Fighting Israels battles for them

PHOTO: We Support Israel ribbon

Here’s some disturbing news from a few weeks back that I wasn’t aware of:

A memorandum of understanding signed Friday in Washington by Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, and Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, enhances security cooperation.

It draws in NATO and regional allies into the effort, apparently through enhanced monitoring of regional shipping:

“The United States will work with regional and NATO partners to address the problem of the supply of arms and related materiel and weapons transfers and shipments to Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza …

The short version: The US Navy will be policing ships bound for Gaza or ones we suspect are bound for Gaza.

This agreement, reached in the last few days of the Bush administration, disappointingly has Obama’s full support:

The U.S. under President Obama is bound by that last-minute agreement between the U.S. and Israel. And a statement from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today says that President Obama supports the agreement fully.

Seriously, WTF? Our country is beyond broke, our military is in shambles because of Iraq and Afghanistan, and now we’re just going to straight up police international waters for Israel?

This is exactly the type of behavior that focuses the wrath of angry Muslims toward the United States. We not only furnish Israel with billions of dollars in military aid, we sell them our weapons and now we’re working diligently to make sure that the Palestinians are utterly defenseless.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, the agreement has already led the US Navy to seize an Iranian ship. Let’s all hope that this extremely unwise agreement doesn’t embroil us in a third war.

Flickr photo by jasoneppink

12 Comments

  1. Ian

    Hold on a second. You are saying that Palestinians should be able to have arms smuggled in by other nations in order to be able to defend themselves? Really? Launching rockets at civilians is defense? OK, look, I agree our handling of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is completely one sided and wrong, but your logic is off here. Why should we allow countries like Iran to use Palestine to fight a proxy war against our ally? You understand that allowing them to do so could also lead to us getting dragged into a war with Iran were Israel to retaliate accordingly? Smuggling weaponry into Palestine for the intended use of attacking Israel will only serve to prolong or at least provoke the conflict between Israel and Palestine. In the interest of maintaining stability in the region, this is probably an OK move. There is a large difference between policing and a blockade.

  2. Chris

    I’m not saying the Palestinians should have weapons smuggled in by Iran. Although I would submit it’s not all that different from our military aid to Israel. If Iran was an official ally of the Palestinians, would they have the right to intercept our shipments of airplanes and bombs to Israel?

    My main problem is the idea that we should be doing this on behalf of the Israelis. It may be logical from an Israeli point of view to keep the Palestinians impoverished and defenseless, but that’s their problem not our.

    In my opinion, our national interest is not served in any way by policing the waters for them. By angering Muslims we make American civilians more likely targets of terrorism, and we’re risking a war with any nation, like Iran, that chooses to arm the Palestinians.

  3. Ian

    To answer the first paragraph: Two wrongs don’t make a right. Allowing Palestine to receive weapons isn’t really helping the situation any, regardless of whatever Israel does. I would submit that what we do is different, considering we don’t really hide what we sell and ship over there, and Israel is buying from us. Guns aren’t charity.

    The second paragraph: It doesn’t matter that its Israel really. All that matters is they are an ally who is in an unstable and hostile region. Its in our interest to protect our ally in this situation. I’m not defending Israel’s treatment of Palestine, but you can’t blame them for not wanting rockets launched into their cities.

    I think our national interest is served by protecting Israel. Muslims can be mad all they want. Protecting an ally is not a crime. Thats a silly argument anyways. As long as Israel exists and as long as they are our ally, there will be people who will hate us for it. It doesn’t matter what we do. Remember that Iran and other countries and organizations that send arms to Palestine are not in anyway interested in peace. They want the destruction of Israel, or at the very least they want a war that Israel loses. Why should we just look the other way while an ally gets attacked? I think they would (and should) be more angry about Israel’s recent invasion anyways, not to mention their prolonged horrible treatment of the Palestinians. I say that this action is fine on our part, but if we are going to play referee, we need to be even-handed. Israel should be held accountable for the things they do to the Palestinians.

  4. Chris

    Ian,
    A couple of things, certainly two wrongs don’t make a right. But having weapons is not a wrong, morally or legally. Many friendly nations around the world have deterrent military capabilities. What we do in terms of giving Israel weapons (and we do *give* them weapons and money directly for arms research. I read recently that it was close to $2 billion a year) isn’t really different from what Arab nations are doing with Palestine. Sure it’s not out in the open, but that’s more of a question of necessity and geopolitical reality. If it’s wrong to give a people weapons in secret, I don’t see how it’s not wrong to do it in public.

    The issue of the Palestinians is strictly an internal Israeli matter as far as I’m concerned. They created the situation in the occupied territories that has bred terrorism and stoked Muslim resentment around the world. We shouldn’t be playing a biased role in any of it. Should America have intervened on behalf of Great Britain against the IRA. How about against South Africa on behalf of the ANC?

    More to the point, Israel is perfectly capable of handling this on their own. We shouldn’t be paying for it.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about our national interest. Coming to the aid of an ally when they are attacked by something more menacing than glorified fireworks makes sense.

    Hatred of America and Israel isn’t rooted in an irrational hatred. If Israel had been founded in New Mexico, do you think Saudis and Iranians would give a damn? Israel, and by extension America, is hated because of how they got to be in the Middle East, and how they continue to treat the people they expelled from their homes and the surrounding countries.

  5. Ian

    My point about two wrongs not making a right is basically that Palestine should have no use for weapons. Why can’t Iran smuggle them food and economic aid? Look at Egypt’s recent comments on the issue. Even many muslims condemn Iran’s behavior. You can’t justify sneaking in weapons for the purpose of fighting a proxy war with nonsense like “Oh every nation should be able to have defense.”

    My question is does Israel have a sufficient naval force to police their waters while still maintaining proper defense? If the answer to that question is “No”, then I don’t see what is so bad about us helping them with this.

    If Great Britain had asked us to intervene, then yeah we should’ve. That is basically the definition of an ally. The issue isn’t whether or not GB was right in the situation. The issue is that we were not allies with the IRA and we didn’t approve of how they fought, though we were allies with GB.

    I never said the hatred was unjustified, but I challenge you to name any situation where there won’t be someone who hates what we do. Economic inequality is bound to cause hatred, if not necessarily directly.

    And you keep wanting to trivialize the violence. Calling a rocket aimed at civilians “glorified fireworks” is pretty disgusting and clearly diminishing the significance of what is going on. I mean, would you call a bullet a glorified BB? Obviously Israel’s military response to Palestine’s rocket fire was overkill, but it doesn’t reduce the significance of what Hamas was doing.

  6. Chris

    My point about two wrongs not making a right is basically that Palestine should have no use for weapons. Why can’t Iran smuggle them food and economic aid? Look at Egypt’s recent comments on the issue. Even many muslims condemn Iran’s behavior. You can’t justify sneaking in weapons for the purpose of fighting a proxy war with nonsense like “Oh every nation should be able to have defense.”

    If the Palestinians can have no use for the weapons, then why do the Israelis? Why do we?

    Also, I’d question the level to which Hamas is a proxy of Iran. Iran is certainly not the only country which gives aid and weapons to the Palestinians. Hell, we helped armed Fatah when we wanted them to destroy Hamas a few years ago.

    My question is does Israel have a sufficient naval force to police their waters while still maintaining proper defense? If the answer to that question is “No”, then I don’t see what is so bad about us helping them with this.

    They are already enforcing a blockade of Gaza. Even if they can’t control the open seas, they should be able to inspect cargo when it reaches the land.

    If Great Britain had asked us to intervene, then yeah we should’ve. That is basically the definition of an ally. The issue isn’t whether or not GB was right in the situation. The issue is that we were not allies with the IRA and we didn’t approve of how they fought, though we were allies with GB.

    Being an ally of a country doesn’t mean we give them any assistance they request. It doesn’t mean we don’t second guess their decisions. True friends are the ones willing to tell you the truth.

    I never said the hatred was unjustified, but I challenge you to name any situation where there won’t be someone who hates what we do. Economic inequality is bound to cause hatred, if not necessarily directly.

    Economic inequality causes jealousy, but you don’t see poor Africans and S. Americans blowing US Citizens up do you?

    And you keep wanting to trivialize the violence. Calling a rocket aimed at civilians “glorified fireworks” is pretty disgusting and clearly diminishing the significance of what is going on. I mean, would you call a bullet a glorified BB? Obviously Israel’s military response to Palestine’s rocket fire was overkill, but it doesn’t reduce the significance of what Hamas was doing.

    It’s certainly a tragedy if anyone is injured or killed by these primitive weapons. But I question how we decide that Gazans are engaging in senseless terrorism and the Israelis are engaging in self defense, even thought the Israelis killed over 1,000 people and the Palestinians killed less than 10 Israelis.

    The people of Gaza are legally justified in attacking Israel, although not Israeli civilians, as long as the siege continues. A blockade, like the one Israel is imposing on Gaza, is an act of war.

  7. Ian

    You do see attacks on American interests in Africa. Recall the embassy bombings by Al Qaeda. Hugo Chavez has done quite a bit of saber rattling against us as well. I’m not talking about jealousy per se. I more mean that economic inequality happens as a result of something. Outsourcing is an example. You pay people of another country what would be considered a substandard wage in this country to keep your costs down (basically exploitation). Sweatshops are an extreme example of this. I think I have read somewhere that if everyone on the planet lived like we do in the US, then we would require 4 Earths for it to be sustainable. Clearly, if we are to maintain our high standard of living here, someone else must be having a lower standard elsewhere. This, justifiably, causes some angry feelings towards the US. As long as we maintain our superpower status and high standard of living someone somewhere is going to be angry. Look at the attacks of 9/11 and their symbolism. Hitting the Pentagon was attacking our military, hitting the White House was attacking our government, and hitting the Twin Towers was attacking our economy. While a lot of these Muslim terrorists are mad about Israel, they are clearly also mad about our economy.

    “It’s certainly a tragedy if anyone is injured or killed by these primitive weapons. But I question how we decide that Gazans are engaging in senseless terrorism and the Israelis are engaging in self defense, even thought the Israelis killed over 1,000 people and the Palestinians killed less than 10 Israelis.”

    See here’s the problem. I’m not defending Israel, but since when is this a sport? We don’t need to keep score. Just because Israel has killed more people, it doesn’t excuse any killings by Palestine. One civilian killed is one too many, on both sides. Israel DOES need weaponry because they are surrounded by a lot of countries that want them erased. Unfortunately, they tend to use it aggressively rather than in passive defense. We should hold them accountable for this. Similarly, we need a defense as well, but unfortunately we use it in an imperialistic manner. There is no way, short of giving Palestine a full army and nuclear weapons, that you can hope to even the power balance with Israel. Look at how they use “a few fireworks” and what that brought upon them. It is indefensible, regardless of what Israel does, to attack civilians. Palestine will never be free as long as they try to obtain their freedom through violence. The unfortunate fact is Israel (and thus the US), will not let them break free through fighting. As long as there are suicide bombers and rockets being launched, Israel will forever use it as justification to maintain their current policy of holding the Palestinians down.

    And being an ally of a country means that if they are in danger of attack by a foreign element and request your assistance, you give this assistance. It is not a blank check to use your military. If you disagree so much with an ally that you don’t want to help them, then can they really be considered an ally? You don’t always have to agree with them 100% and you can show that through how much help you give (like the token 100 soldiers from various countries in the Iraq War), but you still show some moral support sometimes.

  8. Chris

    You do see attacks on American interests in Africa. Recall the embassy bombings by Al Qaeda. Hugo Chavez has done quite a bit of saber rattling against us as well. I’m not talking about jealousy per se.

    Well that’s Al Qaeda again… that can all be explained by anger over Israel and our support for Saudi dictators. Sure Hugo Chavez has done saber rattling, but no one has blamed him for any sort of terrorism. And to be fair, we did try to have him forcibly removed from power.

    Clearly, if we are to maintain our high standard of living here, someone else must be having a lower standard elsewhere. This, justifiably, causes some angry feelings towards the US. As long as we maintain our superpower status and high standard of living someone somewhere is going to be angry. Look at the attacks of 9/11 and their symbolism. Hitting the Pentagon was attacking our military, hitting the White House was attacking our government, and hitting the Twin Towers was attacking our economy. While a lot of these Muslim terrorists are mad about Israel, they are clearly also mad about our economy.

    There may be anger over sweatshops and the like, but whatever the result, it’s not on the level of Islamic terrorism.

    As for attacking the Twin Towers, I think that was a means to an end. Certainly Al Qaeda doesn’t approve of our cultural ways, and our economy makes that possible, but destroying our economy is just a way to defeat us because of what we’ve done in the Holy Lands. Remember, Al Qaeda thought was that they were primarily responsible for liberating Afghanistan and destroying the Soviet Empire. By forcing them to fund a costly occupation, their economy was crippled.

    I’m not defending Israel, but since when is this a sport? We don’t need to keep score. Just because Israel has killed more people, it doesn’t excuse any killings by Palestine. One civilian killed is one too many, on both sides

    I’m just trying to make you and others see it from a Palestinian perspective. I may not like Palestinian rocket attacks, but I think it’s perfectly understandable that Palestinians living under a crushing occupation would cheer on attempts at revenge.

    It’s a difficult situation to be sure, and full of moral ambiguity, that’s why I object to the idea that Palestinians are simply terrorists that must be kept down.

    If you disagree so much with an ally that you don’t want to help them, then can they really be considered an ally?

    I think we have a lot in common with, and lot to gain from a relationship with the Israeli people. With that said, I think their government seems intent on self-destruction. So an ally of the people of Israel, I’d like to see our government pressure theirs to think more about how to create a lasting peace.

  9. Ian

    “There may be anger over sweatshops and the like, but whatever the result, it’s not on the level of Islamic terrorism.”

    I personally think open war with another nation, or a forcible ejection of US interests from a country is more frightening than anything Al Qaeda or any Islamic terrorists can muster. I’m not trying to underestimate what Al Qaeda is capable of, but they are much more limited in what they can do as opposed to say a foreign government which may have allies of its own. Terrorist attacks are meant to have a psychological impact over all else.

    “As for attacking the Twin Towers, I think that was a means to an end.”

    The two words they like to throw around when talking about us are “Zionist” and “imperialist”. I think that you can’t separate our economic prowess from our support of Israel in their mind. We use our economic power to tip the military power balance in the region to favor the otherwise outnumbered and overmatched Israelis. Basically, the unbalanced world economy which favors us allows us to shape the world to suit us, with military and with diplomatic efforts.

    “I’m just trying to make you and others see it from a Palestinian perspective. I may not like Palestinian rocket attacks, but I think it’s perfectly understandable that Palestinians living under a crushing occupation would cheer on attempts at revenge.”

    This is kind of funny, because I am generally on the side of a free Palestinian state. I condemn what Israel does to the Palestinians. What I am trying to make you and others see is that no matter what Israel does, Palestinians shooting rockets at civilians is never justified. It just isn’t. You can’t obtain peace through violence. That goes for Israel and Palestine.

    “With that said, I think their government seems intent on self-destruction.”

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say this. I don’t think they will be destroyed by maintaining their current stance. The western world won’t allow it. I think their actions only serve to perpetuate the misery of everyone involved.

    “So an ally of the people of Israel, I’d like to see our government pressure theirs to think more about how to create a lasting peace.”

    This is where we are in agreement.

  10. Chris

    This is kind of funny, because I am generally on the side of a free Palestinian state. I condemn what Israel does to the Palestinians. What I am trying to make you and others see is that no matter what Israel does, Palestinians shooting rockets at civilians is never justified. It just isn’t. You can’t obtain peace through violence. That goes for Israel and Palestine.

    I’m not saying it’s justified. Indiscriminate attacks are war crimes. I’m just saying the rocket attacks are understandable given their broken society and lives. They’re living under the occupation of a vastly superior force. They can’t fight a conventional war against the military of Israel.

    And while I don’t think the rocket attacks are the least bit helpful, it’s not true that violence can’t lead to peace.

    I don’t think they will be destroyed by maintaining their current stance. The western world won’t allow it. I think their actions only serve to perpetuate the misery of everyone involved.

    The two-state solution is looking increasingly impossible, while at the same time demographic realities are going to force Israel to be an apartheid state or commit some kind of ethnic cleansing. I’m not sure what realistic options they have under their present course.

  11. Ian

    You should clarify the difference between understandable and justified, because to me it sounds like you are using them interchangably but trying to say they are different. I personally don’t see killing civilians as “understandable” either. And if they can’t fight a conventional war against Israel, maybe they should own up to the idea that war isn’t going to get the what they want.

    “And while I don’t think the rocket attacks are the least bit helpful, it’s not true that violence can’t lead to peace.”

    Only if you mean that crushing those who would oppose you brings about peace. Sure, OK, I will concede that. War only brings about a peace that one side chooses, and it isn’t necessarily lasting. WW1 brought about a peace that led up to causing WW2. Personally I find war a distasteful alternative to real diplomacy.

    “The two-state solution is looking increasingly impossible, while at the same time demographic realities are going to force Israel to be an apartheid state or commit some kind of ethnic cleansing. I’m not sure what realistic options they have under their present course.”

    I’ve always felt that the area that is now Israel should just be dissolved as a nation. It should become an internationally controlled entity, both by western states and muslim states, where no government sponsored oppression can occur. The area is too significant to Jews, Christians, and Muslims to be controlled solely by those of a single religion. Someone will always be mad that one religion or another is controlling it. This crap going on now is just a twisted version of a modern day Crusade.

  12. Chris

    When I say understandable, I mean that it’s logical given what we know about human nature. Helpless people are going to lash out, and they’ll use whatever means available to them.

    That’s why I think Israelis and the US need to accept the rocket attacks and other forms of asymmetric warfare as symptoms of a larger problem, which is the oppression of the Palestinian people.