U.S. and Israel Unfortunately Share Common Values

February 9, 2011

Dictionary.com defines values as “the ideals and customs of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard.  Values may be positive, as cleanliness, freedom, or education, or negative, as cruelty, crime, or blasphemy”.

Our leaders often tells us that the main reason the U.S. supports Israel, it often seems unconditionally, is because more than any other country in the region we share important values.   We are led to believe that these values include a respect for human rights and adoration for democracy.  Given both governments’ handling of the Egyptian crisis it does seem the U.S. and Israel have common values, but unfortunately not positive ones.

Israel’s position on whether Egyptians should enjoy the same civil rights and democratic government that Israelis enjoy was expressed last week in an urgent message Tel Aviv sent to its allies encouraging them to save Mubarak and his dictatorial regime.  In spite of Mubarak’s anti-democratic, anti-human rights measures the Netanyahu government has become his biggest fan club.  I mean we are talking about a man who has brutally squashed dissent, tortured people sometimes at the behest of our own government, and stolen elections by intimidation and fraudulent vote counting.  Just recently he sent his goons into Tahrir Square to harass and beat protesters and journalists.  By all definitions Mubarak’s 30 year reign in Cairo has been a dictatorship.  But Israel, who allegedly cherishes democracy, not only would like to see Mubarak remain in power in Egypt but is leading the foreign efforts to make it happen.

The Obama Administration’s response to the crisis has been more subtle but no less egregious.  Why we just can’t leave Egypt’s affairs for Egyptians to decide is beyond me?  But, of course the U.S. government has to get involved.  Currently it is attempting to broker a deal whereby Mubarak steps down immediately and eventual constitutional reforms, free and fair elections, and a renewed respect for civil rights would take place.  This sounds good, however the U.S. plan is unacceptable because the man chosen to take control of the government in the transitional phase is Mubarak’s handpicked vice president Omar Suleiman.  Suleiman is the former head of Egypt’s spy agency, an alleged “CIA point man” and the go to guy for Egypt’s rendition program – whereby terror suspects caught by the U.S. were taken to Egypt for extraordinary interrogation sessions.  In other words Suleiman is even more of a thug than Mubarak and could not be trusted to follow through on reforms.

At the end of the day this whole situation is the same old same old.  You can hardly fault Israel for supporting Mubarak.  He is a brutal dictator to Egyptians, but he has been a loyal friend to Israel.  He has adhered to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.  He has protected Israel politically from demands that Tel Aviv obey international law and halt new settlements in East Jerusalem.  Lastly, he has worked closely with Israel in its campaign to eradicate Hamas in Gaza.  Thus, in the name of self-preservation Israel is acting like any other self-respecting nation-state.

But what justifies the actions of the U.S. government?  Nothing.  Our government is once again looking at a major world crisis through a narrow black and white lense.  You are either for us or against us.  What’s a shame is that this could have been Obama’s big chance to actually bring promised “change” to our foreign policy.  But, once again Washington is supporting the wrong side in a pivotal crisis.  Like Tel Aviv, Washington speaks with a forked tongue.   We talk a good game about supporting democracy, but when push comes to shove we support the next brutal dictator in waiting all because he can be purchased to fall in line behind the so-called “War on Terror”.

So, yes, Israel and the U.S. share common values and unfortunately they are not good ones.  All the verbiage about respect for human rights and adoration for democracy is just rhetoric.  The bottom line is that both governments support despots at the expense of democratic movements.  Israel has an excuse.  It’s called self preservation.  The U.S. has no such excuse.  We pursue policies that support only Israel to our own peril.  And we wonder why we have a terrorism problem.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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U.S. Foreign Policy Produces Terrorism

January 29, 2011

The President of the United States or any member of Congress has tremendous gall anytime they stand in front of an audience and proclaim that the United States is still the great beacon of the world when it comes to justice and human rights.  It no longer is.  Through its foreign policy, our government continually brushes aside those principles in the name of national security.  We support through money, military aid, and international diplomacy what is supposed to be the very antithesis of our own governing system – undemocratic, ruthless, and corrupt autocrats all because they are with us and not against us in our war on terror.  At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves, are we comfortable with violating our principles for what seems to be a fleeting safety?  Can we rest easy knowing that our support of tyrants brings carnage and chaos to millions?  Lastly, and most importantly, are we sure that our betrayal of American ideals abroad makes us safer or does it just, like many experts believe, provide a huge recruitment boost for terrorist organizations?

For 23 years the U.S. government turned a blind eye to Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.  In Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s speech in Doha last week he mentioned a conversation he recently had with a friend in the joint special operations business.  The friend was devastated that Ben Ali had been overthrown because, “he was such a good friend” of the United States.  You see as long as he supported us in our “War on Terror” he had the full blessing of Washington.  Never mind that he ruled his country corruptly by stealing successful private businesses and abusing political contacts to enrich himself.  Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was our “guy” in Tunisia because he was for us and not against us in our fight against terrorism.

Of course many analysts are predicting that the Tunisian revolt is just the tip of the iceberg.  Right now in Egypt violent upheaval against the long time rule of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak is well underway.  Mubarak is a man much despised by his own people but supported by the U.S. because he again supports our war on the so-called “bad guys”.  When I was in Egypt last year I asked several Egyptians their opinion of their president.  None responded at all or simply changed the subject.  Understand that unlike in the U.S. any dissent against Mubarak in Egypt is brutally put down.  After 29 years of his rule many Egyptians still live on about $2 a day.  It is the widespread poverty caused by high unemployment and rising prices that have sparked the most recent turmoil.  Oh, and throw in a few alleged stolen elections by Mubarak and you have the recipe for a major revolt.

And just what has been the reaction of our leaders to Egypt’s strife?  As expected, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton spewed the standard pablum delivered at a time like this, “We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”  Blah, blah, blah.  You mean to tell me that it takes violent protests in Egypt to get Hilary Clinton to realize Mubarak is a thug?  Besides it’s a little late now given the regime has resorted to killing its own people in the streets.  But again, Mubarak is our buddy.  What are several dead Egyptians when the larger ‘War on Terror” is at stake?

An analysis of our government’s hypocrisy would not be complete without a discussion of our unconditional support for Israel.  Let’s face it, with U.S support Israel is perpetuating an apartheid state no less egregious than the one that existed in South Africa pre-1994.  Within Israel the movement of Palestinians is restricted.  Millions are imprisoned in cramped quarters in Gaza and the West Bank.  New Israeli settlements expand onto previously held Palestinian land.  Essentially, the Palestinians are at the complete mercy of the Israelis with Washington’s full support.

Now we have the release of the so-called “Palestine Papers”.  These are secret documents that have leaked out detailing conversations between American and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials about the Goldstone Report.  The report was a culmination of the United Nations’ probe into war crimes committed during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008-2009.  If approved by the U.N. the report would have opened the door for international tribunals to try Israeli officials accused of war crimes.  According to the leaked documents, the U.S. connived the PA into stalling a U.N. vote on the report in the name of Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiations.  Additionally, U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell got the PA to agree to the following:

“The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”

So essentially, the U.S took away about the only bargaining chip the Palestinian people have in their negotiations with the Israelis, namely the ability to prosecute Israeli war criminals in front of the world.  How could this happen and why would the PA agree to this?  It has been speculated that perhaps the U.S. threatened to cut off aid to the PA.  or simply that Israel threatened to release tapes implicating  PA president Mahmoud Abbas helping Israel coordinate the attack on Gaza.  Abbas has been accused of this treasonous act because at the time Hamas was on the rise and he sought to destroy them in Gaza.  Either way it was an enormous sell out of the long suffering Palestinian people.  And once again, the United States was there helping a regime (Israel) orchestrate a massive injustice.

So the next time we hear some politician proclaim that America is that “shining city on a hill” for upholding the high standards of justice, democracy, and human rights around the world don’t believe them.  It is all hyperbole.  Behind the rhetoric are millions who are suffering because of our support of tyrannical regimes.  And that is why they (extremists) hate us.  It is not because of our freedom, but because we contribute to taking away theirs.

Article first published as Hypocrisy of U.S. Foreign Policy Produces Terrorism on Blogcritics.