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US-Israeli co-dependence not just about money

“We must look back 25 years to realize how far Israel has fallen in world support,” wrote famed Jewish scholar and Harvard sociologist Nathan Glazer in 1976. In the 40 years since he wrote his piece, which was uncovered and transmitted by American journalist Philip Weiss, Israel’s global support has fallen much further.

The country that once appealed to both US capitalism and Soviet socialism is now militarily powerful but politically isolated on the international stage. The misleading perception that Israel is a “beacon of light” among nations has worn off. Worse, the last time this phrase was uttered at an international level, it was made by Geert Wilders, a Dutch populist right-wing politician perceived by many to be a racist and Islamophobe.

Yet the more isolated Israel became, the more its dependency on the US grew. “Supporting Israel is not in America’s interests,” Weiss wrote. “In fact, Israel is a strategic liability for the US. That makes American Jewish influence the ultimate pillar of Israel’s survival.”

Although Zionists often speak of a historical bond between the US and the Jewish people, nothing could be further from the truth. On May 13, 1939, a boat carrying hundreds of German Jews was not allowed to reach US shores, and was sent back to Europe.

That was not a foreign-policy fluke. Three months earlier, members of Congress rejected a bill that would allow 20,000 German-Jewish children to come to the US to escape the war and possible extermination by the Nazis. The US public had no interest in the matter either, as allowing Jews into the country was unpopular at the time.

Fast-forward nearly eight decades, and things have changed in name only. While most American Jews support Israel, they are opposed to the administration of President Donald Trump, which they rightly perceive to be dangerous and hostile to all minorities, Jews included.

But Israel does not seem to have much qualms with the new administration. In fact, the most ardent Israeli Zionists are particularly pleased by Trump’s clique of reviled politicians. Mere days after he won the election, American Zionists moved quickly to ensure Israeli interests were fully guarded by the new administration. 

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) wasted no time either, fraternizing with individuals accused of having anti-Jewish agendas. The ZOA’s annual gala on Nov. 20 hosted none other than Steve Bannon, a leader in the so-called “alt-right,” otherwise known as white supremacy in the US.

Under his leadership, Breitbart, seen as a major platform for the alt-right, fueled anti-Semitism (and racism of all shades), argued Alex Amend and Jonathan Morgan in AlterNet. Watching top Israeli officials and leaders of the Jewish community in the US enthusiastically hosting Bannon at the ZOA annual gala appeared perplexing to some. But Bannon’s ties with Zionists go back to well before the surprising Trump election victory.

In an article entitled “Steve Bannon’s web of weirdness: Meet the bizarre billionaires behind the president-elect’s chief strategist,” Heather Digby Patron named a few of these “bizarre billionaires.” They included Sheldon Adelson, a right-wing billionaire with a gambling empire who is “singularly focused on the state of Israel.”

His relationship with Bannon and Trump well preceded Trump’s victory, and seemed to take little notice of the fact that Bannon and his ilk were viewed by many American Jews as frightening, racist anti-Semites with a menacing agenda. Adelson cares little for the true racists. His obsession with shielding Israel’s militant Zionist agenda trumped all other seemingly little irritants.

Although Zionists often speak of a historical bond between the US and the Jewish people, nothing could be further from the truth. On May 13, 1939, a boat carrying hundreds of German Jews was not allowed to reach US shores, and was sent back to Europe.

Ramzy Baroud

But the gambling mogul is not the exception among powerful Zionists in the US, and despite official Israeli rhetoric, Israel does not make political decisions based on the collective good of the Jewish people.

Writing in Mondoweiss, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network explained: “From Russian Tzars to the Nazis to Mussolini to the colonial British Empire to the Christian Right — Christian Zionists; (The Zionists’) embracing of Trump and renowned reactionary political strategist, Steve Bannon, is no exception.”

Israeli commentator Gideon Levy agrees. In an article published by Haaretz on Nov. 21, he wrote: “When friendship for Israel is judged solely on the basis of support for the Occupation, Israel has no friends other than racists and nationalists.”

So it is no surprise that Adelson is funding a massively rich campaign and lavish conferences to combat the influence of the civil society-powered Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, while plotting against Palestinians using the same American elements that consider the word “Jew” a swear word in their own social lexicon.

By putting Israel and Zionism first, these rich individuals, powerful lobby groups, hundreds of think-tanks, thousands of networks across the country and their allies among the religious right are now the main wheelers and dealers in any matter concerning US foreign policy in the Middle East, and Israel’s political and security interests. With no empirical evidence, however, Israel still insists on linking American interests to US support of Israel.

Speaking in the White House on Feb. 15 at a joint press conference with Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cordially thanked him for his hospitality, then said: “Israel has no better ally than the United States. And I want to assure you, the United States has no better ally than Israel.”

It was only half true. The US has indeed been a stalwart supporter of Israel, offering it over $3.1 billion in financial assistance each year over the last few decades, an amount that dramatically increased under former President Barack Obama to $3.8 billion. This in addition to hundreds of millions in financial and military assistance, and “loans” that were mostly unaccounted for.

The cost of Israel is not only financial but strategic. Since World War II, the US has vied to achieve two main foreign-policy objectives in the Middle East: Control the region and its resources, and prop up its allies, while maintaining a degree of stability so the US is able to conduct its business unhindered.

Nevertheless, Israel remained on the war path. Wars it could not fight on its own required US intervention on its behalf, as was the case in Iraq. The outcome was disastrous for US foreign policy. Even hardened military men began to notice the destructive path their country had chosen in order to defend Israel.

In March 2010, Gen. David Petraeus, then-head of US Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee during testimony that Israel had become a liability for the US, and a challenge to the “security and stability” that his country aimed to achieve.

Although recent polls have shown that younger Americans — especially among Democratic Party supporters and the Jewish community — are losing their enthusiasm for Israel and its Zionist ideology, the battle for the US to reclaim its foreign policy and a sense of morality regarding Palestine and the Middle East is likely to be long and arduous.

• Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books, and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com.