world where human rights abuses are rife, why in the world is the ASA so concerned about Israel, the only “democratic state” in the Middle East? Why is this organization along with the millions of others who support the BDS movement “singling Israel out” for such punitive treatment?”

One is left to wonder. Do these gentlemen always treat the intelligence of their audience with such contempt? Do they always assume that those to whom they speak are deeply ill-informed about the structural realities of contemporary politics and incapable of the most basic logical inductions in regard to the nature of Israel’s relationship to the US?

As anyone who has not been living under a rock for the last 50 years knows, Israel has, it is true, long been “singled out” in America…. for extraordinary levels of financial, military and diplomatic support from the United States government.

Indeed it could be said without exaggeration that no small and putatively sovereign nation in modern history has ever been the object of such lavishly favorable treatment from a Great Power. There is nothing remotely comparable to the US indulgent treatment of Israel in Spain’s or Great Britain’s long historical runs as the world’s unquestioned hegemon.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the current US President who declared quite famously that the US and Israel must “work in lockstep” within the theater of international politics. Or we could listen to the current Vice-President and current Secretary of State who frequently remind audiences that there is “no daylight” between the US and Israel when it comes to strategic goals in the world.

Is there any historical precedent—within a political establishment that constantly talks about how partisan politics must “stop at the water’s edge”– for the pledge made by house minority leader Eric Cantor to the Israeli Prime Minister in November 2010 that he would “serve as a check” on his own country’s presidential administration should it begin to consider policies that he deemed detrimental to Israel?

Is there another country that could purposely [attempt to] sink a US warship, the USS Liberty in 1967, and never suffer any sanction or recognizable alteration in bilateral relations for doing so?

Is there any other country that could assassinate an unarmed US citizen in an act of piracy on the high seas–Furkan Dogan in 2010–and not only not be called on the carpet for it, but also have the operation–patently illegal under the international laws of the sea–that led directly to the death be met with virtual silence by US State Department spokespersons and the vast majority of the US Congress?

Can we imagine a situation where a person from another country who had become a billionaire working mostly in US industry could go on national TV in his native land and brag openly and without apparent fear of consequence about how he had helped steal nuclear secrets from the United States? This is exactly what happened a month ago with the Israeli film producer Arnon Milchan.

Is there another country (besides perhaps certain members of the so-called Five Eyes Group of English-speaking countries) that has direct access to the raw data from US citizen communications currently being swept up by the NSA?

Can we imagine the US allowing analysts in any of those “other” countries–whose situations everyone is now supposed to critique before ever deigning to critique Israel–to scrutinize virtually without limits and for their own particular purposes the private communications of American citizens?

And these are only a few of the many examples of extraordinary US indulgence of Israel that could be adduced here.

No, for at least 46 years and arguably more, the US-Israel relationship has not been “normal” at all, which is to say, in any way comparable to any other bilateral relationship (with the possible exceptions of those it maintains with the UK and Canada) maintained by the US.

Summers, and the small army of people echoing his message on letters-to-the-editor sections around the country know this quite well.

So why are they pretending that is not the case, and that, correspondingly, any systematic critique of Israeli behavior must first pass the test of comparability to that of various and sundry countries around the world?

Because, they are interested in doing what many people do when they find themselves with a largely untenable long-term position: try to steer the conversation from going where they don’t want it to go.

And where is that?

Away from the matter of Israeli behavior, and more specifically, how the fundamental legal design and international comportment of the Israeli state corresponds (or not) to the democratic values most Americans claim to believe in.

If you can ball people up talking about the issue of the Israeli human rights record in relationship to other places that have nothing remotely approaching the privileged, 51st State treatment accorded to Israel–and thus clearly unable to be compared to it in any meaningful way–you can avoid having people talk about things like the following.

  • That, despite the New York Times’s and much of the mainstream media’s attempts to convince Americans of the contrary, the only uninspected, which is to say, completely rogue and unaccountable nuclear program in the Middle East belongs to Israel. And it is not a small one, having, according to most reports, around 200 warheads.Therefore, the only country really capable of “wiping” some other country “off the map” or coercing it to obeisance through nuclear threat in the eastern Mediterranean, the Mashriq and Iran is Israel.

    And no amount of talk (are you picking up on the pattern of argumentation yet?) about Iran’s completely non-existent nuclear bomb program–the assessment of the Directorate of National Intelligence of the US, not mine–can change this fact.

  • That Israel is an ethno-state, which is to say, a place where one must possess certain blood lines to accede to the fullest possible level of citizenship. Those who do not meet these requirements can live there, but in a decidedly second-class status.Israel is, of course, not alone among nations in offering citizenship on the basis of blood rights or jus sanguinis.

    Where it does stand out in the international context, however, is in the way it does this while simultaneously denying full civic rights to millions of its native inhabitants. This means that a Jew from the USA or Russia can move to Israel and be granted that highest level of citizenship almost instantaneously. This, while the Palestinian whose family has lived in the territory now controlled by Israel for centuries is forced to inhabit a relative civic limbo in the same place, with all that that entails in terms of the potentially capricious encroachments of the state in his or her life.

    As part of this approach to citizenship Israel forcibly prevents its already second-class but quite native Arab citizens from living as united families within the borders of Israel after marrying fellow Palestinians from the occupied territories or any other place in the world.

    So pervasive is the emphasis on ethnic belonging that security officials at Ben-Gurion Airport blithely slot passengers into differing security protocols–and here I speak from personal experience—according to how they answer the following thinly veiled question regarding one’s pertinence to the most legally favored group: “Are you an Israeli or do you have family in Israel?

    I don’t think that most Americans I know would associate this model of state and these behaviors (and this is a very small sample) with any system they would be happy or proud to live in or being what they understand to be truly democratic.

    And no army of spinmeisters repeating the mantra that “Israel is the only Democracy in the Middle East” can change this salient fact.

  • That Israel has a large and growing population of religious citizens that is not only every bit as intolerant and backward-looking as the worst Muslim fanatics in Arab countries or the worst Christian fundamentalists in the US, but that has a considerably larger control over the political institutions of the country than is the case here or, for that matter, in the great majority of Islamic countries.Yet, this is hardly ever talked about in our press or by self appointed spokesmen for Israel such as those mentioned above. Rather, Israel’s most fervent supporters in the media constantly tell us (there’s that pattern argumentation again) about all those terrible Arabs— that want to impose sharia law on the world. Nary a word about how the haredim are encroaching daily upon the democratic freedoms of secular Israelis.
  • That the current President of Israel, apparently unaware that he was on camera, openly bragged in 2001 about his ability to manipulate the very same Americans that, in no small measure, have funded his political career and generally support his government’s efforts at ethnic cleansing (that is my understanding of what it is called in other parts of the world when you take over lands by force, displace the autochthonous inhabitants and place settlers of a different ethnic or national background on the seized territory) as well how he actively undermined the Oslo peace accords to which his government was a signatory and were brokered by the US.All this from a man, and from there, a government apparatus, that constantly tells the US and the world (there’s that pattern or argumentation once again) that there is “no partner for peace” on the Palestinian side, no person of demonstrable good will ready to talk in serious and reasonable terms about the future of the region.

What Summers and those that echo his words want most of all is to avoid an honest and wide-ranging conversation among Americans about how, and to what degree (if at all), our joined-at-the-hip relationship with Israel benefits the average citizen of this country.

If they were really the great friends of Israel they claim to be, they would repeatedly, indeed doggedly, say to their friends living in the Jewish state, as well as those living here for whom it is a prime object interest, what an old Jesuit, channeling the Gospel of Luke, once told me at the height of my youthful self-absorption:

“To whom much is given, much is expected”.

This is essentially what the ASA is doing.

It is a shame that instead of using their well-placed voices to second the call to have Israel live more fully within the parameters of its publicly proclaimed moral codes (you know, the only “democracy” in the Middle East) such prominent opinion leaders insist on throwing rhetorical smoke bombs designed to obscure most important issues at play in the country’s present-day drama.

December 26, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Martin Peretz: editor of the New Republic and agent of Israel

Peretz and the dangers of obsessive love

By Lawrence Davidson | September 20, 2010

Peretz and the New Republic

Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief of the New Republic. He acquired that position by simply buying the magazine in 1974. Although he resold it to a group of investors in 2002, they were, and apparently remain, his ideological soul mates for he continues to this day to be the magazine’s executive editor.

Peretz’s New Republic is a far cry from the original magazine. The origin of the New Republic goes back to 1914 when it was established by Herbert Croly and Walter Lippman. From the beginning the magazine was liberal and progressive. Between the world wars I and II it took a stand against the growing ideological enmity that bred the “red scares” and their accompanying violations of the civil rights of Americans. In the 1950s it took a principled stand against both Soviet tyranny and the McCarthy witch hunts. In the 1960s the magazine took a position opposing the Vietnam War.

Little of this survived Peretz’s remaking of the New Republic. Within a year of gaining control he fired most of the staff and shifted the editorial direction toward the center/right. The new New Republic supported Reagan’s foreign adventures, including alliances with terrorists such as the Contras, and later both Persian Gulf wars. Sometimes the magazine would selectively back Democrats. It backed Al Gore (a personal friend of Peretz) for president and waxed elegant about the likes of Joseph Lieberman. One progressive policy the magazine decided to support was universal health care. Peretz claims to be a life-long supporter of the Democratic Party but that has not stopped the ultra-conservative National Review from touting the New Republic as “one of the most interesting magazines in the United States”.

One of the reasons we can get this mixed bag of positions from Peretz’s New Republic is because domestic policy is but a secondary interest of the editor-in-chief. “I care most about foreign policy,” Peretz admits, and there is one aspect of foreign policy toward which he is down right obsessive. That aspect is US-Israeli relations. In more ways than one he keeps declaring that “I am in love with the state of Israel”. And how does he tell the world of his love? Mainly through the pages and blog of the New Republic. He has made it into his mouthpiece, his vehicle for declaring his abiding passion for “Zion.”

Peretz in love

It should be made clear that Peretz’s love of Israel is no ordinary love. It is not like, say, the love the founding fathers must have held for the new United States. No, Peretz’s love is of another order of intensity. It is that sort of passionate and blinding love that defeats reason. For instance, it has caused him to get Israel and the US all mixed up. According to Peretz support of Israel is a litmus test of American good citizenship: “Support for Israel, is deep down, an expression of America’s best view of itself.” I suspect that he got this sentiment from Louis Brandeis, the first leader of the Zionist Organization of American as well as the first Jew appointed to the Supreme Court. Back in 1918 Brandeis declared that to oppose Zionism was to be disloyal to the US (see Lawrence Davidson, America’s Palestine, page 225, note 23).

One fellow who failed the litmus test is Charles W. Freeman Jr., the man Barack Obama momentarily considered for his chief of the National Intelligence Council. Peretz wrote at the time that Freeman was utterly unsuitable for the post. Why? Because he had raised questions about America’s uncritical support of Israel–an act which Peretz characterized as “an offence“. By committing this “offence” Freeman had “questioned the loyalty and patriotism of not only Zionists and other friends of Israel”, but also “the great swath of American Jews and Christian countrymen who believed that the protection of Zion is the core of our religious and secular history…” This is the way Peretz sees the world. And it is, of course, a severely distorted view. When you get so intense about, so in love with, a foreign nation that you insist this outside entity represents “the core of our religious and secular history”, you have, as the saying goes, really gone over the top. Peretz has turned the United States and its national interests into a suburb of Tel Aviv.

In some of my earlier analyses I tried to show that “Zion” is in fact a racist place that does not resemble contemporary America, but rather America before the introduction of civil rights legislation. In today’s Israel, Arab Israelis are systematically discriminated against. Yet, a person who loves blindly will fail to see the faults of his or her lover. He or she may well adopt those faults as virtues and spend an inordinate amount of energy justifying the lover’s sins and castigating all who would be critical. And so it is with Martin Peretz. One way he has shown his perverse and obsessive love of Israel is by taking its anti-Arab line as his own. That has turned him into a bigot.

Back on 6 March 2010 Peretz said, “I can’t imagine any venture requiring trust with Arabs turning out especially well. That is, you will say my prejudice, but some prejudices are built on real facts, and history generally proves me right. Go ahead, prove me wrong.” Such wholesale stereotyping is, to use Peretz’s term, an offence against everyone who has ever had a good Arab friend, who is successfully married to an Arab man or woman, and to the very long and successful diplomatic relations the United States has had with such countries as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. And by making this common sense observation I have, at least strongly suggested, that what Peretz spouts is indeed wrong, and grievously so. But there is no doubt that this nonsense reflects his true feelings. And, it is his obsession with Israel that makes him see the world in this way.

On 4 September 2010 Peretz, again using the New Republic blog, returned to his prejudicial ways. “But frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf [leader of those seeking to create the Islamic  cultural centre near ground zero] there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So yes, I wonder whether I need honuor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.” Here, Martin Peretz presents himself as a walking and talking example of how one is almost always wrong when one indulges in gross simplifications and categorizations from the “gut’ or otherwise.

1. Imam Rauf has consistently demonstrated himself to be a moderate and sensible man. He has publicly denounced radicalism in all religions and called on moderates to keep control of the leadership of religious movements.

2. How does Peretz know that hardly anyone of the imam’s supporters “has raised a fuss” about violence? Those supporters number in the thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands. Has he checked them all out?

3. The notion that “routine and random bloodshed … defines their [Muslim] brotherhood” is just the lowest sort of stereotyping. If I asserted that the quite routine and random bloodshed caused by Israeli settlers in the occupied territories defined the “brotherhood” of Judaism, Peretz would go ballistic. Both statements can be properly labelled specious nonsense.

4. Martin Peretz has the First Amendment right to wonder out loud in a fashion that can only undermine the First Amendment. He can even legally do so in an atmosphere of growing and volatile Islamophobia, although in my estimation that is a bit like yelling fire in a crowded theatre. Such public assertions certainly put him in the running for the title of demagogue, but he is probably too impassioned to care. Occasionally, when he is called to task by a major national medium like the New York Times he will back off in a sort of resentful and ill-tempered way, like a little bully confronted by a schoolmaster. But you know that he does not mean it when he says he is sorry. You know he is insincere because, by consistently speaking first and thinking later (if at all), he wears his feelings on his sleeve.

The Harvard connection

This latest outburst of Peretz happens to coincide with a ceremony in his honour planned by Harvard University. It seems that Peretz was once an assistant professor at the prestigious school and that money plus contacts have subsequently taken him beyond that to the status of a school benefactor. We are here reminded of the recent conference on anti-Semitism held at Yale during which radical Zionists put on a display of bigotry disguised as academic research. Now it is Harvard’s turn to host a bigot. It might well be that some of the Harvard bureaucracy are embarrassed at having to fete Peretz (though they did choose Lawrence Summers as their president) but they seem to feel they are stuck with him, and so they cover their position with appeals to free speech. Even Harvard has a First Amendment right to reward a man whose stated desire is to deny the First Amendment rights of an entire American religious minority. According to Harvard’s publicly issued defence, going ahead with the ceremony makes the place “ultimately stronger as a university” engaging in “the robust exchange of ideas”. Well, its their party.

Conclusion

Martin Peretz is a good example of that subset of Americans whose single-minded dedication to Israel makes them, for all intents and purposes, agents of a foreign power. Indeed, in his willingness to pronounce his affection in the most indiscreet way, Peretz can be seen as their spokesman. These folks get very upset when you describe them this way, but that is because they have so mixed up America and Israel that, in their minds, there is no real difference between the two. As the Bard once said, “love is blind and lovers cannot see what petty follies they themselves commit”. Alas, these follies are far from petty.

I once had the dubious pleasure of appearing in a debate with Peretz. I remember him as a small man of nervous temperament. He had a tendency to handle challenges to his position by speaking very fast and very loudly so that you could not get a word in edgewise. Based on this behaviour “I had in my gut the sense” that he was quite capable of going hysterical. Such people usually self-destruct over time and maybe that will be Martin Peretz’s fate. I do hope so.

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University. He is the author of numerous books, including Islamic Fundamentalism and America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia | , , , | 1 Comment