FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

US and Israeli Exceptionalism

by

Recently, the US House of Representatives voiced unanimous support for the Israeli onslaught on the people of Gaza. Many opponents of Israel’s continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinians pointed, like they always do, to the disproportionate influence the so-called Israeli Lobby has in Congress. While this is an established and verifiable fact, I would argue that the Lobby is just a manifestation of a less obvious but essential reason for the neverending support Israel receives from Washington and its apologists in the US media.

As a resident of the United States one hears repeatedly of an illusion many fellow residents share. That illusion is called American exceptionalism. In short, the essence of this illusion is that the United States is a blessed nation whose actions in war, peace and otherwise are measured differently than those of almost every other nation. This means that the genocide of the indigenous peoples living on the continent that cleared the land for the settler-invaders was not mass murder, but a holy mission. It also means that every war undertaken by those invaders and their descendants were also missions of their god and undertaken for the purest of motives. This mythology has served the powerful well.

Despair is the absence of hope. That defines the current reality. Washington and its armed forces act at will. The same can be said for Washington’s occasionally ornery client (some would say puppet) operating from Tel Aviv. The state of Israel, like its protector and benefactor the United States, assumes a similar right to disregard international laws and conventions it demands every other nation follow. Likewise, the founding fathers of Israel created documents replete with high-sounding ideals like freedom, justice and peace and demanded that the previous inhabitants of the land they were stealing accept the new reality or flee. If those previous inhabitants refused, the very same ideals were used to force their departure or die. Indeed, in Palestine this process continues. Sadly, in the United States the majority of the native peoples were buried long ago.

Not long after the first British landed on the shores of what is now Massachusetts, the Pequot peoples realized their intention to chase them from their lands. THe colonial settlers, in their smug, Christian certainty, needed little rationalization to undertake their endeavor. The perception most settlers had of the Pequot and other native peoples can be summed up in the worlds of Richard Mather who, in a sermon delivered in Boston, denounced the Pequot as the “accursed seeds of Canaan.” Other preachers equated the colonists war against the Pequot with the battles of KIng David in the old testament, thereby making the war for the Pequot lands a holy war where the only possibility for a holy servant of god was victory. This war was one of the first of many by the British, then American settlers intended to make the New World theirs.

Although the founder of Zionism Theodor Herzl considered his philosophy to be a secular one, there has always been a religious element. Indeed, Israel’s “Declaration of Independence,” opens with the declaration “Eretz Israel [Hebrew: The Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.” In making this claim, the founders of Israel linked their nation to the Judeo-Christian biblical tradition. Further on in the same document, those founders refer to the British colonial mandate Balfour Declaration to establish their legal right to the land they were stealing. By acknowledging the biblical land of Israel and the colonial mandate for Palestine, Israel’s founders made clear their allegiance to the western colonialist tradition. More importantly, and disastrously, they paved the way for their ongoing occupation of Palestine and the neverending war against its people.

Israel’s founding documents (and the utterings of many of its politicians during its earlier years) insist on the nation’s allegiance to principles of freedom and fairness for all of its inhabitants. Likewise, a call for peace and cooperation with its neighbors was issued. However, a nation founded by the theft of others’ lands, homes and places of worship is bound to find adhering to those principles to be impossible. This will certainly be the case if actions of the new nation display little intention to follow its stated principles. Like the young nation called the United States, the nation of Israel was founded by stealing land and the spilling of blood. Also, like the young United States, Israel quickly proved that its lofty principles of its founding documents applied only to certain inhabitants of the newly created nation.

In the early American colonies (and in the United States once it was its own entity), the indigenous nations that fought back were accused of cowardice and deceit because they fought asymmetrically. Instead of making themselves easy targets and engaging the settlers and Washington’s cavalry head-on, the fighters utilized guerrilla means in their battle against the encroaching settlers. Civilians were killed by Native American fighters and occasionally gruesome massacres and acts occurred. Yet, even the most gruesome of those acts lacks in comparison to instances like the Sand Creek massacre or the Trail of Tears. Furthermore, the essential foundation of the settler endeavor to rid the North American continent of its indigenous peoples is rivaled by only a few other such instances in history; ironically one such instance is the Nazi attempt to deport and/or kill all the Jewish people in the lands under its control. In Israel, the fighters in the Palestinians’ struggle to keep the lands they consider theirs have also been called cowards due to the means they wage that struggle. Of course, actions like suicide bombings and car bombs are despicable and difficult if not impossible to justify. However, to pretend that the Palestinians use of these and other guerrilla means of warfare are somehow more repugnant or cowardly than Israel’s use of US fighter bombers and missiles against the people of Gaza is just plain dishonest.

Both Washington and Tel Aviv claim an exceptionalism that objectively does not exist. However, the fact that both nations believe such an exceptionalism does exist makes it an element in the actions those nations undertake. It provides the citizens of those nations with a rationale for their prejudices and it enables a system based on those prejudices to operate. This can be seen on the daily attacks on Latin American immigrants in the United States by individuals, politicians, and police agencies just like it is seen in the constant humiliation and abuse of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In extreme moments, that exceptionalism provides a rationale for mass murder like that currently taking place in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli military (with US provided weaponry) or that undertaken by Washington in countries too numerous to count.

Both nations were founded by a group of predominantly secular men (and in Israel’s case a woman or two). Relative to their size, in their history as secular nations both have killed too many to count; both nations also oppressed and continue to oppress too many to count; both nations make alliances with dictators and racist states whose crimes are oftentimes equally bloody; and both nations justified their actions as being for the betterment of humanity. In reality, they are almost always for the betterment of those who benefit from them the most. All too many of the rest of us remain accomplices to their continued barbarity.

Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 27, 2017
Darlene Dubuisson – Mark Schuller
“You Live Under Fear”: 50,000 Haitian People at Risk of Deportation
Karl Grossman
The Crash of Cassini and the Nuclearization of Space
Robert Hunziker
Venezuela Ablaze
John W. Whitehead
Trump’s America is a Constitution-Free Zone
Ron Jacobs
One Hundred Years That Shook the World
Judith Deutsch
Convenient Untruths About “Human Nature:” Can People Deal with Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons?
Don Fitz
Is Pope Francis the World’s Most Powerful Advocate for Climate Stability?
Thomas Mountain
Africa’s War Lord Queen: The Bloodstained Career of Liberia’s Eleanor Sirleaf Johnson
Binoy Kampmark
Short Choices: the French Presidential Elections
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Monetizing My Mouth
Michael Barker
Of Union Dreams and Nightmares: Cesar Chavez and Why Funding Matters
Elier Ramirez Cañedo
“Let Venezuela give me a way of serving her, she has in me a son.”
Paul Mobbs
Cellphones, WIFI and Cancer: Will Trump’s Budget Cuts Kill ‘Electrosmog’ Research?
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
The Closing of Rikers: a Survival Strategy of the Carceral State
April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail