The Pervasive Fear of Talking About the Israeli Connection

It is wide open now. Israelis are training Americans at Fort Bragg on their well tested techniques for carrying out targeted–and of course extrajudicial–assassinations. Americans in Iraq are copying this and all the other wretchedly cruel, unjust (and failed) Israeli occupation tactics in the West Bank and Gaza, tactics that the U.S. through its massive aid enables and encourages Israel to pursue. It is impossible to exaggerate the stupidity and just plain evil of the Bush administration in transferring such copycat policies to Iraq, at a time when hatred of U.S. policies is already rising daily around the world. The training of assassination teams is only one of many manifestations of the United States’ “Israeli connection.”

At the same time, almost all influential individuals and groups in the U.S. political landscape still shy away from discussing the degree to which this Israeli connection has been a major factor in determining the entire complex of U.S. policies on Iraq and the Middle East since September 11. In the eyes of most Americans, the correctness of the ever stronger ties between the right-wing governments of the United States and Israel is simply not to be questioned. (If you do question these ties, you must be prepared to deal either with suspicions of anti-Semitism that may be directed at you, or, more likely, with suggestions that you are simply “too far out” of the mainstream and therefore deserve no further consideration. In the latter case, an unspoken motive of your interlocutors is often that they fear being charged with anti-Semitism, or with being “self-hating Jews,” if they seem to agree with you.)

Here are a couple of examples that we have observed in recent weeks.

In the summer of 2003, we were asked, along with several dozen other people around the country, to participate in and lend our names to a study entitled Toward a More Secure America: Grounding U.S. Policy in Global Realities. The report was a joint project of the Fourth Freedom Forum and the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. We did participate initially and gave the drafters some thoughts on what we believed should be in the report. When we eventually received a near-final draft, we sent in a comment that (1) the paper failed to devote any meaningful attention to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the U.S. role therein as a critical issue in future U.S. relations with the Islamic world; (2) this was a serious flaw in the paper; and (3) we could not sign off on the paper without major changes on this and several other subjects, which we specified. The drafters would not or could not accept many of our proposed changes, and we ended our involvement with the group.

The final paper has just been published. [See http://www.SecureAmerica.US for the full text.] The executive summary–the only part many readers will read–contains no reference to the Israel-Palestine issue at all and has only a very general one-line admonition that the U.S. should try to “reduce the root causes driving people to radical violence.” In the body of the report, the paper states on page 5 of the 20-page text that “facilitating a just peace in the Middle East” is “among the policies that can mitigate anti-American resentment and enhance global security.” On page 15 the paper states that “a key priority is and must remain U.S. support for a genuine peace process in the Middle East that provides security, justice, and economic opportunity for both sides.”

This is boilerplate; because they are meaningless, such generalizations have the advantage of being unobjectionable to pro-Israel lobbies in the U.S. The word “Palestinian” does not appear anywhere in the paper. “Palestine” appears only once, in a simple reference to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Nowhere can one find even a mention of the possibility that massive U.S. support and aid to Israel might be one of the factors encouraging future terrorism against the United States and its allies. Whatever one’s views on the need for, and the value to the U.S. of, such support and aid to Israel, doesn’t the subject deserve some discussion in a report entitled Toward a More Secure America? But such discussion is pretty much taboo in the American foreign policy establishment these days.

The second example involves not the staid establishment but the U.S. peace movement. (The tribulations of the peace movement over the Israeli connection and how to deal with it are treated in considerable detail in several chapters of the new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair.) In this case, the two of us were asked to participate as interviewees in the film and video Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, recently released by Moveon.org and The Center for American Progress in association with Artists United. We agreed to do so and were interviewed for over an hour. But only one of us actually appears in the final video, and only for a few seconds. We assume that most of the footage of us ended up on the cutting room floor because we had discussed at length the Israeli connection in the U.S. war against Iraq.

Through interviews with several dozen people interspersed with film clips of senior officials doing their dirty work, the video gives a fascinating account–guaranteed to hold your attention–of the lies and distortions used by the Bush administration to mislead the nation into the war. It does a superb job in demonstrating how administration leaders from Bush to Cheney to Powell to Rumsfeld to Rice used the issue of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as the main pretext to generate popular support in the U.S. for the war. The film is a high-quality production that everyone should see.

But–this piece of art is subtitled The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, and it by no means lives up to that billing. The reason is that the Israeli connection is nowhere mentioned. Once again, the subject is taboo.

Although the war was sold to Congress and the public on the basis of the WMD issue, many of us believed for months before the war that the actual reasons the Bush administration invaded Iraq were the U.S. drive for global domination, oil–and Israel. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and neocons in the administration, some of whom quite clearly have displayed loyalties toward Likud governments in Israel, have strongly supported war with Iraq at least since the mid-1990s, and their reasons for doing so have included the strengthening of Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East. A video that claims to present the entire truth about the Iraq war should at least include some discussion of the relationship of Israel to that war. Even if one disagrees with the judgment that key U.S. supporters of Israel’s Likud government played a significant role in getting the U.S. into this war, the evidence is massive that most people in most Arab nations believe Israel to be one of the reasons the U.S. initiated the war. That alone should be reason enough to have included some discussion of the issue in this video.

Some might argue that constraints of length (the video is 56 minutes long) required that the producers deal only with the most important issues, and that anything related to Israel was of less importance. This is merely a convenient rationalization. As on many other occasions, it is too easy to sweep the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the carpet in order to achieve greater apparent unity in the peace movement. Both right-wing Americans and right-wing Israelis may believe that the fate of the Palestinians is not the most important issue facing their governments’ policies in the Middle East today. But in fact it is. Palestinians will not go the way of Native Americans. Nor will they ever disappear into other Arab lands. They are simply too numerous, and their numbers are growing. Their cause is too important to other Arabs and Muslims, most of whom care deeply about Palestinian oppression at Israel’s hands.

Contrary to the hopes of the Bush and Sharon administrations, it will not be possible for them to so “transform” the politics and societies of the Middle East that hatred of U.S. and Israeli policies, and terrorism against these two states and their few remaining allies, will simply fade away. It is the policies of the U.S. and Israel themselves that will have to change, if the world is to have any chance of peace and stability in the next few decades.

To repeat, these points, or at least discussion of them, should be part of every study or video or any other serious analysis of what is going on in the Middle East today. It is vital that we break through the taboos, which have, if anything, grown stronger in recent months.

Bill Christison joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit.

Kathleen Christison also worked in the CIA, retiring in 1979. Since then she has been mainly preoccupied by the issue of Palestine. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

They are also contributors to CounterPunch’s hot new book: The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

The Christison’s can be reached at: christison@counterpunch.org


Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. Kathleen Christison is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

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