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Sun

02

Nov

2008

Obama: Change You can Believe in – Not! Part III
Sunday, 02 November 2008 14:44
by Carolyn Baker

Part I is here and Part II is here.

Israel and Iran: Which country comes foremost in US foreign policy, the United States or Israel? Sometimes it's hard to tell. The Israeli-centric approach to US Middle East foreign policy, which is unfair to the Palestinians and dangerous to a United States dependent on foreign oil, will not change in an Obama Administration

Obama: Change You can Believe in – Not! Part III

by Kellia Ramares

Which country comes foremost in US foreign policy, the United States or Israel? Sometimes it's hard to tell. The Israeli-centric approach to US Middle East foreign policy, which is unfair to the Palestinians and dangerous to a United States dependent on foreign oil, will not change in an Obama Administration. Which office is Obama running for?

On June 4, 2008, the day after Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination, he spoke to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Here are some excerpts of that speech:
I want you to know that today I'll be speaking from my heart and as a true friend of Israel. And I know that when I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends. Good Friends. Friends who share my strong commitment to make sure that they bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever.
... I was drawn to the belief that you could sustain a spiritual, emotional and cultural identity. And I deeply understood the Zionist idea – that there is always a homeland at the center of our story. ... We know the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know that we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as president I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security....Those who threaten Israel threaten us. Israel has always faced these threats on the front lines. And I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel's security. ... Let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper – but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.1
Great speech...for a candidate for Prime Minister of Israel.


Later in the summer Robert Fisk, renowned British journalist who has covered the Middle East for over 20 years, said: But hasn't anyone realised that Obama has chosen for his advisers two if the most lamentable failures of US Middle East policy making? There, yet again, is Dennis Ross, a former prominent staff member of AIPAC, the most powerful Israeli lobby in Washington — yup, the very same AIPAC to which Obama grovelled last month – and the man who failed to make the Oslo agreement work. And there is Madeleine Albright who, as US ambassador the the UN, said that the price of half a million dead children under sanctions in Iraq was “worth it”, and who later announced that Israel was “under siege”. This must be the only time – ever – that a US politician thought Palestinian tanks were on the streets of Tel Aviv.2

Understand that Zionism is a political philosophy and is not the same as Judaism, which is a religion. One does not have to be Jewish to be a Zionist. In fact, Christian Zionists are prominent as supporters of and elected officials from the Republican Party.3 Some Christian Zionists, particularly the Dispensationalists, — the late Rev. Jerry Falwell was one — want Israel to claim all of Palestine because they believe that this is a necessary precursor to the Second Coming of Christ.4 However, these Christian Zionists also believe that the Jews and all other non-Christians will be condemned on Judgment Day. So they don't have any particular love for the Jewish people.

Jewish Zionism stems from the anti-Semitism Jews have faced in Europe and elsewhere. Jewish Zionists see Israel as the one place Jews can be safe.5 But not all Jews are Zionists, and in fact, Zionism is actually considered by many Jews to be a heresy.6 So being Anti-Zionist does not mean one is Anti-Semitic.

There are two kinds of Holocaust deniers. There are the fools and propagandists, like white supremacists and Iran's President Ahmadinejad who claim it never happened or that far fewer Jews were killed than the history books say. There is certainly more than enough documentation of the atrocities to prove these fools wrong.

But there is a second, less publicized but more pernicious, form of Holocaust denial. One that many of us are guilty of. It's the denial that overemphasizes the tragedy of the Jews and fails to comprehend the full scope of Hitler's evil. While the Nazis made the Jews the scapegoats for Germany's economic problems post WWI, Hitler also persecuted Slavs, Roma (Gypsies), trade unionists, Communists, homosexuals, who were marked with a pink triangle as Jews were marked with a yellow Star of David, and the disabled. He also thought blacks were subhuman, and while there were not many blacks in Europe, Rommel "The Desert Fox" operated in North Africa, as the Nazis desperately searched for oil with which to fuel their war machine, and fascist ally Italy held Ethiopia as a colony.

While we often hear about the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, we seldom hear about the over 20 million citizens of the Soviet Union, military and civilian, who died during WWII,7 and we hear even less about the atrocities committed by the Japanese allies of the Nazis in the Philippines, Korea, China, Indonesia and other places in Asia.

And, of course, in 1938, Hitler felt confident that he could eliminate the Jews because "no one remembers the Armenians" who, to this day, are seeking recognition for their genocide in waning days of the Ottoman Empire.

US Presidents of both parties, and their advisers, for too long have acted as if the Jewish people were the only ones ever to be victims of genocide. But if humanity is to learn the true lesson of the Holocaust, we must remember that other peoples were genocided before WWII, and have been genocided since WWII, and that others besides the Jews were genocided during WWII. The true lesson is that "Never again" must be "Never Again" for everybody, or else it will be "here we go again" for somebody. The goal should be to eliminate genocide from human behavior, not to guarantee of survival of one set of genocide victims above all others.

For "Never Again" to be realized, the dominator paradigm of human relations must be overthrown in favor of a system in which the rights of all people, as individuals and as group members, are respected. There are at least two competing ways of achieving this outcome. One way is through true democracy in which there is a "one person-one vote" principle and where various groups can speak, publish and educate in their own languages, worship, or not, as they please, band together in whatever political parties they wish, and engage in economic activity without discrimination.

The other, which seems to be the way the world is going, is for each people to have its own land. But the struggle for independence or autonomy is a bloody one, full of ethnic cleansing (e.g. Serbia) or acts of repression by the dominant culture over the minority (e.g. Tibet and China). Israel is but one famous example of this "one people on its own land" approach, which, frankly, is outdated in places where colonial powers have redrawn borders to weaken the power of local ethnic groups to resist. (This includes the United States in its treatment of Native American nations). And that "to each his own" solution is never equally applied. The United States, whichever party is in power, has an overweening concern for the survival of Israel as a Jewish state; the Palestinians are an afterthought, the Kurds, who are the largest ethnic group in the world to not have its own state, are hardly thought of at all. And a worldwide list of peoples with their own nationalistic aspirations, ignored or trampled on by larger powers, is fairly long, indeed.

Why is Israel so special to the United States? For some it may be the idea that the establishment of Greater Israel fulfills a biblical prophecy, for others it may be guilt over the Holocaust and the US failure to help Jews trying to escape the Nazis. But I think a large part of it may be that Israel gives the United States a firm pied-a-terre in the oil-rich Middle East. The worldwide search for resources we can control is at the heart of US foreign policy. Or to put it simply, "what's our oil doing under their sand?" Our hunt for resources helps make the world a dangerous place, especially for the people who live with those resources, whatever their religion or ethnicity.

If we really want to end genocide in the world, we should debate which approach will best achieve that goal: True democracy within existing borders, (e.g. with respect to Israel and Palestine, a one-state approach), or nationalism, with its penchant for ethnic cleansing. How many of you know that in the days before the State of Israel was founded, the Arabs were driven off land that was to become Israel. How do we know all this? From the Hebrew press. In an article published 13 August 1993 in the Israeli daily Hadashot, writer Sarah Laybobis-Dar interviewed a number of Israelis who knew of the use of bacteriological weapons in 1948. One of those interviewed, Uri Mileshtin, an official historian for the Israeli Defense Forces, said that bacteria was used to poison the wells of every village emptied of its Arab inhabitants. According to Mileshtin, it was former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan who gave the order in 1948 to remove Arabs from their villages, bulldoze their homes, and render their water wells unusable with typhus and dysentery bacteria.8 As I said in an earlier article, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

The preservation of Israel as a Jewish state seems racist to me. And in some other context with some other people it might be openly called racist. Ethnic separatism is racist and a poor substitute for what we really need to finally eliminate genocide, ie. universal recognition of human rights. And in the end, what does Israel as a Jewish state say about the ability of the Jewish people to live and thrive in the world? The world is big; Israel is very small. If Israel is the only place where Jews can feel safe, albeit with a sense of safety derived from being armed to the teeth, including with the bomb, and with the US at its back, the Jews will have been ghettoized on the planet, only this time by their own hand. They will have created the very thing they fought to escape during the Nazi era.

The United States, under Democratic and Republican administrations, has been so committed to the survival of Israel as a Jewish state, that discussion of a one-state solution has been banished to the fringes. Considering the cost to America in money, reputation, and eventually lives, if the US goes to war with Iran, I think Americans ought to be having a lively debate as to the best way to eliminate genocide, starting with the Middle East. But Obama, as he indicated in his speech to AIPAC, will continue the course of the United States guaranteeing the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.9 So people who thought that a black man would be especially sensitive to racism will be disappointed in Obama's Middle East policies, as they see the aspirations of the Palestinians to political and economic autonomy take a back seat to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

Nuclear non-proliferation and Iran

Nuclear non-proliferation is certainly a worthy goal. But building up the image of Iran as a nuclear threat is not the way to achieve it. In his speech to AIPAC, Obama said "Iran has strengthened its position. Iran is now enriching uranium and has reportedly stockpiled 150 kilos of low-enriched uranium. Its support for terrorism and threats toward Israel have increased. Those are facts. They cannot be denied and I refuse to continue a policy that has made the United States and Israel less secure.10

The fact that cannot be denied is that Iran's alleged support for terrorism and the increase of its threats against Israel is a non-sequitur to its stockpiling of 150 kilos of low-enriched uranium. Low-enriched uranium is the type used in civilian nuclear power plants to generate electricity. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which Iran is a signatory, but Israel is not, recognizes the right of every nation to develop nuclear power for peaceful civilian uses.11 So far, the IAEA "has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran"12 although it is also urging Iran to implement all confidence building measure with respect to the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.13

The US has argued as early as 1998, during the Clinton Administration, that Iran has so much oil it doesn't need civilian nuclear power and therefore must be enriching uranium to get the bomb.14 But running the country on nuclear power means Iran would have more oil to sell at a profit on the international market in later years as demand increasingly outstrips supply, even though Iran would have to import uranium. The one way to be sure that a nation was not using civilian nuclear power as a cover for a weapons program would be for all nations to agree to ban civilian nuclear power. But that is not about to happen.

Demands of the US and Western Europe that Iran allow Russia to enrich its uranium for civilian use is an insult to the sovereignty and dignity of Iran. This is the equivalent of being told, "Don't try to use a knife yourself. Let an adult cut your meat for you." All this talk about Iran trying to get the bomb is about selling another war, getting Americans to accept the idea that an attack on Iran (either by Israel or by the US) is necessary and therefore acceptable. You will be branded unpatriotic (and anti-Semitic) for not supporting the squandering of more American lives and money on a war against Iran.

President Ahmadinejad of Iran has made some very intemperate remarks about wiping Israel off the face of the earth, but we know that the real power in Iran is the Guardian Council, not the President. Ahmadinejad's comments may be more bluster than threat, for home consumption. Iran is having a presidential election in 2009.

But let's assume the worst for a moment. Suppose Iran really is trying to get the bomb. Why would it want to do such a thing? Maybe because Russia, Pakistan, India and Iran's enemy Israel have the bomb? (Israel never officially answers the question of its nuclear status, but it's been an open secret that Israel has the bomb since Mordecai Vanunu was prosecuted in the 80s for letting that cat out of the bag). India, Pakistan and Israel are non-signatories to the NPT. Additionally, Israel's guarantor, the US, has the bomb and has the ignominious distinction of being the only nation to actually use it. Might Iran be feeling a little insecure in that unstable region of the world, especially after it saw what happened to Saddam Hussein, even though he did not have weapons of mass destruction? The United States will never be able to effectively promote nuclear non-proliferation if it fails to see things from the point of view of its adversaries and if it continues to promote the use of force to get its way.

But maybe nuclear non-proliferation isn't really the goal. Maybe the conquest of Iranian oil is the goal. And maybe the Iranians know that goal won't change, whoever is in the White House as of January 20, 2009.

ENDNOTES

1 Transcript of Obama's speech at AIPAC, NPR http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91150432

2 Robert Fisk: New actor on the same old stage, The Independent, Aug 2, 2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-new-actor-on-the-same-old-stage-883270.html

3 Joe Conn, “The Christian Coalition: Born Again?” Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Nov. 2002. http://www.au.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5492&abbr=cs_

4 “The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party: Dispensationalism.” Theocracy Watch, http://www.theocracywatch.org/christian_zionism_dispensationalism.htm

5 “The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party: Christian Zionism.” http://www.theocracywatch.org/ christian_zionism.htm

6 Baha Abushaqra, “The Heresy of Jewish Zionism”, http://www.bhol.co.il/forum/topic1.asp?topic_id=1315228

7 World War II, Encyclopedia, History.com, http://www.history.com/encyclopedia.do?articleId=226140

8 John F. Mahoney, “Israel's Anti-Civilian Weapons,”January - March 2001 The Link - Volume 34, Issue 1, as reprinted on Americans for Middle East Understanding, http://www.ameu.org/printer.asp?iid=46&aid=81

9 “...any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” Transcript of Obama's speech at AIPAC, NPR http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91150432

10 Transcript of Obama's speech at AIPAC, NPR http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91150432

11 “Affirming the principle that the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology, including any technological by-products which may be derived by nuclear-weapon States from the development of nuclear explosive devices, should be available for peaceful purposes to all Parties to the Treaty, whether nuclear-weapon or non-nuclear-weapon States,”... Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) http://www.un.org/events/npt2005/npttreaty.html

12 Summary, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007) and 1803 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Sept. 15, 2008, p. 6.

13 Summary, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement, p. 6.

14 Bushehr, Global Security.org http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/bushehr.htm
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