The Common Thread is US Imperialism

Image by Sohaib Al Kharsa.

There are obviously many differences, political and otherwise between the war in Ukraine and the conflict in Palestine. One thing that is quite similar however, is that both were provoked by ultra-right nationalists in each nation. These elements currently control the government both numerically and politically in Israel, while Ukraine’s right wing nationalists exercise a power seemingly well beyond their acknowledged numbers. It is also this same sector in Israel and Ukraine which benefits the most from the conflicts, at least in the short term. The right’s ongoing provocations—whether one is talking about the violence instigated against the elected government and the left in Kyiv during what’s known in the West as the Maidan uprising or the settler attacks on Palestinians and their homes plus many other instances—created military responses from Moscow and Gaza, respectively. Those responses have not only caused alarm and anger in the West, they have also widened the acceptance of overtly fascist politics and those that champion them among Western populations.

Another similarity between Tel Aviv’s war with the Palestinians (currently led by Hamas) and Ukraine’s war with Russia is Washington. To begin with, both Tel Aviv and Kyiv receive billions of dollars in military aid from the United States. The primary reason for this aid is to fortify both regimes against nations and non-state actors Washington considers enemies: the Palestinians and the Russians. Of course, the actual differences between the Palestinian resistance and the Russian military are so great as to make discussion of them almost unnecessary. Russia has a large and well-armed standing army while the Palestinian resistance is at best a highly sophisticated guerrilla army made up of different factions with different politics but devoted to their people’s liberation. The similarities between the two military formations lies in the fact that Washington considers both of them enemies and is willing to support its clients in Kyiv and Tel Aviv in whatever they do to keep them at bay.

When the US army was pacifying the northern American west, it would often set up outposts and forts a bit further west than the indigenous lands being settled by US citizens. The settlers were usually armed and often quite belligerent against those whose lands they were stealing. This same scenario plays itself out almost daily in the occupied Palestinian territories and Jerusalem. For every settlement house built (illegally or legally) a Palestinian family loses property that has often been in the family for generations. On a grander scale, Israel’s role in the part of the world known in the Global North as the Middle East plays a role similar to those US army outposts mentioned above. In other words, Israel is considered to be Washington’s imperial military outpost in the region. This is one reason it receives mostly uncritical support for whatever it does—from the bombing of civilians to the repressive apartheid occupation regime it maintains against the Palestinian people. The late Alexander Haig, who was an Army general and served in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations in a number of positions, including Secretary of State and military aide to Henry Kissinger, once characterized Israel as “the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security.” In this capacity, Israel’s military is given over $3 billion in military aid every year and in return is expected to keep the region under control.

The current government in Kyiv has expressed its desire via President Zelenskyy to become a “big Israel.” While most of the remarks surrounding this statement had to do with maintaining the militarized security established during the current conflict in Ukraine, the fact of its geographical position suggests it was also meant to refer to the idea that Ukraine will serve as a bulwark against Russia as well. Indeed, the client nature of Kyiv’s relationship to Washington more than suggests this is exactly what US strategists have in mind. In terms of Ukraine’s internal politics, the fact that many of its residents reject the right-wing nationalist understanding on what it means to be Ukrainian creates the likelihood of a constant resistance to that nationalism. Already, many of these residents’ activities and organizations have been outlawed under anti-Russian statutes. In order to maintain Kyiv’s current domination of Ukrainians’ daily lives, the continued militarization of Ukrainian life will continue. So will US military aid, via Congressional order or otherwise.

Too many US educators and commentators either do not know or just refuse to accept world history as understood by those Washington has conquered. This fact means that most US residents just do not know that history. Even those who make history their career are all too often uninformed in this regard. In the cases of Palestine and Israel, this means that Tel Aviv’s narrative is the accepted one, while the Palestinian story is rejected, censored, ignored and even violently opposed. As for the narrative presented to the US public concerning Ukraine, those opposing the narrative that pretends Ukraine has no blame in the current conflict and that Washington had even less are denied a forum or, perhaps even worse, ridiculed as Putin stooges or right wing lunatics.

Both of these conflicts will only be truly be resolved by honest and unconditional peace agreements. Unfortunately for the people in the midst of these murderous adventures the war profiteers, the generals and the war machine’s sycophantic politicians have proven they have no interest in such a resolution. How can they, when their motivation is greed and power tempered by a bloodlust difficult to comprehend?

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com