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Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud
"Were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region."
There’s got to be more to this
Following the horrific attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas, and the subsequent nearly two weeks of relentless bombing of civilians in Gaza by the Israeli state (both of which have been described as war crimes), I have found myself wondering how Western ‘leaders’ could be so willing to “stand with” Israel while at the same time essentially turning a blind-eye to what is clearly a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. From collective penalties to cutting off essential supplies, including power, food, water and gas, to the forced movement of civilians, there is little doubt that the ‘rules’ of International warfare are not being adhered to. And yet, the President of the US held firm, reiterating that: “Justice must be done”, and the US twice voted down calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
I wasn’t alone. This impassioned speech by Irish Member of the European Parliament, Clare Daly, cuts straight to the heart of the matter:
I’ve been involved in politics for 40 years but I have never seen anything like what is happening in Gaza. In full public view while the world watches it unfold. Ten days of relentless air strikes. 1 in 1,000 people murdered by the Israeli government in a week. Open declarations of siege. 24 hours of fuel, electricity and water left. Collective punishment on innocent people. All illegal. All war crimes. And when the EU should have been arguing for a cease-fire, for the upholding of international law, for the protection of civilians, Ursula von der Leyen touches down in Tel Aviv to photo-op the preparation of a genocide. And says Europe stands with Israel now and in the days to come. How dare she. She has no authority in foreign affairs matter. She does not speak for me, she does not speak for Ireland and she does not speak for the citizens of Europe. We stand for peace, for justice for the people of Palestine and for the upholding of International law. It’s long past the time that this woman exited the stage and for the International Criminal Court to investigate her.
Clare Daly, Irish Member of the European Parliament. Source: Sarah on X
And then a friend, who knew how suspicious I was, shared the below video with me, and I think it deserves to be more widely seen:
If we look at the Middle East I think it’s about time we stop - those of us that support, as most of us do, Israel in this body - for apologising for our support of Israel. There is no apology to be made. None. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.
US President, Joe Biden, in 1986. Source: Going Underground on X.
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Okay, this makes more sense
The US’s support of Israel is not about justice or human rights, but about protecting the US’s interests in the region. This is true to form for the US and follows a long history of the US doing exactly that. Economic anthropologist, Jason Hickel, mentions it in relation to the relatively few socialist democracies in Latin America, save for Costa Rica:
Costa Rica wasn’t alone in this effort, of course. Progressive governments elsewhere in Latin America made similar moves, but in nearly every case the US violently intervened to stop them for fear that “communist” ideas might scupper American interests in the region.” (emphasis mine)
The list of Western-backed military interventions and coups designed to protect ‘interests in the region’ is long and often extremely violent, starting in the 1950s in Iran, Guyana, Guatemala. In the 1960s it was The Congo, Cuba, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ghana. In the 1970s Uganda, Australia, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. In the 1980s El Salvador and Nicaragua. Throughout this period the US also supported right-wing dictatorships in Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, Paraguay, Honduras, Venezuela and Panama.
This protecting of ‘interests in the region’ goes back much further too, as Major General Smedley Butler, who died the most decorated US Marine in American history, draws attention to in a speech he gave in 1933:
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
Source: The Racket, Matt Kennard.
So, what's going on?
How does this need of the US to “protect her interests” manifest itself in the situation between Israel and Palestine? While the US pledged $100 million for the over 1 million displaced people in Gaza and the West Bank, it pales in comparison to the support offered to Israel over the last eight decades and the additional $10 billion in ‘defence aid’ he is seeking to send them over the next 12 months:
The United States committed over $3.3 billion in foreign assistance to Israel in 2022, the most recent year for which data exists. About $8.8 million of that went toward the country's economy, while 99.7% of the aid went to the Israeli military…. Adjusting for inflation, US aid to Israel from 1946 to 2022 totaled $243.9 billion, making it the largest recipient of American foreign aid since World War II.
The CRS reports that part of the American aid strategy in the Middle East and North Africa is maintaining Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over neighboring countries. This approach involves giving Israel first access to, or more advanced versions of, US defense technology. It also offsets military sales to its neighbors with increased weapons packages or military aid to Israel. The strategy became law in the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008, which prohibited defense exports to non-Israeli countries in the Middle East that would hurt Israel’s military advantage.
The US is in a position to do so much more than send in humanitarian aid into Gaza and the West Bank. It could call for a complete ceasefire, and insist that Israel stop committing war crimes against the people of Palestine. And yet US leaders choose not to. Let’s recall what President Biden said in 1986: “Were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.” The US likes the status quo very much, in fact, the stronger Israel is, the better it is for the US’s ‘interests in the region’.
Where do we go from here?
The situation in the Middle East is extremely complex - academics, international law experts, human rights groups, journalists etc have been trying to grapple with the situation for decades. Additionally, religious, cultural and humanitarian factors all play a role in making this situation especially difficult. I don’t claim to have the solutions but I do think it’s important to recognise how imperialism, passed off as upholding peace, protecting democracy and freedom, is distorting the dynamics at play.
While the US condemns the war crimes of one group, but actively stands with (and funds) the war crimes of another, it is encouraging to see solidarity among the people of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and across the world. In the last week there have been Jewish people sitting in the US Congress calling for a ceasefire. There have been protests outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington demanding an end to the genocide in Gaza, huge crowds in London chanting “Free, free Palestine!”, and similar protests across Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, France, Australia and many more places.
This is how we bring about change: by standing together and seeing the humanity in one another, and using our voices highlight injustice where ever and when ever we see it.
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