This Land Is Mine

map-story-of-palestinian-nationhood

As you may have noticed, I have an opinion on just about everything. I’m moderately well-read and yet readily admit I’m no expert. With that disclaimer in place, I’m about to wade into a controversial subject: Israel.

You’d think that Jewish people suddenly gaining the support of Western nations in establishing the State of Israel after 1948 would be thankful, grateful, and humbled. After all, their return to the Middle East after centuries of diaspora involved shoving aside a mixed Palestinian population that had enjoyed occupancy of those lands for more than a thousand years.

Supporters of Israel would say that Palestine didn’t really exist all that time, that the lands now contested by Israel had never been a Palestinian state. But that’s not exactly true.

  • Palestinians in Ottoman times were “[a]cutely aware of the distinctiveness of Palestinian history …” and “[a]lthough proud of their Arab heritage and ancestry, the Palestinians considered themselves to be descended not only from Arab conquerors of the seventh century but also from indigenous peoples who had lived in the country since time immemorial, including the ancient Hebrews and the Canaanites before them.[1]

In other words, before the 1948 effort to establish a new Zion, people of Christian, Islamic, and Jewish faith lived peaceably side by side.

I grant that a traumatized population of Jews needed a safe place to call their own. The so-called Zionist movement among Jews had gained strength since the late 1800s. After World War II, the time seemed right to create such a place amid the political chaos and horrors of concentration camps, and as the most recent controlling power over that region, Britain agreed to portion an area for this purpose.

The question of who has ‘rights’ to the lands designated now as Israel and Palestine quickly runs into quicksand of epic proportions. Britain had no more legitimacy in its occupation of that region than anyone else, so whatever it did stands on shaky ground. Before them, the Ottoman Turks controlled it and before that a series of strongmen and empires dating far before the Romans.

Does the Jewish claim hold any greater merit than the Palestinian claim?

Short answer: No.

In fact, if the same argument were used in the United States, Native Americans have the right to reclaim the entire continent because, after all, they ‘owned’ these lands for thousands of years up until four hundred years ago. For much of the land mass, Native ownership continued until less than two hundred years ago. Europeans committed genocide to gain control, just as many of the Jewish faith have been slaughtered over the centuries. Does that mean that foreign nations, working together, should come into the United States, champion the Native claim, and forcibly remove people from their farms and cities in order to return some of these lands to the Natives?

I’ll let you think about that for a minute.

Like it or not, lands of this planet change ownership. The Celts invaded the British Isles which were then invaded by the Romans then later invaded by Angles, Saxons, and other Germanic tribes, and then by marauding Danes and Norse until an amalgam began calling itself England. There’s no turning back the clock to some theoretical golden age of Israel when the Jewish faith controlled some portion of the Levant any more than Florida can be returned to the control of the Seminoles. So why do those currently in control of Israel’s politics think they have the right to seize ever more Palestinian lands?

More to the point, why would any American think we had a legitimate dog in this fight?

Yet, hearing the slander issuing from the assumed incoming president against President Obama (no doubt using words put in his mouth by his Jewish son-in-law and Christian radicals swarming into his nascent inner circle), you’d think that any criticism or restriction of continuing Jewish invasion of Palestinian lands was an act of treason on our part.

It’s way past time for the United States to join United Nations efforts to chastise Israel for its aggression.

You’d think a people long stigmatized by reputations for greed, insularity, and arrogance would be cautious about validating those prejudices by acting in exactly that way. But what else does the world see but Israeli settlers bulldozing Palestinian orchards and homes to make way for illegal settlements?

  • Three large clusters of traits are part of the Jewish stereotype (Wuthnow, 1982). First, Jews are seen as being powerful and manipulative. Second, they are accused of dividing their loyalties between the United States and Israel. A third set of traits concerns Jewish materialistic values, aggressiveness, clannishness.[2]

The U.S. agenda with Israel isn’t just a benevolent hand-up to downtrodden people devastated by the Holocaust. The mostly silent force behind the U. S. involvement in Israel are certain American Jews and Christians who, based on the Bible, believe that prophecies preordain that Israel will return to Jewish control in the end times, presaging the second coming. It has become a fanatical belief for some Christians (Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, for example) that Israel must be protected at any cost.

  • We are living in exciting times when we can witness Bible prophecy being fulfilled before our very eyes. Many of these prophecies relate to the Jewish people and their nation. [See Christian Prophecy]

Aside from the push to implement Christian prophecies (an easy tool of wealth-driven politicos to gain support of credulous voters) and self-serving blather about Israel being the shining light of democracy in an otherwise benighted region, it’s highly likely that some of the U.S. agenda is far removed from benevolence and derives from our thirst for oil. We’ve covertly overthrown legitimate governments in retaliation against oil-rich Middle East nations trying to control their own natural resources.

  • In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected as the prime minister [of Iran]. He became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran’s petroleum and oil reserves. He was deposed in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, an Anglo-American covert operation that marked the first time the US had overthrown a foreign government during the Cold War.[3]

So much for the shining moral light of democracy.

Other reasons for our support of Israel might be that our money buys cooperation in a place where an imperialist nation like us needs a friend. Spying, meddling, and otherwise keeping oil-rich nations off balance improves the U.S. advantage and assures the continuing flow of oil. After all, why pump domestic when we can use theirs first?

Surely a complex hidden U.S. agenda includes strategies about Russia, China, and other powers that border the Middle East. If there must be conflict, let it happen there, far from our shores. It’s easy to see why we might hesitate about getting too tough on Israel.

Our annual tithing of foreign economic aid to Israel tops $347 for every man, woman, and Jewish child, courtesy of the American taxpayer. In 2013, the last year for which data is available, we gave Israel $2,943,230,000 in military aid alone, more than twice as much as any other country on earth.[4] We’ve ensured they have the latest in modern weaponry and nuclear technology.

When is it ever enough? America’s diplomacy toward the Middle East has favored Israel to the point that we tolerate their continuing arrogance in pushing into Palestinian lands, thus earning us the enmity of Islamic extremists. After all, suicide bombers didn’t spring fully formed from the forehead of Zeus.

While events in the Middle East may be based in part on territorial disputes and conflicts of cultures, the oil markets, and other political and economic realities, underneath it all is religion. At the heart of that is Judaism and its use by Jews to define themselves as a justified and holy people no matter how much blood is on their hands. As the old song goes, “This land is mine, God gave this land to me.” [An astute cartoon rendering of this song says it all.]

Why should the age of a religion be a criterion by which to judge its righteousness and therefore its legitimacy in world affairs? But then, when did righteousness have anything to do with it?

There’s nothing wrong with groups of people holding onto traditional religious beliefs and practices. That is, until those beliefs and practices lead to violence, until individuals, states, or churches use religion to justify taking power and wealth by force. But if religion justifies taking land to form a nation, where is the Catholic nation? Or the Buddhist nation? Or, for that matter, a nation of Wiccan?

Herein lies the inherent evil of religion and with it the current threat to our future. If we’re not careful, the incoming Trump Administration—led by a man who won’t learn or think and given over to his zealot minions to run—will plunge us headlong into World War III.

Over Israel.

~~~

Latest development: Dec 29 comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry on how Israel is committing suicide.

Don’t like the headline map? Check the comments pro and con.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinians

[2] From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotypes_of_Jews#cite_ref-26, citing Schneider, David J. (2004). The psychology of stereotyping. Guilford Press. p. 461.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran#Contemporary_era

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_foreign_aid

 

 

Creating ISIS

warrior

 

Some Facebook posts circulating since the Paris tragedy voice outrage that the U.S. and its allies failed to stop ISIS at its inception.

To those I ask what, pray tell, was the beginning?

Was it during the three hundred years of Crusades when Western European Christians invaded the Middle East to drive out Islam?

Was it after WWI when the Western powers reorganized the colonized Middle East, shifting borders to suit the desires of various Western nations regardless of existing ethnic, tribal, or religious boundaries?

Was it after WWII when Western powers again reorganized Arab lands, shoving the Palestinians aside to carve out a homeland for the Jews? Couldn’t we have predicted that Arabs would resist? Perhaps that would have been the best time to nuke the whole region.

Was it when we armed the Afghan Mujaheddin in the 1980s to help them overthrow Soviet occupation? Couldn’t we have predicted that once the Cold War ended, we would abandon Afghanistan and leave tribal leaders like Osama bin Laden to take what he’d been taught to organize his devastated homeland.

Was it when we marched into Iraq, toppling the strong man government of Saddam Hussein and unleashing sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias?

Was it when the 2011 Arab spring spread from Egypt through other Middle Eastern nations and Syria’s President Assad fought back against his nation’s rebellion? The U.S. and allies hurried into Syria with support and secret ‘advisors’ to assist the rebels, bringing in sophisticated arms and other supplies that are now in the hands of ISIS. Gee, how could we have guessed?

The claim that the U. S. could have inflicted a fatal incisive strike against ISIS at any point along this tortured path shows ignorance and a single-minded obsession to heap criticism on President Obama. ISIS has never existed as a discrete target. Any attack on ISIS would result in massive collateral damage.

The entire mess points to one overarching conclusion: the more we intervene in the Middle East, the worse things get.

We’re good at meddling in other people’s affairs. At what point do we have an honest national dialogue centered on the question: Why are we in the Middle East at all?

I can tell you. It’s because of money, oil and religion. And money. Did I say money?[i]

According to a 2013 report, “over the last six decades, the U.S. has invested $299 billion in military and economic aid for Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries currently in turmoil. Egypt tops a list of ten nations, receiving $114 billion since the end of World War II. Iraq comes in second, getting nearly $60 billion from the U.S. (over and above war costs). Far outpacing those ten countries is Israel, an ally that received another $185 billion in U.S. aid in the same period.”[ii]

Why not just hand all that arms money over to the arms dealers and let them keep the weapons?

Are we getting what we paid for? If the objective is to keep the region destabilized so that we can maintain a level of control over the oil, yes. If the objective is to undermine Arab strength in order to further prop up Israel, yes.

We continue to send billions of dollars of foreign aid to the region, larding the already excessive oil profits lining the pockets of the region’s leaders. With all that money, leaders so inclined can invest in distant terrorists or add to their nation’s arsenal by purchasing arms and equipment manufactured in Western nations.

Supporters of Israel dismiss dollar amounts because their agenda is religious. People concerned about U. S. energy profits dismiss dollar amounts because their agenda is oil. Both groups fail to recognize the larger agenda behind their pet projects: money.

According to a 2013 report, “Each year, around $45-60 billion worth of arms sales are agreed. Most of these sales (something like 75%) are to developing countries. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council (U.S., Russia, France, United Kingdom and China), together with Germany and Italy account for around 85% of the arms sold between 2004 and 2011.[iii]

Nearly twenty years ago, an incisive review of our foreign aid pointed to this folly:

“An examination of $13.6 billion in U.S. foreign aid activity for Fiscal Year 1997 reveals that almost half of the aid is military in nature. This assistance, in conjunction with large-scale arms exports, may actually be working counter to many stated U.S. foreign policy objectives such as promoting sustainable development, protecting human health and fostering economic growth.”[iv]

George Washington famously cautioned against the quagmire in which we’re now floundering:

“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”[v]

Just six days ago, the columnist citing this wisdom called for an end to all but humanitarian aid to foreign nations. He’s not alone.

Opponents of a hands-off approach will cite the potential for increasing interference in the region from nations like Russia and China. In theory, our presence at the arms trade table balances their influence. But we have to ask ourselves, who was there first? I can tell you. It was us.[vi]

If we want the violence to stop, we’ll have to

  • stop giving our tax dollars to nations who spend it on arms,
  • eliminate any and all subsidies to arms dealers and manufacturers,
  • remove our forces entirely from the region and let them sort it out themselves, and
  • rescind and renegotiate any treaties with other nations so that any and all foreign aid is in the form of food, educational materials, medical supplies, and other humanitarian assistance.

Why not? It’s the only thing we haven’t tried.

 

[i] For an excellent overview of the money problem, see http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a39727/paris-attacks-middle-eastern-oligarchies/

[ii] A graph showing money received by various nations: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/06/us-aid-middle-east_n_3223151.html

[iii] http://www.globalissues.org/issue/73/arms-trade-a-major-cause-of-suffering

[iv] http://www.bu.edu/globalbeat/usdefense/whelan0798.html

[v] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/9/bruce-fein-end-mideast-arms-sales-nonhumanitarian-/?page=all

[vi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East