America’s Albatross

“Ah! Well a day! What evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”

(Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

Two issues dominate the electoral debate as Kerry battles Edwards and Bush, abandoning the crisis in Israel, enters the fray: homeland security and job loss caused by exporting jobs “offshore.” One issue that encompasses both cannot be mentioned by political commentators and politicians for fear of condemnation as anti-Semitic and for fear, among politicians, of loss of their positions: what role does America’s support of Israel play relative to homeland security and job loss? Is it the Albatross around America’s neck?

Before undertaking this discussion, I need to make this assertion in self-defense: the violence that corrodes the mind and heart of fanatics in Palestine and Israel nourishes seeds of vengeance in children and adults alike, breeding only destruction and death; vengeance, retaliation, and terrorism – – caused by purported freedom fighters or by the state–cannot and must not be tolerated in a world that claims to be civilized. I do not condone suicide bombing any more than I condone the firing of missiles into crowded streets. I do condemn my country’s blind support of the government of Ariel Sharon, the principal cause of insecurity in America and the greatest threat to peace in the world today.

“Israel, world’s biggest threat to world peace!” blared the headlines in Europe when the “Eurobarometer” poll, undertaken by the European Commission, reported more than 59% of EU citizens see Israel as a threat to world peace (Brussels: AFP-Reuter-Agencies, Nov. 2003). The United States, in the company of Iran and North Korea, came in second at 53%. Fifteen countries participated in the poll. Israel voiced outrage at the poll results claiming it reflected media bias against Israel. This despite the fact that a terrorist attack against Israeli citizens outpaces Israeli attacks against Palestinians 20 to 1 in media coverage. This poll follows the Pew Research Center survey of December 2002 that reflected growing discontent with America around the world. Criticism of America is on the rise as 19 of 27 countries disapprove of the actions taken by the Bush administration, actions that reflect an increased movement away from inter- nation engagement to a position of isolationism and unilateralism. “True dislike, if not hatred, of America is concentrated in the Muslim nations of the Middle East and in Central Asia, today’s areas of greatest conflict.” Less vociferous are America’s traditional allies, but they too critique harshly “American- style democracy and business practices.”

“Huge majorities (64%, 71%, and 79% respectively) in France, Germany and Russia oppose(d) the use of military force to end the rule of Saddam Hussein.” The reason? The war with Iraq will increase the risk of terrorism in Europe, and while Americans seem to believe that terrorism has diminished as a result of the invasion of Iraq, the reality is that we are fast approaching a death rate of American soldiers in Iraq comparable to one third the number killed in the 9/11 attacks. Are we willing to say that it’s OK for Americans to die in the Middle-East as long as they are not being killed on American soil? Similar attitudes about America exist in Indonesia, Senegal, Western Europe, Australia and Canada. In short, Israel and America are perceived by the vast majority of people around the world as true threats to world peace. What does the world know that we are unwilling to face? In this election year, America’s absolute and unswerving support for Israel and its unquestioned spread of corporate-style democracy (read Globalized Capitalism) remains the unseen elephant in the Oval Office and the campaign rooms of Kerry and Edwards.

Interestingly, John Kerry’s Presidential web site mocks Howard Dean for a string of “misstatements” about Israel and America’s unstinting support of that state. What constitutes a “Misstatement”? Disagreement with Kerry’s statement that “Every candidate who aspires to be president should know that Israel is a democracy and our closest ally in the region.” What did Dean say? Israel is “a Jewish state, it’s not a democracy.” He’s right! Israel is NOT a democracy: it has no constitution after fifty years of existence, yet we demand that Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine have a constitution; its system of laws is determined by the Torah, a religious document not a secular one; it denies recognition of the Palestinian minority despite UN Resolution 181 calling for such recognition; it defies UN Resolutions requiring it to accept return of the indigenous Palestinians from the refugee camps to their rightful homes taken from them in 1948 or 1967 but allows Jews from Russia and other lands to immigrate and become citizens solely because of their religion, making Israel a de facto theocracy (similar, ironically, to an Islamic democracy!); and it keeps on the books more than 20 laws that discriminate against the Palestinian minority (Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel).

John Edwards parrots the same line as Kerry: “John Edwards believes that Israel is one of America’s vital allies, and that the US must support Israel to help it fight terror and achieve peace.” Such blind support for a state that, in the eyes of the vast majority of the world communities, is seen as instigating terror by its overwhelming military power (the fourth largest military in the world protecting a nation the size of New Jersey and with a smaller population) against an impoverished people that has no meaningful military force to speak of, only desperate people deprived of human dignity and hope, runs counter to reason, to say nothing of human rights.

Ridiculing Dean became a cause celebre that all had to join because he refused to lockstep behind the blind leading the blind into the ditch. “He was not ready for the presidency” because he had not joined the chorus directed by AIPAC; an “even handed” approach to the crisis in Israel/Palestine meant criticism of Israel that cannot be tolerated. The Israeli political forces launched a massive attack against Dean, as vicious as any mounted against Arafat, and he folded. Such is the power that controls America’s democracy.

That leaves Kucinich; but nobody pays attention to Kucinich because he, too, contradicts the Neo-Con line that dictates America’s allegiance to Israel. Kucinich would not cave to the powers that forced House Resolution 392, expressing solidarity with Israel, into being, a resolution that blared to the disenfranchised world America’s bias against the Palestinian people even as it solidified in the minds of the terrorists (our term, they see themselves as freedom fighters) America’s desire to control the Mid-East through its 51st state, Israel. Kucinich declared that “…we are missing an opportunity to lead people of the Middle East toward a secure and stable future together…The same humanity that requires us to acknowledge with profound concerns the pain and suffering of the people of Israel requires a similar expression for the pain and suffering of the Palestinians.” How simple and how compassionate! Here is recognition that the suffering of both peoples must be our concern, not a wimpish subservience to a powerful elite that controls the current administration and our Congress.

The accepted dogma in the US states that America must support Israel to ensure peace in the Mid-East and to secure America against “terrorism” since Israel, like America, battles and fights the same “terrorists.” But how substantive is this argument? If all the states that surround Israel, including the citizens of our puppet states Egypt and Jordan, and fifteen countries in the European Union observe Israel stealing land from the indigenous population of Palestine by defying UNSC resolutions that demand it return land taken in 1948 and 1967, if they see Israel placing illegal settlements in Palestinian territory eating up another 2% of Palestinian land and blatantly defying other UN resolutions, if they see America hypocritically demand that the UN invade Iraq for defying its resolutions while remaining silent about Israel’s defiance, if they witness Israel incarcerate the indigenous population behind barbed wire and cement walls, even as they steal more land and isolate the people from relatives, mosques, work, and land, a device resurrected from Medieval days when states walled in the Jews in ghettoes, if they watch helplessly the willful invasion of Palestinian territory by tanks, armored vehicles, thousands of soldiers, and bulldozers that decimate homes, how can we believe that our support of Israel brings peace when it is so obvious that it is the reason there is no peace?

Bush prides himself on deposing “madmen,” “ruthless dictators,” “murderers,” and “criminals” who kill wantonly, women, children, the old and infirm. In August of 1953, a poverty plagued refugee camp suffered an onslaught, supervised by a military commander that resulted in the deaths of 50 civilians as “bombs were thrown through the windows of huts in which the refugees were sleeping.” Another village, Qibya, endured a massacre when that same commander reduced the village to rubble killing 69 civilians, two-thirds of them women and children, then buried the victims under their homes as they were blown up over them. In Gaza strip, after the 1967 war, Had’d Street, a narrow alley in a mass of similar alleys that made up a shantytown for refugees, was eradicated and hundreds of homes destroyed by bulldozers to enable tanks and armored vehicles to move unhindered through the camp, while this same commander allowed his soldiers to beat the people leaving them homeless once again. That same commander later destroyed an additional 2,000 homes uprooting 16,000 people and assassinated 104 suspected guerrillas without benefit of trial or jury. In 1982 this same commander directed the bombing of civilian populations and oversaw the massacres of 1,962 people at Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, all infants, children, women, pregnant women, and the elderly, many mutilated (The Crimes of Ariel Sharon, Counterpunch 2/7/04). Was this Saddam? Was he the “little madman” in North Korea? No, quite obviously, he is Bush’s mentor in Israel, a “man of peace” according to “W,” Ariel Sharon.

Prior to the ascendancy of Ariel Sharon to head the government of Israel, prospects for a peaceful settlement existed. Sharon cripples any and all peace efforts and he does so with the complicity of the US administration and our government. He knowingly caused the current intifada by taking a 1000 IDF entourage to the holy Al Aqsa Mosque understanding his act as a defilement, and America said nothing, but the world looked on and the world objected. He alone of all Israeli leaders has used the full force of the Israeli military machine to subdue a defenseless people who fight against all odds to retain even a sliver of the land they owned before the state of Israel was forced upon them, a military machine bought and paid for by our tax dollars, and the world looks on and the world objects. He instigated the creation of settlements in Palestinian territory creating in the process groups of “terrorists” who plague Palestinians on their own land under the protection of the IDF, settlements paid for by our tax dollars, and the world looks on and the world objects. He prevented the introduction of UN Peace keepers as a means to resolve the crisis, and the world observes and objects. He instituted the pernicious practice of “extra judicial executions” that abandons the most rudimentary principles of Western justice, and America adopts that same pernicious practice in Iraq and Yemen, and the world looks on and the world objects. He cries to the world that he must defend Israelis against “terrorists” by any means even as he crushes 30 to 40 Palestinian homes per month under the relentless treads of America’s paid for caterpillars, arrests and detains young Palestinians without charge, allows torture of some, accepts in silence the murder of international peace observers, and America says nothing to this man Bush calls a “man of peace,” and the world looks on and the world objects.

But the Arab world sees more than just Sharon and his savage legacy; they see what Benny Morris, author of Righteous Victims: a History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-2001, has revealed recently that confirms a planned genocide against Palestinians by Ben Gurian and Moshe Carmel as far back as 1948. The massacre at the Dahmash Mosque (July 11, 1948) that resulted in the deaths of 350 worshippers by the 89th Israel Commando Battalion commanded by Moshe Dayan exemplifies the nature of the genocide and the savagery of its execution as Dayan’s forces stripped the dead of their valuables and tossed the bodies out of the Mosque into the boiling sun (Gains, UK). While the West bought the lies of the Israeli historians and the media covered up the reality of “transference,” what we now euphemistically call “ethnic cleansing,” and what properly should be called massacre and theft, the release of Ben Gurian’s orders tells the truth and confirms what the Arab world has said all along. That alone gives reason for the world to see Israel as the cause of instability in the Mid-East since it gives legitimacy to the cause of the Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation and insist on return of the refugees. Morris reveals, “In the months of April-May 1948, units of Haganah (precursor of IDF) were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves” (Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz, Sun. 2/15/04). When asked how many acts of massacre occurred, Morris replied, 24, in Dawayima, Saliha, Deir Yassin, and Abu Shusha, “Ben Gurian silenced the matter. He covered up for the officers who did the massacres.” Should not these revelations force a reconsideration of America’s one-sided support of Israel? Doesn’t Dean’s observation that a more “even-handed” approach seems justified and Kerry and Edwards’ blind adherence to an unanalyzed policy to a purported “democratic” Israel and a “peaceful” Israel need reconsideration?

Now let’s take a more selfish look at the consequences this parasitic allegiance to Israeli interests causes the American taxpayer. The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs summarizes the amount of US tax dollars going to Israel: $134, 791, 507, 200 from 1949 to 1997. Tom Malthaner writes in “U.S. Aid to Israel: What U.S. Taxpayers Should Know” (WRMER 2/16/04), “When grants, loans, interest and tax deductions are added together for the fiscal year ending in September 30, 1997, our special relationship with Israel cost U.S. taxpayers over $10 billion.” Using that figure, we can increase US aid to Israel by 10 billion from 1997 to 2004 or something close to 200 billion in taxpayer support. Would you believe that this is the conservative figure? David Francis of the Christian Science Monitor notes that “Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today’s population, that is more than $5,700 per person.” (CSM, 12/9/02). This, he points out, is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington, who notes that this represents more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War!

Considering that Israel is the 16th wealthiest nation in the world with a per capita income just below that of Britain and France, one has to ask why the American taxpayer spends one-third of its foreign aid budget on Israel, a country with a population only two thirds the size of New Jersey representing 1/1000 of the world’s population; a give-away comparable to Bush’s tax relief program for the well-healed! For every dollar we spent on an African since 1948 (a continent that desperately needs foreign aid), we have donated to each and every Israeli standing on the street corner, cup in hand, $250.65! (Adhaf Soueif, 11/03). To put it another way, “The per capita U.S. foreign aid to Israel’s 5.8 million people (that doesn’t include the 20% Arab population living in the Israeli state) during the same period was $10,775.48.” (Richard Curtiss, “The Cost of Israel to U.S. Taxpayers”). Turn that into dollars per American taxpayer: the cost to each taxpayer up to 1997 amounts to $23,240 per Israeli. A quarter of Israel’s income comes from the taxpayer in America. Perhaps they need it since they have a higher life expectancy than that of the U.S.! But what if 10 billion were distributed to individual states? California could use 10 billion and it has more than 34 million people not a paltry 5.8 and its land area far exceeds that of Israel. Now there’s bang for the buck! But Alan Cranston in 1984 created an amendment to the U.S. Foreign Aid bill that compels the U.S. government to provide Israel enough Economic Support Funds to meet its debt burden to the United States, an act of generosity not offered to California, the state he represented! And what have we gotten for our investment?

Putting aside the origins of the state of Israel that by itself could account for a major portion of the hatred of the United States in the Arab world, Israel has given the US taxpayer the following return on his/her investment:

(1) an absolute unwillingness to return land stolen from the Palestinians during the 1967 war despite UNSC resolutions demanding that return, leaving the indigenous population with about 14% of the land they originally inhabited before 1948, a time when the Palestinians owned all but 6% of the land in Palestine and constituted 69% of the population, the Jewish population in 1948 being only 806,000, a defiance guaranteed to bring hatred not peace;

(2) an absolute defiance of more than a hundred UN resolutions demanding that Israel abide by international law and the Human Rights guarantees of the Geneva Accords, a defiance guaranteed to bring distain not peace;

(3) a sadistic disregard for American friendship and loyalty by its insidious use of spies against America as the Jonathan Pollard case readily demonstrates and David Tenenbaum before him, actions guaranteed to undermine the taxpayers loyalty to Israel if this democracy had an uncensored press;

(4) an absolute defiance of expected behavior between allies by executing an act of war against America in its attack on the U.S. Liberty in 1967, a crime covered up by the Johnson administration as it acquiesced to Jewish interests, a crime that almost forced the US into another war on behalf of Israel, a crime that cost the American taxpayer untold amounts of dollars even as it demonstrated to the world the extent the Israeli government would go to protect its own interests;

(5) a sadistic strategy of infiltration into US government affairs through the Neo-Con Cabal that worked on behalf of Israeli interests as laid out in their advisory report to the Israeli government, “Securing the Realm,” that brought America to war against Iraq based on lies generated by these men, an act guaranteed to bring hatred not peace to the Mid-East;

(6) an open defiance of the American government’s desires regarding the invasion of the Jenin refugee camp, the bulldozing of thousands of Palestinian homes, the murder of international peace observers, and the construction of the Israeli Wall, all defiance’s that disregard American interests and guarantee hatred of America not peace;

(7) an insidious desire to encourage Evangelical Zionist Christians to invest millions in Settlements that cause terrorism in Palestinian territory while inciting hatred of Arabs by encouraging their fanatical beliefs in the “Clash of Cultures” that will come with the fulfillment of the prophecies of Revelation, actions guaranteed to rouse deeper suspicion and hatred not peace;

(8) a defiance of the Arms Export Control Act that provides US military hardware to Israel on condition it be used only for defensive purposes by using US made cluster bombs in 1982 against civilian targets in Lebanon, an action guaranteed to cause hatred not peace;

(9) finally, and this brings us back to the second issue that dominates this year’s election debate, a maneuvering of the agreements that provide Israel with taxpayers’ dollars, an arrangement that allows Israel to purchase military equipment from Israeli manufacturers even though they are available here in the US and an arrangement that requires that the US purchase with Department of Defense funds military hardware from Israel, an action that in effect ships American jobs to Israel, jobs paid for by the taxpayer! Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul. And we haven’t mentioned here the sale by Israel of US classified technology to Ethiopia, South Africa, Chile, Venezuela and China contrary to the agreements made between the US and Israel (Shawn Twing, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 4/96).

Why does this administration pretend that it is in the best interests of this country to continue to spend an estimated 10 billion a year on a relatively wealthy people that is protected by the fourth largest military in the world, one that possesses nuclear weaponry as well as chemical and biological, for a population that is slightly larger than the population of the city of Los Angeles? Wouldn’t it be more effective to force that state to make peace with its neighbors by returning to the ideals that gave rise to its existence in the first place, not the driven purpose of the Zionists, but the compassionate values of Europe and America when it sought to establish a homeland for Jews who had suffered for centuries the racism that eventually resulted in the holocaust of WWII? How can peace be brought to the Mid-East unless Europe and America recognize that they bear responsibility for imposing a population on an existing indigenous people, without their consent, who were innocent of the evil done to the Jews in Europe? How can peace arise when Palestinians look back at the forcible eviction of 737,166 of their people in 1948 and, in 1967, an additional 69,000 from the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, a population that has grown to over a million people now living in refugee camps and denied both compensation for their stolen homes and right of return that flaunts international law? Rights denied are sores that infest the soul only to explode in vengeance and retaliation.

But do we have a return to the compassion that the world offered to the Jews? Do we address the consequences of the actions that have given rise to the unrelenting horror of oppression, occupation, and insane reaction that uses humans as bombs? No! We have the erecting of an American taxpayer Wall, an Israeli constructed “Wall of Fear” that creates an Israeli Pogrom to encircle the most deprived in the world, the mirror image of the suffering of the Jews at Terezin, and the world sees fear on both sides–fear of imprisonment and deprivation and fear of retaliation for wrongs inflicted. I empathize with Shlomo Shmelzman when he cries, “I see bombs falling on a city, on innocent civilians–men, women, children and babies. Houses crumbling, dead bodies in the streets. I remember a morning in September 1939, when my mother and I were running to my grandmother’s home, through the fire and smoke under a heavy bombardment, finding our way between dead bodies lying in the streets of Warsaw. Too many things in Israel remind me of too many other things from my childhoodToday, as a citizen of Israel, I cannot accept the systematic destruction of cities, towns, and refugee camps. I cannot accept the technocratic cruelty of the bombing, destroying and killing of human beings.”

Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner carried the Albatross until “A spring of love gushed from my heart/ And I blessed them unaware/The self same moment I could pray/ And from my neck so free/ The Albatross fell off, and sank? Like lead into the sea.” And so must America bring peace by forging an alliance with the Jews for Peace and their counterparts in Palestine; when love and fairness guides our policy toward both peoples, when love and fairness rise in our hearts “unawares,” then will peace come to the Mid-East and America’s Albatross sink like lead into the sea. “He prayeth best who loveth best/ All things both great and small./ For the dear God who loveth us/ He made and loveth all.”

William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His new book, Psalms for the 21st Century, was just published by Mellen Press. He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU


William A. Cook is the  author of Decade of Deceit and Age of Fools.