A word is missing from our current political lexicon. We need a term that describes the creature that is emerging out of the pool of resources being formed by the U.S. and Israel–especially under the twin administrations of George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon. I’ve thought about this carefully, and I think I have the answer: “Busharon”. Busharon is a unitary being created by the fusion of formerly distinct minds and bodies, that rises from the muck to scourge the earth.
I admit I wrestled with another appealing contender: Master/Blaster, based on that priceless character(s) from “Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome”. Master was a malevolent genius, but a midget. His power, therefore, rested, literally, on Blaster -whose massive shoulders Master constantly rode. This irresistible alliance of intelligence and brute strength was what enabled Master/Blaster to control–guess what? The world’s energy resources! Sure, in the post-Armageddon landscape they inhabited, it was pig excrement, not oil–but that’s only a difference of a few million years of decomposition, right?
But on reflection, there are serious problems with Master/Blaster as our term, and they go way beyond copyright. First, Master/Blaster is predicated on a clear division of labor between brains and brawn. You see the problem: as between Israel and the U.S, who is Master? Who is Blaster?
There’s a very solid case for Israel as Master, the intelligent one. After all, Israel’s contributions to American thinking and expertise on all levels are undeniable. For one, Israel inaugurated the concept of “pre-emptive war”–a deft combination of lightning military attack and thick, relentless spin. The key here is to churn out justificatory lies, no matter how preposterous, faster than historians can refute them. This concept was fielded as brilliantly by the U.S. in 2003 as it was by Israel in 1967. Okay, maybe the Israelis are still a little better at it than the Yanks.
The Israelis have also obliged recently, providing legal advice to the U.S. State Department on how to justify assassinations. Israeli military trainers have passed on the lessons of Jenin and Nablus to the Marines in Falluja. Lest you think the Israelis stingy, they don’t limit their largesse to the federal government. They are now spreading their anti-terrorism gospel to every town and city police chief in the U.S. Charleston, South Carolina breathes easier, thanks to the knowledge gleaned from Israel by their Sheriff Cannon (I did not make that up), who is in charge of port security there.
The Israel as Master thesis dovetails nicely with the theory that the U.S.’s patent tilt in favor of Israel (just one index: 39 US vetoes in the UN Security Council for Israel) is due to the influence of the pro-Israel lobby. This theory has adherents on both the left and the right of the American political spectrum. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), with its 165 paid staffers, budget of $33.4 million, and phalanx of 126 associated PACs — sporting such generic names as Delaware Valley PAC, or San Franciscans for Good Government — really runs the show. Capitol Hill is the fourth “Israeli Occupied Territory”, after the Syrian Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. American diplomatic clout, weaponry, economic support–are all turned to Israel’s aim of territorial expansion.
I forgot to mention–Blaster is so easily manipulated by Master because he is a moron, a figure of child-like simplicity. Almost seals the deal, right? Just to make it official, President Bush has elevated Ariel Sharon from “a man of peace” to “my teacher”! Sharon’s Israeli biographer, Uri Avnery, credits his man with conceptualizing the “New Middle East”–democratized, maybe a little tinkering with borders here and there. This project is now championed by Bush, even if he can’t pronounce “conceptualizing.”
But it’s not that simple. First, the Israelis have learned a few things from the Americans, too. For example, when their intelligence agency, the Mossad, demurred from giving overblown pre-war estimates of Iraqi power, Ariel Sharon set up a rump intelligence unit to serve up more agreeable “information”. Straight out of Doug Feith and the Office of Special Plans, no? At a more fundamental level, the U.S. offers them the model of genocide against indigenous inhabitants of the land. The Israelis haven’t quite gotten the hang of this one yet, mass expulsions of Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 being their pallid version. On the other hand, with their enclosures of entire Palestinian communities in the West Bank, they seem to be taking the Indian reservation system to heart. Never too late to learn!
There’s another problem, though–there’s a competing theory to explain U.S. support for Israel, popular exclusively on the left, and led by, among others, MIT professor Noam Chomsky. That’s the Israel-as- U.S. -attack-dog theory. In this version, the U.S., in fact, is Master, and Israel is Blaster, rampaging through the Middle East at American behest and destroying the military and political power of “radical” Arab nationalism (“radical”, in the sense that its leaders imagined that the oil under their ground belonged to their people, not to Americans). Here Israel is the simple-minded dupe.
I should mention parenthetically that there is a third explanation for U.S. support of Israel: that “Israel is a democracy”. This is a favorite of people who still sleep with soft toys. Democracies outside the West are as likely to be targets of a U.S.-sponsored coup as they are as they are recipients of U.S. aid. Do the names Mohammed Mossadegh, Salvador Allende, and Hugo Chavez ring any bells? Meanwhile, the U.S. supports a string of kings, sultans, and generals, across the globe, because, unlike the “radicals”, they, too, embrace English philosopher John Locke–oil, and other natural resources really do belong to those who make best use of them (you really can’t get all those kids to soccer without an SUV). That’s why they are “moderates”.
Who is Blaster? Well, it used to be obvious: except for the occasional spectacle from the U.S., like the first Gulf War, Israel was Blaster. It was the Israelis who expanded outside the borders of the UN partition plan of November 29, 1947, sweeping clean the areas they seized of 700,000 Palestinians–a process that was nearly half complete before the intervention of the Arab states in May, 1948. Israel attacked Egypt in 1956, and then again in 1967, adding in Syria and Jordan. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978, then again in 1982, killing over 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, and rendering perhaps half a million homeless. Israel also provoked the turn to armed conflict at the outbreak of the current intifada, through its use of snipers to subdue Palestinians demonstrators armed with rocks. Tens of Palestinians lay dead before Palestinian security forces began returning fire with their puny weaponry, against the full arsenal of the sixth most powerful military in the world.
But now the U.S. is in Iraq, blasting away like there’s no tomorrow, sporting its own military occupation, torturing detainees, and trampling the Geneva Conventions with the best of them. So–who’s Master? Who’s Blaster? It’s all too confusing.
Here’s the clincher, however. In “Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome”, Blaster is eventually vanquished, and Master is rehabilitated as a harmless mascot of the good guys. One might hope, but that’s clearly not the direction we’re heading right now, is it?
To sum up: the real problem is that the Master/Blaster dichotomy just doesn’t capture the seamless integration of U.S. and Israel policies and outlook. We are not talking similarity, but rather, identity of worldview. This should come as no surprise–after all, these guys, in some cases, don’t just think alike, they are the same people. Those brilliant minds who produced “A Clean Break: a Strategy for Securing the Realm” back in 1996 for Benjamin Netanyahu, advising no negotiations with the Palestinians, pre-emptive attack (again), and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, now run around the halls of the Pentagon and the office of the Vice President. It is, of course, entirely a coincidence that seven years later the U.S. government did exactly what the advisors to the Israeli Likud Party candidate had recommended.
I honestly think that “Busharon” uniquely captures the way the Bush administration neo-cons (previously Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith, and still John Bolton, David Wurmser, Elliott Abrams, and the rest) and the Israeli Likud Party actually see the world and themselves in it: as a realm of terror, that they face together as one.
Lastly, Busharon has a special ring to it. Doesn’t it sound vaguely Japanese (Rashomon? Ro-dan?), like a monster from an early sixties Japanese horror flick? That, in turn, conjures up connotations of impending apocalypse that are entirely appropriate to the age.
When you think about it, there’s really no contest. It can only be: Busharon.
GEORGE BISHARAT is a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law.