It is incomprehensible why the United States, which supposedly – if its rhetoric could be believed – stands for fairness around the world, is allowing its client state Israel to pound a small, virtually defenseless Gaza into splinters.
The US’s inexcusable defense of Israel is ruining whatever is left of Washington’s reputation with Muslims across the planet including in Asia. In the midst of Malaysia’s own fecklessness in refusing to condemn the Russians and their allies for shooting down MH17, Mukhriz Mahathir, Mahathir Mohamad’s son and the chief minister of the state of Kedah, tweeted “Western Govt’s insist missile dat shot MH17 is Russian-made. Who made the deadly weapons Israel uses to kill Gaza civilians?”
That message, retweeted by a Malaysian Muslim friend, is hard to argue with. It is certainly true that Hamas started the current round of hostility by firing rockets into Israel. But Muslims across the world are watching as Israel mercilessly pounds Gaza, allegedly, Palestinian physicians say, with so-called “dense inert metal explosives” technology developed by the US Air Force.
According to the United Nations, at least 620 Palestinians have died in the current round of violence, some 75 percent of them civilians and 100 of them children in an area jammed into just 41 km long and 6 to 12 km wide. Its citizens, among the most densely packed population on the planet with 1.6 million residents, are squeezed into 340 sq. km. There is no place to run, no place to hide, as the saying goes. On one border is Israel, on the other a largely unsympathetic Egypt. And the sea. By contrast, 27 Israelis have died.
With little agriculture, no industry, no real economy, all of it kept that way via an Israeli blockade, the UN Children’s Fund said in January that 10.3 percent of children under five are stunted by malnutrition and that the trend is steadily increasing. As Israel finds and blows up the tunnels that bring in food and contraband from Egypt, malnutrition will inevitably increase.
Israel is an artificial construct built on sympathy for the Holocaust, which took the lives of 6 million Jews, and plunked into the middle of the Arab world on Palestinian land. But Israel long ago lost any moral high ground in the Middle East, moving its settlements onto Arab lands, assassinating Palestinian leaders and Iranian scientists. Although it has signed the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, mistreatment of its non-Hebrew citizens is common.
Somehow, the United States has ended up with almost as much blame for the current atrocities as Israel has earned, and not without reason. The US has consistently vetoed UN resolutions condemning Israeli aggression, settlements and other violations of human rights laws.Secretary of State John Kerry has trundled back and forth, meeting with top Arab and Egyptian officials in an ineffectual effort to stop the fighting instead of leaning on Israel. As he was meeting with Arab and Egyptian leaders on Tuesday in an effort to mediate the conflict, Israeli aircraft were busy demolishing 70 Gaza targets. They reportedly included the home of the late leader of Hamas’s military wing, five mosques and a soccer stadium.
Israel has raided Arab lands for decades with impunity, believing in the supposed divine right as God’s chosen people to increase Israeli hegemony. When succeeding US presidents have mumbled for the Israelis to remove their plainly illegal settlements, the Jewish lobby in Washington DC, consisting of the famed American Israeli Public Affairs Committee and a flock of Jewish-American groups, comes down hard on the Congress, aided and abetted by Christian Zionists who believe the return of the Jews to what was previously Palestine is in accordance with bizarre Christian prophecy heralding the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ.
The American press is little better. There is the famous incident on the part of ABC News airing footage of the destruction of Gaza targets and mistakenly saying the destruction was in Israel, then being belatedly forced to apologize. The New York Times has habitually front-run Israeli sentiment with stories that largely tell the Israeli side and ignore the Palestinian one. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page has hammered every single politician who has ever voiced opposition to the US’s open-ended commitment to what is increasingly a criminal nation.
But the fact is that every time one of these blowups occurs, the US loses more esteem across the world, including in Asia, which is home to Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, as well as Malaysia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In particular the latter two countries have been the target of continuing drone attacks that have alienated and outraged large segments of their populations.
“Muslims should be more than ashamed of their barbaric behavior and Muslims are to be blamed for all their woes. But if there is one common denominator in all these conflicts not just in the Middle East but Ukraine it is the US,” a Malaysian Muslim friend said in a phone conversation.
The US has life-or-death power over Israel. To date, according to the US Congressional Research Service, the US has provided Israel with US$121 billion in bilateral assistance. “Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance,” the research service said in a recent report, “although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers.”
In addition, the US annually gives Egypt nearly US$3 billion in military and other aid, basically as bribes not to attack Israel as a result of the Camp David Accords, the peace treaty negotiated between the two nations at the behest of former President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
The US could use its leverage to force Israel to act responsibly towards its neighbors. Whenever any US leader has attempted to do, Israel has squealed miserably about mistreatment and activated its claque of lobbyists. The US has backed away. No matter how much Barack Obama attempts to reach out to the Muslim world, that willingness to condone everything Israel does costs the US more with a huge part of the world.
John Berthelsen is an American and the editor of Asia Sentinel