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Our Middle-Eastern Albatross

By Eric Oppen

When I received this from Eric, I wasn't sure it was a "Wolfe's Lodge sort of thing." Then I decided it's well-written, provacative, and likely to tick off a few knee-jerk thinkers. So what the heck, here it is.

In the book and movie Black Sunday, the terrorist group "Black September," fresh from the Munich Olympics, attempts to slaughter the audience at the Super Bowl by attaching a giant Claymore mine to the underside of a blimp. They're defeated, of course, by heroic Israelis; however, if such a thing actually happened, I would have to say that it was deserved---and my reaction would have nothing to do with my dislike for the bloated football cult.

Ever since Israel's founding, the United Sates has bent its own laws or winked at law-breaking to help it. When a blatantly-unjust Palestinian partition was voted on in the UN after World War II, public and private pressure from the US was put on several nations to swing their votes in favour of partition. Later, during the first Arab-Israeli war, the American authorities ignored arms-smuggling schemes intended to aid the Israelis, as well as Americans serving in the Israeli armed forces.

This set a pattern broken only by Eisenhower's ultimatum to the Israelis during the Suez crisis, to back down or lose their aid. Despite Israeli compliance with this threat, every president since then has acted as though Israel made the United States possible, not the other way around.

We routinely accept affronts from Israel that we would tolerate from no other nation. When they use US-made cluster bombs on civilian populations, in direct defiance of our stipulations when selling or giving them these bombs, we pay no mind. When they systematically bomb and strafe a US intelligence ship in international waters, we accept their mealy-mouthed excuses that they didn't recognize the ship as a US ship, and intimidate the survivors to keep silent (cf. Ennes, James, The Assault on the Liberty). When they continue to plant "settlements" in the West Bank in direct defiance of international law on occupation of territory, as well as repeated UN resolutions and the stated wishes of the US government, we continue to fork out foreign aid to them, which they graciously accept. And, when they can't pay their debts to us, the debts are cancelled or turned into "gifts," and we loan them more money.

And, after all this, we are surprised and hurt that the Arabs don't trust us to be even-handed! What surprises me is that any Arabs at all are even willing to talk with us; we kept Vietnam in diplomatic limbo until very recently, and any president stupid enough to try a rapprochement with Iran under its current regime would be lucky to escape impeachment. Compared to the Arabs' grievances against Israel, our quarrels with these countries are nothing...and without US aid, Israel would quickly collapse.

One of our political system's largest flaws is that the political process is vulnerable to pressure from well-organized groups. That was what got Prohibition saddled on us; the Anti-Saloon League's voting blocs were as obedient to their leaders as so many medieval mercenaries, voting for known drunks who supported the League over teetotalers who opposed it. Nowadays, Bill Clinton receives Gerry Adams, spokesman for the IRA, despite the deep offence this gives Britain, because a large part of his party's base of support in the Northeast comes from Irish-Americans who still think of Ireland in terms of the uprising of 1916.

The supporters of Israel are no different. Despite what some people say,they are not all or even mostly Jewish, although pressure within the Jewish community ensures that dissidents on this subject keep their mouths tightly shut. Jerry Falwell and his collegagues are rabidly pro-Israel to a man, partly due to hope that Israel's founding means that the End Times are about to arrive.

The remnants of orthodox Objectivism also support Israel, because Ayn Rand did. As she was sometimes wont to do, Rand passed judgement in this case based, not on the rights or wrongs in dispute, but on her emotions and what she happened to read in the papers, which were and are almost unanimously pro-Israeli.

Most Americans also support Israel, for several reasons: the Israelis are very good at putting their case before the American public, they are seen as being "more like us," and for a very long time, almost nobody even bothered to try to make a case for the Palestinians. Palestinian idiocy in resorting to terrorism against what could be seen as "innocent targets" also plays a large role in this; I sometimes wonder how many atrocities were originally proposed and supported by moles within the Palestinian movements. As Claire Wolfe says in 101 Things To Do 'Til The Revolution,the easy way to spot a FBI infiltrator in the Weathermen OR the Minutemen was to look around and see who was always talking about blowing something up. Every Ma'alot or hijacked aircraft was worth far more to the Israelis than it could possibly have been to the Palestinians.

Today, anybody trying to make a case for more even-handed policies in the Middle East gets shouted down, often as an "anti-Semite," or dismissed as a paid lackey of evil Arab oil sheiks. When Representative Paul Findley of Illinois tried to urge a more objective foreign policy, he was ousted by a campaign heavily financed from outside his district. If the Arabs' case is so very weak, why does the Israeli claque refuse to debate it, or even admit that such a case could possibly be made?

As with our government, Israel gets special treatment from American public opinion. Conservatives abhor socialism and socialist governments--except in the case of Israel. Liberals loathe ethnocentrism and discrimination---except in Israel. Americans hate oppression and mistreatment of the underdog---except when it's the Israelis against the Palestinians; the unspoken concensus is that the Palestinians generally deserve it. In popular entertainment and opinion pages alike, they are portrayed as ruthless, neo-medieval fanatics whose opposition to the forces of goodness as embodied in Israel is either due to a pure love of evil for evil's own sake, or to the crudest form of anti-Semitism.

We gain nothing from supporting Israel, and lose a great deal. Without this passionate attachment, we would almost certainly not have had the oil crises we've had, and gasoline prices would be a great deal lower. The whole Iran thing would have been far less intractible, if we had not been so closely identified with Israel and its excesses. Thanks to our one-sided support, every America-hater in the entire Islaimic world has endless ammunition to fire at us, and at anybody and any policy seen as too close to us. We lose business and our citizens are put at risk from terrorism, all to make sure that some Congressmen and Senators don't lose their seats. Pardon me, but I feel that this is a very high price.

I reserve the right to pick my own quarrels. Having this one thrust on me displeases me, and being forced in on the wrong side enrages me. I am no fan of the current Arab regimes, but changing them is a job for the Arabs themselves; I also remember what happened when we tried forcing American-style democracy down the Germans' throats after World War One. Although I do not love the Saddam Husseins of this world, I do love justice, and justice is just what the Arabs deserve.

I am not saying that we should cut off all relations with Israel. AllI am saying is that we should quit giving Israel special treatment and favors.

No more special exemptions to foster American-Israeli trade. No more foreign aid, gifts or loans; if private citizens want to support Israel, they are free to do so, but on their own nickel, not that of the public. No more winking at our own rules or laws where Israel is involved; if I joined the Canadian or British armies, my passport would be at serious risk. Why should American citizens be allowed to serve in the Israeli Knesset, as well as the army, and still keep their US passports?

People will object to this. Their objections can be divided into several parts, and there are excellent counter-arguments to them, as follows:

"Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East." Well, this is true enough, if you sort of squint your eyes at the way they treat their Palestinian and other minorities, but so what? The purpose of having a foreign policy is to benefit the United States, not go on endless quixotic crusades for some democratic ideal, no matter how ill it fits the peoples we propose giving it to.

"We get our money's worth from Israel in the form of intelligence." What we've spent on Israel would, if applied to intelligence-gathering, bring in far more than the Israelis give us. There's also no being sure that what they give us isn't "doctored" before it reaches us. In espionage, trust, even in an "ally," is a dangerous weakness.

"Israel's a useful ally and helps to keep the troublesome Arabs quiet." Israel not only does nothing to keep the Middle East quiet, it has no reason whatsoever to do so. If we had a general reapprochement with the Arab world, Israel might find itself out in the cold. During the Gulf War,we had to beg and bribe them to stay out so that our coalition would hold together.

"The Jews have suffered so much, we owe them." Before World War II, we did refuse to let more Jews into the United States. We were not the only ones who did so, by a long shot. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada and New Zealand all refused to alter their immigration laws---why do we owe more than they do? Any debts owed were paid long ago, in the blood of the GIs who died stopping Adolf Hitler. As far as other "owing" goes, last time I looked, the Cossacks, "Black Hundreds," and pogromists were not Americans---or Arabs, either.

"The Jews are a nation like any other, and deserve a homeland." Whatever may have been the case in the reign of Herod Agrippa, modern Jews are not a nation but a religious group. If I were to take Tevye, from Sholom Alecheim's stories, and dump him down in the Jewish quarter of contemporary Samarkand, he would feel like I had left him on Mars. Outside of religion, he'd have absolutely nothing in common with the local Jews. The Jews of every nation and place very strongly resemble those among whom they live---not good evidence that they are a separate nation.

We gain nothing and lose a great deal with our blind support of Israel; what's more, we may end up paying the piper for our dance, at a ruinous rate of interest. Sooner or later, the Arabs are bound to get their act together, and after they've rid themselves of Israel, they'll no doubt remembe precisely who made Israel possible for so long.

(c) Eric Oppen 1998. Eric Oppen is a freelance writer based in North Central Iowa. He says his discovery of Ayn Rand's writings, in Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, crystallized inchoate convictions that had floated through his mind all his life.

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24 January, 1998