There’s an oft-cited quote from Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural address on March 4, 1801, that goes: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”
If ever you wanted a crystalline example of the sort of entanglement Jefferson—arguably the wisest of our republic’s founding fathers—was cautioning against, you have it in the United States’ “alliance” with the state of Israel. I put the word in scare quotes since, traditionally speaking, alliances imply some degree of reciprocity; their fundamental purpose is to provide mutual benefit for the parties involved.
A cursory examination of the “alliance” between the US and Israel makes clear that the resulting benefits are all to one side. Israel receives from the United States billions of dollars in free military aid every year (a new, ten-year, $38 billion was just signed by the Obama administration in September) and an additional, offshore legislature, very luxurious. It also receives, in the form of a US veto at the Security Council, a blank check to (1) invade its neighbors whenever it likes and (2) expand ever further into Palestinian territory, stealing their water resources and arable land while racking up scores of Arab casualties along the way.
In exchange for this economic and diplomatic largesse—which is totally unconditional and has been for decades—the US gets … nothing at all. It’s true. Next time you’re chatting with a Zionist friend, ask him or her to list the ways in which Israel is an ally of the United States. You may hear the term “strategic asset,” with no elaboration. Also a bromide about how Israel is the “sole democratic light in a dark, volatile sea of authoritarianism,” or some other comparably horrible metaphor. They might then argue that both countries have a common enemy in Islamic terrorism, which is an interesting point given the role US support for Israel has played in fueling said terrorism (more on that presently). In any case, your friend will have proven my point. The days of Israel’s strategic value (there was perhaps an argument to be made during the hottest years of the Cold War, when the so-called Jewish State could be used to check Soviet influence in the region) have long since passed. The relationship has become an abusive one; or, more accurately, the US has become Israel’s bitch. Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi captured the dynamic well when he wrote:
The problem with Israel and its friends is that they are never satisfied and never leave the rest of us Americans alone, pushing constantly at what is essentially an open door. They have treated the United States like a doormat, spying on us more than any ostensibly friendly nation while pocketing our $38 billion donation to their expanding state without so much as a thank you. They are shameless. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer has been all over American television sputtering his rage over the United Nations settlements vote. On CNN he revealed that Israel has “clear evidence” that President Obama was “behind” the resolution and he announced his intention to share the information with Donald Trump. Every American should be outraged by Israel’s contempt for us and our institutions.
If that weren’t enough, it’s plain to see that Israel serves as an enormous liability, both strategically and in terms of national security. With regard to strategy: the United States can’t even bring Israel into regional coalitions, since Arab leaders understandably refuse to align themselves with an ethnocratic Jewish state that systematically oppresses, persecutes and humiliates an entire Arab population. Take the Gulf War. Geopolitical experts John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt write in The Israel Lobby that although the “United States and its allies eventually assembled more than four hundred thousand troops to liberate Kuwait … they could not use Israeli bases or allow the IDF to participate without jeopardizing the fragile coalition against Iraq.” That’s some strategic ally.
More important, surely, is the effect of the US-Israeli “alliance” on the security of our country and, indeed, the entire world. It bears recalling that in his “Letter to America,” published in November 2002, Osama bin Laden cited as his first rationalization for the 9/11 massacres US support for Israel. It wasn’t merely included in his list of grievances; it was his number one grievance. Whether or not he actually cared about Palestine (plenty of quotes and anecdotal evidence suggest that he did) is immaterial. The point is that his—and every other jihadist’s—recruitment efforts were and are made infinitely easier by the fact that Palestinians are being killed with American bombs and American helicopters.
Consider another salient example: Ramzi Yousef, the man behind the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Yousef seems to have been equally galvanized by Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians and US support for those crimes; it was apparently all that mattered to him. Back to Mearsheimer and Walt, who write that “not only did Yousef mail letters to several New York newspapers, taking credit for the attack and demanding that the United States terminate aid to Israel, he also told the agents who flew him back to the United States following his arrest … that he felt guilty about causing US deaths.” They go on to quote journalist Steve Coll, who wrote that Yousef’s compunction was “overridden by the strength of his desire to stop the killing of Arabs by Israeli troops”; indeed, he “mentioned no other motivation during the flight and no other issue in American foreign policy that concerned him.”
No doubt Secretary of State John Kerry bore the forgoing in mind during his marathon address on Wednesday, in which he defended the Obama’s administration’s decision not to block a recent UN resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlement activity. The development has all the Israel-firsters foaming at the mouth, even though there are really no means of enforcing the resolution—which is why the US let it pass. Kerry’s speech, though gushing platitudes about Israel’s make-believe status as a key ally, and though betraying an extreme pro-Israel bias, nonetheless contained some self-evident truths that are otherwise missing from the mainstream discourse on Israel. For example, Kerry stated that “if the choice is one state [which is what the current Israeli government is pursuing], Israel can either be Jewish or democratic—it cannot be both—and it won’t ever really be at peace.”
He proceeded to declare the Netanyahu government “the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements…. They’re leading towards one state.” Illustrating this is the fact that “the settler population in the West Bank alone, not including East Jerusalem, has increased by nearly 270,000 since Oslo, including 100,000 just since 2009….” Kerry then posed a rhetorical question: “What does that say to Palestinians in particular, but also the United States and the world, about Israel’s intentions?”
At about the midway point of his speech, after having verbosely reaffirmed his love of Israel and his view that the emasculated Palestinians bear much responsibility for the current situation, Kerry rested his case by explaining that the Obama administration “could not in good conscience veto a resolution that condemns violence and incitement and reiterates what has been for a long time the overwhelming consensus and international view on settlements and calls for the parties to start taking constructive steps to advance the two-state solution on the ground.”
Curiously, no mention was made of Obama’s decision to veto a near-identical resolution in 2011. Did Barry O suddenly manage to conjure up some empathetic concern for the Palestinians? Or should all this be construed as an act of personal retribution against his Israeli counterpart? I say it’s the latter. But I digress.
It goes without saying that Kerry’s speech, despite its obnoxious bias in favor of Israel, was the subject of fuming op-eds and editorials across the media spectrum. Some of this stuff borders on satire. Take for instance Jennifer Rubin’s column in the Washington Post, titled “How Awful Was John Kerry’s Speech on Israel?” In it she lists for us ten reasons why “it was among the very worst foreign policy speeches in US history” (because she is familiar with all of the foreign policy speeches in US history). One such reason is that
there is a genocide occurring in Syria. Russia has invaded multiple countries. Iran is chiseling away on the JCPOA and seeking to destabilize multiple countries. Egypt and Turkey are engaged is [sic] an unprecedented crackdown on civil liberties. But in the final days of the administration, Kerry chose to single out our ally Israel. No wonder our friends do not trust us.
Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t have said it any better! Nevertheless, let’s briefly go over each point.
(1) There is no “genocide” in Syria. Genocide targets a specific group of people based on their racial, ethnic or religious identity. Assad is fighting terrorists, and killing a lot of civilians in the process. Terrible as that is, in no way does it constitute genocide (if it did, the US would be guilty of genocide in Iraq, and a lot of other places). Perhaps Rubin was referring to the genocide of Yazidis in Northern Iraq?
(2) Russia has not invaded multiple countries. Russia was asked to intervene in Syria by the latter’s internationally recognized government; this makes Russia’s intervention fundamentally legal. As for Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, see here.
(3) A pity, though not a surprise, that Rubin didn’t provide evidence to support her assertion that Iran is cheating on the nuclear agreement (assuming that’s what she meant by “chiseling away on”). Furthermore, who is threatening to tear up the international agreement? Not the Mullahs. Moreover, there is no evidence that Iran covets a nuclear weapon in the first place. Additionally, Israel, Pakistan and India all boast illegal nuclear arsenals (none of those states being a party to the NPT), and the US has nothing to say about it. Is there evidence that Iran is “seeking to destabilize multiple countries”? Probably. But Rubin presents none; nor does she explain to us how Iran’s destabilization efforts differ from, say, those of the United States.
(4) Egypt and Turkey are indeed cracking down on civil liberties. Someone give Rubin a cookie.
(5) Kerry is not “singling out” Israel. He’s addressing the hysterical fulminations of people like Jennifer Rubin, for whom even the gentlest criticism of “our ally” Israel amounts to high treason. The Obama administration didn’t introduce the Security Council resolution; they didn’t even endorse it. They simply refused to veto it. And you’d have to be selectively deaf to have missed Obama’s and Kerry’s repeated condemnation of Assad, Putin and Iran; they never shut up about it. Obama just ordered the expulsion of thirty-five Russian diplomats from the country! Difficult to do when all of your attention is concentrated on betraying Israel.
Elsewhere Rubin charges Kerry with “moral idiocy” for contending that “violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation” are all factors contributing to the conflict. At least she didn’t call him anti-Semitic. All in all, Rubin writes, Kerry’s speech “was pointless, simply an empty rhetorical jab designed to respond to criticism of the administration” (her emphasis). I agree. Why, then, is she so fired up about it?
Observing the rampant histrionics over the last week, one could be excused for assuming that President Obama had introduced a resolution to the UN condemning the United States and all its people, as opposed to a foreign country whose belligerent actions have helped to inflame anti-American extremism across the Middle East. This is how ludicrous our politics have become, and how far off the rails our media has careened. Republican maniacs are now calling for a boycott of the UN, and Chuck Schumer (leader of the more reasonable crowd) accused John Kerry of having “emboldened extremists” with his rambling, narcotic speech.
Hardly a word, though, on the truly degrading revelation that Donald Trump, at Israel’s behest, had tried to sabotage the Security Council resolution by reaching out to Egypt behind the president’s back. And a similar lack of concern was on display last year when Netanyahu, showing real disdain for his country’s greatest benefactor, attempted to undermine the Iran nuclear deal by propagandizing to Congress without Obama’s consent. The takeaway is clear enough: as far as our latter-day patriots are concerned, subordinating American interests to Israeli ones is totally kosher. Jefferson is turning in his grave.