Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Whats that sound ? (Updated, for what it is worth)

Some see the Israeli election results as an important step that will eventually lead the American sponsor to turn away from its regional client and thus in effect pull the rug out from under Zionism. The code-word for this is "the end, or the approaching end, of the two-state solution", the assumption being that the modern world would not tolerate the "ethnic cleansing", or in the alternative the "apartheit" that are the only other alternatives that would permit the Zionist state to survive as we know it. Those who see the results in this way foresee actual political change in the United States.

For instance, British socialist Richard Seymour, aka Lenin, writes:
According to Juan Cole, this is the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. He maintains that there are now only three options: ethnic cleansing/genocide, apartheid, or one state. I don't know that Cole has ever taken such a position before and my feeling is that it signifies part of the ongoing change within the liberal-left in the United States. Glen Greenwald also thinks the election results make a two-state solution much less viable. Even the centrist Stephen Walt who - contrary to some of the things said about him - has always been relatively sympathetic to Israel's 'right to exist' as a Zionist state, has concluded that the two-state solution is dying in plain sight. If Walt, who is a respected and well-placed figure among US foreign policy elites, represents a significant strand of opinion among the political class, then another kind of change may be taking place as well.
Taking what you could call a somewhat more visionary tack, former CIA analyst wrote this, introduced as follows by Philip Weiss, under the title:

Will educated Israelis stop believing in Israel?

Ray Close, a former CIA analyst, wrote the following letter to a foreign-policy list maintained by a Princeton scholar yesterday. Close gave me permission to publish [emphases mine]:

For a large number of sophisticated Israelis, particularly those who feel the deepest affinity with America --- either by family relationships, education, political or business associations of one kind or another --- I think there is another latent existential threat. It is the deep anxiety, based on gradually evolving rational analysis, that Israel will eventually (not immediately, but within a generation) become much less important to the United States than it is (or appears to be) today; that the American people and the US Government will jointly come to a realization that Israel is not, after all, biologically attached to America by a permanent umbilical cord; that we are not subscribers to an identical set of cultural and ethical and religious mores; that the US is not critically dependent on Israel's support in opposing some monster vaguely defined as Islamofascism; that Israel will not serve eternally as America's mentor and counselor in our joint efforts to preserve the American value system in a region dominated by an evil and alien culture; that Israel is not an American aircraft carrier that protects US strategic interests in the whole region; that Israel is not the final line of defence against the threat of nuclear attack by dangerously unstable governments bent on destruction of Homeland America.

I think this deep dread, never articulated, contains a closely related anxiety: that increasing numbers of upper-class American-oriented Israelis, despairing finally of ever enjoying a peaceful and secure lifestyle for themselves and their descendants in a homogeneous Jewish society, will abandon their fading Zionist dreams and emigrate to the United States, where they don't have to worry about those goddamn A-rabs, and where the age-old bugaboo of anti-Semitism is no longer a factor in any American Jew's life. If I were an Israeli, THAT would be my nightmare ---- the realization that Israel, instead of thriving as a virtual Western Power or fifty-first state of the USA, is fated inexorably to evolve into a small, beleaguered ethnic enclave at the eastern end of the Mediterranean --- surrounded by hostile neighbors, prevented from continued expansion, no longer inspired by a vibrant ideology or sustained and reinvigorated by constant infusions of new immigrants, divided by contentious and incompatible political minority factions, threatened by an exploding and politically awakening Israeli Arab population insistent on their civil rights, and challenged by a major segment of Jewish society whom they regard as selfish, arrogant religious fanatics --- with whom they share no cultural affinity and very few social values.

I think one could argue that this somber vision of the future might develop more rapidly than I have pictured above. What if the present recession results in a major reduction of charitable donations from American Jews? What if the average American taxpayer asks himself why he should continue to vote for billions of dollars of aid to a small foreign country that has no plausible claim to automatic charity? What if American and Israeli concepts of how to deal with local and international security threats continue to diverge, to the point where public criticism of Israel actions such as the recent Gaza invasion becomes generally accepted in the U.S? What if Israel, in a desperate effort to dramatize its relevance to the United States, and to restore its image as a champion of America's strategic interests, were to take some foolish action (such as attacking Iran) that plunged the United States into another unnecessary war, and were seen to have radically exacerbated the world financial crisis? In those not-farfetched circumstances, I can see Israel suddenly being recognized as a strategic liability to the United States rather than an asset --- an evaluation that many Americans, especially military, academic and diplomatic experts in Middle East affairs, would already subscribe to even today.

I can think of many other such developments that in the period immediately ahead could accelerate the erosion of that "special relationship" with America on which Israel's military, political, economic and spiritual prosperity and survival heavily depend. Existential threat? You betcha, as they say in Alaska.
Ray Close
It would be an exaggeration to call this kind of thing prophetic, but certainly it is suggestive of a time when political movements in the West were capable of picturing a future state of affairs different in some fundamental way from that of the present, as something to be worked for.

(Having said that, it is important to note that alongside these signs of life, there is plenty of evidence that what you could call the dead left is still predominant in the United States. Look at this analysis of the Israeli electoral system by the poster-boy of the center-left Center for American Progress:
Unfortunately, underlying Israeli public opinion has shifted sharply to the right over the past ten years. Likud used to be the main rightwing party. Then, under the government of Ariel Sharon in fragmented into a more pragmatic Kadima faction and a hardline-nationalist faction led by Bibi Netanyahu. Now, Israeli opinion has shifted so far to the right that Kadima, which was founded as a center-right party just a few years ago is now left of the public opinion’s center. And the far-right Yisrael Beitanu party is bigger than center-left Labor and dramatically bigger than left-wing Meretz. Meanwhile, Labor has itself shifted right. A politics dominated, on both sides, by nationalists—ranging from pragmatic nationalists to not-so-pragmatic nationalists to frothing-at-the-mouth-racist nationalists—is not so promising for the cause of peace....
And weep).*

My own way of looking at this: At a time when so-called "soft partition" still seems to be a possible result of American policy in Iraq, the archetypal case of "hard partition"--Zionism--is in the process of showing the world why it is an unacceptable policy in an interconnected world. Worship as you like, but continue to live together. Those who continue to try and impose partitioned systems are doing so with ulterior divide-and-conquer motives of their own. And the rigged political support for such partitioned systems is getting harder and harder to maintain--even perhaps in the American political world.


* For what it is worth, the aforementioned center-left pundit has favored us with a similarly objective analysis of the American side of the equation, his lesson being that the US congress has up to now acted as unconditional supporter of this type of Israeli military oppression, when properly explained, and will probably continue to do so. I still think the "dead left" is a pretty good description of that trend.


Blogger Mike said...

The time is coming when Americans will have to decide: do they want to remain blindly loyal to Israel and everything it does, or adopt a more even-handed approach, taking into account other actors like Syria and Iran?

I think the main factor pushing towards this end-result will be Afghanistan. Iran has the power to ruin any solution the U.S. will try to impose on its troubled war in Afghanistan, and likewise it has the power to make the war there much more tractable. But gaining Iran's cooperation on Afghanistan will come at the cost of changing U.S. policy towards Israel.

4:38 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Could be. Whatever works. I guess I'm just still in mourning over the demise of the American left.

2:09 PM  

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