Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Perilous U.S.-Israel Relationship

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, March 14, 2008

Recently, a 25-year-old Palestinian man entered a Jerusalem seminary and shot and killed eight students. This tragic event echoes the recent shootings in schools in the U.S. and abroad, but in the context of the Middle East, it underscores the unrest in the region and demonstrates the obstacles to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The reaction to the incident was also a reminder of the dysfunctional relationship the United States enjoys with Israel. Largely a result of powerful lobbying in Washington, the U.S. has had a long record of unconditional support of Israeli policy. During the Reagan years pro-Israel lobbies like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), perhaps the most powerful Washington lobby, exerted enormous influence over the administration’s foreign policy. AIPAC had significant sway over the selection of administration staff, Middle East agendas, and arms deals with other countries. The lobby applied sufficient pressure to block major arms deals with Arab nations such as the Saudis. This tension has persisted through the present day with the U.S. yielding to Israeli will. Last year’s hefty arms sale to Saudi Arabia only had Israel’s blessing because of the perceived threat that Iran posed.

It is true that Israel’s alliance was valued in the Cold War years. But since the fall of the Soviet Union there is little evidence that our pandering support of Israel is the product of anything other than powerful pro-Israel lobbying and the special interests of certain segments of U.S. population.

Still, the pro-Israel bias is clear in the mainstream media’s coverage of events like the seminary shooting or Israel’s deadly attacks on the Gaza strip the previous week. Israel is ever the victim with the Arab world the aggressor. Over 110 died during the assaults on Gaza before Israel withdrew. Twenty-two of those were children, yet the deaths of eight seminary students (aged 15 to 26) were presented as a graver tragedy by nearly all media outlets. The perspective of the Palestinian plight is all but missing in the mainstream.

Fox News used the coverage to refocus attention on the “problem” of Iran, running footage of apparent celebration in the streets over the shooting. I was unable to find news elsewhere to corroborate such cheering inside Iran, but was unsurprised that Fox might have been less than accurate about reporting that plays into the administration’s hard line on the nation.

News organizations were quick to tag Iran-backed Hamas with the shooting, though friends and family members of the gunman laid it to his grief and frustration over the Gaza deaths and denied his affiliation with any organization. Hamas itself has flip-flopped between claiming responsibility and denying it, even though steadfastly embracing the shooting in blatant defiance would do more to reinforce threats the militant group has made of retaliation for the Gaza attacks.

Some factions of the Religious Right have also lobbied for a close relationship with Israel. Concerns center around biblical prophecy that requires the sovereignty of Israel as a component for fulfillment. Reverend John Hagee, who recently announced his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, has been at the forefront of a movement dedicated to the preservation of Israel. While evangelical Christians and the Jewish community have often had a tenuous rapport, Hagee’s annual “Night to Honor Israel” has been able to garner support and participation from Jewish leadership. Hagee hopes his pro-Israel lobby will become the most powerful in Washington. The growing influence of these evangelicals and AIPAC on foreign policy is evident.

U.S. political leaders on both ends of the political spectrum have declared allegiance to the Israel agenda. During the Gaza attacks Democratic and Republican candidates fell over themselves to make statements affirming Israel’s right to defend herself, with little regard for Israel’s brutality or human rights offenses. The following week, they raced as hard to condemn the shooting in the “strongest terms.”

This close relationship with Israel has far reaching implications. The animosity of some Arab nations directed at the U.S. for its imperialist agendas is only heightened by our unconditional support of Israel. This animosity has been identified as the core of the 9/11 plot. The perception among terrorist groups – of Congress as the source of support for Israel – was used to explain the targeting of Washington sites during the attacks.

Israeli pressure was also part of the equation that led us to the current situation in Iraq. Israel’s government pushed the Bush administration to ensure that it would not lose its resolve as it ramped up to invade the sovereign nation.

The nation of Israel is entitled to self-preservation. She has a right to defend herself. Her people have a right to a peace process that might bring hope to the region. But the intertwined policies of the U.S. and Israel are not contributing positively to that process. The security of both nations is being compromised when our policy is to inappropriately cater to the interests of Israel.

Terror in the Seminary

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, March 14, 2008

The recent assault upon Israeli Jewish citizens within the classrooms of a Zionist Seminary during preparations for an upcoming religious observance is especially disturbing and revealing.

It is disturbing for many reasons, not the least of which is the disturbing manner chosen by the evil assailant. While we in the United States of America have seen so many similar shooting tragedies in our own classrooms and dormitories, perhaps even to the point where we have come to expect them, it is a rather rare method in the current conflict between the radical Islamists and the sovereign State of Israel. The target and the method used is unique in that the evil terrorist chose to attack a symbol of Jewish Zionism and the method of personally chasing down his victims and confirming his kills, rather than the “accepted” method of suicide bombing.

The target of the attack, the seminary, Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, represents the heart of the religious Zionist movement and as such, this assault upon the security of Israel strikes at the heart of the founding of the Jewish national home upon the land promised to them by Jehovah. Obviously, the motive behind this deed, as was the motive behind the assault upon our soil on September 11, 2001, was to shed blood and to instill fear and rage.

The nature of this attack then warrants a more careful examination, not of the relationship between the United States and Israel, as my fellow columnist contends, but of this particular terrorist and, by extension, the radical Islamic movement as a whole.

If we were to perform a spiritual autopsy upon this terrorist, what do you suppose we would find? If we were to peel back the epidermis and probe deep into the tissues of his soul, what pathogens would we discover? Would we see an infection caused by an oppressive Israeli government bent upon the destruction of the Palestinian people? Or would we find a virus borne on the wind from the United States’ apparent support of the Jewish nation? Or would we instead find a genetic cause?

I contend that a thorough examination of this and other Islamic terrorists would reveal an innate predisposition for hatred toward the Jewish nation. This stems from a Biblical proclamation and prophecy. We may try to explain it away with contemporary analyses that would affix blame upon Anglo-Zionist principles and prosperity, but reality would soon sneak up behind us and tap us on the shoulder. As much as we would like reality to be different, the tapping upon our shoulders will grow more intense until we can ignore it no longer.

The root of this conflict lies in the Biblical book of Genesis, just as the root of all conflicts between good and evil ultimately rests, however, in this particular battle, one can trace its origin to a conflict between two mothers. A careful reading of the story of Sarah and Hagar and their respective sons, Isaac and Ishmael will reveal the only acceptable explanation for the deep divide between this small nation of Israel and her Arab neighbors.

A further study of the prophetic books will also show us that this conflict will not be solved by Israel surrendering more land or independence to the Palestinians. And it would not have been prevented by American neutrality in the region.

According to an article in The Jerusalem Post , the talk on religious Zionist radio stations has echoed with talk of this latest attack being a signal to the Israeli government. Many see this as the epic battle between good and evil and proof that one cannot negotiate a settlement that will allow these two forces to co-exist.

The fact that this shooter was an Israeli Arab - meaning he was an Arab living freely among the Israeli citizenry, enjoying the freedom of travel, the freedom of speech and the right to prosperity that is denied many of his brethren in Palestine - shows us that appeasement and satisfaction of basic needs does not quench hatred.

More land will not stop the terrorism. Less involvement by the U.S. will not stop the hatred. There is only one person and only one event that will finally bring this conflict to an end. Sadly that person is not Condoleeza Rice or any future Secretary of State, nor is it any Security Council from the UN. The only person who can bring peace to this region – or any region of human conflict – is the Prince of Peace and the only event that will bring unity between these two warring half-brothers is His return to this earth.

The fact that Israel has agreed to continue peace talks even in the face of daily rocket attacks shows their willingness to seek alternatives to gunpowder and bloodshed. However, the continued assault upon innocent civilians by homicidal terrorists who then hide behind the markets and playgrounds of the Palestinians makes it difficult to carry on civilized dialogue. In spite of my fellow columnist’s belief that the Palestinians just need to “be understood”, the reaction from the citizenry to the attack upon the seminary was dancing and celebration. This is hardly the response one would expect from those who seek peace.