Richard Cohen–Israel Liability for US
Thursday, September 16, 2010 6:20 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”
Critics of the US “special relationship” with Israel hold that it is detrimental to American interests in the Middle East. Its supporters, however, normally claim the opposite—that Israel is actually an American strategic asset. (The Chomskyites are the odd men out since even though they are critical of American and Israeli policies, they maintain that US support for Israel is beneficial for the imperialistic interests of the (predominantly gentile) US ruling class, though harmful to the American masses.)
Considering this normal constellation of opinions, it is a novelty to read Israel supporter Richard Cohen’s admission that the Jewish state is not a strategic asset, but rather a liability, for the United States, and was recognized as such by United States officials even before its creation. As Cohen writes in the Washington Post (Aug. 31): “A fundamental document in this area — a once-secret CIA analysis from 1947 — was unearthed (to my knowledge) by Thomas W. Lippman and reported in the winter 2007 issue of the Middle East Journal. The CIA strongly argued that the creation of Israel was not in America’s interests and that therefore Washington ought to be opposed. This was no different than what later diplomats and military men (most recently, David Petraeus) have argued and it is without a doubt correct. Supporting Israel hurts America in the Islamic — particularly the Arab — world and, given the crucial importance of Middle Eastern oil, makes no practical sense.”
“The CIA further argued,” Cohen observes, “that the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict would soon widen to become an Israeli-Islamic conflict — another bull’s-eye for what was then an infant intelligence service. That process was already underway, which is why some non-Arabs (Bosnian Muslims, for instance) fought the creation of Israel, and has only intensified as radical Islam, laced with healthy doses of anti-Semitism, has gotten even stronger.”
Cohen thus claims that the US support for Israel is motivated by ideals, not by any material self-interest. “What neither the CIA nor, for that matter, the anti-Israel State Department recognized in the late 1940s,” he maintains, “is that America’s interests are not always measurably pragmatic — metrics, in the jargon of our day. Sometimes, our interests reflect our national ethic, an affinity for other democracies, sympathy for the underdog. These, too, are in America’s interests and they may be modified, but not abandoned, for the sake of mere metrics.”
While expressing the objective truth in his observation that America’s “special relationship” with Israel is detrimental to America’s material interests, Cohen’s explanation for this support is totally off the mark . According to Cohen, the American people just naturally like Israel because America’s “interests reflect” its “national ethic, an affinity for other democracies, sympathy for the underdog.” Thus they are presumably quite willing to sacrifice their country’s strategic interests for the benefit of Israel.
In Cohen’s scenario, there is no need for any action by the Israel Lobby, or what James Petras calls the Zionist Power Configuration, because the American people do not need any special persuasion to support Israel. But the very fact that American Zionists devote considerable time, effort, and money to promoting the interests and image of Israel would indicate that they do not regard American support for Israel to be forthcoming naturally. And, as a result of their efforts, they are essentially able to dominate the discourse in the mainstream media on the Israeli/Palestinian issue, which means that the great majority of the American people simply do not know the actual facts of the situation.
Cohen writes that Americans naturally identify with the underdog. But why would any knowledgeable person regard Israel as the weak underdog and the Palestinians the all-powerful top dog? For it was the Zionist Jews who expelled the Palestinians from their homeland and currently treat them as subordinate class in Israel proper and militarily dominate them on the West Bank and Gaza. It is clear that the Israeli Jews are the wealthy oppressors and the Palestinians are the impoverished oppressed, and this is exactly how the rest of the world sees the situation.
Cohen, however, manages to obfuscate the whole situation to the benefit of Israel. He presents the Palestinian desire to undo some of the effects of their expulsion from Palestine in 1948 (obviously they cannot undo over a half century of pain, misery, and death) by the “return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel and control over all of Jerusalem” as being a ridiculous impossibility. But while Cohen demands that the Palestinians ignore the harm done to them in the past, it is a common practice for Jews to demand recompense for harm done to them going back not only to the Holocaust, but for mistreatment over the past two millennium. And, of course, part of this recompense was their recreation of the state of Israel on land inhabited by the Palestinians. In short, while Cohen denigrates the idea that the Palestinians have a right-of-return after an exile of a little over 60 years, the state of Israel is based on a right-of-return after an exile of almost nineteen hundred years!
Moreover, Cohen writes that the “What the Arab world seems to appreciate is that America will never agree to what the Arab world most wants — an Islamic state where a Jewish one now exists.” What Cohen presents here is a false dichotomy. Many Muslims may desire an Islamic state in Palestine, but it is not clear that this is what the Arab world demands. And while it is what Hamas wants, it has not been what the Palestinians have officially sought over the years. Until the rise of Hamas, the representative of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), officially called for a secular democratic Palestine, which would incorporate Israel. The non-Islamic PLO was vehemently opposed by Israeli governments. Moreover, it would seem that the Israeli Mossad, in fact, supported the creation of Hamas for the purpose of weakening the PLO.
As the PLO became sufficiently weak and pliable, Israel would begin to back it against the increasingly powerful Hamas.
Cohen’s facile assumption that the only alternative to the Jewish state is an Islamic one still remains false. Since there is no evidence that a majority of Palestinians actually want an Islamic state, and support Hamas not because of its Islamic ideology but because of its resistance to Israel, this would be a very unlikely result of allowing Palestinian refugees into Israel or a one-state solution in Israel/Palestine. Obviously, the Jewish population would be unanimously opposed to an Islamic state, which would be a further guarantee against its creation. Rather the likely result of the melding of the Jewish and Palestinian populations in the same country would be some type of multi-cultural state. However, the country would not be a Jewish supremacist state, which is the sin qua non of Zionism and is what Zionists seek to retain; and this is what the purportedly fair-minded liberal Cohen refuses to point out.
Cohen writes: “But until both sides, particularly the Arab peoples, give up on what they really want, the clock will remain where it has been,” which means that there will be no peace settlement. However, while Cohen spells out what goals the Palestinians must sacrifice, he does not mention what concessions Israel must make. To repeat, the simple fact, which Cohen manages to avoid, is that the leaders of Israel and the pro-Zionists throughout the world want to maintain a Jewish supremacist state and they perceive it to be threatened by both a one-state solution and a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza.
So, in essence, it would seem that Cohen simply expects the Palestinians to accept a position of subordination to Israel, in which they would agree to what Israel has basically offered the Palestinians in the past “peace processes,” which is something quite short of a viable state. Instead, Israel has offered the Palestinians only a relatively unarmed entity (defenseless against potential Israeli military incursions such as the attack in Gaza), consisting of a congeries of non-contiguous Bantustans interspersed with Jewish settlements and Jews-only roads, with an Israeli security zone along its borders, and with Israel retaining control of the West Bank aquifers, upon which the Palestinian entity would depend upon for its water supply.
In conclusion, Cohen has clearly demonstrated a definite pro-Zionist inclination, and it is this viewpoint which makes his acknowledgement that Israel is a strategic liability for the United States all the more telling. Of course, the validity of this claim does not depend upon its proponents’ motives, but rather upon how it comports with the facts. And it is clear that American support for Israel turns the peoples and countries of the Middle East, the crucial source of the oil upon which the US and the overall industrial world depends, against the United States.
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Time stands still in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, August 31, 2010; A17
Say what you will about the Arab world, it’s hard to earn its gratitude. President Obama went to Egypt and not Israel. He demanded that Israel cease adding new settlements in the West Bank. He treated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a chilling disdain. For all of that, though, Obama’s approval rating in Arab countries has sunk. Unlike almost a fifth of Americans, the Arab world clearly knows Obama is no Muslim.
The polls show some startling numbers. When this spring the Pew Global Attitudes Project asked residents of Islamic countries what they thought about Obama, he got good marks when it came to such matters as climate change. But when the question was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the numbers not only declined in Indonesia and Turkey, they nearly went through the floor in the three Arab countries polled. In Jordan, 84 percent disapproved of the way Obama was handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Egypt, the figure was 88 percent and in Lebanon it was 90 percent.
For Obama, the figures must be disheartening. They strongly suggest that his attempt to woo the Arab world, to convince it that America can be an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians, has dismally failed. In fact, the extent of this failure is most stark in Lebanon. There, 100 percent of Shiite respondents — in other words, Hezbollah and others — have no faith in Obama and his good intentions. This may be a setback for Obama, but it is paradoxically a success for American values.
What the Arab world seems to appreciate is that America will never agree to what the Arab world most wants — an Islamic state where a Jewish one now exists. This entirely reasonable conclusion is based on what has long been American policy — not what the State Department wanted but what the American people supported. America has always liked the idea of Israel. The Arab world, for totally understandable reasons, has always hated it. Nothing has changed.
A fundamental document in this area — a once-secret CIA analysis from 1947 — was unearthed (to my knowledge) by Thomas W. Lippman and reported in the winter 2007 issue of the Middle East Journal. The CIA strongly argued that the creation of Israel was not in America’s interests and that therefore Washington ought to be opposed. This was no different than what later diplomats and military men (most recently, David Petraeus) have argued and it is without a doubt correct. Supporting Israel hurts America in the Islamic — particularly the Arab — world and, given the crucial importance of Middle Eastern oil, makes no practical sense.
The CIA further argued that the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict would soon widen to become an Israeli-Islamic conflict — another bull’s-eye for what was then an infant intelligence service. That process was already underway, which is why some non-Arabs (Bosnian Muslims, for instance) fought the creation of Israel, and has only intensified as radical Islam, laced with healthy doses of anti-Semitism, has gotten even stronger.
But where the CIA went wrong — and not, alas, for the last time — was in predicting that the Arabs would defeat Israel and that the state would not survive. The CIA was pretty sure of the outcome, what a later CIA figure might have called a “slam dunk.”
What neither the CIA nor, for that matter, the anti-Israel State Department recognized in the late 1940s is that America’s interests are not always measurably pragmatic — metrics, in the jargon of our day. Sometimes, our interests reflect our national ethic, an affinity for other democracies, sympathy for the underdog. These, too, are in America’s interests and they may be modified, but not abandoned, for the sake of mere metrics.
This is why Obama’s overture to the Arab world, clumsily executed, was never going to succeed. America can please some Arab governments — Egypt and Jordan, for instance — but not the Arab people. What they want, and what they have been told repeatedly they deserve, is a return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel and control over all of Jerusalem. These are both out of the question as far as Israel is concerned. It is not willing to give up its capital and, in a relatively short time, its Jewish majority.
This week, Palestinians and Israelis will once again talk peace in Washington. But until both sides, particularly the Arab peoples, give up on what they really want, the clock will remain where it has been. Those Pew polls show that’s around 1947.