By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK (IDN)— When I walked out of a polling booth after voting in one of the US Senatorial elections in New York city several years ago, I was accosted by a reporter and a cameraman for the Middle Eastern TV network Al Jazeera.
The woman reporter, who was also a UN correspondent at that time, thrust the mike before me for my comments on the elections. My response was wildly sarcastic: “Frankly, I think American politicians are not running for office in the US House of Representatives or the Senate. I think they are really running for seats in the Israeli Knesset.”
Al Jazeera ran with that comment. And when I visited my neighbouring, Palestinian-run grocery store the next day, they cheered me with shouts of “We saw you on Al Jazeera. We saw you on Al Jazeera”.
As American pop icon, Andy Warhol once said: “Everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. I had my fleeting 15 seconds on Al Jazeera.
Incidentally, a good-humoured slogan in wide circulation during the early years of the TV network was perhaps well-aimed: “Everybody watches CNN. But what does CNN watch? Al Jazeera.”
Meanwhile, the destruction of a 12-storeyed building in Gaza City, home to several news organizations, including the Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera, has been described as a deliberate Israeli airstrike to silence a hostile media.
As the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to a cease-fire, mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations on May 21, the US claimed it was involved in backdoor diplomacy, with Biden apparently calling for a cease-fire during six phone calls with the warring parties, but not at the UN Security Council.
Historically, the United States has been a recklessly blind supporter of Israel. And traditionally American politicians have tried to outshine each other in providing political, economic and military support to Israel.
In the US, two of the most politically powerful lobbies are the pro-gun and the pro-Israeli lobbies. They wield the power of their purses to fund American politicians during Congressional elections– but within legal limits.
When Pat Buchanan, a senior advisor to three US Presidents and twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, described the United States Congress as “Israeli-occupied territory,” he left out the most powerful political institution: the White House.
Under Donald Trump, and under most previous US presidents, the White House, for all intents and purposes, was also an “occupied territory”.
Joe Biden, the current US president has come under heavy fire for not stopping a proposed sale of some $735 million in US weapons to Israel, despite continued airstrikes in Gaza city during the last two weeks which has killed at least 230 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and including 60 children, while injuring thousands, triggering charges of war crimes. The number of dead on the Israeli side was 12.
But despite charges of war crimes in the killing of civilians, the US will never support an ICC trial for Israel.
The New York Times said last week that Biden, a longstanding supporter of Israel, had announced on Israeli television, back in 2007: “I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.
The Security Council met four times during the fighting in Gaza, including an open debate, to deliberate the crisis. And the Biden administration stalled three of those attempts to adopt a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.
On May 18, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason of Ireland said, “for the fourth time in eight days, the Council convened to address the current crisis in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Conflict is raging, resulting in utterly devastating humanitarian impact, she said. “The Security Council has yet to utter a single word publicly. Council members have a collective responsibility for international peace and security. It is high time the Council steps up, breaks its silence and speaks out.”
Both the Republican and Democratic Parties, the two major political parties in the US, have religiously supported Israel over several generations. But currently, a liberal, progressive wing in the ruling Democratic Party is openly rebelling against blind US support for Israel.
A proposed new resolution—which Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democratic-New York) introduced alongside Representatives. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin)—calls for congressional action on the $735 weapons deal that would send Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Small Diameter Bombs to Israel.
“For decades, the US has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement, and disenfranchisement of millions.”
Tlaib, incidentally, is the only US Congresswoman of Palestinian origin, and whose family is trapped in Israeli-devastated Gaza City.
Meanwhile, a January 2021 “Fact Sheet” on US-Israel Relations put out by the State Department details the longstanding relationship between the two allies.
“The United States was the first country to recognize Israel as a state in 1948 and the first to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017. Israel is a great partner to the United States, and Israel has no greater friend than the United States. Americans and Israelis are united by our shared commitment to democracy, economic prosperity, and regional security. The unbreakable bond between our two countries has never been stronger, particularly in military relations”, says the State Department.
Israel’s security is a long-standing cornerstone of US foreign policy. The United States’ commitment to Israel’s security is supported by robust defence cooperation and the 10-year, $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the United States and Israel in 2016. Consistent with the MOU, the US annually provides $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing and $500 million for cooperative programs for missile defence.
In addition to security assistance, the State Department said, the United States participates in a variety of exchanges with Israel, including joint military exercises, research, and weapons development.
Further, through the annual Joint Counterterrorism Group and regular strategic dialogues, the United States and Israel work together to counter a range of regional threats.
A long-standing US priority is to promote a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States is also committed to encouraging increased cooperation and normalization of ties between Israel and Arab and Muslim majority states, as exemplified by the Abraham Accords and normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
According to the Fact Sheet, the US-Israel economic and commercial relationship is particularly strong, anchored by bilateral trade of close to $50 billion in goods and services annually. US-Israel bilateral economic relations are codified in a number of treaties and agreements, including the 1985 US-Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the Agreement on Trade in Agricultural Products.
In a bygone era, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, one of the strongest political and military allies of the US in the Arab world, was contemptuously described as America’s 51st state. But Israel is not far behind. [IDN-InDepthNews – 26 May 2021]
*This article has been adapted from a recently released book on the United Nations titled “No Comment and Don’t Quote Me on That.” Authored by Thalif Deen, a Senior Editor based at the UN, the book is available on Amazon. The link to Amazon via the author’s website follows: https://www.rodericgrigson.com/no-comment-by-thalif-deen/
Photo: Dozens of Palestinian children have been killed, with many more injured and displaced since the escalation of hostilities began in the Gaza Strip © UNICEF/Eyad El Baba
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