UNITED NATIONS – 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 [...]

Sunday Times 2

US: A recklessly blind supporter of Israeli action


UNITED NATIONS – 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 said. “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”.

A Palestinian woman reacts after returning to her destroyed house following Israel- Hamas truce, in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2021. Reuter/Mohammed Salem

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 ambitiously on target: “Everybody watches CNN. But what does CNN watch? Al Jazeera.”

Meanwhile, the destruction last week of a 12-storeyed building in Gaza City, home to several news organisations, including the Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera, has been described as a deliberate Israeli air strike to silence a hostile media.

At the UN’s daily press briefing on May 17, one of the questions that came up was about a demand from Reporters Without Borders for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel’s bombing of buildings housing media organisations as a possible war crime.

The media watchdog said, in a letter to the court’s chief prosecutor, that the offices of 23 international and local media organisations had been destroyed over the past week.

At the time of going to press, the Israelis and the Palestinians have apparently agreed to a ceasefire mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations. The US claimed it was involved in backdoor diplomacy, with Biden openly calling for a ceasefire during six phone calls with warring parties.

But historically, the United States has been a recklessly blind supporter of Israel. And traditionally American politicians have been trying to outshine each other in providing political, economic and military support to Israel — and some of their speeches are straight out of the floor of the Israeli parliament.

When Pat Buchanan, a senior advisor to three US Presidents and twice candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, described the United States Congress as “Israeli-occupied territory,” he left out one powerful 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 air strikes 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 the US will never permit an ICC trial for Israel. The New York Times quotes Biden as saying on Israeli television back in 2007: “I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist”.

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.

The Security Council met four times in the last 10 days, including an open debate over the weekend, to deliberate the situation — particularly, the suffering of civilians caught in the conflict by no fault of their own.

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.”

But the US was holding back its support for a Security Council resolution, critical of both Israel and Hamas, and calling for a ceasefire.

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 rebellious against 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 U.S. 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 recognise Israel as a state in 1948, and the first to recognise 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 U.S. 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 programmes for missile defence.

(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 at Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, the book is available on Amazon and at Vijitha Yapa bookshops in Sri Lanka. The link to Amazon via the author’s website follows: https://www.rodericgrigson.com/no-comment-by-thalif-deen/)

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