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Many Americans may think this foreign policy issue doesn’t concern them. If they think about this issue at all, many say that it’s not our business and we should just let them fight it out. However the US has been deeply involved in this conflict since before Israel declared its existence.
A Strong and Accurate Warning
For example, in 1947 before the Partition Plan for Palestine was approved by the UN General Assembly, Loy Henderson, director of the State Department’s Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, warned: “The UNSCOP [U.N. Special Committee on Palestine] Majority Plan is not only unworkable; if adopted, it would guarantee that the Palestine problem would be permanent and still more complicated in the future.”
Henderson added: “The proposals contained in the UNSCOP plan … are in definite contravention to various principles laid down in the [U.N.] Charter as well as to principles on which American concepts of Government are based.
“These proposals, for instance, ignore such principles as self-determination and majority rule. They recognize the principle of a theocratic racial state and even go so far in several instances as to discriminate on grounds of religion and race against persons outside of Palestine.”
Despite the strong opposition to the Palestine Partition Plan coming from the State Department, especially from Secretary of State General George Marshall, President Truman put the US firmly behind the Plan. More than just supporting the Plan, the US pressured other countries to vote for the Plan. It is unlikely that the Plan would have passed without the US pressure.
Domestic politics likely played a role in Truman’s decision. Truman himself once said: “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”
US Enabling of Israel
According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, the US has provided Israel with almost $234 billion in inflation adjusted terms from 1948 until the end of 2013. Most of that aid has come since 1970.
In addition, the US has vetoed 42 Security Council resolutions, usually related to Israeli violations of human rights and international law, often violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the treatment of people living under occupation. In addition to these vetoes, the US has also threatened casting vetos of a number of resolutions if they were raised, thus stopping the projected resolution dead in its tracks. These vetoes allow Israel to act with impunity in its violations of international humanitarian laws. Therefore Israel sees no reason to change its behavior.
Following the Israeli attack on Egypt in 1967, the US has been the primary supplier of advanced weaponary to Israel. However, by continuing to arm Israel today, the US violates its own laws, in particular, the Arms Export Control Act (Public Law 90-829), that prohibits its weapons being used against civilians. The provision of security aid to Israel also violates terms of the US Foreign Assistance Act (Public Law 87-195) that prohibits aid to countries with a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights However, it is extremely unlikely that Congress will stop arming Israel, despite blatant Israeli violations of these US laws.
The US attack on Iraq in 2003 and the US support of Israel, partly driven by domestic political considerations, contribute to the negative views people around the world hold about the US. For example, a 2013 poll showed the US is viewed as the greatest threat to world peace.
Israeli Attacks on Gaza — US Complicity
After Israel’s brutal attack and massacre against Gaza in 2008/09, Israeli author and poet Yitzhak Laor wrote: “We’ve been here before. It’s a ritual. Every two or three years, our military mounts another bloody expedition. The enemy is always smaller, weaker; our military is always larger, technologically more sophisticated, prepared for full-scale war against a full-scale army. But Iran is too scary, and even the relatively small Hizbullah gave us a hard time. That leaves the Palestinians….”
“The extent of the cruelty, the lack of shame and the refusal of self-restraint are striking, both in anthropological terms and historically. The worldwide Jewish support for this vandal offensive makes one wonder if this isn’t the moment Zionism is taking over the Jewish people.
But the real issue is that since 1991, and even more since the Oslo agreements in 1993, Israel has played on the idea that it really is trading land for peace, while the truth is very different. Israel has not given up the territories, but cantonised and blockaded them. The new strategy is to confine the Palestinians: they do not belong in our space, they are to remain out of sight, packed into their townships and camps, or swelling our prisons. This project now has the support of most of the Israeli press and academics.”
“Israel doesn’t want a Palestinian state alongside it. It is willing to prove this with hundreds of dead and thousands of disabled, in a single ‘operation’. The message is always the same: leave or remain in subjugation, under our military dictatorship. We are a democracy. We have decided democratically that you will live like dogs.”
Demonstrating Laor’s point, there were four major Israeli attacks on Gaza since 2006. The numbers killed in these attacks reflect the fact that Israel, with one of the strongest militaries in the world, attacked an essentially defenseless Palestinian population. Approximately 400 Palestinians and 7 Israelis were killed in Israel’s 2006 attack; approximately 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in Israel’s 2008/09 massacre; in the 2012 attack, about 170 Palestinians and 6 Israelis were killed; and now in 2014 over 2100 Palestinians and 64 Israeli soldiers and four civilians were killed.
In each situation, there was an Israeli provocation, a Palestinian response, and then a major Israeli attack. The article by Israeli journalist Larry Derfner provides an example of the Israeli provocation in this latest attack. Noura Erakat, a Palestine-American attorney, also has a good online article on “The Nation” website that debunks much of the Israeli propaganda about Hamas and Gaza.
These articles provide information sorely lacking in the US mainstream media. The US mainstream media, through its one-sided reporting, are complicit in the Israeli war crimes, joining with the US political leaders who provide the political coverage for these Israel crimes. A key failure of the US mainstream media is its omission of the fact that there were almost no rocket attacks after the 2012 ceasefire was established until this summer. During these 18 months, Israel did not lift its siege, and the Palestinians continued to live under unbearable conditions. Clearly the rocket fire could be stopped through negotiations instead of resorting to massacres.
Palestinians in the West Bank, already suffering under a cruel Israeli occupation, see that things can be much worse for them. Does Gaza provide a glimpse of the future for the Palestinians in the West Bank?
Israeli supporters target Hamas in an effort to avoid addressing Israel’s horrible war crimes, particularly the killing of Palestinian civilians and children. In addition, they don’t want to have to address Israel’s inhuman siege of Gaza or the occupation of Palestinian land. This siege is particularly cruel and is causing a slow death for Palestinians. Hamas has made the easing/lifting of this siege as a key requirement to have a lasting ceasefire. If the siege is not lifted, primitive rockets are likely to continue being fired from Gaza into Israel and Israel will likely bomb Gaza again. As a result, Gaza will be made even more unlivable.
These Israeli supporters also ignore the fact that Hamas leaders have indicated a willingness to accept a two-state solution if the Palestinian people vote for it. In addition, numerous Israeli military, security and political officials have called for talking to Hamas. For example, in 2007 retired Major General Shlomo Gazit, a former chief of military intelligence, called the three pre-conditions for dialogue with Hamas insisted upon by Israel and its Western allies ‘ridiculous, or an excuse not to negotiate.’ He added: “Why are we not negotiating with [Syrian President] Assad? Because we know the price and we aren’t willing to pay. The same goes for the Palestinians.”
It is possible that if the US had really been an honest broker of peace negotiations, a just peace could have broken out decades ago. Clearly US positions supporting Israel’s violations of humanitarian laws has played a extremely negative role, helping to keep this crisis alive.
If there is to be a lasting ceasefire in Gaza, the US, the EU or the UN must pressure Israel to honor ceasefire agreements as well as human rights agreements and international law. Otherwise Gaza will quickly become totally unlivable, and Israel, with backing from the US and the EU, will have created 1.8 million Palestinians refugees who have no place to go. Israel and the US will be primarily responsible for this ethnic cleansing of Gaza. What happened to the idea of ‘never again’?
Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics and formerly a candidate for Congress and for governor of Colorado for the Green Party. He has worked for peace and social justice with the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center for over 20 years.